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Community (A Way of Life)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have mentioned our church community in a number of my posts. Some of you have asked questions as to what I mean by "community" or what our church is like. Hopefully, this post will answer some of those questions.

First and foremost, we believe that the first commandment needs to take first place in the heart of every believer. Jesus said that we should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind. We must have a "single eye" for the Lord. We want to gaze into his eyes and be completely consumed by His love. We cannot let other loves take the place of our first love.

Jesus also said that the second command is like unto the first. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. John also said that the one who does not love his brother (whom he can see) does not love God (whom He does not see).

I think that every believer would agree that these two commands truly are foremost on the heart of the Lord. The problem (especially in the U.S.) is that the culture so strongly goes against this sort of teaching, that even if someone truly desires to follow God in this way, they will end up fighting an uphill battle.

This is where the church is supposed to come in. We are called to live out a unique way of life...one that is completely different from the culture...one that keeps the first two commandments in first (and second) place. But are we doing it? Does the life of the church truly reflect the commands that Jesus placed in such high importance?

It may be happening in pockets, but, in general it seems that the U.S. has completely lost the concept of what it means to be church, what it means to live in covenant love and what it means to have a way of life that is different from that of the culture. And although we fail and make mistakes at many levels, the brethren at the church that we are a part of, truly long to see the restoration of the church and truly long to see these commands of Jesus take priority in the life of every believer.

How does this happen? Well, first off, as I mentioned earlier, Jesus must be our first love. Our unity must reside in the fact that we want to see the Lord glorified and we love HIS ways. If we simply have unity around a cause it will die out, if we have unity because of common interest it will fade. Only true unity in the Lord will stand the test of time.

Secondly, we must recognize that the culture is opposed to the ways of the Lord. We must form a new culture in the Lord. This must be a culture of honor, respect and love for the brethren. It involves commitment, speaking the truth in love, calling one another on to love the Lord and others, and never slandering or speaking ill of the brethren (among many other things).

Now, this could become very self-focused, but then the whole point would be defeated. We seek to lead a different way of life because we want to be a light to those who sit in darkness, who have no hope and who do not know the love of God. If we look just like the rest of the world (with a few Christian songs and phrases thrown in), how can we truly be that light?

Practically, some of what this means for us (although it may look different for different people in different places), is:
  1. An emphasis on prayer. We know that we are completely dependant on the Father for all things. This is not just a part of our doctrine, we want to truly live this out. We are encouraged to make a priority for daily prayer, 24/7 prayer within our church body one week per month and at least one (6+ hour) prayer day every other week for those who are at a place where they can reasonably do this in their lives.
  2. Simplicity of life. We realize that the call to build the Church is the responsiblity of all the brethren (not just the pastor or others in leadership). Because of this, we need to all have time to give to the building up of the brethren in love. Many of the brothers work reduced hours so that they can give themselves to the necessary things of the church. This, of course, necessitates giving up some of the things which our culture values in terms of expensive houses, cars, posessions, etc.
  3. An emphasis on praise and thanksgiving. The Lord has given us everything. We want to honor Him with apporpriate gratitude in our private prayer and when we come together as a body.
  4. Submitting to one another in love. This one goes totally against our individualistic culture. It has been a very difficult one for me, personally. But I am learning to truly value the input and wisdom that we can gain from the brethren, when we are seeking to make some decision. We want to know the mind of Christ and we need the brethren to be able to flesh out what that is.
  5. A commitment to one another in covenant love. This may not be a familiar concept to some. I'll try to explain it by giving some examples. First of all, we place a very high value on being present when the brethren are gathered. Of course, people get sick or have emergency situations, but in general we try to all be together when we gather. Every member of the body is important and we all have something to contribute. And although God could call us away from this body (this is an example of something that we would want to discern through input of the brethren), we wouldn't move simply for a little better job, more money, etc. We are commited to this particular group of people to work out our salvation in love among the brethren. Our relationships are real and familial in nature. There is genuine affection and love among the brethren. But there is also conflict and misunderstanding. Without a commitment to one another, it would be easy to leave or become frustrated in the midst of conflict.
  6. Loving speech. This includes never slandering a brother or sister (or anyone else) and speaking the truth in love. We always want to speak with kindness and love. We also want to speak the truth. If someone is in sin, we do not do them any favors by ignoring the sin. We want them to be restored in right relationship with the Lover of our Souls! We also want to offer whole-hearted forgiveness and the opportunity for repentance amongst one another.
  7. Living these truths out among our families and with one another. This may mean living closer to one another so that we can more easily call one another on to love and good deeds. It definitely means teaching these things to our children within the church (we have no children's church, our children are usually a part of our gatherings) and within our homes (we have spent quite a bit of time exploring biblical models for parenting and for marriage).
  8. A love for the Holy Spirit and the gifts that He offers to the Church. God has given gifts to the Church. We are to give these gifts in love, for the building up of the whole body.

I hope that this helps explain a little more of what I mean when I mention the Church (capital "C"), our local expression of the church (small "c") or community. Please know that I do not feel that we have in any way "arrived" at a complete understanding of what it means to love God and love His Church. We are blessed, however, to have found a church body that is commited to live these things out, seek the Lord where we fail and continue to press in to loving God and His people more and more.

13 years...10 moves...to God be the glory!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

When David and I got engaged, we talked about buying a house and living in it for the rest of our lives. Well...that's not exactly what has happened. In fact, we have lived in 9 different places (soon to be 10!) during our 13 1/2 years of marriage. But honestly, I have not regretted even one of those moves--they were all clearly directed, motivated and provided for by our incredible, loving God!



I'm not going to give you the details of every one of our moves, but I will give you a few of the highlights from the past few moves.

  1. One of our most signifcant moves took place early in 2000. We had been looking for a community of believers to share our lives with. But honestly, we had given up looking within the Church, because there didn't seem to be that many people who shared our value on community. So, instead, we opted to look for a community-living situation and to find a good church to supplement that community. We felt a strong pull to a co-housing community (http://www.cohousing.org/) that was about 60 miles from where we were currently living. We visited the community, but there were no houses/townhomes available in our price range. On the way home, we prayed and told God that we had 2 weeks. If one of the townhomes was not available within that timeframe we would have to look for another option. When we got home that evening, we had a message on our answering machine saying that someone had changed their mind about one of the townhomes and we would be able to purchase it if we were interested! Truly a miracle of God!! I have to add here that through one of the people living at the co-housing community, we visited a church in which there is a tremendous emphasis on living as a community of believers (think early church here). So, through the co-housing community, we actually found a church community. God answered the desire of our hearts!!
  2. Our next move (we have stayed in the same city since that last move, because God had already answered our prayers about a church community) was also truly miraculous. Although I can't share the details, I can say that we had to move due to some issues with the adoption of one of our children. It was a very quick move and we did not see the place that we were moving into before we actually moved in. For 9 months we lived with 6 people in a tiny, tiny apartment. It was great for bonding and we were truly grateful for that time.
  3. We were contemplating renewing our lease at the apartment because, as I said, it was a great place for bonding, etc. The only problem was that we didn't have a yard and we lived above another family (with 4 kids that can be stressful!). Then one day an aquaintance stopped by to give us something and asked if we would be interested in renting a little house that he had. They had been praying for renters and the house would be available the very same day that our lease was up (God has such great timing!).
  4. We lived in that house for 1 1/2 years, but then we started tutoring kids from our church. The house was very small (1000 square feet) and there was no room for a classroom. We planned on buying a house, but at the very last minute the loan agent told us that we would have to have an adjustable rate mortgage. We didn't feel comfortable with this. But now, our friend/landlord had already found someone to move into our house, all our boxes were packed and we had 3 days to find a place. There are a number of families from our church who live in the same general neighborhood. We started to look for a house in that neighborhood. A friend from church told us about a house and we called the owner. This was ONE DAY before we had to move. I looked at the house and it was perfect for what we needed. I asked if we could move in the next day. Our very shocked new landlord said "yes" even though he wasn't planning on renting it for another month or two.
  5. So now we get to our current situation. We've lived in this house for two years and were praying about renewing our lease. David off-handedly told me that he thought that we should renew our lease unless God gave us a house on a particular cul-de-sac where 3 other families from our church live. Well, guess what?! God is giving us a house on that cul-de-sac. It wasn't even for sale, but one of our church friends thought that the man who owned it might want to sell (this was without our even telling them about David's prayer!), and he does!! We'll be moving in a week-and-a-half, and we couldn't be more sure that God's hand is definitely in it. He is so good!!!

Thankful Thursday

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am so thankful for a morning with just my two littlest sweeties. Jadon, Grace and I had such a fun time. First, we went to the park. Jadon offered his injured sister all sorts of assistance (by the way, her finger is feeling much better!).


Then, we headed to "The Farm" that is in our town. We used to live right next door to The Farm, so the older kids spent a lot of time there, but this was a first for Grace. Because it was her first time there, I expected to take a bunch of cute pictures of Grace feeding the animals, etc. (like the one below!).



But although I always think that Grace is picture-worthy and as cute as a button, Jadon made a new goat-friend, and I just couldn't get enough pictures of this budding new friendship.


The goat actually followed Jadon around on the inside of the fence, while Jadon walked on the outside. Jadon lost interest in any of the other animals, and simply sat by this sweet goat for most our trip to The Farm.


When we left the farm, Jadon told me that he was going to save all of his money so that he could buy oats for the goat. Grace gave her oats to a bunch of different animals, but Jadon gave all of his to his little goat. "I love him, Mama."



Sweet baby, I love you! It's so special when Jadon's gentle, loving nature comes to the surface. What a fun morning!



The good news is...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Grace finally gained a little bit of weight!! She has been at 26 pounds since the day we met her in China. But today, she tipped the scales at almost 28 pounds. Hooray!!

The bad news is...the reason that we were at the doctor's office (and found out about Grace's weight gain) is because grace broke her little pinky finger. Ooh...our poor little sweetie.
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On a more serious note...a little girl who takes piano lessons from Yana's piano teacher found out last Friday that she has leukemia. Please pray for this family. They think that the leukemia is a very aggressive sort, and she already had two surgeries over the weekend and started chemotherapy today. May God's peace and mercy rule in their hearts today.

My thoughts on "Any Thoughts?" (two posts down)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Okay, let me just preface this post by saying that I would be about the last person that I would ever go to for thoughts on anything financial. Why? Because I have just been totally uninterested in money. I generally don't like to think about money, talk about money, make budgets, etc., etc., etc. And it's NOT because I am super-spiritual in this area. No. I just honestly have had no interest in the subject.

For example, when David and I got married I told him that I would be happy to actually work with him doing tile, etc. (he's a carpenter/contractor), but I never wanted to do his accounting (his mom had done the accounting for his father's business). Also, a few years ago, when a friend was in the process of adopting a child, she read a short biography of George Muller. She told me how encouraged she was about the way that God provided for the orphans financially. I was actually offended by this conversation. "Who cares about the money," I thought. I was really only interested in talking about the orphans. So, be forewarned, and feel totally free to disagree with what I am going to write here...

About a year ago, something very interesting happened. God started talking to me about money. I was reading a book by Heidi Baker called Always Enough, and was challenged by the way that she and her husband, Rolland, trusted God for their daily needs. Then, God told me to read George Muller's biography, and you know what? I was totally enthralled by how God provided for the orphans financially. I was enthralled because George Muller depended on God to be who He said He was. He was George Muller's Father and He provided for Muller on a daily basis, just like a good father would. George Muller lived his life as if what God had said about taking care of our every need was really true!


In the past year, I have been thinking and praying about this quite a bit. I have come to the conclusion that God really can be trusted in the way that George Muller trusted Him. He really will meet all of our needs. And part of what that means for me is that I do not need to "plan" for my financial future. God will take care of it!!! God tells us to ask Him for our daily bread. He also tells not to store up for ourselves treasures on this earth, but to invest in the Kingdom. I am just a baby learner when it comes to discerning my true needs and what I should spend money on. David and I have always valued living simply, but let's be real here--living simply in the U.S. is still extravagant by most of the world's standards. I am committed, however, to seeking God more in this. This has freed David and I up so much to simply trust in God for what we need and give the rest away.

So, I'd be interested in what you all think and are hearing from God in regards to money. Like I said, I am just a baby learner in all of this and I really would love to be challenged by other people's thinking. Please know that I do not believe that I have it all figured out, and there may be ways that God is speaking to you a bit differently, depending on your situation. I'd love to hear about it!

Any Thoughts?

Friday, July 10, 2009

"We should remember that up until about 100 years ago, retirement accounts and government-provided social safety nets were not commonplace. For most of history, people were dependent on God and family, notes Steve Rundle, an economics professor in Biola's Crowell School of Business.

"Rundle thinks we've gotten away from that now, and instead we turn to the government or ourselves for security. It's a mentality found in churches too, said Rundle, where there are often financial seminars that emphasize how to manage a nest egg and learn to be financially self-sufficient.

"'There's an underlying emphasis in many of these seminars on becoming totally independent and not needing anybody--including God,' said Rundle. 'And I think this (economic) crisis is showing us the folly of all that.'"
(Biola Magazine, summer '09, p. 22)


Would love to hear anyone's thoughts on this...

Flashback Friday

Awww...look at my little babes.




Please Pray

I am sure that many of you already know (and love!) the Saunders family. God has done, and continues to do many amazing things in their family. They've also, however, experienced many difficulties lately. Their house burned down this past winter, their daughter has a tumor and their son just had surgery (just to name a few). And now dad/hubby/Dwight is very, very ill. Please pray for this precious family. If you haven't already visited their blog, go and let them know that you are praying for them at http://aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com/ I know that they will be encouraged by your prayers, and as you read their blog, you will also be encouraged by their love and devotion to our incredible God!

Chinese song #3

Monday, July 6, 2009

video

Grace tried to teach me to sing this Chinese song. I'm afraid that I'm a hopeless case, but Lily and Jadon have been learning all sorts of songs from Grace (all of the sudden, she's very into singing for everyone!). I'll have to post a video of the three of them singing. It's very sweet!

4th of July Traditions

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day! I hope that you all had a wonderful day! We have a few traditions around here that make the day really fun. In the morning, all of the kids in our neighborhood decorate their bikes and then ride around the block behind a fire engine! (Last year it was a police car). Then we all meet up at one of the homes in the neighborhood for popsicles and watermelon.

video

After that, we head over to the neighborhood swimming pool, which the kids love! They have games such as a water balloon toss, dive for the soda can, etc. They also have belly flop, and diving contests! It started to rain at about 2:00, so the swimming was cut a little short, but we still had a good time.
The barbeque that we were planning on attending in the evening was cancelled due to rain. So, we ended up having a couple of families over to our house instead. Grace was giving complimentary hair styles. (Thanks, Meredith, for so willingly letting my girls "style" your hair!).

The rain cleared up just in time for dinner and we enjoyed seeing these beautiful rainbows.

When it finally got dark, David and the big kids climbed up on the roof for our city's firework display. The picture is a little dark, but they sure had fun eating popcorn and watching the fireworks.

I hope that all of you also had a special day, celebrating with your family/friends.

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