Do The Stuff

Once upon a time I did the stuff just because it was the good and right thing to do. As a perfectionist, two things happen. One, I constantly scan the world for things to fix and put in place. Two, my motive behind everything ultimately boils down to this desire to get it right and be perfect. Growing up in church, that is how I approached service. There was a hole and I could fill it. Not only did this allow me to right a wrong in the world, but it also let me add it to my little pile of good works I unconsciously tried to accumulate in my favor.
Fast forward several years past giving up on God, desperate for the solidity of the faith I once had in God, I knew Christ was the only firm foundation. I also knew I had to sort through what I believed and what was true. I wanted to get back into regular church attendance but anxiety and emotion dictated only brief appearances on Sunday mornings. I would slide into a back row somewhere on Sunday morning and run for the hills as soon as the service concluded. I even joined a Bible study, but my real journey back to faith in God didn’t start until I began doing again.
Friends from the gym invited me to their Sunday service. My first time attending, I hung around after to talk to them. And since I needed something for my hands to do to keep my feet from running, I volunteered to roll AV cables. Immediately, I felt the shift. Service gave me purpose. It connected me and grounded me and gave me a task oriented outlet for my anxiety. Here I could observe and absorb. Here I could start benign conversations with others that would eventually blossom into life affirming relationships without having to explain my new attendance or my spotty church past.
Before I deemed myself ready, I was asked to commit to more than rolling cables and start singing on the worship team. My rawness terrified me. If there be any clear, transitional moment in my life to point to, it is that one. In the past, I had always associated service and leadership with a certain level of spiritual maturity. But the gospel is what qualifies me and transforms me, not a clean track record.
In service, I began to understand the magnitude of grace, unmerited favor. For the first time, my doing a task and filling a hole became pouring back out gratitude for what Christ had done for me back while I wanted nothing to do with him. It was no longer doing the stuff to do the stuff, but an offering back of my two hands, my talents. I no longer try to tip the balance in my favor but work to honor the One who looked at my mess and scooped me up in his arms anyway. And I no longer serve because I want to be a good Christian, but because I want to be like Christ.
I’ve seen maturity in my life as I have learned to do my part. As Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us, we grow when we all do the little parts we were made and designed to do in love. Maturity in service? Maturity through service? Either way, it’s essential. Rolling cables opened the doors to so much else. This blog is part of my story. God has given me talent with the written word and my goal is to turn it back to his glory. I didn’t start here. But I also didn’t say no to the steps that stretched me and grew me to the point where I could write this. I started because I was growing but I also grew because I just started doing. That’s the very illustration of sanctification, I guess.
And service isn’t just about a dedicated time in the four walls of a church building. The point of it all isn’t to go to a building or meeting and oil the machine once a week. The point of it all is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Ephesians 4:11-16 reminds us that God gave us preachers and teachers and gifted orators, not to reach out to the world, but to equip the rest of us to do so. Until we are all mature, until we all work together properly, until we all grow so that we are building up the body of Christ in love.
What a provocative thought! Those we deem in the “ministry” only serve to train and help prepare the rest of us for ministry. Why do I make it so complicated? Ministry is simply to live like Christ in my daily life, every day from waking to sleeping, every second of my work day, every word to another person. How do I work to build others up in Christ, in love? The little things then take on a whole new gravity. Christ, who was fully God, didn’t count that as a thing. He served. He became the lowest, he poured out in humility. And he did it in the quiet times where he touched one and called another. His greatest lessons were not to the crowds but to the men he modeled a humble life to day after faithful day.
So, it involves us and requires our involvement. We learn, we do, we reach out in and endless cycle on repeat, ever growing in love, in Christ.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whole the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:11-16)

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Gather Together

In 1624 John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself…” I used to wish that wasn’t true. I even spent several years isolating myself to try to prove it wrong and to keep my actions from affecting anyone else. Not surprisingly, I found myself bitter, disillusioned, broken, and oh, so lonely. And by pushing away those who loved me, I left them, bereft, vulnerable, and wounded, too.  

Man is not an island. We are created in community, not isolation. We cannot thrive on our own. Like the giant sequoias – regardless of our size, age, position, social status – we need the branches and arms of others to continue to hold us up and keep us grounded.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (AMP) puts it this way, “And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”

Consider this. This is worth a pause, mulling over. This is worth my contemplation and study and reflection. I can’t do this thing, this faith on my own. I need other people to encourage me and to sharpen me. Now, that’s a huge admission for strong-willed, perfectionist introvert (read: stubborn loner). I want to think that I’ve got this and that I’m doing fine over here on my own. I don’t want to acknowledge that I need help or that someone else might have a better understanding than me.

But then someone comes along passionate about a cause or with a need that I would have never would have considered on my own. Or someone crosses my path with the very viewpoint or background or path that I had always judged harshly in my ignorance. Or the Sunday message challenges one of my long-held views with the truth of the Gospel. My obliviousness and antipathy appall me. Oh, how I need to be incited and provoked to love and good deeds! How I need to be spurred and jolted out of complacency and into action!

It takes more than a click of a button to participate in life around me. My attendance is more than my online presence and my engagement is more than a ‘like’ on social media. My local Church needs more of me than spotty appearances when I feel like going. Meeting together is a pivotal, spiritual discipline. When I neglect it I abandon my neighbors, I desert them, and forsake them. Quite a departure from “love your neighbor as yourself”.

How does growth happen without consistency? What is consistency without regular attendance? My body would atrophy if I ate only one out of six meals. Forget thriving at that point. Survival would be my body’s only concern. Similarly, my growth and transformation in Christ are directly proportional to my consistency in both private meditation in the Word and the active engagement with a community of other believers to hold me accountable and edify me with their insights and unique giftings.

Hebrews urges me to more than spectating and mere attendance. This gathering of God’s people is designed for more than a box to check off or a general association with the right kind of people – our Sunday compartment. I must come ready to both give and receive. I need to be all here, right now – not stuck halfway in yesterday or barreling on to tomorrow’s worry.

Let Paul’s words in Philippians 1:27 be our exhortation, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I man hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, and with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” And we can only be of one spirit and mind if we gather together frequently enough to know the minds and spirits of each other. When we commit to Christ, we commit to each other. Be here. Let us continue to gather together.

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

Purpose

If we are honest, our modern church looks a little like the Roman church did at its zenith – flush with resources and clout but miserably lacking in spiritual potency. Why do more and more Americans opt out of church attendance? Perhaps, we fight more for political control and dominance instead of fighting to meet the needs of our neighbors and communities. We have succumbed to spiritual pallor and feebleness because we no longer see the Church as Jesus did nor love the Church like Jesus did. Legislature will not save us from sin and death, only Christ has that power. His death and resurrection conquered it once for all. And new life in Him is now what restores and transforms us from our spiritual poverty and condemnation. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11)

So, what then is the purpose of the church? Why did Jesus build it? What are we supposed to be doing if not this futile masquerade or this duty wrought from compunction and moral obligation? What is this more that we long to be a part of?

Jesus summed up all the commandments for us in Matthew 22:37. Love God with all that we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. And in Matthew 28: 19-20, he exits his time on earth in the flesh by telling his followers to go and make disciples. Don’t keep it to yourselves. Do something with it! Change the world. Live for the greater good!

That compels me to stop staring inwardly at the narrowness of my own needs and desires. Look up! Look around. Move and live and love like I care!

The Church is called to embody so much more than a social justice campaign or conversion of a lost soul or a singular spiritual epiphany or a country club meeting. And while many of these initiatives are good and necessary, I cannot get sidetracked by just one of them. I must make a great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission.

Worship. We are not just made to worship, but we are created worshiping. What has my attention and my commitments? I will end up worshiping something whether it be success or appearance or money or love or God. I must actively choose what amasses my devotion.

Service. Love my neighbor. But who is my neighbor and what does that even mean? The world seems rife with bad news and tragedy beyond what I can bear. How can I make a difference?

Who is in front of me or behind me in the checkout line? Do they really deserve my impatience or have I simply inflated my view of my own time above theirs? Who is my server, my landlord, my mechanic, my cashier? Do I really listen when they speak or am I looking out for my own self-interest? What if loving my neighbor is as simple and looking them in the eye and meaning it when I ask, “How are you?” Or listening to different point of view without formulating any sort of response beyond acknowledging that I truly hear them?

Outreach. Identifying as a follower of Christ shouldn’t make me a card carrying, religious-jargon-spouting hypocrite. Instead, it should fill me with such empathy and compassion for the unique struggle of others that I seek them out and show them they are known and loved. You are seen and known and loved just as I have come to find that I am seen and known and loved in Christ! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is no prerequisite on grace.

Community. We are in this together. I heard someone say this week that a person can love their country and loathe their government. Similarly, we can love the Church and resent the institution. But regardless of background and gender and ethnicity and political views and all the stuff that divides us, we are one body in Christ. So much so that even Paul reminds us to look past those very things in his letters to the Church. And looking back on my own journey, I see that I have grown more from friction through the company of others than I ever did in my own solitude. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)

Growth. And thank God that his work in us is not yet complete! What sweet relief that I am not left here in my brokenness to muddle through the wreckage on my own! The life of a believer is one of continual transformation and growth. The Spirit does the work that we cannot do in our own power. But for the grace of God! I am not the same as I once was. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)

So let us go then, and walk together as the Church.

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

We, The Church

Church. Close your eyes. Yeah, you reading this. Close your eyes and think about church. Now, welcome back. I’ll start with the honesty.

My mental picture of church is fuzzy with disappointment and fraught with anxiety, judgement, and discomfort. The connotation in my head makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs to be seen and hide under a pew or chair from prying eyes at the same time. The association of the word for me is nails on a chalkboard, attempting to dance with disapproving statues, and showing up naked to a masquerade.

So, why in the world do I scrape the last ounces of my free time together each week, fighting through the cobwebs of demons and minefields of uneasy feelings, to attend a gathering in the name of a 2000-year-old Messiah? Because my feelings and undertones have it all wrong.

The church was Jesus’ idea. It is his church. In the literal shadow of the might of the Roman empire, Jesus breathed this idea of his church to his twelve ordinary followers who couldn’t even keep themselves together. “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mat 16:18) The Greek word Jesus uses here, ekklesia, indicated a group of people gathered for a specific purpose. The Jewish usage of the word added a sacred purpose to the gathering and he uses this intentional reference.

WE are the church!  Not the denomination, not the list of by-laws and rules, not the rituals and traditions of confession and prayer and study and communion, not the building, not the location, not the liturgy, nor the call and response, not the music, not the wording, not the acts of penitence and contrition, not the institution, nor the entity of “they”.

Me. You. Broken, messed up, angry, hurting, imperfect, self-righteous, flawed, judgmental, in desperate need of grace. Me. You. We are the church.

Jesus didn’t call us to spend an hour a week in a building, trading platitudes, and perpetuating a sub-culture for religious insiders. He called us to critically look at what we believe about him. Who do I say that he is? Does my life reflect a trust and reliance that he is the Messiah? The long-awaited, prophesied One? Does that alter me daily?

Do I confuse Jesus’ mission on earth like the Jews did? Do I expect him to take political power and save me from inequality and violence? Or do I trust that he came to save the world from sin and death? That this power to save me from death and my own sin is the same power to transform the life I live every day to make me more like him?

When did “church” stop meaning the people and become the building? When did it become a weapon instead of a refuge? When did it turn into cop out instead of a movement? When did we all fade into spectators instead of front line boots? We have gone so far as to not only get lost in translation but also to plunk down a poor and feeble substitution in answer to the community and purpose to which we are called. We observe a ritual at an institution instead of respond to a call to arms and action and love.

The church is not an afterthought. It’s not a crowd-sourced, kickstarter campaign. It was and is and integral and essential part of Jesus’ plan for gaining ultimate victory over hell and death. And it involves me and you! Why settle for such soul sucking mediocrity? This is a prophecy that we have an active part in fulfilling! This gives purpose and clarity.

 

We, the church, are the hope of the world, not politics. The Body of Christ is what changes the world, not arguing and legislating. This living, breathing, messy congregation of sinners is what he has called us to for a sacred purpose. It is hard, but it is worth it to grow together in Him. We, the church – the beautiful chaos, the perfect picture of His grace overflowing, making us new.

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

Essays on Faith – Noah

I like to think that I’m totally good with believing the entirety of the Bible. It’s the living and active, inspired Word of God and all, but then I read stories like Noah’s over again and I’m challenged so much more deeply than I thought possible. It’s another strange one. Yet, I must trust all of the Word if I trust any of it.

If we think the world right now is broken and scary, imagine the darkest time in the history of mankind where every thought and action was bent with selfishness, malice, and deceit. Imagine living in war-torn slums filled with violence and murder and openly witnessing every horrifying, disturbing practice under the sun. There was no peace. There was no restful slumber. There was no justice, no mercy. All was fear and retaliation. All was desperate aggression and wantonness. It didn’t peter out at the edge of a bad neighborhood or on the way up the societal ladder. All was smothering panic and dangerous reality.

This is the world Noah lived in. This is the backdrop of his dogged obedience. This is the setting during which God told him to build a cruise liner when he had only ever seen a canoe. “Noah did this; he did all that the Lord had commanded him.” (Gen 6:22) For 120 years he toiled in backbreaking diligence to a directive that must have seemed insane. It didn’t even rain in that pre-flood era of time! How could the entire world flood?

Did he ever doubt? Did he ever question God? I have no idea how he knew what God was telling him because it seems straight up utterly and completely crazy. We aren’t afforded any more details. But we are told again, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.” (Gen 7:5).

Faith = obedience to God. Can it be that simple? A long obedience in the same direction? A low trajectory towards a distant goal? Noah did what God told him. And it took him 120 years to do it. That’s a long time of faithfulness. That’s a long time of going against the grain. That’s a long time of being alone and trusting that God has a purpose and a plan beyond what he could see or understand. I have a hard time with a few days of trusting God with no tangible results to justify.

But God has not called us to anything more nor less drastic. By faith, Noah did what God directed. In that, my life calling is not so different. Faith equals obedience. Faith spells itself out in daily showing up and putting in the work God has set before me. There is no shortcut or FastTrack. Faith shows up in only long obedience and a constant turning towards Him.

By faith, out of reverent fear of God, Noah constructed an ark. By faith, this obedience saved his household. By faith, he lived and breathed obedience in a thousand daily moments over thousands and thousands of days. By faith, those long unwritten moments gained him righteousness and teach us still. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9)

 

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

Essays on Faith – Enoch

First, Abel simply gave God his first, best offering and now Enoch’s entry only mentions that he walked with God. Why Enoch? Why single him out? Like the ancestors before and the sons that follow we know his lineage and how long he lived. That’s pretty much it. Four verses in Genesis 5 don’t shed a wealth of background about his life.
The chapter drones through pedigrees. The line of Cain: lived, fathered, died. At seven generations, the line decays into destruction and brokenness with Lamech’s arrogant defiance of God. The line of Seth: lived, fathered, died. But at seven generations, the line reaches full bloom in Enoch’s walk with God. He lived, he fathered, he did not see death. Still, the lack of context wouldn’t exactly make it my first choice for weaving a convincing story or making a firm point.
​Enoch didn’t die. God took him away. Impossible. Strange. Outrageous. Why am I more apt to discount the validity of the good in this story than the wickedness? Why is it harder to believe that God took Enoch without dying after less than half of a lifetime of his contemporaries than it is to grasp that Lamech stirred up new depths of sin with polygamy and murder and pride that had not previously existed in the world? Do I have more faith in man’s depravity than in God’s mercy and goodness?
​In the long recitation of rote genealogy –living, fathering, dying – the words surrounding Enoch’s life jump out with jarring distinction from the rest of his family tree. “Enoch walked with God…” (Gen 5:22). In this second illustration from the Hall of Fame of Faith we see: faith = walking with God. God was so delighted in this faithful, daily communion that he went ahead and took Enoch from life.
​Call me crazy, but there’s got to be more to it than that, right? Aren’t there some examples from Enoch’s life from which I can glean? Didn’t he drop some wisdom nuggets I can put up on my mirror and memorize? But Genesis 5 only tells us that while everyone else was busy with the trivialities of living, Enoch walked with God.
​“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3) When you walk with someone you are in agreement with them. Your goals align for that moment. Your tasks are in tandem. And the longer this goes on the more intimacy it creates. Prolonged intimacy births love.
​Life is so funny, isn’t it? I get so worried and agonize over doing the “right” thing as if life is a giant multiple choice test and each question has only one right answer. I still feel like my salvation and justification are pass/fail and it depends entirely on my ability to perform.
​But what is faith if it isn’t just a daily walk in step with the Father? How do we please God if not by constantly leaning towards him and walking through our life along with him? And not only believing in him, but with action propelling us onward. Jesus walked with his disciples after he called them to him. He taught them as they walked and shared that daily life.
​Our culture celebrates either slothful stagnation or whirlwind weariness. In the former, we atrophy with disuse and what we once may have had we find gone. In the latter, achievement doesn’t fulfill but only leads to higher and further goals, leaving us unable to find true contentment in the moment.
​Oftentimes, the reality of faith is just a daily realignment and search for truth, a deliberate attentiveness to the Spirit speaking through his Word. Not a sprint, not a fall, not a picnic in the park. A walk; sustained and consistent movement. A constant communion.
​“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).​​

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

Essays on Faith – Abel

The word faith conjures up so many different pictures in today’s culture. But what does it mean in regards to God? Hebrews 11 walks us through both definitions and depictions of faith and sends us back to the Old Testament for more context.

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Heb 11:4).

What made Abel stand out? Why does his faith still speak, though he is dead? Both brothers gave God an offering. What made Abel’s better? Abel gave God the best and first results of his labor. That is the only context in which his actions are even mentioned in the Bible. So, what does it mean to give God the first and best offering of my life?

My conditioned response is to first think about money and wonder if I have given enough. But money is one of the easier things to give. Compared to most cultures, it’s a renewable resource for us Americans and takes little time to give away. Although tithing challenges me on big items (like proceeds from the sale of my house) and small (like the first trickle of my new business income) it’s become such a normal part of my life that I don’t even think about it anymore. So, if the discipline of tithing is there, what resonates in my heart this week as an offering to God?

These questions circle through my mind as I struggle to take the time early in my schedule to write. It would be so much easier to cross a few things off my to do list so I can feel more accomplished and less stressed before tackling this blog. But that would result in just some of the fruit of my labor, like Cain’s offering.

This deliberate wrestling with these questions at the beginning of my week shows my struggle with priorities. My fledgling business is clamoring for my attention. My body, tired from recent stress and travel, just wants to turn everything off and turn in early. But my heart know that this is my offering to God. This fight to meditate and process and apply costs me something that I can’t replace. This is my first and my best this week. The remainder, though still important, fades into routine marching orders.

But what does this have to do with faith? Why is this story first in the Faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews? Why is Abel’s offering a significant example of faith? What does that word mean?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” By faith, I offer God something that costs me, something that I cannot replace. By faith, I accept the validity of grace I cannot see.

It takes faith to offer anything. It’s leaning in and leaning on. It’s taking a chance. If I give out of my bounty, I’m simply sharing out of my abundance. But when I offer my best, it costs me dearly. I’m vulnerable. I cannot replace my best and first.

What I offer God reveals my level of faith in God. When I offer him my first and best, I trust that He will make the rest enough, whether time, money, or some other resource. With offering my best and first to God, I’m placing my faith and the full weight of my life in his promises. And this is not on the grounds of merit, hoping to earn his approval with my doing. This is out of gratitude and humility. He is both my source and my goal. I stop and acknowledge that. And I offer back both first and best.

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

White Noise

Last week I felt like I had an abundance of time. I didn’t have the motivation to tackle any new projects. I ended up spending a lot of time missing my former life in Orlando. Yeah, the one where all I wished for was just a little more time each day. I got exactly what I prayed for and now I don’t know how to handle it.

I remembered how I got to the point where my life was the constant whirl of a hamster wheel at top speed. When I’m busy, I don’t have to allow myself the time to feel discontented or lonely. Breathlessly running a couple of minutes late from appointment to appointment gave me a sense of purpose and inclusion. If I never spent time at home it didn’t matter that home was silent and empty. I filled my time with good things until even the good things reached the volume of excess, giving me an excuse to dismiss any tension underneath the surface.  

The stillness of my current schedule is uncomfortable. The white noise of busyness is gone. There is nothing there to mask the emotions that boil up and clamor for my attention, my processing. I don’t like dealing with emotions. They don’t follow logic. Oftentimes, they reveal deeper layers of work, understanding, pulling up lies, and relaying the foundation of truth in Christ. In a word, emotions are hard.

And it seems like whatever victories and blessings I delight in, old lies sit like landmines, just waiting to blow my progress to pieces. I’m still a broken soul living in a broken world, tripping over my same insecurities and imploding into my own graspings for quick fixes and patches.

Rather than call my dear friends that are now a thousand miles away or drive across town to visit my family and remind myself of the community that God has created us in, I turned on Netflix and grabbed a tub of ice cream to while away the time. That only resulted in delaying heartache and inducing a stomachache.

Today, I sit and sift through the feelings that are surging. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8) Stripping down to silence ushers in clarity. One by one, I hand each sensation over to God. I ask for his wisdom and his truth in them. And in this surrender, this unmasking, I start to see the things of God.

There is a time and a season to everything under heaven. My capacity to love God and others is directly related to my ability and commitment to deal and heal.

Fear of the future fades to faith that God is still in control – regardless of circumstances. My imagining the possible outcomes of my current path is foolish and fruitless. I could have never predicted my current situation ten years ago no more than I can control what the next ten months hold.

Inadequacy surrenders to finding my identity in Christ. When I lift my eyes to things above and look at all these little, daily moments in the light of eternity, I am filled with hope and peace. By grace, through faith, in Christ. My own standards of success and perfection mean nothing. I am in Christ. He is enough.

Grief gives way to gratitude for the depths of friendships I forged and still hold dear over thousands of miles. And the vastness of my grief at the now physical absence of these friends in my daily life shows me just how beautiful community is. I cradle the grief turned gratitude and allow it to touch all the edges of my heart. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4)

In this moment, the white noise of distraction and self-medication is cut off and I feel the full gamut. I let it all wash over me and into the hands of a compassionate God. It is both poignant and painful. Bittersweet and beautiful. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil 4:8)

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

When Dreams Can’t Come True

My favorite books and movies aren’t necessarily the ones with happy endings. They are the ones that make you feel the most intense emotions. This story of David’s has all the right drama. He’s secure and stable time at a in his life. God has blessed him as king and taught him many deep lessons. He should be in his glory days, enjoying the fruit of his labor and his walk with God. Instead, one of his sons lets bitterness and resentment boil up into ambition and betrayal. Absalom claims the throne in Hebron. If David fights this new army and wins, he loses his son. If David fights and loses, he loses everything.

I don’t want to write this blog this week. I don’t want to wrestle with my response when my dreams can’t come true. I don’t want to feel all the feelings of my own life and circumstances. I want to be able to just close the book or turn off the TV. I want to nod, sigh, and move on. I wish it were that simple. But that brokenness in this world that surrounds me also threatens from within.  

If I’m honest, my life has turned out nothing like I imagined or planned fifteen or twenty years ago. In some regards, the pain of unfulfilled expectations still sears hot and deep. There are moments when I’m caught off guard by the intensity of a longing for a life I don’t have. There are hours when the wounds I thought healed long ago still take my breath away. Someone out there has what I thought I should by this time in my life.

And if we are all honest, we all feel the same. Someone else’s reality is our unreachable dream. Our electronic connectedness seems to only exacerbate our comparison paranoia.

But I can’t base God’s goodness on whether my dreams and plans come true. Hasn’t he already done the impossible? Hasn’t He already saved me? And come what may, isn’t that enough?

Even here in the place where I am right now, I can see his faithfulness and feel his mercy. I’m overwhelmed with the beauty of the small things that my heart could not have bent to notice had it not been broken. There is abundant grace in even being able to see my need of Him now – a grace that only seems to dance and grow with each passing day.

David inquires of the Lord. He flees the city to try and avoid war. He sends the ark back into Jerusalem as he leans into God’s sovereignty. He refuses to bargain with and manipulate God as he clings fast to God’s goodness. “If I find favor… he will bring me back…” But if not, I am ready. “…let him do to me what seems good to him.” (II Sam 15:25-26)

But if not. Those words vibrate clear to the core of my being and I am undone. Can I mean that? If this earthly longing for a family is never fulfilled… If this business never gets off the ground… If these new dreams and visions never come true… If I never see anything but failure and tribulation from this point on… Am I ready? Do I trust God to do what seems good to Him even when I cannot see the good?

I’ve gone my own way before. I’ve wrenched my plans from God’s hands and willed what I thought best. It ended in disaster. So, not my will, Lord, but yours be done. Be my vision and my one desire. Help me to trust in You and lean not on my own reasoning. Let me always remember and say, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

When You Face Roadblocks

Like David, I feel God’s call on my life. I know he has created me for a purpose and has given me dreams to pursue in the way of both life and business. But several things have come up this week that look like roadblocks and game changers for my plans. Now, the long way, the hard way, the way that looks like it goes the opposite direction from where initially thought, causes me to panic and question.

Forgetting God’s faithfulness in my past has brought me exactly to this point, my immediate reaction is to run and hide. Conflict is hard. Crucial conversations are agonizingly difficult. Identifying poor mechanics and calling lack of strength to light is excruciatingly embarrassing. Even just stepping back to reevaluate and reroute feels like failure. When I forget how he uses everything for good, I doubt how this new circumstance can turn out in anything other than adversity.

Forgetting God’s provision for the present, I start grasping in panic for everything I can do to change and control what happens next, just like David eating the representation of God’s faithfulness to his people as a common, daily meal. I run through a mental inventory of everything around me that can help. In that, I find myself reacting out of fear instead of trust in God. God’s provision and presence are here with me right now. I partake of it daily. Everything around me is a testament to his faithfulness – even when I’m desperately looking for a place to hide.

Forgetting God’s control of the future, I beg for the instant fix – or at least the relatively soon fix. I want to put in that good day’s work, or maybe even a hard week of intentionality. And then I want the results. I don’t want to work and wait for six months or six years. I don’t want the answer to my latest question or prayer to be “keep praying and keep working”. I want immediate answers and immediate resolutions. I want God to change and grow me, but I want it to be one and done and moving on.

What it all comes down to is the fundamental sin of not esteeming God as God. God’s ‘no’ or even silence translates in my head to he can’t (not omnipotent) or he won’t (not perfect and good). In both these reactions, I place my own intellect, ability to reason, and foresight above his omniscience. And that is a truly terrifying place to find myself. My track record of perfection is nonexistent while God’s stretches into eternity.

What is the solution then? What is the next little step? It’s the deliberate, daily progression of submission and growth and the building of routine and discipline. It’s the long lean into God’s constant faithfulness and provision. I must spill my circumstances out of my tightly clutched and anxious arms and inquire of the Lord. Looking back, I see how He has unerringly corrects my character and my path compassionately and slowly through each circumstance as I submit to Him.

This week is just another reminder that I’ve never been in control – even with my best-laid plans. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

His Word is living and active and in inquiring of Him it speaks just to where I find myself. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (1 Cor 4:16-18) And as simply as that, I feel the peace that transcends all understanding flood over me. In Christ, I live and move and have my being. In Christ, I am secure. As I submit, he guides my way.

 

Writer Bio:

Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.