Today, we are headed back home! Believe it or not, I am ready to be home, but this trip has truly been a mind and heart changing experience for me personally and I have learned so much. Yesterday was our friends wedding that we attended. This trip was primarily for this wedding. We have known this friend since college, and since then he moved to Springfield to get his masters in counseling at Evangel Christian College or something that is associated with Evangel Christian. It was different to experience going from visiting and spending time with Kent, who is vastly free from any type of religious bondage to hanging out with strict and tense individuals. Though many things have changed between us and our dear friend, I could still sense the love and connection that we all shared when we were in college. Though we may not be in the same place as they are, or may not fit into their way of living or thinking, love still has a way to bring our hearts together. One thing that I have been thinking about today during the drive was the differences between compromising our desires for others compared to sacrificial love. During a conversation on facebook with Kent, a light came on when our conversation progressed.
Kent: We were made for relationship and yet it's the thing that seems to be the most messed up and pain producing, and the all too familiar operating paradigm of "win/lose" is of no assistance to us in helping us unravel the mess...that paradigm is actually at the center of the mess.
Nicole: It’s hard to come to this common ground, but if love is our first priority than compromising is not so hard... Love this Kent! ;)
Kent: I wonder if compromise is even the proper term or thing to seek? Once I read that, the first thought to come to my mind was that compromise is another activity of the realm of law. Jesus seems to be about something completely different. What he is doing in us, teaching us to love, isn't about compromise. It's about giving people the freedom to make their choices and us loving them. There is a big difference between the two.
Nicole: Maybe the word I was looking for is sacrificial? Maybe that is an even worse word... Well, whatever this is, I hope it does just what you stated... That it will give us the freedom to allow others to make their own choices and learn how to love in those circumstances regardless of the outcome... That sounds like sacrificial love, but maybe I am not understanding something right!
Kent: Nicole, I think that is much closer to how I see it. I used to be so tied up by what other people's lives/sometimes messes cost me. When we are no longer so bound up by that anymore it seems to be an indication that we don't feel as if we have the "turf" to defend like we used to in our more selfish days. We are more free to just love people. Defensive people really aren't free to love.
Through this conversation, I have truly grasped what sacrificial love really looks like. I believe that we can still fully love people sacrificially without compromising who we are or what we believe. I don’t think Father really meant love to be played out in a compromising way. In other words we aren’t to change who we are or what we believe for other people, but rather, allow people to be where they are regardless of where that is, and love them like Father loves them, who gave Himself up for them. I never once remember Jesus compromising His Father for those who are on the earth, but He gave himself for them so that they may see His Father through Him sacrificially! Letting people be who they are and meet them where they are with sacrificial love as the core reason, than I can’t find anything better! This is the kind of love that I desire my life to express in my actions on a daily bases towards everyone I come into contact with in a real and authentic way. I not only want to talk about it, but live it out daily! Learning how to live loved and loving gracefully is a constant working progress for me, but through Father, His love will work in and through my life and shine out of my actions and choices!
This song really captures how I have felt in the religious systems I grew up in, but looking back to where I was compared to where I am now, I can honestly say that being out of that perfect box of religion, I have learned not only about myself, but most importantly, who Father is within me. I don't regret my past, because I know Father works out everything to His perfect will! I am no longer faded, but am resting in Father's grace and complete love! Praise Him!
Faded.. Faded.. Faded..
You never take Take the time to really look Look at the one The one I really am
You try to fit To fit me in a perfect box You let me slip between the cracks
[CHORUS:] Now I've faded into someone else Made me someone I don't wanna be Yeah I'm faded My true color's gone Like a picture nobody sees
I'll bet you don't Don't even know my favorite song You tell me how How I should wear my hair
You wanna change Everything I ever was Try to erase me Till I'm not there
[CHORUS:] Now I've faded Into someone else Made me someone I don't wanna be Yeah I'm faded My true colour's gone Like a picture nobody sees
Now I've faded Like I never was Till I don't even know myself Yeah I'm faded Into what you want But I'm not takin' it too well
I don't wanna be your little picture perfect pretty girl Who's got nothing to say I'm not gonna wait around Let you run my whole life down So you can watch me fade away
(Faded, Faded) You try to fit Fit me in your perfect box
(Faded, Faded) You try to fit Fit me in your perfect box
You try to fit Fit me in a perfect box You let me slip between the cracks
[CHORUS:] Now I've faded Into someone else Made me someone I don't wanna be Yeah I'm faded My true color's gone Like a picture nobody sees
Yeah I've faded Like I never was Till I don't even know myself Now I'm faded Into what you want But I'm not takin' it too well
We just got to Springfield today for the wedding we are attending on Saturday. Looking back at the last couple of days we spend in St. Louis has been life transforming. Father has opened the door for us to meet with Kent and his family during our travels. It has truly been a mind and heart awakening for me. Mainly because talking with fellow travelers who are captivated by the power of Father's deep and compassionate love and the freedom that is found in Him has truly helped the transformational process in my life due to how contagious this way of living is, and I mean that in the BEST way ever possible. When it comes to freedom, I have seen it, but only at certain times in my own life, and never have I truly experienced or have seen it talked out or literally lived out until now! The way we talked about it when we were visiting has really helped me see things differently in the light of freedom. Have you ever felt so connected spiritually with someone that you almost feel like the connection has been purposely placed in your life that has brought out the transformation? This transformation I am talking about is strictly about giving up power and control in relationships and diving into the process in which we decide to relinquish control and allow uncertainty to take place in which to find ultimate freedom and get prosperous outcomes with whoever is involved! I actually got to experience this first hand while visiting Kent and the family. The thing that got my core attention was how real and honest they were even with us there. Nothing changed when we were there, and we were able to see these dynamics firsthand. The realness that Kent and Julie shared has taught me to even be more real and transparent with others than ever before. I don’t think I have ever had a problem with being real with people especially in the last couple of years, but, there is something completely different when it comes to experiencing it in reality, like right in front of others. If I could only truly experience that without the fear of what others may think would be the 1st step in freedom I believe. The real and necessary family life stuff I have been able to experience has truly changed my way of thinking on so many levels in regards to relationships in general. During our visit, I remember Kent said something that I will never forget and that I believe wholeheartedly. He said something like, relationships are the hardest dynamic ever created, but it is usually the humans that make them difficult than anything else. This is so true because it is self that makes them so messy; the one who mostly strives to live for himself and does not sacrifice himself in the light of freedom or love for another. Today, this has been on my mind and I truly believe that another process of transformation is on the verge of happening. Uncertainty is scary when it is looked at without the lens of freedom from needing to be in control of situations and outcomes of circumstances. Usually in the midst of trying to be in control of situations, we more than likely will try to defile those who stand in the way of what we want. This is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to relationships and I feel I am but touching the surface of what my heart is yet to understand, but with Father’s wisdom and grace, He will make a way for it to lead me and guide me closer to where He is. That is the whole point of living anyway… More to come later!!! I will be in Springfield until Sunday, and I hope to have more time to write in the near future.
Meeting new people and getting the opportunity to share life with others even if they are brief moments at a time brings out the best in me because it feels my heart and being with great joy and excitement. Today, we are driving from Springfield Missouri to Chicago, where we will be staying with Jonathan’s brother for a couple of days. The journey thus far has exceeded my expectations, which I left at home BTW. The drive yesterday was long but ran smooth. We drove about 13 and a half hours and at the end of the day, and my butt was numb to say the least when we finally arrived in Springfield late last night. It has been worth it though! We stayed up pretty late talking to an old friend from college who we stayed with and that was so incredible to catch up! One thing I noticed is we get a little stressed when we drive through the large cities because we have been making the habit of stopping for food and gas and we have taken some wrong turns and have gotten lost a few times, but, eventually we make our way back on track thanks to the GPS and internet access on the trip! There is something so spectacular about traveling with my husband. He is a good driver and being able to share this experience with him has been awesome. I wouldn’t want it any other way. When we by-passed St. Louis, we literally drove past a friends neighborhood, and I thought that was very cool. I am looking forward to our stay in St. Louis and to share life with this friend and get to experience more of what I love most about life – sharing life with others in Father. More to come later… Next stop – Chicago!
This year, Jonathan and I are planning a road trip to the mid-west primarily for a wedding we are going to in Springfield MO. I am very excited about the adventures that await us. We are leaving tomorrow, Friday May 15th for our long excursion. It’s going to be a long drive, but we will have internet access and music that will hopefully keep us preoccupied as we drive, plus I am wanting to look into car exercises, but not while I am driving of course, because I have been exercising for over two weeks straight and I am afraid that if I stop I won’t continue my dedication. We have several stops we are going to make! Springfield MO, we are stopping for the first night! 12 hours of driving the first day. It’s going to be the longest day of driving, but once we get that day out of the way, the rest will be a breeze. From Springfield we are going to be making our way up to Chicago, where we are going to be hanging out with Jonathan’s brother who lives there. I love cities so I am sure I will love Chicago. I have heard so many good things about that place… It should be fun! Then we are going to St. Louis where we will be able to meet a friend that I got acquainted with on The God Journey forum years back! I have wanting to meet this person for years now and am SO blessed that Father has opened the doors for us to finally meet face to face. I think the best part of road tripping, is the people who you will come into contact with and share life with if only for brief moments. So, that is probably the best perk of the entire trip that I am looking forward too! Then from there we are going back to Springfield for a wedding we are attending. The guy who is getting married was someone we both knew in college, and we haven’t seen him is a long time so it will be awesome to reunite with him and all of his new friends and wife-to-be. Then after the wedding we are going to stop in Tulsa and spend the night with Jonathan’s Aunt who I adore. She is one incredible lady who I admire and love dearly. She is a lot like Jonathan’s dad (her brother), both tender and sweet. I love that about them both! Then from that point we hope to make it to Santa Fe where we will stay with Jonathan’s sister before we head home… It will be exciting and I am greatly looking forward to the experience that Father has for us!
In recent days, I have grasped Father’s presence more and more. I think because I am learning how to rest in His love and affection, and trust that He has my best interest at heart. I don’t have to trust Him or love Him back, but it’s the freedom that I have to choose to love Him that is so attractive. I find it when someone is told what to do, or commanded, that person is less likely to want and desire to do what they are told to do, but only out of guilt or fear of what will happen to them if they don’t conform. In the same sense, I am so grateful and privileged that I am not forced to love Father, or be His, but it’s a choice that I freely made with no obligation, fear or guilt associated with it! With a sense of gratefulness and honor, I have accepted His invitation to be His. I sometimes wonder why Father’s love and the invitation of Life that he gives freely are constantly being confused for something other than what it really is… His love is not a commandment; His life he offers is not something we have to put forth effort to gain. The more I think about this, I think man has made God way more complicated to understand than he truly is! He desires to love us and to pour His affection on us, and for us to accept Him, but never in a forceful manner or in a conforming way. I would give anything to see what Jesus was really like when he was on earth. His character and presence was probably so astounding that it would be hard not to want to be like Him. But somewhere in the mix of religion, that image I think has been lost or ruined, and the realness of Father and who He truly is has been over shadowed by man’s ideologies and agenda’s that take way too much effort and time that never brings forth any lasting fulfillment.
From Matthew chapter 6 in the Message
If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, and do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God’s-reality, God’s-initiative, God’s-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
I found this on a friend’s facebook page. I love this because he found the Message version of this scripture and it truly captures the real meaning of rest and giving up effort! It’s so profound to think that in doing nothing for God or for myself does probably more for my relationship with Him then scrambling around like a busy work bee in efforts to look good to God or in hopes to accomplish something! It’s so easy to rest if we just allow ourselves to dive deep in the simplicity of Father’s affection.
Yesterday I was talking to my mom about the hierarchical system in churches; Pastors, elders, deacons, and so on. People who think they have authority over the body of Christ. There are many scriptures that talk about the structure of the Church, but, there seems to be something so out of place in the church structures of today then in comparison to when Jesus was on earth…
Here is a great article that fully explains in depth on the biblical bases about what the Church looks like in comparison to what Father intended.
This topic is a huge reason why I hate religious organizations. Someone who thinks they have the authority ‘by God’, has fully forgotten the importunate of servant hood and therefore, in my own opinion, does not have the right to conform people to bow down to man’s image. We were not meant to praise the one who preaches, but, the one who is being preached about. It seems to me that the way any typical church is structured to have men rule over other men, and have authority over those who attend are putting men before God. This hierarchical system that has taken over God’s church and has become something that I don’t believe was ever meant to become. In this article I love how he states, that we were all chosen by God:
“Notice that Jesus states in the above scripture concerning the structure like a vine that He wants us ALL to bear much fruit, so we ALL can grow, not just the minister. We also find in Matt 20:25-28 that Jesus instructed His disciples not to lord over their brethren. Let's read it…"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."”
There is another scripture that says (and I can’t remember the exact verse), we were all called, but only few are chosen… I think that scripture is talking about ‘Christians’ in general and not about pastors or ministers or people who go by a certain label to think that they are something. It is referring to all of us… I personally can’t stand labels but I know that I fit into the category of chosen because I have made the decision to be chosen even if I am known as a no body. Those who decide and make the decision to follow Christ are the ones who are chosen. Not the ones who have the labels to think they have to prove that they are something. I remember hearing someone say that when you think you are somebody, you will soon find out that you are a no body. Talk about humbling and it is so true.
What has been more humbling is hearing about former pastors and elders from certain Christian churches stepping down and even apologizing that they were wrong in trying to be God to people in their organizations. This is a revelation that God can only get across to men, but, it has even humbled me to hear about their journey’s and how Father has led them to step down and give up the throne to its rightful owner. Not to say that all leaders are supposed to do this unless they are personally called by God to step down, but if I was in that kind of situation that would be so hard because it would seem that I would have to give up so much power. It seems to me like these hierarchical structures in churches are but power struggles between man and God, especially when the initial thought of man is that they have to defend their position in the church.
Not all who wander are aimless, especially those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond image. -- Mona Lisa Smile
Hi! Thanks for coming by and checking out my blog. If I had to tell you anything about myself and why I write, it would be this...
I love to write about things that inspire me or captures my attention, or merely what is happening in my life. I don't proclaim to have it all figured out, but I do know this, that I am simply human that has problems and I am not afraid to expose them here. Vulnerability and being authentic is something I strive for, even if it looks ugly at times.
So please feel free to come and have a conversation with me. I can't wait to dig in deep with you!
I am learning how to live loved by God and embrace His grace that will help me fly in freedom. Let the wings of grace take me, all of me, for who I am and not for who I should be.