By Neil Harris
Technical Arts Pastor
“It’s not the measles.”
I’ve uttered those two phrases a lot lately.
About a month ago my skin started breaking out. At first, it didn’t seem all that serious, and I thought it was allergies. Throughout my adult life I’d become used to breaking out at the first sign of the weather changing. I thought nothing of it. But when a few days passed and things didn’t clear up, I started to wonder what was going on: chicken pox, mumps, shingles, eczema, dermatitis, someone rubbing poison ivy all over me while I slept… everything was in the realm of possibility and googling “itch skin bumps” didn’t do much to set my mind at ease.
All that time that I didn't have a name to put to what I was experiencing, I did my best to keep my distance from people, primarily because--although I didn’t think it was anything infectious--I absolutely didn’t want anyone else to have to experience what I was experiencing; but I also really didn’t enjoy answering the inevitable “What’s wrong with You?”s, with a sheepish “I don’t know.” For that brief time, a little bit of separation was prudent.
So when the doctor was able to put a name to my affliction, that name happens be Psoriasis, (you’re welcome to google it… at your own risk) there was relief, mixed with fear, mixed with hope, mixed with despair and a mountain of feeling that it is difficult to pin down with words. In that mix was one seemingly innocent, recurring idea kept creeping back to my mind, even as I dismissed it: withdraw.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed it happen far too often, people facing serious struggles and challenges (marital problems, struggles with their kids, a difficult medical diagnosis) withdrawing from family, friends, and the church, choosing instead self-imposed isolation. And I can say with certainty for the first time in my life I felt that pull. Really strong.
I didn’t want to have to explain countless times why my whole body was covered in blotches of bright red sores or why flakes of skin were kicking up off of me like the cloud of dirt that followed Pigpen in the old PEANUT’S comic. It sounded so much easier and more convenient to busy myself behind the scenes on Sunday mornings, to make up excuses to miss Life Group, to use my condition and the associated discomfort as justification to not be around or available in the office.
As I indulged those flirtations, allowing them to play out in my mind, I was struck by this simple truth: withdrawal is a short-sighted fix that creates larger wounds than it heals. Withdrawal is a temptation from the pits of hell and isolation is its fruit. Isolation is right where the Devil would have us live—cutoff from the encouragement, support and love of others that we so desperately need—especially when facing life’s most difficult challenges.
I’m certain we are all either currently facing challenges or that we will face challenges in the relatively near future. Your struggle will likely be different from mine, neither greater nor less significant, just different. If in the midst of that struggle you’re tempted to pull away and withdraw—don’t. In particular, don’t allow yourself to be drawn away from the church. I get that it can be difficult. That it can be uncomfortable. But the community of believers that God has woven you into exists to encourage, support, and care for you… let them.
By Jace Biendara
I didn’t write last week’s post... but it goes along perfectly with what I had been preparing to say this week. Not only is it about time, but it’s about “what time?”-- where in your day are you making time for God?
For most of my life, time with God was never a planned part of my day, instead relegated to whatever spare moments were left, which often meant time with God never actually happened. I always had good intentions, but somehow the day would be done and I had forgotten once again to carve out time with Him.
This changed in January as our Life Group began a series about time by Andy Stanley where we were challenged to start each and every day by spending time with God. Yes, I know that requires getting up even earlier than we already do, but spending 15 minutes fewer online in the evening gets you to bed earlier and you won’t lose any sleep!
Mornings are quiet. The events of the day have yet to play out, the kids are still asleep, and all the other distractions are still on the horizon. Starting your day focused on God and His Word transforms the rest of the days’ events to be viewed through that lens. While the verses may not always fit your exact situation, the fact that your day started with God puts Him at the forefront of everything you will do throughout the day. I’ve found that I can't help but look at the events of my day differently when I’ve done my devotion in the morning.
In many ways this is similar to what God say’s about the tithe. Before my family began to actually tithe the way the Bible instructs us to, we would give based on whatever was left in the checking account at the end of the month. If your account is like ours, that’s usually not very much, but when we decided to give 10% we knew we had to give that first 10%, before anything else had been spent. The math shouldn't have worked, because how could we give 10% when we’d rarely had 1% left at the end of the month, yet God is faithful when we trust Him, and we’ve never run short!
God wants us first, before the day has taken hold and worn us down. He wants to be part of everything we go through, to be the one we seek for comfort, support and strength. The days’ events will come as sure as the sun rises--but who better to start them with, than the One who created the day and knows exactly what lies in store for us.
I believe that the internet can be a safe, life giving, soul encouraging place.
I believe that the internet can be a place to be transparent and honest for good.
I believe as a church we should be honest and real in all facets of our lives, including in our little corner of the internet.
I believe this is a place for honesty and reality to come together to form words and phrases for God's glory and the betterment of this church.
Because I believe these things to be true, I can be honest with you in this space and confess that I haven't been in the Word with any consistency for about six months.
I can tell you all my excuses; a busy schedule has me doing other things, that an extra half hour of sleep is a necessity, and that live is moving so much that just to sit in silence would be “nicer.”
But, none of that is worth it in the long run. None of those excuses are soul sustaining, life giving, or truth reveling.
Being busy is just a fact of life, but it is important to acknowledge its time and place. Sure, we will never not be busy in between all the school, laundry, family, work, PTA meetings and sick dogs, but I want to raise the question; are we allowing it to rob us of our time to break it all down and approach the Lord quietly and expectantly?
I'll admit it. I have let my schedule corrupt my time with the Lord. I have chosen to glorify being busy, instead of zealously fighting for and carving out time with the Lord.
I am living a busy life, but that doesn't mean I can give up my ability to choose time in the Word.
Maybe at this point you too are questioning with me where we lost our battle against letting busy encroach on our quiet time.
Listening and nodding along with Jeremy on Sunday mornings isn't enough.
Playing Air 1 on our way to work and dropping the kids at school isn't enough.
Pinning pretty pieces of scripture onto our Pinterest boards isn't enough.
We shouldn't want those things to be enough. We should crave more, want more, fight for more.
Our quiet time is sacred and not something to let busy strangle.
We need to rally as a body of believers. Through social media, on Sunday mornings, or in coffee shops and tell it like it is. Be honest and fight together for our time with the Lord. We are called to be in community, hold each other accountable and spur one another on.
But how are we supposed to spur one another on if we don't tell each other the realities?
So this is me, telling it like it is. I haven't been gleaning from the Word, i've let busy win, and I am choosing more from today on.
It's past time we hold each other accountable and fight for our time even if our lives are going 90 miles a minute. We need it. We are called to do it. We will be better off for it.
As a church we are stronger when each of us commit daily to being in the Word and seeking the Lord.
If you are already carving out time and sticking to that commitment, I commend you. If you are like me and needing to refocus, I appeal to you to stand with me.
Let's choose to put our foot down and start today fresh.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.