Tag Archives: Faith

An Apology

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Dear Blog,

Let me begin by saying that I am terribly sorry for neglecting you these past few months. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I have been dreadfully busy. School consumes my life and leaves very little time for anything else. My social life is almost—not totally, but almost—nonexistent. But that’s okay, I suppose, because I’ve never been an exceedingly social person, anyway.  However, a number of thoughts, ideas, frustrations, and the like have been on my mind lately, and I think it’s time I tap into them. So here we go:

1. Let’s talk about school. I love most of my classes. Like, really, truly LOVE them. Of course, they are challenging and can be frustratingly difficult at times, and the work is insanely time-consuming, but you know what? I’m actually quite okay with that. Why? Because I’m learning so much right now. Aside from one class (which shall remain unnamed), I’m finding the material to be useful, interesting, and worth my money, my time, and my efforts. That, dear blog, is an incredible feeling! So…yay, school!

2. Church. I moved to a new church. Yup. After wanting to do so for nearly two years, I finally went through with it. This was definitely one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. At first, I actually felt guilty for going through with it. I had some issues at my last church, but I’m a firm believer in fighting through life’s difficulties…so in some ways, leaving my former church felt like the cowardly thing to do. (I kept thinking of my favorite quote by J.R.R. Tolkien. He once said, “Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens.” I did not want to be the person who checked out simply because a bunch of problems were staring me in the face. But then there’s the whole “enough is enough” policy, too. How much was I willing to handle? Hmmm….)

Here’s another thing: I’ve never been very fond of “church hoppers.” You know who I’m talking about—those individuals who bounce around from church to church, never really finding a place to call “home,” because they keep finding something wrong with every church they visit. No place ever seems to meet all of the items on their “checklist” of church requirements; perhaps each church doesn’t have the right style of preaching, the right style of music, the right kind of non-Sunday activities, or the people don’t dress “right,” and whatever else. So they become nomadic church-goers.

I hate to think that I even have a checklist, but at the same time, doesn’t everyone? I mean, ultimately, we’re supposed to be at church to serve: to serve our local community, and to serve God through our worship, through our giving, and through our commitment to the body of the Christ. And how can you really do that if you’re primarily focused on what church can do for you? Regardless, though, I think many of us have a checklist. We walk into church on a weekly basis, expecting to “get something” out of it. And so often, when we stop “getting something” from a particular congregation, we just decide to leave. I guess I initially felt guilty for leaving my previous church, because I felt like I was just running away from something that was less than “perfect.” But let’s face it: NO church is perfect. Because churches are made up of people, and people are flawed.

Anyway…plenty more to say about that, but I’ll keep moving.

The thing is, church (at least to me) is essentially about community; it’s about coming to a certain place on a weekly/multi-weekly basis in order to fellowship with others who share your beliefs, people with whom you can honestly and openly share your faith, your struggles, your dreams, your desires. In other words, it’s a family.

And my last church stopped being a family years ago. It just became a building that I went to on a weekly basis. So, after many arguments with myself (and with my mother for that matter), and after a great deal of prayer, I finally did the one thing I’ve been dying to do for years: I left.

I’m now at the Westside Church in Ballard (www.westsidechurch.com), and I absolutely LOVE it!! It’s exactly the fresh start I needed. It’s small, intimate, the perfect mix between traditional and contemporary in its style, and has great pastors who are committed to preaching the Truth in a new, relevant, challenging, and theologically sound manner (okay, so I guess I DO have a checklist). Overall, Westside is full of vibrant people from all walks of life who love Jesus and are there to serve Him. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. No church is. Is it “better” than my last church? No. I think the people at my previous church love God just as much as the people at Westside. But Westside is significantly different than my previous place of worship—not better, not worse, just different. And “different” is exactly what I need right now.

And, amazingly enough, the doors to get involved with music ministry are already wide open at Westside. All I have to do is walk through them! I didn’t even have to go looking for the opportunity; God just dropped it in my lap!

I have to be honest, I was beginning to think I’d never get involved again. At times, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to (especially after my last couple of “ministry opportunities”). But new doors are opening; a new season has begun, and after basically sitting in the background for so long, I think it’s time to step it up and do what God is asking me to do—to lead worship again. It’ll be scary, no doubt. I have many bad memories attached to music ministry. But you know that old saying, “God is in the restoration business”? I absolutely believe He can restore my heart and motives towards worship leading again. If that’s where He wants to use me, I fully believe He can change my attitude. He’s already started, and something tells me there’s plenty more “change” on the way.

3. Family stuff has been…the usual. It’s rocky, unstable, and flat out infuriating at times. I’m now at the point where I just keep my distance. School, in that regard, is truly a blessing in disguise. Yeah, the long nights of homework, lack of sleep, and commuting to Kirkland every day can be a drag, but school keeps me occupied; I’d much rather be there than at home where I have to deal with the constant chaos. And ironically, despite the hellish summer that I had (which caused me to return to school in an already burnt-out state), I’m doing better in school this semester than I ever have! My grades have improved immensely, because I’m applying myself more this semester than I did in previous semesters. And I think the main reason I’m applying myself to this extent is because I’m trying to keep myself busy. Is that good or bad? Whatever. The point is, I’m doing well in school, haha.

4. On a happier note (as far as family goes), we’ll be spending our Christmas in California this year! YEAH! SO excited…I can’t even begin to express my excitement. Can someone say, “Christmas in Disneyland”?! Disneyland is already the most magical place on earth; add Christmas to the mix and BAM! And I’ve never been there during the holiday season, so I’m pretty thrilled about that. And not only does Christmas in Cali mean Disneyland; it also means…Christmas with Ashley!! The last time I saw her was in March, so I’m very excited about spending the holidays with her this year. I’m sure we’ll have a blast!

So, my dearest blog, that’s basically all that’s been going on in my life since August. It is now November, and the end of the year is upon the horizon. I’m looking forward to it. 2009 was, beyond any doubt, one of the most draining years of my life, and I can only hope and pray that 2010 will be better. I’m sure it will come with its own set of challenges—what year doesn’t?—but there’s just something invigorating about starting a brand new year. It’s fresh, it’s new, and it’s a chance to basically “start over” again. And I’m definitely ready to start over.

Sincerely,

Jessica

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Roller Coaster Christianity

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I don’t want to be a roller coaster Christian. You know what I’m talking about—the kind of Christian who runs to God when she feels like she’s at the bottom of the slope…but then, when things are at an all-time high, she just goes with the flow; she keeps her eyes fixed on her own agenda, her own priorities, without so much as even bothering to give God the time of day.

It’s simple and perhaps even instinctual to run to Heaven’s throne when things aren’t going so well…or rather, the way we want them to go. In those moments of desperation and despair, when everything around us is crumbling, going to God is easy—second nature. We go to Him; we cry out for mercy; we ask God to grant us immeasurable amounts of grace and the strength to make it through the trials and tribulations. We pray for refinement, saying things like: “Oh, Lord! Use this experience to shape me into the person You want me to be. Let this time of distress be a tool that You use to make me more like Christ.” But then when life becomes manageable again, when the cup passes, God takes the back burner. Our Bibles find a home on the bookshelf and begin to collect dust. Prayers become routine, thoughtless graces spoken before meals. What happened to the heartfelt conversations we once had with Christ? Those desperate pleas we once offered to God?

And so we go on with our Christian lives, hastening to the throne when things get bad and doing exactly the opposite when things are okay. Circumstances drive us. Complacency eventually sets in. Then a new wave of suffering crashes over us: some new unfortunate situation that knocks the control right out of our hands. And thus, the vicious cycle continues.

Am I the only person who does this?

I’m currently at a very low point—the valley, or the bottom of the slope if you will. Waking up each morning isn’t exactly appetizing, and it’s God’s grace and only His grace that allows me to face another day. So naturally, since things aren’t exactly peachy keen at the moment, I find myself praying and thinking quite often about God: His character, the mysterious ways in which He works, why He would allow these horrible things to happen in my life and in the lives of my family members, why my prayers seem to disappear into some unknown void, etc. But regardless of the nature of my prayers and meditations, the fact is, right now, it’s easy to go to God. It’s easy to lay my burdens before Him and wait for Him to grant me a miracle or at least an answer. But I have to wonder: when He does grant me that miracle or provide me with an answer…when this season of despair passes and when things go back to being ‘normal’ (whatever that means), what will become of these questions, these prayers, these heart examinations? Will they just fade away? Will I once again place God on the back burner?

What will it take for me to find consistency in my walk with Christ? When will I learn to push past the feelings, to let my relationship with Jesus be driven by love instead of emotions? Or will I merely go on for the rest of my life as a roller coaster Christian?