Monday, December 31, 2012

Stewardship Sunday

As I mentioned my last Stewardship post,  God has been giving me new priorities, that He has for me.  Not that I think my previous stewardship priorities weren't theologically sound or anything :) but as I also mentioned, God is guiding us in a new direction, into a new season and the priorities of this season are just different. 
I am happy with how my focus on stewardship has changed me over the last few years though, moved me away from my natural tendency to control (through LISTS!) and instead the emphasis was on taking inventory of the 'talents' God has blessed me with and how I can honor Him the most with them. I do not intend to stop this practice, it just may look slightly different now, but for now I say goodbye to the Stewardship series and I hope somehow somewhere I have inspired someone with it.

Stewardship of My Finances
1. Reuse/Recycle before New – before Pinterest this one really stretched my imagination but I have been able to pull off a few reuse/recycle ideas and have several more stored for future use. While I try and balance this temptation to save stuff for reuse with my increasingly minimalistic paradigm, I think I'm doing fairly well at both. I have bought the majority of new clothes this year at a thrift store and plan to continue to do so. The sewing machine is getting closer, I'm hoping for early new year.
2. Pay off ALL debt and invest smarter – as I mentioned, all debt is paid off other than the vehicle and house, and we have an aggressive plan to pay off the vehicle in 2 years instead of the 4 more years on our loan.
3. Give more tithe than we already give – we were able to give our large donation to our Church's building fund, it's not like we're going to get a 'wing' named after us but we feel very good about our obedience in this area because I'm very much the 'save for the future' kind of paranoid and knowing what that amount could equal at retirement time, I thought it would be harder to part with.

Being the 'I budget for fun' person that I am, this is an area constantly re-examined, especially once Sean went back to school, and again last month, thanks to a radically new and different lifestyle called 'living on support'! As I've mentioned, Sean is in the midst of raising support for the offered position of HR Manager at Youth For Christ Winnipeg.  We have been preparing for this since Sean first got an interview in August when we found out the salary was 100% support, and we've been willing to make the sacrifice because we know God wants Sean there, but we have also been encouraged by Sean's pastor/mentor who has lived on support/tithe most of his life, and he told us to remember, when God wants something to happen, He moves in the hearts of those who need to give, and almost always people give what is needed. We are full of faith that God will give us enough and we will be the best stewards of what He blesses us with.

Stewardship of My Home
4. Cleaning – I have to face the facts on this one. This is not the season in my life for a home that looks guest worthy at any moment. I don't know if it ever will be actually. I have told several friends over the last while that they better not take the time and effort (that I know they don't have) to 'fix' up their home for a visit, and when I visit, their home looks lived in, not 'clean', and I barely notice! I have made progress in minimalism, which helps because there is less to clean, and I think I'm just going to be fine with a healthy kind of tidy for now.
5. Establish a Meal Plan – So, having been through my approx. 100 recipe plan once all the way through, I have paired it down significantly, finding the favorites and the easier meals to make my kitchen more of a food factory than experimental laboratory.  I realized during my summer break from my meal plan that baking/grilling a whole bunch of chicken breasts and freezing them worked for a LOT of my recipes so that is a new staple in my freezer! I think I've successfully given myself what I originally wanted, a wide variety of favorite recipes that about 80% of them can be made in less than half an hour (not including once-a-month prep/pre-cook) for the season of very busy evenings we have.
6. Make food from scratch – this goal was one that was building towards a home that provided my future kids with healthy food to eat, bringing back family traditions of food preparation, and starting a new habit of respecting the earth. I'm still building, I have cut out SO much processed food, some replaced by 'from scratch' but more often I found it unnecessary to replace them at all. I still look forward to days at home with my kids, teaching them (and myself!) the fine art of baking buns or canning beets, like I wish I had learned from my grandma.
7. House Improvements – other than making sure our home stays safe and 'in a state of repair' :) this isn't even close to being a top priority any more. Funny how hubby's list disappears when he's preoccupied with school and soon a job he will love!

Going forward I want a balance in my home between healthy and quality time with loved ones, which ever balance achieves both of those best will win out!

Stewardship of My Body
8. Exercise. period. – This is one of those priorities that's been an experimentation, with our schedules in the evening changing a lot since September (school, 3 different small groups, CR Fridays). I am improving at doing it even though I don't feel like it, but now my available time is shrinking. My goal is to find 20 min. every day and just do it, my own 20 mile march. Now my priority is to drill this into my head, and look for the first opportunity in the day, not the last!
9. Drop to 175 and maintain – the goal weight I’ve had for myself is still 18 lbs away.  I already talked about the activity side, but God has really been working on my control of weight through the knowledge of healthy choices I've built up and showing me it's not about the knowledge, it's about turning to food rather than God. While to a degree my goal weight is based on how I felt at that weight (including felt about my appearance), but now I want to make this about obedience not an amount. If I don't feel good about my food or activity choices, or why I'm making them, the number doesn't matter at all, it's the heart I need to work on with God, not the body.
10. Run/Jog the Father’s Day 10 K – I have to be honest about this one, this one was not really about stewardship of my body. I wanted to use it to learn discipline over my body. I wanted to do it to prove somebody wrong. I admit running is growing on me, it may become part of future self-discipline but not sure if I'll have an end goal other than self-discipline.
11. Quit an unhealthy habit – if I want to quit an unhealthy habit, I already had quite a few to choose from in this list, quit eating poorly, quit avoiding exercise, quit avoiding cleaning your, I'm going to keep it simple and succeed at quitting other things I'm already working on before adding new things to this list!

My new goal for my body is to discipline (from the same root as disciple by the way) myself so that food and inactivity are no longer the masters of my body, my body will be obedient to God. This body was developed over 30 years, only the last 5 have been working at rebuilding it, I have to work at this from the perspective of undoing the faulty foundations first before I can work on the supporting structures!

Stewardship of My Earth
12. Continue composting and gardening – this one was strongly connected to my 'from scratch' goal, but this one has required much more effort, time, and supplies I am running very low on these days. I've realized I jumped into it head first rather than dipped my toes in and progressed at an achievable pace. From now on I am going to perfect one plant at a time, and only compost if I manage to buy one of those self-containing units. 

13. Eating local – like my last point, this is going to be a slow and steady integration, I'm going to find one local food to stay loyal to until I've got it as a habit I don't even have to think about, and then I'll move on to the next food. Eventually it will build into a significantly local diet for us.
14. Acts of Green – just holding the ground I've already covered.

This one is a little like my body goals, I am learning to make different choices than I have made the first 30 years of my life, I have to relearn certain habits and realize there is a better way. But a better way doesn't mean an easier way, so I'm going to have to work at this one in baby steps.
Stewardship of My Talents/Purpose
15. Blog/Journal- While there has been a recent slowdown in this, overall my journalling is still more frequent at the end of the year than it was at the beginning. I am excited to discover what God wants me to learn/relearn about my body/health through recovery journalling, and I am working at journalling conversations with God as part of my 'God time'. Blogging however has suffered since fall, partly because I would often take my lunch time to blog, but even that free time has been shrinking. It's also because some of my insights or blog-worthy experiences are a little too personal for the WWW. I hope to find a way to gain momentum back here again soon.
16. Capture memories in books – my wedding album is on track to be finished before our 10th anniversary in March! Amazing! I have continued to work on digital scrapbooking in small doses as the time allows.
17. Continue developing my creative tendencies - nothing new has developed here since my painting earlier in the year, and other than my growing passion for modifying clothes with my future sewing machine. I have one painting left promised, just waiting for a selected subject.
18. Celebrate Recovery – this is now a husband and wife team effort, we are both leaders on the core team and it has renewed my passion for the ministry, I see a place for it in my life more long term now and I see how it will continue to evolve to in our lives, changing as our lives change. I see more and more growth in our consistent participants, it's amazing to see God's transforming power in person. I see potential for so many people I know to have a place there were they can help others. It's truly an inspiring and humbling place to be.

This is an ever evolving category, having been blessed with more gifts than I feel I'm capable of using, God keeps stretching me and using what He gave me in new ways. It's exciting and scary and sometimes overwhelming, and I feel like a lot of it is for the moment to bless people (and me in the process). I can wish I had more time for what I prefer, but really when I weigh the blessings I feel have been heaped on me since I allow my gifts to be guided by God, it's no contest. So that is what I will continue to do.

Stewardship of My Communities
19. Marriage community – In the last 6 months I can't believe how I've fallen in love all over again with my husband. Not because of some book we read (although I've tried that too), not because of that intentional face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder quality time we learned about earlier in the year (but coincidentally, these have improved as well), not because of anything we've done on purpose to grow closer. Some of it is a happy byproduct of a happier husband, a few key shifts in where we've aimed our future, but I'd say 80% of it is serving side by side each other for quite a few hours every week. It has given us so much to bond over, pray together over, invest in together, uplift each other in, get ambitious with together, etc.
20. Winnipeg Community – Volunteering at a program like CR I feel is having impact outside our Church walls, into not only the neighborhood, but city and province too. Donating blood is something I hope to continue more of as well.
21. Friend/Family/Neighbour Community –
We volunteered at a block party for our neighborhood, hosted by our Church, which was such a blessing to see, witnessing parents be able to enjoy their kids enjoying all the free activities, a lot of things they may never have been able to afford to give them on their own.
22. Aunty Community – surprisingly I was able to spend more time with my nephews from Altona than my neices and nephew in Steinbach this year, but mostly in Winnipeg due to my sister's effort. I did get 2 visits at work when Jodi once brought Avery and once brought Landon though. I hope to carve in some intentional time, 2 times a year per family next year.
23. Friend Community - we have had no shortage of chances to hang out with friends, I can hardly recall a week that has gone by without the chance to spend quality time with one dear friend or another, some of it has been overlapping small groups stuff, technically part of our Church community, but our best friends are from Church so that's just the way it happens!
24. Church Community – my intention was to host and get to know more people at Church through hosting, but hosting hasn't been necessary for this to community to explode in our lives. I did however get to host 3 events in our home, exceeding my goal.
25. Small Group Community – we finally started our small group at the beginning of November and even after the first night we knew we were a community that would become a family, we were all in and eager to dive in deeper together. This has been proven absolutely true over the last 2 months, God brought this group together for a reason.

This year taught me a lot about cherishing the people in your life now while you have them. Nothing is as important as investing in the life-giving communities in your life, those that are like extended family, who you are really sharing life with. Find more reasons to be with them.  Be life-giving in return. 

Stewardship of My Growth
26. Continue to step out of my comfort zone – I'm finding I don't really say 'that's not me', it's more like, "it needs to be done? ok, I'll try!" My comfort zone has been expanded though!
27. Media fast Tuesday evenings – This has been actually quite easy to do most nights of the week, because we are too busy or t.v. has become a quiet hubby & me time, so I don't watch much without him. My desire was really to say God time is more important than my media 'addiction' but there isn't much of a media addiction to speak of anymore. However, now it's a lot of God related activities that I have put ahead of my God time, and I just heard recently, don't even let Bible reading get more important than God time. So I'll speak to that in a few points.
28. Read at least 6 books, at least 4 non-fiction – I read 5 books, all non-fiction. I picked up but never finished one fiction book. I think I put more effort into reading books about God than actually spending in His Word or with Him. This is leading me to a new challenge for my spiritual growth.
29. Bible Reading and Prayer – In more frequent amounts I have been reading scripture and praying, thanks to a lot of intentionality on my part. I have started reading the Bible with highlighters on hand so I can colour code what stands out to me as to why, and while it makes for slower Bible reading that's really what I wanted, more comprehension. Now I am trying to be more intentional about my actual God time, the time I spend talking to Him, not just interceeding for others, and the time I spend listening to what He's trying to tell me. I am blessed that I feel like my 'tuner' is finally on His station, and I can pick up on His voice even when I'm not intentionally listening, but it is the intentional times I want to increase with Him. I want to build a deeper relationship with Him.

I am amazed at where God has grown me and how much He has grown me this year, placing just the right people and information in my life at the right moments to propel me forward. I wish I knew what I did to open this floodgate into my life, but I will do whatever I can for more of Him and less of me.

Stewardship of Living My Life
30. Take a short road trip within Manitoba – I've taken 2 road trips down south since the beginning of June, a birthday party in Altona for my nephew who turned 2, and then as I mentioned down to Winkler for the birth of his little brother.
31. Go to some kind of art showing – while still of interest to me, I have found other ways more definitive of 'living my life'.
32. Pamper myself – I think I've had sufficient 'me' time in my schedule, and just having the time is pampering, although I did get a mani-pedi and 'real salon' hair appointment in there too.
33. Relax – Thanks to hubby, I'm much better in tune with when relaxing is needed, and I act on it much quicker for my and our sakes. I now realize I want this time to be separate from my quiet time with God, because while sometimes relaxing does mean needing quiet - away from noise and hustle and bustle, it isn't always. And God deserves time for Him that isn't shared with time for my own recuperation.

'Living my life' was an intentional item I wanted to build stewardship over because I used to let lists dictate my life.  I have grown so much in this area and even though I still have a bunch of lists, they are what I can do when the time or inclination is right, or for reference, but they are not the same as my schedule and I don't have to put a lot of effort into making sure I'm actually living my life rather than doing it. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Spectacular

I past our local concert hall to see an advertisement for 'A Christmas Spectacular'. I don't know why but description made me take notice. Not in a good way.

Spectacular. (spk-tky-lr)
adj. - of or resembling a spectacle; impressive, grand, sensational or dramatic;sensational in appearance or thrilling in effect;having a quality that thrusts itself into attention
n. - an elaborate display; a dramatic and/or lavishly produced performance 

Even in the dictionary, they used "they put on a Christmas spectacular" as an example. That's what Christmas has become, a spectacle. People producing lavish decorations, elaborate gifts, sensational parties, putting their homes on display, putting themselves on performance mode, trying to be impressive, trying to get attention.

If you want impressive, how about a teenage girl, pregnant out of wedlock and she decides to keep the baby. And her fiance, who isn't the father, decides to stick around, marry her and raise the child.

If you want sensational, that illegitimate child was the legitimate Son of God.
 If you want a thrilling party, invite a multitude of angels to appear in the sky above and declare praise to God.

If you want prominent, how about one single brilliant star placed in the sky as a beacon declaring to the world that the greatest king on earth was just born.

If you want lavish, how about baby gifts that included gold, frankincense, and myrrh, standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world.

If you want dramatic, how about a jealous king who ordered nationwide infanticide, that all baby boys under the age of 2 be murdered to eliminate that threat of a new king.

The first Christmas was indeed spectacular all on it's own. It's miraculous story has inspired songs, performances, displays, lights, gifts, celebrations, yet today somehow that stripped down story fails to get the attention.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Annual Alcorn Christmas Letter - 2012

Dearest Family & Friends,                                                          December 2012
Merry Christmas to all our loved ones!  This year has been quite the rollercoaster, some high peaks, some low valleys, and we’ve been thrown for a few loops as well! It’s almost hard to believe all that has happened in a short 12 months, so I’ll try to do it justice in this short letter summarizing our year.

Sean saw his 10th anniversary milestone reached at Skybridge this past August, with no fanfare and no changes either. I had mentioned last December, Sean had not yet felt God’s nudge to move on, but that his heart’s desire was to be able to work at a Christian organization. We knew that would very likely include a lifestyle change, so at that time we began to scale back our expenses and made significant progress.  In July, after about 5-6 months of also committing weekly to serving in the same Recovery program I do, Sean realized he had a natural ability and desire to serve people with his insight and ability to guide towards good choices and he had an epiphany he would do well in a career as a counselor. After a lot of confirmation this was a God-guided path he signed up for his first course, Introduction to Counseling at Red River which began in September. He just received his final grade this weekend, 100%! Sean clearly has an instinctive aptitude for this profession.  We have been very excited about this shift in his path and were now financially prepared to put him through school for the next few years.

Then, suddenly, we were once again set upon a new and different path mid-August. It actually began last December when Sean had taken a tour of the new Youth For Christ building, and this is where his heart for working in a Christ-Centered organization really swelled. He found out there was a Human Resources position open (his first run at education, if you recall, was a Human Resources certificate) and applied. But then he didn’t hear anything, 8 months went by when all of a sudden he was emailed by the Director, John Courtney, for an interview. After a series of meetings through the fall, in November Sean was offered the position of Human Resources Director at YFC. Because YFC is a non-profit organization, every staff position is considered a missions position and as such they all raise 100% of their salary, Sean included. John has initiated an assertive start date goal of Jan.7th and so we are now fully immersed in raising support for Sean, a very new territory to both of us. We have been so blessed by the people in our life who have stepped forward to join us as ministry partners, and if any of you would consider becoming our ministry partners, whether with prayer support, or investing financially (it is a tax deductible donation), all we would need is a mailing address for YFC to send documents to set things up. Any and all support is welcome.

So, after all that exciting news, my year hasn’t been nearly as eventful J I am now just past the 5.5 year mark at Golder Associates and it continues to be a blessing, challenging work that I enjoy with people I call friends.  We have been steadily growing this past year with a significant boost in our business development with 3 senior hires between September and this upcoming February. We have a conservative plan to double in size in the next 3 years and my manager has made it very clear over the last few months that he wants to grow my role alongside our office’s growth, utilizing my strengths and passions, and emphasizing the value of what I can and have yet to contribute.  I continue to feel so appreciated and affirmed in my abilities and hopefully see a long career at Golder ahead of me.

As for our ‘part-time’ work at our Church Riverwood, we continue to spend an average of 6 hours a week serving in the same Recovery ministry, which has been running for 15 months now.  Our core leadership team has now grown to include 2 other leaders, Sean being one of those leaders. I continue my role handling resources and promotions, and I now have a small team in this area that are a great help.  I also lead a women’s support group for anxiety, codependence, food issues, and more.  Sean has stepped up to share our training coach leadership and has already led some much needed training sessions for our leaders, as well as leading the Newcomers session to orient new attendees on our program.  I was privileged to be able to have my expenses paid to attend a summit at Saddleback Church in California (where Celebrate Recovery was founded) for a week in August, it was such an encouragement and so inspirational, we came away feeling renewed in our ministry.  Hopefully Sean and I will get to go together next year!

As part of being in a leadership position our roles also include teaching for our large group about every other month, which Sean is also a natural at, in fact before he announced he was taking Counseling in school several people guessed he was going to Seminary for becoming a Pastor.  I, on the other hand, have had my battles with public speaking over the years, but having spoken 6 times now I can definitely see how far God has brought me in this ability.  In fact, one of our worship team volunteers had a teaching practicum in a grade 12 health class studying disorders and asked if I would mind sharing my struggles with anxiety in front of her class.  I agreed and think I did remarkably well considering high-school students used to be a big source of anxiety in and of itself!  Every step along the way we see God working in us and through us, it continues to be such a gift for us to be His instrument of transformation.

Some of our other hours at Riverwood have been spent in two particular areas. Sean has developed a mentor relationship with one of our Pastors who leads Discipleship and Connecting ministries, so Sean has served alongside him in various capacities in those areas.  We also wanted to volunteer at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit again, as our Church has hosted it for the last several years, so we took a week of vacation in October to serve on the registration team, and a few other areas. Once again we were both able to take in a lot of the awesome speakers in addition to getting to know fellow Riverwooders as we served alongside them, which made for a very enjoyable and exhausting few days.

The rest of our free time we have been connecting with family and friends that have been multiplying as the years go on.  We have made many friends through serving and our circle of loved ones keeps expanding. We joined a small group in the fall that has been heaven sent, we finally have a place where we can feel we’re going to as an outlet for our needs to get met, and the people we meet with could have only been the result of God’s networking.  And adding a nephew to the family this year gave us many excuses to spend extra time with my family.  We couldn’t feel more fortunate to be surrounded by the people God has planted us amongst.  Our ever growing support system has especially blessed us throughout 2012.  First we were overwhelmed with prayers and support during the very difficult time in July during my mom’s heart attack, triple bypass surgery and subsequent healing.  Then the outpouring of support continued as Sean has transitioned in his career path.  Or when my sister was hospitalized with severe abdominal pain. There are just too many times to mention when people knew just the right time to say or do just the right thing, and that kind of blessing is only possible when you open up to living in transparent community.

Well, 2 pages can’t be called a ‘nutshell’ but that’s the summary of 2012 for the Alcorns.  I am very much looking forward to a new year, I am hoping for new challenges but hopefully some less stressful ones!  I know God isn’t done stretching us yet, but I look forward to where He will continue to move us and prove Himself faithful.  Thank you for being a part of our lives and we wish you all a meaningful holiday season, full of warm memories, a reflective look at the year past, and a hopeful look towards 2013. 

                Love, Lori & Sean

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Questionnaire

Haven't done one of these in awhile....

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. I prefer the look of wrapped packages, especially glittery bows and swirls of ribbon, but I'm not that great at the 'perfect wrap', particularily on odd shaped packages, so I often default to a bag.

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial - when I have one.

3. When do you put up the tree? When the tree goes up it goes up no sooner than the first weekend in December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Usually New Year's Day.

5. Do you like eggnog? For my own sake I have to not allow it in my house until Dec. 1st. They keep selling it earlier and earlier each year though! So hard to not buy for most of November.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My cabbage patch doll. I waited so long for one, I even got a fake one that just didn't do.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Technically. This porcelain nativity tealight holder.

8. Hardest person to buy for? Believe it or not, hubby! I've mentioned we don't do gifts for our families, other than kids, and even hubby and I have agreed on a large gift together for many years. Sean just tends to have very little wants, he's a minimalist and what he does spend money on he buys as he wants through the year (like books), or on concerts as they come up - typically not around Christmas time.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My neice Brooklynn, she's pretty creative and now that she likes scrapbooking, this year's present was a cinch! ;)

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? It's a funny story actually. It was the year my sisters got married and mom had bought one of them a toaster oven for a wedding present, but they received another one as well, so mom knew we wanted one and offered it to us as a Christmas present later that year. Mom and dad also happened to move that year, for the first time in 12 years, and it took some looking before mom could find the toaster oven, but she finally did, wrapped it up and gave it to me at our gathering. I unwrapped the box and when I opened it, on top was a lovely Christmas stationary. I love stationary so it didn't register, but as I got deeper into the box (which did have a toaster oven on the side) it was a bunch of miscellaneous items thrown in, some even left over from my grandma's old belongings who had passed away 6 years earlier. A box o' crap. :) It was really quite hilarious. Mom never did find that toaster oven, can't even remember what I did end up getting instead.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both, and I hand them out in person too, a combo of all 3.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Some people say it isn't a Christmas movie but I've watched it at Christmas just about every year since I was a kid....Sound of Music.  I love that movie. Wizard of Oz, second favorite (and yes, it's a Christmas movie for same reason :)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Well, since I intentionally only shop for 5 each year, and occasionally, as the season unfolds, add another gift or two to the list, I don't feel the need to start early. Also, since those 5 gifts are for children, whose tastes can change as fast as they can, I typically don't start until December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I know of. I have given old gifts away years later but not as a gift.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? We call them papanate (?) or pfefferneuse cookies. Christmas isn't Christmas until I have at least one.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Either, it mostly depends on the colour coordination of the ornaments.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh Little Town of Bethlehem by Amy Grant.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel. Boxing day in Steinbach every year.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? All nine ;)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Depends how long I've had to stare at gifts under a tree. Since we haven't had a tree for years, I've been able to wait until Christmas day.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The song Domino the Donkey, PUH-lease! If I never hear that song again it's too soon.

23. What I love most about Christmas? Family. Family. Family.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Humbug Reduction

It just so happens it took exactly one month for me to sum up enough Christmas soul (not spirit, I'm sure I already have the Christmas spirit), to decide to add a little Christmas decor to my home.

After watching Steven and Chris on a half day off I saw a few great decorating ideas that seemed cat-proof enough I was willing to try some, and a few others I could have time for next year.

Here's my spontaneous effort done yesterday.
Then, I gifted more than I said I would. I created fun little food gifts - partially to remove the temptation from my home but also because I do love giving and sharing.

Now I'm listening to Boney M's Christmas CD as I write my annual Christmas letter, get our Christmas photo card ready to mail, and contemplate my last 2 gifts to buy (out of 6). Humbug Reduction complete.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Truthful Thursday

Does this sound like the description of a Church you know, or what you figure Churches are about?

The people of the Church were inconsistent and often gave up on studying the Bible. The community was apathetic and unconnected, rarely sharing more than shallow conversation and white-washed prayer requests.  The teachers among them could not bring about healing or miracles because of the lack of belief among them. The people treated the signs God did give them with disinterest and irreverence. They found it difficult to trust and rely on Jesus Christ, which made adhering to his teachings a struggle. The people couldn’t live in harmony or unite over their similarities; they couldn’t see all that they had in common. And when those among them were in need they couldn’t find it in their hearts to share their belongings, they had no money to spare and hoarded all their possessions for themselves.  While the people found their way to Church most Sundays, they were too busy to stay after Church to fellowship, they would go their separate ways, each to their own homes, and not stay in touch throughout the week.  Their choices produced lives they could not celebrate, they felt they had no reason to praise God, and their hypocrisy lost the respect of those who knew them. The number of their Church community dwindled every day.

This is actually a translation of Acts 2:42-47, a translation called 'the Jon Courtney Jr. Reverse' translation. We were priveleged to hear this one time only reading last week at Church and boy did it make a point. Quite a few of the Churches I have known, or have heard about from jaded friends, has sounded a lot more like the opposite description of the Acts Church, the community that added thousands to it's numbers consistently.  Here is how they actually did that:

42And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship. They shared everything with each other, they shared life together, the breaking of bread, and the prayers.  
43 Everyone around was in awe, and were in reverential fear, at all those wonders and miraculous signs done through the apostles! And everyone felt great respect for God.
44 And all who believed (those who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united, living in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.
45 And according as any had need they sold their possessions and their land, pooling their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts.
47 The believers praised God and were respected by all the people. More and more people were being saved every day, and the Lord was adding them to their group.

I am so glad I found a community of believers who are closer to the second than first translation, a blessing to be sure.
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