On preaching, inadequacies, and life in Christ

If you would have asked me as a child or even as a college student about some future life aspirations, preaching sermons would not have made the list.  

Especially because I am a woman, and I grew up a paradigm that would not allow for me to be upfront.

 

Yet here I am, having preached for the fourth time in as many months and wondering what crazy work God has done and is doing in my life.

 

Before and after speaking, I swim in a swirl of emotions from wonder to frustration to doubt to joy to regret to fulfillment. I love it and hate it at the same time. I never feel a clear call that I am the perfect person to speak that message- or a clear call that I am not.

 

But I know my main goals are to step in and to listen.

 

Sometimes that listening is difficult.

 

The preparation for my message this past Sunday was particularly exasperating. I felt completely under qualified. The subject was new life in Christ. Which is pretty much the subject of the New Testament.

 

What could I add to the words of Peter and Paul? And what could I say in 30 minutes that would even scratch the surface of this message of the Gospel?

 

As I read and sifted and processed, I often wondered if I should pass the baton to someone who would be better at this than me. But I didn’t. Somehow it seemed that feeling inadequate was actually the perfect place to begin.

 

If I authentically believe that what I do is through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the strength of Christ, for the glory of God, then it’s not about my adequacy. It is about my trust. I have to lean into God more than I count on my gifts.

 

So I did that the best I could.

 

Does that mean I walked away with a message I wouldn’t tweak if I had the chance, with points completely polished, and with a conclusion that would take your breath away? Not in the slightest. There are several things that went well, and many more that I would do differently if I were to give this talk again.

 

Yet I believe that God uses broken vessels to shine His light. I believe He can speak through me because of my gifts or in spite of my gifts, depending on the circumstance.

 

If you would like to listen to the sermon, you can find the audio here. It has my name below it, and is titled "Abundant Living." Using the text of John 10, I talked about how Jesus offers us a full life in which we are saved, we are free, and we are known.

 

The message kicked off with this video called “Something more.” Definitely worth a watch.

Something More from Moving Works on Vimeo.

How would you describe life in Christ?

*Dear readers, would you like me to continue to link to my messages when I speak? Is it interesting or helpful to you in some way? Or does it feel like some sort of awkward plug not fitting for this blog space? I would love to hear your honest feedback if you have any. Either as a comment below or an email. Thanks!

the deep longing in our hearts

The planning started about one month out. I would ponder and prepare. I would lay different combinations on my bed.

That yellow shirt is cute. Oh, but it would bring out the tawny coloring of my skin. Try again. I like that ruffle blouse. Oh, but I don’t think is fashionable anymore. Try again. I wonder if I have the money to go to the store and buy something new? That black tank looked cool. Except, hmmm… I don’t think I have the body for it. Argghh… Try again.

Picking an outfit for the first day of school was a big deal.

It was the chance to make an impression. To show everyone how much cooler I had gotten in the few months we had been apart from one another. To maybe, just maybe, get noticed.

I wanted so badly to get noticed.

I still do.

What used to translate into obsessing over outfits now turns into monitoring facebook likes and blog comments. Do people care about me? Am I funny enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I good enough?

I want validation. I want to know that I am liked.

There is a deeper longing, too. A desire for community. For friends who ask me how I am doing. For a husband who perceives that I have had a rough day and steps in to help. For people in my life who celebrate and weep with me, because they know the details.

I think this desire is part of being human. We strive for validation. We want to know that someone out there cares. We want to be known.

Jesus says we are known.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:14-15

It is a shepherd’s job to notice the sheep. A shepherd spends all day in the fields with them. He watches for any who wander off, so he can bring them back to the flock. He looks for any who might be hurt, so he can care for them. He makes sure his sheep have enough to eat. He looks out for their safety.

That is why shepherds and shepherding is so often used as a visual picture in the Bible. It was a career the Israelites understood, and a living analogy of life with God.

But with this statement, Jesus takes that analogy to a new level. Not only is Jesus a shepherd who notices His sheep, He is a shepherd who knows His sheep. He knows His sheep just as the Father knows Him.

Jesus and the Father are one. They know each other in the most intimate way possible.

Jesus knows not only the version of ourselves that we present to the world, He knows our true selves. Our unspoken desires. Our secret sins. Our deepest needs. Our unmet potential. Jesus knows us. The real us.

And He responds to that knowledge with action. He lays down His life for us sheep. Knowing the good and the bad, the spoken and the unspoken, Jesus dies for us.

We are known and we are loved.

That is what Jesus saying “I am the Good Shepherd” reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, How far would you go for love?

 

anonymous

I revealed my secret. diploma

Last Sunday, I told the children’s pastor at our new church that I used to be a children’s pastor myself. I told myself that if this is going to be our church home, I should be honest (which is true). I told myself that if this is going to be our church home, I should connect (which is true). I told myself that if this is going to be our church home, I should see how my gifts can best contribute to the body (which is true).

But there was another reason. I reason I hid from myself at the time, and realized after I got home.

I revealed my secret because I want to be known.

I have spent the last month since we moved as an anonymous person. No one knows me here. Making friends is a slow process. I don’t have anyone to put down as my local emergency contact. Besides my family, no one knows me here. And it’s getting old.

I want someone to miss me when I am not there. I want someone to realize my gifts and ask me to play a role. I want to be recognized. I want to be valued. I want to be known.

According to the Bible, I am known. God knows me. Psalm 139:1 says “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.”

But to be honest, I have not usually found this verse encouraging. After all, if God made me, it’s pretty logical that he would know me. And though the word “know” used here is an intimate one (the same word used for relations between a husband and wife, in fact), it is also common- used over 900 times in the Old Testament.

I have often thought of God’s knowledge of me being that of a passive observer. He created me, so of course he knows everything about me. And, since he exists outside of time and space, of course he knows everything I do.

But what about the word “searched” in this verse?

Have you ever wondered what God would need to search us if he already knows everything about us?

Search is an active word. When we explore who people are, what they love, and what they are good at- that is the way we intentionally demonstrate our love. We show them that they are worth our time and attention.

God searches us. He is like the man courting the love of his life. He is thrilled to sit down and hear all about her past, talk about her present, and dream about her future.

God misses me when I do not spend time with him. God realizes my gifts and has asked me to play a role. God recognizes me. God values me. God knows me.

In fact, as I was pondering this very topic, I just happened to be looking for a podcast to listen to while working out. Having not updated the podcasts on my phone in awhile, I had to search. And, I just happened to run across a podcast from my old church. And, not recognizing the title, I just happened to choose it. And, at a time when I wasn’t feeling known, it just happened to be the message given on my last Sunday there. It just happened to be a message that included a recording of the family pastor affirming my contribution to the church, the congregation clapping for me, and the senior pastor praying for my future.

I am not anonymous. I am known.

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