Thursday, November 20, 2008

The best book I've read...3 times

I've been reading/studying this book for the past 6 months, first alone, now with my sista-friends and my small group. Each time I go through it I feel like I learn something new. Mostly, because the first time I read through this simple book I was quite sure that although I understood the words, the truths were evading me. It's a book that has shaken the foundation of my faith yet, has not contradicted a single belief I hold.

Lately, I've been reading about "The Tyranny of the Favor Line" The invisible line that tells us whether or not we've met enough of someone's expectations to merit their approval. And how, most of our lives we live knowing that this favor line exists in our relationships with other people...and how we assume that God has a favor line as well. The problem is that we never know where it lies. When everything is pleasant we don't think about the favor line much but when things start to encroach on our lives we begin to wonder how God feels about us. Does He love me? Have I offended Him?

One of the questions the author asks is, "How many of you think you pray enough? Read the Bible enough?" How much is "enough?" The tyranny of the favor line is unrelenting because it never allows us to be certain about how God feels about us. And when we are trying to compensate God for his mercy eventually we become aware that our efforts are futile because it's impossible and it leaves us guessing whether he loves me or he loves me not.

I'd love to write out the entire book but I will leave you with one of thoughts that have consumed me for the last few days, "The key to God's favor doesn't rest on what I give to God but what he has already given to me."

Let me encourage you to order this book off of Amazon and use it for your daily study. It's wonderfully challenging...and will open your eyes to discover a Savior you've never known before but who was always there. It's a great read...if anyone's looking for one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On Connecting

As I've moved through different phases of my life, I've repeatedly felt God's call to be a catalyst for him. Sometimes it's to bring about change in a static situation. Sometimes it's just to start making connections for people. It's not always been pleasant or easy, but it's been work I've felt God has asked me to do. So I've tried to be faithful to that calling (but, if I'm honest, not always succeeding).

Yet last night I was reminded about how rewarding this God-work can be. My husband and I have been trying to start a new small group here at church for the better part of a year. After attending a small group leaders conference together last winter and talking with our small group pastor at church, we decided to take the plunge. But after much planning and expectant hoping, nobody jumped at our invitation to join us. Hmmm...

So we regrouped and re-visioned and looked to the fall, praying that we would find the people who needed to be connected. Six months later, it sure feels like God has answered that prayer. Our fledgling group has had three meetings now and seems to be getting in sync with the rhythm of group life, slowly beginning to open up and share bits and pieces of our lives and our walks with God.

But last night was our first Family Fun Night, something Dave and I really wanted to build into our small group time because we want to help our kids get connected at church, too. My daughter, in particular, is having a hard time fitting in, and I desperately want to be a catalyst for her and ease her loneliness. Last night, though, something clicked. I know because I happened to be in the kitchen when she came bounding in at the end of the evening to ask another member's daughter if she would "please, please come to Big House (youth group) tomorrow because they're doing this scavenger hunt thing and she doesn't know anyone and please, please, please could she come and do it with her so she doesn't have to go alone."

Wow! I knew what it took for my daughter to make that request, and I could see in the other girl's eyes that she was pleased to be asked because I think she, too, has felt a little out of the middle school loop. The other mom also happened to be in the kitchen, and our eyes met across the room as we smiled. I'm pretty sure we both offered up a silent prayer: "Thank you, God, for this group and these girls and your presence here tonight. Amen. Let it be!"

Before we even had friends to join us, my husband and I named our small group the Mission:Possible group, building on New Life Church's Mission statement which is to connect people to one another and God for their new life in Christ. I am encouraged that our group appears aptly named and is faithfully seeking to live out that mission one step at a time. God is good, all the time! Amen. Let it be!