Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

One life can have many different appearances depending on the way it is viewed. The Noticer approaches life with the perception that life is a gift, and that the negative things that happen to us are opportunities rather than crises. But rather than offering up the usual trifling comments, Andrews presents them in a heartfelt and poignant way that causes the words to have a lasting effect.

When a book touches me, it reaches down into the areas of my heart that have been hurt, but ignored for so long that they’ve nearly been forgotten. This book found those areas, the dark places that are completely hopeless, the black holes where any positivity is completely overshadowed. This isn’t written as a self-help book or instruction manual. It is a conversation, where you are allowed to connect and interact with the people in it. I felt a kinship with the characters because I knew their pain. Their suffering was not manufactured or trite, and I could appreciate their circumstances and relate to each person in some way.

I’m left touched by this book in a way that I cannot truly explain, but I do know that my first reading of it will not be my last. I wish it was a longer work simply because I wanted to spend more time with it, but I’m sure that there is plenty there that I have not yet even begun to understand. The small size of the book and the too-simple (boring) cover are both quite misleading. It’s an excellent piece of work, and I’m grateful that Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program allowed me to review this book.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Where'd You Go?

I've had a pretty hard time of it lately. The world is fuzzy. The things that I'm required to do go by in a blur and my thoughts are erratic. During this times, I usually depend on my spirit to latch onto God and let Him lead me through. Yet that part of me has been the most confused. Even now, I know what I want to say and to write, and I remember the experience that I had this morning, but the words aren't coming the way that I expected. That makes me so entirely frustrated.

The way that I generally work is to believe and pray for something wholeheartedly. I get worked up and focused on it, and I can hold on for a good long time even when it seems like I'm not going to receive that thing. And by "thing," I don't completely mean something material. It's generally not- unless it's something I really need (like when I didn't have a car, or right now when we REALLY need to get our own house). I can always find the tiniest pocket of faith to carry me forward just a little bit longer.

But sometimes, like lately, I get to this place where belief for something doesn't work anymore. It doesn't fulfill, it doesn't give life. It just allows for survival. Which, to be honest, doesn't make my life as a Christian look that great to anyone else. Even to me. Whoohoo, look at me! I can hang on through hard times! Um, yeah, plenty of people do that Kayla, BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO.

Someone recently asked me what would make me happy. My only response was to wail, "I DON'T KNOW!" That made Pastor Chuck's sermon really hit hard this morning. He talked about God asking us what we wanted. Would we say, "You!" or would be give a big list of things that we wanted to have or needed to happen for our happiness?

Ouch. I realized that the times when I am the happiest, the most fulfilled, are when I'm learning who God is and how He is manifesting Himself to me. It's not when I have extra money or when everyone is nice and supportive of my dreams and goals. It's when I'm so overwhelmed and overjoyed by His presence that every area of trouble, defeat or lack seems completely laughable. It's not that I don't notice those things, it's just that the magnitude of them is greatly diminished in the light of God.

I really want to find Him again. He didn't leave, but I got lost.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In most, if not all of Paul’s various letters, he begins and ends with greetings to the churches. He praises them and thanks them for what they are doing and even gives an occasional shoutout to his friends. Usually I skim over this, and more than once I’ve though, “Get on with it! I need some wisdom here!” However, after ho-humming through Thessalonians many times, God finally revealed why His ways are not my ways. Good thing, too, because the exact reason for Paul’s inclusion of these seemingly innocuous greetings is one of the main factors in Satan’s plan to destroy the modern church.

Society’s message to everyone today is of competition. Do-it-yourself. Anything you can do, I can do better. Receiving these and hundreds of other messages like this over the course of a lifetime makes us pooh-pooh the idea of unifying together as the body of Christ. We read that we’re in a race, but rather than reading the rest of the message we hit the ground running and try to knock out as many people as possible on the way. We see a crowd of people with arms raised in praise to God at church, yet we think that they are reaching for our blessing so we elbow our way to the front of the congregation or to the stage, thinking that this is what will lend us favor to God.

During all of this knocking out and struggling to elevate ourselves (which is, again, not a Biblical principle), we turn our love walk into a cage match. This effort does nothing but hinder our progress because there is no forward motion. When we think that we are moving ahead in the “real” world we forget that we are squelching the possibility for any progress in the spiritual realm. Even while reading this, you might be annoyed with the number of times I have used the pronoun “we” already. Or you might be thinking that this is a grave lesson for someone that needs this message, but you don’t.

The Bible contains a famous story about the prodigal son in Luke 15, told by Jesus Himself. Rather than rehash a story nearly everyone has heard, I want to point out the reaction of the “good brother” when the prodigal returns home. He is angry and hurt and confused. He does not understand why his father would be rejoicing so much when the teenaged brat returned home repentantly. Rather than making his son a servant in his home, he treated him like royalty. The good brother was never really given special treatment for doing what was expected of him, so he became angry when someone who should have been below him was elevated above him. He wasn’t thinking beyond that day at all. Later, when his father had a problem, which of his two sons would be most trustworthy? Which son would he really want to take into his confidence about a special matter? Which son would receive the biggest reward later? Big brother couldn’t think about any of this. All he saw was someone being rewarded for doing something wrong, and he couldn’t celebrate with his family. He isolated himself in his hurt and misunderstanding.

The first step to progress here is realizing that the spiritual journey is not one of isolation in the barren desert. It might feel as such most of the time, and that’s the foundational problem. We turn away when we are hurt and don’t understand what is going on rather than pressing forward to find out the truth. We hate our brother for being blessed for returning when we were right there all along. The reason that churches were even formed is because believers were a small bunch and continuous encouragement was necessary to keep the flock together. The purpose was not to outdo one another spiritually and use a fellow Christian as a measure of your own faith and closeness with God. How often is this done? If you’re doing better than the person next to you, it’s time to coast. But if they start seeing more blessings and favor, you start running again. How ineffective. It is behavior like this that causes people to become mistrusting of their brothers and withdraw into their shells. Rather than being wise as serpents and gentle as doves, we become tortoises and poke out to share our light only when it is safe.

The point is not to reflect upon why the church has become such a terrifying place for people to go or ask when it happened. The important matter is fixing the problem. When any tool of the enemy pops up to dismember us, it should be red flagged, returned, and a snapshot posted on the bulletin board so we recognize it when it comes back. Satan has only so many tactics, but he gets away with using them over and over again because humans have a nice way of forgetting spiritual lessons as soon as we flip on the TV. When we find something that works, something that God is giving us to help heal the wounds, we need to rejoice and put it to use. We have another strange way of trying to stop at the first sign of healing, but if we don’t keep applying the healing balm another scab will form. It might be smaller in circumference, but will definitely be thicker.

The New Testament warns us many times to be like-minded with our fellow man. Since this principle is not the popular way, we don’t think much about what happens when the church members have too many different goals. Then, when we don’t see some of our favorite people at church for months on end or God isn’t providing like He promised, we wonder what happened. It should be glaringly obvious that the problem is disunity among His people. We don’t realize how much of a hole is left when even one thread is broken in the tapestry of the church.

Paul did. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, he asks Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences. He does not point blame to any one party and he asks those around them to help out. He remembers the service that both of these women have given to the kingdom of God and he wants it restored. In this letter that the Holy Spirit knew would be inserted into a book read by countless people through the ages, Paul was prompted to write about this. Anything that is included in the Bible is considered important to God- especially this.

We aren’t privy to the matter on which Euodia and Syntyche were disagreeing. As with most things, it was probably so trivial that it didn’t really have a lasting effect on anything. The dissention among them, however, was so powerful that Paul felt it from far away. The disunity grieved his spirit. From this point of view, it was simply two women bickering. From a heavenly perspective, it was a problem that had the potential to completely destroy a body of believers. If nothing else, the inclusion of this story shows the importance of walking out the love that Christ demanded that we have for one another.

On a more personal level, God has been moving mightily to bring unity to my church. We've seen people being transplanted to different areas of ministry or even leaving the church altogether. Some of these people created problems and God was not able to effectively guide and mold them here. Others were not able to grow because they felt the disunity and it was hindering their walk with God. I feel that for many of these people it was a temporary move and God will reunite them with us when the time is right. People who left because they were hurting and confused are now poking their heads back into service on occasion. I rejoice to see them come back, because it means that God has healed that hurt in them and now they are able to see His hand still moving among us.

Another tool that God is using here is baptism. Even before the astounding amount of baptisms at Judgement House, there were many during service that nearly brought me to my knees simply because the sweet presence of God was flowing so mightily. And then the unprecedented Sunday where Pastor Kevin asked if people wanted baptized and thirty people ran from the sanctuary like their heels were on fire? From the stage I saw people in the congregation who never showed much emotion finally allow tears to stream down their face. These people felt that God was doing something, and they were able to connect with and rejoice for a complete stranger. A powerful example of God teaching us how to love our fellow man.

As the church continues to operate in this unification, we will finally see the manifestation of what we believed was God’s will. Even though we said that we were ready to take the city of Huntington for God, we still weren’t equipped to encourage and rejoice with our brothers and sisters. How would we be able to accept those that are broken and living a sinful lifestyle with no knowledge of the power of Christ? We would not have been able to look past their sins and reach out to the grieving heart. But now, finally, we are changing as a body and allowing God to open our hearts to love each other. This is the key to everything we have hoped for. This goes far beyond the church and ourselves, and will reach more people than we had ever dreamed. Once we stop looking at it from a self-centered perspective, we will be amazed at how much God will use us- and we won’t feel any pride or haughtiness at all. We will feel unworthy, but realize that all glory goes to the One that holds the world in the palm of His hand. Only then will we be ready.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blog tour! is doing a blog tour! If you participate, you can win over $300 worth of Christian media.

"Founded in 2006 by Tracy & C.J. Darlington, is an interactive website spotlighting Christian books, music & movies. Updated weekly, we feature author and musician interviews, album and book reviews, music videos, movie reviews and interviews, book excerpts, surveys, polls, and fun contests."

Check it out!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Readin', Writin', and Hold the 'Rithmetic, Thanks!

Why do I read? Why do I write?

I was thinking yesterday, as my peers were critiquing my story, that it's probably easier to answer the second question first. I write because I have questions. About everything. I question, therefore my characters question, but sitting in the classroom of an extremely liberal university really is not the best place to let those characters out. I realize this, yet I still do it, because perhaps I will cause someone else to question.

So that brings me to why I read. I read because I have questions. I want answers. I read to find those answers. I find the guidance in the Bible and hopefully, somewhere in all of the piles of fiction and non-fiction in my room I will find someone who has learned how to really apply that guidance effectively. Or maybe I'll be like Dr. House, and one oddly phrased sentence completely unrelated to anything else will trigger something in me and the answers will come pouring out. Hasn't happened yet, but I'll keep trying.

My problem is that my questions are a bit too real for most people. Somehow, Ted Dekker has managed to craft his Q&A into fantastic stories that people want to read. I doubt, though, that he is someone who a lot of people want to talk to in person. He's too real. That's why Slumber of Christianity wasn't as much of a success as it rightly should be...too real. People can't take it unless it is all veiled in a story- take The Shack. It is only received because it's placed in the fiction section.

Why is everyone afraid of stripping down and nakedly asking those questions? Not hiding behind stories and hypothetical what-ifs. Honestly saying, "I don't know why I feel this way, but I do and it can't be hidden any longer. This is just not right. I need an answer." Can you imagine the opportunities Christians would have? That's why charismatic churches are booming so much. People want the Holy Spirit and want to be free to express what they feel. But it's not that old time religion at all. That satisfied older generations, but my generation wants, no, needs more. That's a different blog entirely, and will definitely come soon.

I've seen too many churches and too many programs that spout the wonderful message of Christ without any warning of negativity. Christ will return and make it plainly and undeniably clear who was right. It's true that God's love and power outshines anything that Satan could ever throw at us. However, Jesus promised that people would see hardships just for following Him. The disciples were absolute proof of the persecution that Christians would go through for centuries upon centuries. So why do churches hide that? It's really not fair to the new believers, because they can't recognize the attacks that Satan is trying to bring upon them. Can't we at least send them out the door with a copy of The Screwtape Letters, or something?!

I think it comes down to the fact that many, and I would say most outside of the charismatic world, are afraid of evil themselves. Christianity would have grown by leaps and bounds, or at least not seen so much uprising if we did some good old fashioned rebuking and anointing and pleading the blood. That's where the older generations were dead-on. But somehow we've fallen away from that, and I'd like to see us get back into it. If people who have been Christians for years and years and YEARS shy away from any mention of evil, how are new believers supposed to stand up against it?

More questions, more writing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

No more thinly veiled excuses

I want to write what I want, when I want. Only when inspiration hits will I attempt to lay out my genius before the masses in a way that can be read and, although not quite understood, grasped on some level.

That ain't gonna fly anymore.

I am completely over this whole school situation- the world of academia is positively stifling to my flighty spirit. The audience that I aspire to reach does not sit hung over in a classroom at an overbearingly liberal university. I would like to write for people who have realized that the organ in their head is yes, a brain, and have attempted to use that somewhat developed frontal lobe until it becomes fully functional. Now, though, I must work solely for the five professors I have, because they are the ones that will critique my work with a heavily wielded red pen. Neither do I want to write for bitter, under-paid people who saw their dreams fall by the wayside because they did not have the passion to fuel them.

As I grow older and become more independent, the weight is beginning to drag me down. Throwing a tempter tantrum because I'm not being treated like an adult will not help matters whatsoever, especially considering that I am completely unequipped to take on enough responsibilities to actually deserve that respect. I do not desire to return to the childish ways of my past, and I do want to grow, but it seems as if all sides of the arena are demanding that I give them my attention- and I can't.

Today I realized that the path my life has taken, through no choice of my own, has required that I pick up new information that I would have never deemed important on my own. Not that I'm downplaying the necessities of being well-rounded, for being able to insert random trivia at times has the potential to bring about amusing awkwardness. I'm simply a little chagrined at the timing. My senior year of college, of all things! Can't I catch a break? But really, if given the option to schedule and map out our lives, would we ever be truly satisfied? I think it is better this way, to have no control or to give up the small bits of control that we do have, so that life will keep us alive. I would have chosen a very safe path thinking that it would have been my security- not realizing that it would lull me into a comatose state.

Maybe I'm trying to say that I'm not really that discontent with how things are going. It is taking a different direction, certainly, but it is remaining interesting. The main drawback is trying to find time to watch all of my TV shows.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Out of my way!

I was thinking yesterday about how important it is to humans to be important.

Bear with me while we figure this out.

I want to be respected. I had a dream last night that I was at church and I was told that I had to preach. Keep in mind: I have never preached in my life and the thought nearly knocks me off the bed. Back to the dream- I was getting completely incensed when people weren't paying attention to me. They were talking to one another and even getting up to walk around the room. I resorted to, yes, hollering at them. It was absolutely insane.

Firstly, I would never preach. (Watch this come back to bite me in ten years.) Secondly, I am not the hollering type. I mean, I have done it. I'm a redhead. But I want to be known as gentle and not for beating other people about the head with my beliefs! Certainly, I don't want to be a doormat and I want to be bold, but bold and obnoxious do not have to co-exist.

We have to matter. It's in our makeup. It never fails to amuse me how this generation acts completely ambivalent about this and yet it is glaringly obvious. Teenagers and twenty-somethings cheer on those who decide to buck the trends to be an outsider and be different. They say, "I don't care what anyone thinks." But then they blog and they join social networking sites and proudly display comments and wall posts. Really, the dance card is still utilized- it is just now masquerading in the form of a text message. Yet point this fact out to one of these compulsive users, and you are met with a blank stare, then defiance at the idea that they actually NEED another human being.

That's a sermon right there. But remember, I don't preach.

Everyone wants to be an important entity. If not, you won't survive. It starts out with being who has the best lunchbox in elementary school, then moves on to who has the best high heels (I'm battling it out for this one!). Eventually, it's who publishes the #1 NYT Bestseller...then the sequels. Who creates the next must-have product, then continues to renew the patent. We view it as a competition, but it really seems that there's room for everyone. What is lacking? Creativity.

We feel that we have to step on one another to climb to the top. Wouldn't it be a novel idea if we worked together to help everyone find their own importance? But no. We're too busy tromping our way up, up, up.

Hey, at least the tromping is happening in fabulous heels, am I right?