church

Simplicity

I rather like how you sometimes stumble upon quite profound truths, even in random emails.  Today I received an email from the subscription list for Rend Collective, the Irish folksy Christian group.  They tend to focus greatly on the community, the gospel & what God has called us to as believers in the Truth.  I like that.  But today’s email struck me, and I am thankful to have read it.  They were excited to discuss their new album, a follow up to their previous ‘Campfire’ album.  The first was naturally, recorded around a campfire.  The second installment will also be recorded around a campfire.  For many reasons I won’t go into — I love anything outside, outdoorsy or campfire — but that’s not the point.  In this email, a particular statement stood out in regard to worship and the idea is quite opposite the norm & haunting in it’s depth.  The quote reads,

We’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity in worship.  A phrase that’s been bouncing around in our camp has been ‘simplicity breeds authenticity’.

I personally found this incredibly refreshing.  I am possibly one of the rare folks I know who gets a bit overwhelmed by the flash of modern worship in evangelical circles.  It is not something that appeals to me, and I believe distracts from the core focus we are called to, the Gospel of Jesus.  Not only did I find this quote refreshing, but perhaps indelible.

In regard to simplicity and authenticity — I believe removing fluff helps us as broken people to remove the masks.  I don’t need to pretend to be better or more gifted in order to keep up with the flash of modern evangelicalism.  If the church culture teaches me we have to make everything better, bigger & more impressive — I am left to assume that I must also be better, bigger & more impressive.  Thus negating the Gospel and putting me on track to perform and slip on a mask when I am not measuring up.  Yikes.

In complete fairness, these thoughts are subjective — being my opinions, observations and preferences.  They are in no means brilliant and are probably not of great divine inspiration.  However, when I read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), when I read Acts and all the letters of the early church — rarely do I see mention about making sure our worship is anything more than simple.  The main focus is Jesus, the great Love of God the Father and the works of the Holy Spirit.  The emphasis lies more on humility, surrender, abiding in Christ, relying and trusting the Spirit, loving others, protecting the unloved and forgotten and being set apart and not captured by the snares of the enemy.  Do we really focus on that in our worship?   Or is it more about, “finding ways to draw people in…”?

Psalm 149 & 150 certainly speak of the instruments used to praise God, and things for which we should praise God, but I don’t get the impression it was meant to impress outsiders — it was meant to glorify God.  And in the Spiritual Kingdom established by Jesus that we dwell in, it is about worship in Spirit & Truth.  I cannot read John 4:23-24 without getting excited chills,

“But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
— John 4:23-34 HCSB

I love that verse, worship in Spirit and Truth, true worshipers — wow, isn’t that what we really long for?!

Resoundingly in the New Testament I read a narrative, a fervent teaching that the Gospel is enough to compel people to true worship, Romans 12 worship (Romans 12).  And don’t we want true worship?  If we are seeking to pull people into the Body of Christ through ‘excellent programming’ and ‘killer experience’ and ‘relevant sermon topics’ are we diminishing the grandeur of the Gospel?  Are we taking the power of God into our own hands?  Are we not confident enough in the Gospel’s power?

To me, worship is getting ourselves out of the way to adore God for who he is, without our issues or agendas.  But the flash of modern worship ‘feels’ like an excuse to add more between us and God, rather than remove and draw near to the Father.  When is the last time you heard that in church… “draw near to the Father”?

I was fortunate enough to bounce this ‘mental chewing’ off a co-worker today and was given a very interesting perspective.  Upon giving him the statement “simplicity breeds authenticity”, he provided the response, “authenticity can breed simplicity”.  I wish I was eloquent enough to unpack the thoughts in my mind, but my co-worker’s reversal of the words is very profound.  I agree upon further thinking that he is indeed right, meanwhile I still agree with the original statement too.  I suspect they are interwoven, which is typical of most things I have learned of God.  They are rarely as surface level as we may initially think, they are always richer, deeper and more beautiful than we would dare to imagine.  This is something I dearly love about God.

Simplicity breeds authenticity. 
Authenticity breeds simplicity. 

Perhaps this is all rather naive and idealistic, but if there is some truth to it, I want to take it seriously and draw nearer to God & His word to help me unpack it more.

When it comes down to it, none of these things — lights, impressive music, beautiful sets, professional production and/or created experiences are by any means wrong or bad — but if they detract from truly worshipping God, they should be sacrificed to Glorify the only one deserving — our Heavenly Father.

Blessed

I was really convicted last night, and it was a long time coming — and I am glad!

It has been on my heart/mind for a few weeks, but particularly since this Monday.  We have worked hard to save money the last year we’ve been married & it’s been tough.  We’ve said yes to some items and projects we should have probably waited on AND we’ve said no to a lot of things we knew we could afford but didn’t want to overreach.  But unfortunately I have become a frequent user of a couple bad bad phrases.

  1. We can’t afford it.  (ugh, really Brian?)
  2. We don’t have any money.  (idiot.)

So here’s the story of the ‘conviction’,  I’ll try to be brief.  I got Clara a very awesome anniversary present… but somewhat costly.  Unknown to the good friend who knew about the present, I paid very little.  Between gift cards & store credit (that we had no other need for), the present was literally an insane deal.  But from an outside perspective, hearing I purchased a relatively extravagant gift, there was some confusion, maybe even concern.  For example, “How could I justify spending so much money when I am always saying we have no money or cannot afford things…”.  Really, really good JAB TO THE GUT!   Far too frequent uses of the above ‘taboo Brian’ phrases had caught up with me and caused issue with a gracious, understanding & loving friend.  Good job Brian, not.

There is a pretty significant difference in “We can’t afford” and “choosing NOT to afford”.  In reality what I am usually trying to say is, “It’s just not in the budget”.   Which, clever turn of events, is exactly what I have begun saying (just this week actually, let’s be honest — this is fresh off the press people).  NOT defending myself in the slightest, but I have a tendency when I am trying to focus on losing weight, being thrifty, getting organized, etc. to overshare.  Partly because I want to be honest and open but mostly because I am preaching to myself to keep ‘on track’.  I am ALWAYS re-learning this delicate balance.  And in this scenario, I need to shut it.  Something it happens, it’s real, it’s okay🙂

The truth is, we are exceedingly blessed beyond what we deserve.  We have a beautiful home, which we lovingly refer to as the ‘Homestead’, we have nice furniture that was surprisingly either gifted to us, handed down or sold to us for a bargain.  We have nice newer cars, although if another rock or hail stone comes at my car, I may just lose my mind — sorta joking, sorta.  I could go on and on, but seriously — God has very much blessed us.  I don’t get why He has been so generous with us, but I need to be much more thankful and conscious rather than speaking of what “I can’t afford”.  To some extent that is a slap in the face to God; that he’s blessed us tremendously and I have the audacity to focus on what I can’t afford versus how I am blessed.  In all seriousness, shame on me.  It is certainly something I need to repent of.

In fairness, we are not ‘rich’ by most standards.  There are a LOT of people who have WAY more than us & always will.  It’s difficult to sometimes not feel a bit ‘simple’ or struggling when you compare yourself.  On the flip side, we have LOT more than others.  Clearly a simplified argument against comparing oneself to another.  But that’s not the point today.

A lot of people are probably JUST LIKE ME, but that doesn’t excuse it.  We are blessed to be a blessing in this world and we are called to be set apart, to not conform to the ways of this world (Romans 12:2, p.s. I am a big Romans 12 fan, just an FYI).  So when I feel the habit, or temptation coming to say, “We can’t afford it” or “We don’t have any money” — I need to quickly call myself out (quietly, of course) and instead look upward and thank God for the tremendous blessings He has given to an ungrateful fellow like myself.

Perhaps this confession was a tad too honest — to me it’s a big thank you to God for the blessings He’s given us and a BIG thank you to the brother I received a gut check from last night.

 

 

Contentment

Better a day in Your courts than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather be at the door of the house of my God than to live in the tents of wicked people. Psalm 84:10 HCSB

The past 6 years I have spent my school years with 9-10 year olds. A lot changes in a child over the course of the year, and I am thankful the Lord saw fit to mold my heart in a way that adores these years with these little people. I can always rest easy at the end of the year knowing that if the Lord taught them half of what He taught me through them…we can call it a success. 

One thing I am reminded of through my 4th graders from year to year is the idea of contentment. I am reminded more than anything that contentment is learned for the most part. As a child, it’s typically not intrinsic. Beyond that I know, too, that 9 year olds are constantly watching my every move. As they watch, they learn more about my character. 

What story does my character tell? Is it a story of contentment?
It’s a punch in the gut EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Brian and I have been blessed beyond measure. We have a home. FILLED with more than enough, and yet I still find myself flipping through home improvement magazines longing for the day things stop breaking and we can finance the fun additions to our cozy home. Sometimes I get lost in the dreams of ‘someday’ or what could be.

It’s in those moments where I lack contentment. I forget how blessed we are. I forget that this is a fun adventure that I am sharing with my favorite person. I forget that our home is a ministry, and that more than cute Pinterest projects, we desire for our home to be a safe haven to our friends when they need a place to just be.

The Lord has an incredible way of redirecting my eyes to the cross. To His story of contentment. To His perfect character FULL of grace…peace…contentment.

It’s in those moments where my ‘wishes of more’ become prayers of contentment

HE is enough. 

What is God teaching you?

What is God teaching you?

It’s an interesting question — because if I don’t ask myself this question often, I don’t really have an answer… Which is foolish of course, because there is no doubt that God is teaching me plenty of things.  However, a more penetrating question is: am I choosing to see and recognize what God is teaching me?  Teaching certainly falls about without a willingness to be taught, a teachable heart some may say.

Recently I heard someone ask another the ‘what is God teaching you’ question.  I hadn’t considered that in awhile, sadly.  It caused me to really think for a bit and conclude how much God is really teaching me through all my circumstances, both good and bad!  But my failure to frequently ask myself that question (what is God teaching me?) led to a slight deprivation of my soul versus an awesome awareness of great blessings God has provided for me.

So what is God teaching me?

I believe on my heart for awhile is the conviction of rest, Sabbath rest.  I am quite adept at making excuses.  Often it is the excuse of, “it’s the right thing to do“, or “it’s important“, sometimes “it’s Kingdom stuff, gotta help” and sadly sometimes the excuses are more pathetic like “I have too much to do“.  Whatever the reasons may be, I must move past the feelings of ‘laziness’ or ‘lack of productivity’ that I always encounter when I need to rest.

Rest is productive.  Of course it can become laziness, but that’s not what I am talking about.  I need to recognize the necessity of saying no to ‘x, y &z’, because I need to say YES to God & spend time truly resting in Him.  It takes time to Abide in Christ and it takes time and thought to pray and sit before The Lord.  Perhaps what I am learning in all of that is, I need to quickly dismiss thoughts or fears of being labeled ‘lazy’ and audibly speak truth to myself.  For example, “No, I am not being lazy, and I don’t mind if people think I am. I am spending time with The Father and that is of greater significance than the lies I may hear, be it from the enemy or from others”.  I am a big believer in the power of verbally speaking truth when temptation, or lies come at us.  I believe C.S. Lewis wrote about that. I cannot find the quote; but more or less the idea he spoke of is that the enemy can put lies and thoughts into our minds, but cannot hear the internal struggle we may have.  However, if we are bold enough to speak aloud, the enemy can indeed hear that response.  And in those words we speak, there is great power —  particularly if we’re speaking God’s Word into those moments.  Of the myriad of things God is teaching me, that one definitely looms large — and I am glad I overheard someone ask the question, “what is God teaching you”.

Of course now, I must ask you — have you asked yourself what God is teaching you?  Perhaps all it will take to answer that for yourself is to begin with a simple yet profound scripture, like the one below.

“Be still, and know that I am God”
— Psalm 46:10a  [ESV]

Word Girl.

I love words. I love how much love you can show someone with your words. I love how you can encourage others. I love when my husband leaves notes in my car for me to find on Monday morning, because…Monday. I love the notes my Fourth Graders try to sneak on my desk from “anonymous.”

I also love goals. But, somehow, in spite of my love of goals I have never met a New Years Resolution that I carried out for 365 days. I can rest easy knowing I am in the majority here. So, this year I put my love of words and goals together. Instead of a resolution, I prayed and asked God to give me a word for 2016. A word to fix my eyes on so that I might draw close to Him. This is not a new concept. I have read of many lovely women making this part of their new year.

Intentional. The word the Lord pressed upon my word. The scariest word in some ways. I immediately knew that this could mean a lot of different things for myself. For me, I knew this call to intentionality would affect every aspect of my life.

 Jesus was intentional in every aspect of His life. He set the supreme example. The loveliest for us to follow.

Jesus was intentional in the way He served others. He washed the feet of His disciples. He came to serve.

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Jesus was intentional in His purpose. He knew He was the access between humanity and a living, saving God. Jesus was fully aware of the brutal death He would die on behalf of our sins. 

“…yet not my will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 NASB

Jesus was intentional in the way He forgave and forgives.  Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus in His limitless grace forgave the one who betrayed Him, and forgives us constantly when we betray Him in different ways. 

Intentional is a large calling and a tall order as I focus on this year. But I serve a gracious God, who sent me Jesus as the most perfect example. 

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” ‭ 1 ‭Peter‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Heroes

Our world, our culture perhaps, is increasingly focused on ‘Heroes’.  Whether it’s the major resurgence of action hero movies, whole entire series of comic characters brought to life on screen, larger than life political characters or even social activists.  Whatever, or whomever the heroes may be — we are looking for something or someone larger than ourselves.  There are probably countless reasons for this search, but I believe the most simplified answer is that we want to know someone else is more powerful, more in control, more ‘on-top-of-things’ and possibly can rescue us or ‘make things better’ from the seemingly difficult position we may find ourselves.  It’s not always an easy thing to discern, to see in our lives, because it requires humility to verbalize that we aren’t as independent or self-sufficient as we’d like to portray.

As such, we end up pledging our allegiance, hanging our hopes on our heroes.  This hero may be a political figure, religious authority, but maybe even a father, brother, grandmother, cousin or even a friend.  The heart breaking reality of so many of our heroes is that they can inevitability disappoint us.  Take the example of a young boy who somewhat ‘idolizes’ his father.  He loves his father, follows him everywhere, mimics Dad and wants to be like Dad when he’s grown up.  Sadly as life and time often do, we see a more complete picture.  Our father is not perfect.  Our friend disappoints us over and over.  Our political leader doesn’t deliver the grandiose plans they promised.  The significant other in our life isn’t the ‘larger than life’ savior we hoped they were.  It’s dashing, devastating and can end up causing resentment, bitterness and a jaded outlook.

We desire to have a hero — one who will protect us, advocate for us, comfort us, save us and if necessary redeem us.  We want to know something outside ourselves is big, powerful and present.  Our earthly heroes can never completely satisfy this desire.  Our comic book heroes (who are by the way fictional) also cannot meet this in reality.  But nonetheless, this fascination with heroes points to a greater need — and if we accept it, a greater gift.

Jesus is that hero.  Jesus is bigger.  Jesus is stronger.  Jesus will redeem.  Jesus is worth imitating.  Jesus is ‘on-top-of-things’.  Jesus promises and delivers comfort.  Jesus is present.  Jesus is faithful.  Jesus wins.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
— Romans 8:37 NASB

The part about this that so many folks struggle with is that this kingdom, this reign and majesty don’t necessarily exist in the physical world within the terms we’d prefer.  Jesus doesn’t exactly cater to our human expectations and desire to fit in neatly and orderly into our particular box.   Jesus clearly was helping us to understand through His words while he was here on earth that His Kingdom was not of flesh and bone or brick and mortar — it was of a Kingdom of Heart and of Spirit.  Which in a rather poetic realization, is a Kingdom that can NEVER be destroyed.  Nothing done to us physically, politically, emotionally, etc. can defeat or tear down the walls that Jesus has built in the Kingdom of God.  And that is ‘Amen’ kind of good news.  It doesn’t always feel like Jesus conquered the world — but that’s because His Kingdom is SO much greater than this world.

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
— John 16:33 HCSB

Jesus has defeated the world and established His Kingdom.  Jesus has already won.  He is indeed the hero we long for, that we look for earthly examples of.  We should look to Jesus, He is the hero our hearts long for desperately.  Jesus is that hero.

A New Era

No one really ever read it, but this blog has existed for years — probably close to 10.  Yikes.  But it was never really used, often forgotten for long stretches and not really cherished.

Well today is the beginning of a new era.  The previous posts have been hidden and Clara & I have given new life to this tired old blog.  In a sincere effort to take time to reflect, slow down, pursue The Lord and really create Sabbath rest in our lives, we are both going to be writing on bmaloy.com.  Our thoughts will often not be profound, but they will be honest and hopefully vulnerable.  And if anyone else ever reads them, we pray that God uses them to encourage and draw them closer to Himself.

We don’t have a true ‘agenda’ of what we want to write about, although have plenty of ideas!  But the goal we are really pursuing is to slow down and create margin in our lives.  Margin for God to use us, for us to pursue Him and hopefully reflect His image to the world around us.  It may be through theological ramblings, could be through intentionally artsy photos, strange recipes for vegetables, honest journal entries or difficult questions.

If you’ve read this far, thank you.  We pray that God uses this time to grow us in Holiness and in a closer abiding love with Himself.  So here’s to the surrender we need, to accept the gift of abundant life Jesus already graciously battled for.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

— John 10:10 NASB