Friday, February 1, 2013

I Love My Church

Since, for the most part, CrossTimbers has taken up the majority of my time (when not at the real job) it seems like the perfect place to start writing again.

A few moons ago I wrote a post and said that I chose to leave religion out of my blog. I had a million reasons why I did that. Being separated from that moment in time I can't seem to think of one. I'm sure it had a lot to do with not being entirely certain of my faith at the time. Not wanting to offend people probably was in there. Certainly I didn't want to start any arguments. Now, though, I don't really care. This is MY blog and my faith and my church is extremely important to me. If you don't like it, leave. Plain and simple. I don't want to argue. I don't want to try to change your mind. I simply want to tell my story. The one that I am living. I hope you will stay and read, but if you chose not to, well that's okay too. (Check back though, I'm sure there will be silly and frivolous posts coming soon too).

And on we go.

So I love my church. Plain and simple. We are in a campaign at CT that is called "I Love My Church." I didn't steal the idea, I really do love it.

Last week I was working in Lawton and was talking to a friend who simply asked "Why church?" I gave the answer, which I will give throughout this post, but I've spent the last eight days really thinking about that simple two word question.

My journey to get to CrossTimbers and become the person that I am wasn't exactly easy. It wasn't quick. I fought and fell and screwed up to get there and to stay there. I tried to run away, more than once, but ultimately something about this place and this faith grabbed me and wouldn't let go, no matter how I struggled against it.

I came to CrossTimbers about three months after my engagement was called off. I was a broken shell of a person. Everything I had built my life around had been taken from me. Thankfully I was able to retain a few amazing friends who never gave up on me. I also had one person who I met very quickly who was still floating around in facebook-land. I cannot thank God enough for Jennifer. From a simple conversation nine months before to an invitation on facebook on my birthday she was the catalyst to who I have become.

I went to a women's group event on a Saturday. I liked all the girls. Sunday I walked into worship where most everyone was in jeans and there were drums and loud contemporary music. I almost walked out, but I didn't. Thankfully I really hate hurting people's feelings. Chris did his sermon and I was hooked.

I promised I would not get overinvolved. Even going so far as to text my best friend that very statement as I am getting in my car to drive to the new building to set up. The next week I suggested a prayer card ministry, and as they say, the rest was history.

My journey at CT hasn't always been uphill. I fell more than once. In the past when that would happen I would be reprimanded, judged and embarassed or angry. Places I had been active at prior to CT were never home. They never had a feeling of unconditional love. This is something that I can say CrossTimbers excels in.

I worried for nearly three years that the other shoe would drop. That I would do something that was just bad enough that I would be pushed aside. In situations similar to this in the past I would push myself to a point that I was doing things simply so that I was doing so much that they couldn't get rid of me.

I feared being abandoned. {This fear was pointed out to me last week and I've been realizing lately just how true it is}

When I turned thirty I made up my mind that I needed an adventure. A big one. I was going to move to New York for a year. It seemed like the best solution. If my friends were moving on with their lives and leaving me behind (which is what it felt like, not how it actually was) then I would just get a head start. I would run before I was abandoned.

Then I realized that I was running again. I tried to convince myself that I wasn't, but I was.

I hadn't made my decision when I made a week and a half long trip to Manhattan just so I could know for sure. As he was driving me to the airport Chris simply said, remember that New York doesn't have CrossTimbers.

Two years of grad school had flown by taking my time and my energy. CT was growing and with that came more activities. I so desperately wanted everything to fall into place in my "five year plan" in Junior League.

I was tired.

I had a glorious time in NYC. I got to run around the city by myself and decompress. I came home and had big decisions to make. I was certain that moving was not the answer. Sure I'd had ten days of making my own schedule and not being overbooked, but, in my heart, I knew that if I moved I would do the same thing again, just with a different church, a different League, and with different people.

Location wasn't what had to change. I was what had to change.

In a conversation with Chris I mentioned that I really wanted to be in a relationship, like really badly. Then when asked my favorite part of my trip I said being on my own.

Contradict myself much?

It was as if I was wanting what everyone else had and neglecting what actually was making me happy. I wanted to put myself in the same box as everyone else because that's what I felt I should do. That being said, Chris gave me a deadline. He said I would fall in love by July.


I liked how he thought. I now had a set time that I could wait for. Eight months wasn't so long. I could SO do this.

I put my new countdown date on my countdown clock on my phone (along with my vesting date at work, my vacation, and graduation). I counted down the days.

In July we did a series called "Confessions of a Leader." Chris preached two weeks then Jason then myself. I talked about running, both in the physical and the emotional sense. I had realized that running to New York was not the answer to my problem. I loved CrossTimbers and I loved all the things that we were doing. The people we were reaching. The ministry that was occuring. The changes that were taking place in my life.

That one Sunday, though I'd written the sermon a month before, changed everything. That was the day that I made the commitment to the entire congregation, and to myself, that I wanted to make CrossTimbers the best place it could be.

That was July 29, 2012. Two days after that my countdown to falling in love ran out.

That was an extremely busy and amazing week. We pulled off the most amazing VBS. It touched the kids and it touched the adults. I watched transformations occur among the people of CrossTimbers. People who didn't want to be involved were singing and dancing with the kids. People who thought they'd just drop their kids off were in costumes leading groups by the end of the week. There were God sightings everywhere.

It was amazing.

I had to share my birthday with VBS which initially I was not thrilled with. I can say, without a doubt, it was the best birthday ever. I could not imagine being with anyone else but my CrossTimbers family on that day.

So, we all survived VBS. We had an amazing "box Olympics" with the youth to clean up after it. (CT people: ask Chris about the gymnastics).

Then Monday came.

The chaos had gone and I was alone. I'll admit it was nice, but I had to start making some big decisions. I was slated to be the Community Vice President for Junior League this year. I knew there was no way I could do it. I love the League, but it just wasn't what I was supposed to be doing. It took the entire week for me to get the courage to write the resignation letter, send it to the president and tell my close League friends what I had done.

I felt awful. I felt like a quitter. I generally will tough through stuff so that I don't let people down. I knew I couldn't do that this time and I knew that it was in the best interest for everyone involved for me to resign. I still felt awful.

When I'm having a bad day I drive. I found myself in Oklahoma City, close to the Devon Tower. Now, Devon is not exactly the skyscrappers of NYC, but it's the closest thing I can get to in my car, thus I tend to flock to downtown OKC just to be in the presence of tall buildings.

While driving around I drove by the Jaguar dealership. I have wanted a Jag, specifically an XK8, since I was in high school (yeah, yeah, Ryan Phillippe in Cruel Intentions caused that). As I passed the cars I realized that if I had the $75,000 to spend on the car of my dreams I wouldn't do it. If I had an extra $75,000 lying around I would give it to CrossTimbers. That is how much I believe in what we are doing.

So that got me thinking. I had this plan for working up to a full 10% tithe. I was starting simply because I didn't want to bust my budget. The more I drove and the more I thought the more I realized that if I wanted God to bless me at CT I needed to start trusting Him with the one thing I held the tightest: finances.

I made the decision to put it all in God's hands. From the next paycheck on I have given a full 10%. It is weird how things fall into place when you just start to trust God. Even though I have a tenth less money each month it somehow works out. I haven't had to worry about finances since then.

Over the days following that I started to think about my July 31st countdown (as it had now started to count up on my phone). I almost called Chris out saying that I didn't fall in love.

That's when I realized it.

I had fallen in love.

Head over heels, in fact.

It wasn't with a guy though (and not with a girl either, get your minds out of the gutter!)

I had fallen in love with CrossTimbers, with what we are doing there and with God all over again.

That moment changed me.

Never in a million years did I expect to be someone that people looked up to in the church, but that's who I've become.

Never in a million years did I expect to really know the Bible, but that's what I strive for.

Never in a million years did I think I would want to do this "church" thing full time, but now I can't think of anything else I would rather do, when the time is right.

I could list for you a million reasons I love my church.

I could start with the names of each and every single member.

I can name an amazing ministry that cares for CT and what I've seen God do at CrossTimbers because of it and how He has worked magic in the lives of those that are part of it.

I could tell stories of how lives have been changed, and saved, at CrossTimbers.

I could talk about people who had never walked in the door of a church and now are there every Sunday without fail.

I could tell about people who had just about given up on church until they came to CrossTimbers.

I could tell you about the confidence that I get by Chris trusting me with some extremely important ministries.

I can tell you about people that you would never think could ever be friends bonding over Bible studies.

I could name a group that needed a place to meet that has turned into an incredible ministry bringing people to God.

I can tell you how I used to breeze in late so that I would avoid greeters and get to sleep a little later to now getting there an hour before my Sunday morning group starts.

I could tell you about watching the faces of the kids coming through the Communion line getting bread (and sometimes juice) and watching the moment that they "get" what they're doing.

I could name a lot of little faces that call me Wennie or Wewe.

I could tell you of people who have had to move, due to their jobs, that post how much they miss it.

I can see it in the smiles, and the tears, and the laughter, and the prayers.

When someone asks me about CrossTimbers they get an invitation to come. Whoever they are, whatever they believe.

CT is like no other church I have ever been to. We're not perfect, but we strive to be the best that we can and it is something that you see anytime you see someone from CrossTimbers.

I read a book last summer by Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz. I love this quote:
I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
I truly hope that every part of my being shows that I love my church and I love God. I strive to show God's love through this amazing little church in a strip mall in southeast Moore. I strive to show God's love through everything I do. I know I'm not perfect. I know there are things I can do better, but the most amazing thing about my God is that He loves me anyway. He loves me when I'm getting it right and when I could do a little better. My church is the same way. We don't allow perfect people to walk in the door (well I guess we would if we ever found one!). We embrace imperfections and quirks. That's what makes us who we are. There is room for everyone. I want everyone who walks in the doors of CrossTimbers to feel like it is home and that they are being asked into a family. Too many times I have felt unwelcome at churches and I strive to make sure that CrossTimbers is not like that. No one will be turned away.

So, to answer the simple question "Why church?" Because I love it.

Knuckle Cracking

I have missed writing. When writing is your outlet and you don't have time for it you miss it, simple as that. I was talking to someone last week and I mentioned that I had a blog, but that I hadn't written in some time (and even since that last post I hadn't written regularly) and he asked why not. At the time I simply said that I didn't have time. While that is true I think there is more to the story. The only way I'm going to figure out the rest of the story and get myself back into the writing game is to just write.

So here I am, knuckles cracked and ready to go. Let's see where this takes me...