Category Archives: Church Life

Reflecting Him: Week 1 – “Reflections”

  

Week 1 Personal Journaling From Nikki Hahn

“Like looking in the mirror, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we become a reflection of Him.” 

 Carla MacDougal 

The first thing I noticed when we hiked Washington Park Trailhead was the reflection of light on the greenery. The array of color God brought together at this creek could never be duplicated by any florist. The sunlight breaking through the canopy of trees made the hues more vibrant. Do I reflect this kind of light in my walk? 

A few years ago I received an invitation to attend a party. I considered declining the invitation. My husband worked nights then, and I felt like Daniel about to step into a lions den. I got down on my knees. God wanted me to attend even though I might face tribulation at the party. Gripping God’s hand, I prepared for battle. I prayed that the people at the party would see Him reflected in me and that He would protect me from their jeers and their unloving attitude. I dressed nicely. I dressed in case I needed to make a quick exit. No purse. I slipped my identification and my keys into my pockets. My heart felt explosive and my skin, cold like death. 

The second part of my prayer was answered. There were strangers at the party. No one would make a scene in front of them. I thanked God silently for His protection. My confidence grew knowing He walked into that den with me. The first part of the prayer was also answered, though it took a little time for this to register. A lady who lost her husband recently kept staring at me. She would say, “There is something different about you.” Everyone kept giving answers why I appeared “different.” She kept shaking her head at each reason. “No, there’s definitely something different about you.” 

When I was an unbeliever, I noted a “difference” in some of the believers around me. They spoke a lingo I did not understand and their attitude shined like a search light into my darkness. I wanted to know why they were “different.” I attended church. I thought I was a believer. I thought baptism and church would save me. I thought if I made all the right decisions that would save me. Those believers touched my life though they barely left a footprint. But I have also noted the darkness in the life of those who say or are believers in Christ. 

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the world. Toxic relationships and unwise choices can lead us away from a relationship with God. He didn’t move. We moved. I kept company with darkness. That darkness made me cold. I judged rather than loved; I joined in on activities the Bible speaks against; and in the beginning had such excitement for His Word until the world kept pushing me farther and farther away from Him.  I learned from my mistakes.     

I worked five years at a government job. Because of the darkness in my life, only two years of that time did I use to minister and spread the Good News. I could have done so much for the Kingdom of God to honor Christ’s sacrifice for me, but instead chose to wallow in self-pity and anger. I divorced myself from my toxic relationships. My husband helped me to see the darkness in my life. He helped me find my smile again. I began to take care of my body and my soul by leaning more on Jesus and trusting Him with all of my problems. 

We see our reflection in the mirror every morning as we do our hair and apply our make-up. Our outfits are picked with care and sometimes we go through a pile of outfits before we find that perfect one. Why are we more conscious of our outward reflection than on our inner reflection? We are quick to point out a person’s misstep or lack of color coordination, but less than quick to catch the wrong word flying out of our mouths or the inappropriate venting we do in front of a friend.  

The colors reflected in the woods that day awed me. It made me feel small when faced by the overwhelming size of God’s creation. It reminded me of my reflection, why I blog, why I live and breathe, and why I am grateful for the sunrise and sunset of each passing day. I am more aware of my actions, my words, and am learning to forgive me for what I did not do in the past, or what I should have done better. I want to live with passion, not in apathy. 

Verses in This Week’s Study:  

2 Corinthians 3:18 

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit.” 

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 

The NIV states above for verse 12: “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. The imagery is of a polished metal (probably bronze) mirror in which one could receive only an imperfect reflection —in contrast to seeing the Lord directly and clearly in heaven. Know fully…fully known. The Christian will know the Lord to the fullest extent possible for a finite being, similar to the way the Lord knows the Christian fully and infinitely. This will not be true until the Lord returns.”  

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Are you more apt to dress your outward appearance?  Do you feed your soul with the Bible?  Or does your Bible sit on a book shelf and collect dust?  Do you read His Word out of guilt or habit or out of love for a Savior who died on the cross for you?

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UGH!

I wish I could be the kind of person that dwells for only a moment on something dark and then quickly shakes it off.  Is there a pill a person can take to forget?  There are roads I travel down again and again, reliving moments I should forget, bearing grudges I should forgive, and venting on the same subjects again and again.

Someone at church irritates you and while venting should relieve the annoyance, it doesn’t help.  Whenever you see that person, you get irritated; someone in the grocery store is unfriendly; someone cuts you off in the parking lot or on the road; someone darkens your day with an angry complaint.  You name what irritates you and maybe you’ll find that you’ve held a grudge, too, relived the moment and have failed to give it to God.

People leave a church because that church hurt them in some way.  People leave friendships because of an unmet need.  People destroy marriages with their grudges.  Forgiveness is key.  Forgive yourself, forgive your spouse, forgive your friend, forgive your old church, and above all, give that burden to God.  Let Him hold it.  Let Him take care of it.  I wish it were that easy.  Old habits die hard.  Forgiveness is an intentional journey and a process.  It’s all about choices.

Have you done this?  What choices have you made in your past that has led to disastrous results?  And have you forgiven yourself?

Last Day Of The Blog Tour/Winner Announced

And the winner is Debra Weiss.  She will recieve a copy of Stuff Christians Like.  You can view her webpage here

JUST FOR FUN!

The Hedge Of Protection:  Slow Growing, Easily Jumped, Not Nearly Enough Protection For These Crazy Times (Pg. 68)

I think the uber-popular Christian prayer request for a “hedge of protection” is in the Bible, but I’m not sure.  It sounds like something David would have written in the book of Psalms.  He’s very poetic and our most Bono-like writer.  But a friend of mine once revealed that he’s always found that to be an inadequate security measure.  As a child, when his mother would pray that he would have a hedge of protection or a hedge of angels around him, he would think, “Anyone can jump a hedge.  How hard is that?  Forget the hedge of angels; I’m praying for a dome of angels.” 

At first I laughed at that story, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  These are troubling times, and I’ve never seen a hedge and thought, “that thick collection of bushes is both terrifying and impenetrable.”  Maybe instead of praying for a hedge of protection, we should pray for: 

A Beaded Curtain of Wasps

Your enemy would see this from a distance and think it was a standard beaded curtain.  “Sweet,” they’d think.  “Hippies.  Let’s go steal their stuff.”  But as soon as they touched the curtain, they’d be rained down on by wasps that were enraged at being delicately strung together in a beaded curtain formation. 

A Trampoline of Lions

Throwing a plank across the average moat renders it useless.  That won’t be an issue though…with the trampoline moat of lions, or TMOL.  You’ve admittedly got to pull insane permits to build this thing.  But once you do, trust me, it’s worth it.  Few things are as scary and imposing as a pride of lions that have figured out the mechanics of a trampoline.  Just imagine a hurricane of claws and fangs and manes bouncing skyward as they “give each other air.”  I’m getting sweaty just typing this. 

A Rugby Scrum of Angels

When people say, “a hedge of protection,” or, “a hedge of angels,” I start imagining a bunch of angels in pleated khakis standing around, bored, waiting for the bus.  Forget that.  A rugby scrum is where players from both teams lock arms and heads and start swirling around in a tangle of power and aggression and swagger. 

That’s what I want angels protecting me to be doing. I want them to be constantly brawling, like some sort of angelic version of Patrick Swayze’s movie, Roadhouse.  When something bad comes my way, the angels don’t have to warm up.  They just turn to my foe and say, “You want to get in on this? We got more than enough to go around.” 

Now It’s Your Turn.  Describe your hedge of protection.  What would it look like? 

Complaining About Not Being “Fed” At Church

Book Excerpt & Discussion (Pg. 18)

If you want to become a professional church grumbler, not just some amateur occasionally throwing rocks at the worship service, minister, or other atttributes of the church, there’s one key phrase you need to know: 

“I’m not being fed.”

This simple complaint–the teaching is lacking, the sermons are thin, the worship music is not uplifting enough, or a million other things that people find inadequate–is the official complaint of church grumblers the world over.  If we could figure out a way to monetize it, we could permanently end world poverty.  Forget cold fusion; if we could generate energy every time someone says this phrase, we’d be able to break our dependency on foriegn oil in about four minutes. 

It’s such a perfect thing to say because it deflects any attention away from me, while at the same time creating false humility and making me seem spiritually mature and advanced.  “It’s not you, it’s me.  I just want to learn.  I’m admitting that I am incomplete.  I’m hungry for deep, real spiritual teaching.  I’m humbly confessing that I’m not getting enough out of church.  Please help me get the rich faith-building experiences that I so desperately need.” 

Just be careful who you say this to.  Pastor’s are starting to get wily.  When people tell my friend, “I’m not being fed,” he replies, “I’m perfectly happy to spoon feed my one-year old.  But if I’m still spoon feeding him when he’s five, we’ve got a problem.  Here’s a fork.  Feed yourself.” 

What more can I say?  I totally agree with this one.  I can laugh because I have heard those complaints.  What are your thoughts on this?  What experiences can you share of complainers?  What solutions can we present in love to the complainers? 

So You Want To Be A Millionaire…

Maybe not a millionaire, but Jonathan Acuff is offering a contest open to everyone.  See details below:

As a part of our social media tour promoting Jonathan’s release of Stuff Christians Like, we’re giving you and you readers the opportunity to share your favorite “stuff” Christians like. In 500 words or less, write your own version of Stuff Christians Like and you could be featured on Jonathan’s blog – which reaches over 120,000 readers each month and has been read by 1.4 million people since it began two years ago. Check out http://stuffchristianslike.net for examples and inspiration. Post your entry on your blog and link to it using Mr. Linky on our tour post below. Entires must be received by midnight, CST Friday, July 2. If you post your entry to Facebook or do not have a blog, you can email your submission to info (at) blogtourspot.com.

You can view his interview here.

My 500-Word Entry: 

Church Life

My job as a church secretary is multi-faceted.  I have great bosses and have made many friends in this job.  I have learned valuable lessons from difficult people, like how to gently respond instead of doing a Chuck Norris on them.  People mean well when they try to tell me how many typos are in the bulletin or what we could have done better on Sunday.  Some in the congregation have sent us countless cards thanking us for our hard work—well, mostly to the pastors.  My job is not just pushing papers, becoming creative or balancing my work, but my job is also to reach out to the congregation. 

We have a man who likes to tell us the history of his childhood.  All of his conversations are interlaced with, “When I was…”  Our church is over 125-years old and many of our members have attended this church their whole lives.  Black and white photos of long ago adorn the walls of our office.  Some of our seniors pause in front of them and reminisce about those days.  There are seniors with impressive backgrounds and PhD’s who teach our Sunday Schools.  Another man comes in off and on to get copies of old hymn music.  He lost his wife a few years ago and likes to keep us company.  He is the Amen Guy in church.  It’s not an official position, but not just anyone can be the Amen Guy.  That’s a position earned for the right person who can punctuate the pastor’s sermons at just the right moment without interrupting his sentence and comments loudly to cause that well-timed eruption of laughter during second service.   Amen Guys are special, but you have to earn that spot. 

A church secretary is required to multi-task.  You should have seen me when the pastor changed his sermon mid-week.  I had 650 bulletins reprinted in an hour—fast even for me.  While one printer printed one side, I switched the papers to a second printer to begin the other side and then carried the completed bulletins back to the monster folding machine to fold and stack  Go ahead and ask me to do something impossible!  I like a challenge.  I live for challenges—as long as there is Starbucks down the street ready and willing to keep that Café Mocha coming, this church secretary is not afraid when I hear the pastor say, “Nikki, could we change…” 

Book Review: Stuff Christians Like By Jonathan Acuff

Humorous sarcasm laced every page. I liked how he tackled every aspect of the Christian life. I liked how he made fun of it. Sarcasm is wonderful, but I would have liked to see some sort of declaration of beliefs in the introduction or as an epilogue—something a new believer or searching soul could rest his eyes upon and drink in minus the sarcasm.  Sarcastic humor is hard to interrpret and with churches nowadays that pick scripture to fit their theology an explanation would have been a nice addition to Stuff Christians Like.  For the most part, his words rang true—hilariously so—and while I liked his book, a couple of entries caused some disquiet like his thoughts on the Old Testament.  Let’s start with what I liked about the book: 

“He didn’t come to take just the good people with him on a bus, and say it was okay if the sick folks like me clung to the side or rode on the roof. He came for us, the broken, the beaten, the severely messed up. Like me. Like you. In Mark 2:17 Jesus says, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ When I bumped into the truth, it changed the way I saw my ruined bowl of ice cream. It was no longer something I needed to stir and try to make perfect. It was no longer something I imagined Jesus and God being disguised by. My wasted years and broken promises were no longer something I needed to hide.” (From “Trying Harder,” pg. 200)

My own weary and distrusting heart, bruised and battered by those who have compromised the Bible and its teachings, may have examined certain entries too closely and too seriously. I posted a question on his Facebook to get a clear answer, but I have not heard a response. Maybe the interview will clear the fog and turn on some lights. I will post those questionable entries later this week in my book excerpt and discussion time. I would love to hear your take on it. After I read the Old Testament post to to my husband, he felt confused. There were many entries I could relate to, have experienced myself and with other Christians, and my laughter nearly brought down the rafters.

“I’m a professional copywriter. I am, in theory, supposed to be a highly honed, detail-dedicated arbiter of punctuation and grammar. That’s why I look for typos in the worship songs at church. What’s your excuse?”  (Pg. 97, Finding Typos In The Worship Music)

I am a church secretary. I create the Sunday bulletin at church. If I had the wrong date on the front of the bulletin, it would surprise me if I did not hear about it or get an email about it (to be fair, last week’s wrong date did not get noticed except by my bulletin stuffers). I take it in good humor though. Jonathan also writes about church jobs:

“Don’t you wish you worked at a church? That would be such a dream job! I’ve never been blessed that way but my assumption is that other than Sunday, a church job is kind of like having a really long quiet time. You probably get to read the Bible all day and take long breaks in your prayer closet and spend eight hours a day growing in your own spiritual life.” He continues a few paragraphs down with, “Plus, you’ve got an entire congregation full of people that love them (church workers) unconditionally. Imagine having hundreds of people that are fans of what you do and how you do it. People that are going to wholeheartedly accept what you do and never write mean emails no matter if they disagree with your decisions. Me? I read negative opinions from our customers all the time. People that work at churches? They’re opening thank-you notes.”  (Pg. 115, “Wishing You Had An Easy Job Like Working At A Church)

Wait a moment while I stifle my laughter and the round of sarcastic comments about to pass through these Christian lips. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good people, but once in a while, one of them gets mad at you. It happens. The church is a body of people and people sin (gasp, shock), including me. Oh, wait! There’s two thank-you notes sitting on display on my desk. I forgot about those great people!

There are so many well written and funny commentaries in his book. I had a hard time picking a couple for my book excerpt and discussion. He used humor and love to make his point. Christians are hypocrites. I mean it! If any Christian says they are not a hypocrite, please step forward and take the Nobel Peace prize. You are a rare species indeed—so rare that you are on the endangered species list.

While I wouldn’t recommend this book for new believers or atheists, I would highly recommend it for believers who have been around the church a few times. You will feel convicted. You will see guilt peeking around the corner and making faces at you. You will laugh and you will laugh a lot! He manages to brilliantly weave the message with sarcastic humor to create a book that is both healing and sobering. It rips wide open the myth atheists seem to carry around with them that Christians are without sin. We suddenly get saved and we never sin again—let me take a moment to laugh. That was funny!

He claimed he received hate mail because someone disagreed with him. Perhaps the sender looked too closely at his own soul and realized how far he had come from God. Or perhaps he had one too many beers. Don’t be fooled by the humor in this book! It’s guaranteed to make you come away slightly different. In spite of the confusing entries, I would still buy this book, but not for my unbelieving friends or family. I think they need to find Christ first before they try to understand the humor in church life and it’s variety of personalities.

*Book Given By Zondervan Publishing To Review