Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Changing in the Spirit

This is the unedited version of a recent article I wrote for our church newsletter last week.

Transformation can be exhilarating or instantaneous but most of the time it’s a process: A long slow, painful, frustrating, agonizing, and sometimes downright selfish process. Why would we ever want to change?

Friends, I’m in my own head way too much of the time. As much as I like “doing” I spend a whole lot of energy thinking about what to do, how to do it, how it was done, and how it should be done in the future. I’m going to chalk that all up to being the daughter of a Psychologist. I love you Dad, it’s healthy to place blame right? Ha!

The questions I ask myself are often meant for the greater good, but in the end one question that I’ve let nag me for over a year has done more damage to my soul and my leadership than ever intended. In a culture where setting goals and accomplishing tasks is highly valued, I’d been wondering how I measure up. I posed the question, “Am I effective in ministry at Newberg Friends Church?” I’ve answered that with everything from a definite, “No,” to a sappy whiny, “I dunno…maybe…a little.” Oh good grief. On occasion I would see the fruits of my labor and thank God for the reminder that His presence is peace - Until I asked the question again.

After a year of reading through Scripture, being a part of a Compassion International leadership training book group and discussion, feedback from my patient husband and children, participating in Women’s Bible Fellowship study on the Psalms of Ascent, many discussions with Gregg, prayer after tearful prayer, and devouring the book Kisses From Katie, a transformation has taken place. It’s so simple; I’ve stopped asking the question.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I don’t care about my “effectiveness” as a leader. It doesn’t mean I’ve laid down goals and dreams for helping to create healthy ministry for children, families, and women here at NFC. On the contrary, the transformation, the change that’s taken place, is my heart’s desire to wake up everyday with a heart centered on God and not self. It’s not about what I can or can’t do; it’s about what God wants me to do and my willingness to obey.

This transformation is about saying, “thank you” instead of “please” and really meaning it! It’s not asking how can God make others do what I will, but relying on timing and circumstances that I don’t understand and being comfortable with tension. It’s about grace. It’s about releasing pride. Ouch.

As a follower of Christ we submit ourselves to change. We don’t always like it, but we let it happen through faith. We hope, we pray, and if we wait long enough, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Are their questions that you ask yourself over and over again? Does self-doubt seem to have a stronger voice in your spirit than that of our Savior? Are you hoping for circumstances to change instead of your response to reality? Friends, I hope that in many ways you are not experiencing those things, but I believe that the truth is we so often listen to the enemy wrapped up in “holy” clothing. We forget the true meaning of Christ’s words when he said, ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Today I’m reading that verse with this mindset: I’m commanded to love God more that to question my abilities or focus on my insecurities. If I’m following Christ, I’ll spend my time and my thought life learning what it means to love and putting that into action. I’ll chose to release worry about how exactly I performed and focus more on how amazing it is that God can work through even me. I’ll acknowlege with a humble and grateful heart the ways God has been able to use my gifts to care for others. If I want a life poured out as an offering to God, I’ll love others in any way, place, or time that He asks me too. Then, I’ll let God ask the follow-up questions.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2