Culture

November 08 2012
48

“If I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God.” ~ Oswald Chambers

Hi. My name is Erika Lynn Morrison. I have been intentionally engaged with the activity and developement of a post-congregational Christian community for the last 13 years of my life and I say it to you like a confession lest I forget that this expression was the bosom at which my faith nursed – where the Spirit cradled my transformation through daylight and dark, night watches; crooned over my broken skin and my blooming heart. It was a beautiful way to grow, the milk was nutrient-dense and precisely what I needed to strip, stand and stretchI learned how to toddle and walk and say, “Daddy” all over again before He taught me my own signals and sounds, the specific language He wanted me to speak – not at all a prescriptive word-power for the Christian course, but new abstractions from what had become tired and old.

(Can we all admit that our faith-speak has become–and is–old sometimes? That we’ve lost originality, even while serving an infinitely original God?)

All this cultivation came to pass under the careful watch and with the continual conversation of 20 or so other people who were going through the same growing strands and strains that I was. My God, this decade-plus was a good and dangerous delight (when that decade-plus wasn’t so busy being very damn hard).

My husband and I always thought that this would be how we’d live out the rest of our Christian days, being a lighted-window for this small way of doing life in Christ. I to the E: we never in a world full of decades dreamed that our family would be engaging consistently with organized church again . . . Until the fate-full day when the Spirit prompted us to do specifically that. And when I say “prompted”, what I really mean is: we were Divinely influenced with what felt like the strength of 100 wild horses behind the pinkie-finger of God.

And this is how it all went down.

We arrived to a Sunday morning congregant gathering called City Church, my beloved lady-friend (also the pastor’s wife) asked if our family would celebrate with them for their one-year anniversary and we don’t often say “no” to a party. Blissfully and blithely we whistled our way to church that early autumn day, totally clueless to the possibility that this party would dramatically change our current trajectory . . .

There was an elevated holiness to the room right from the moment we wandered through the doors and we could taste that the air had been artfully cooked; the soul of the service had been thoughtfully and lovingly prepared like a Spirit-feast for all the people to savor. Surprisingly, we ate that soul-food right up and it nourished us in places we didn’t even know were famished. Close to halfway through song-worship, Austin and I slanted toward one another at precisely the same time and simultaneously spoke, “I feel like we’re supposed to come here”. And I’m going to tell you that my body reacted all over the place to this unexpected revelation (it always does that when I really need to pay attention, listen and be obedient – regardless of how I might feel otherwise). Right there with the speckled-red auditorium carpet under my feet, the emotions inside me began laddering thickly up my throat and my wee heart took to flipping real fast, sending a warm burn signal to the back of my neck, next to the tingles running roughshod all over my skin. And that was how we knew that the prompting was not of our own conjuring – not just by all the sensations ricocheting helter skelter, but because we were totally blindsided by the desire to participate and partake of something we’d previously no unction towards choosing. And that desire was mutual. The Spirit spoke to the Mr. and I in synchronized suggestion and who can argue with that? When the Spirit wants to get a message across, sometimes that supernatural Being is sure to make it clear – just for all your rainy, doubt-full days.

We’ve been shaken and stirred with this church for nine weeks now and I’m not going to lie: we are all kinds of tender from the unexpected twists and tourniquets these last months have targeted on our hearts. Yet, our whole family has been profoundly blessed and nurtured by the manifest presence of the living God this passionate medly of Jesus-people invite into their space and our city. And we don’t know all the why’s and what-fors; the reasons we are additionally shouldering and covenanting with a whole new fellowship of humanity, but I do believe that God is up to something mighty big and that “something” has to do with us–together–achieving our destinies for the Kingdom.

So, can I tell you again? Why we’re going back to church? Because there is something important that we’ve learned in the process of going from one spiritual expression to another and it’s this: No matter where or how or when we do or go to church—whether it’s around the autumn firepit in our backyard or at the downtown soup kitchen or in the auditorium of the local arts high-school—how we feel about what kind of church we participate in doesn’t really seem like the point to us anymore (that season has passed). In our heart of hearts it has all boiled down to simply and always and only about being obedient to the call of Christ in our lives.

Our deepest daily supplication to God is, “Thy. Will. Be. Done.” (And I believe He’s been taking us at our word.)

Because where His is will is, is going to be the place where we farm the most fruit and where our souls are the most fed and now more then ever before we don’t have time to examine, weigh and compare all the different techniques there are to having church and which ones we want to commit to based on what makes us feel happiest and most comfortable. This doesn’t mean we’ve turned our brains off, it just means that we only have enough minutes in our short and precious lives for being the most obedient we can. And every time I turn back to look at the pages of our story, I see that it was our obedience which delivered us into circumstances that became pinholes through which we saw the face of God.

Also? Glory be, it is some kind of Face to behold.

 

Post By :: Erika Morrison

Photo Credit

 

48 comments

  1. Perfectly timed blog post. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Erika

      So glad, Chelsea. Thank you!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  2. Erika,
    So moved by the chronicling of your story here. As someone who has been in and out of church for so many years (Intentional living community, house church, small church, racial reconciliation, suburban/urban, high/low liturgy…) I am heartened to know that God is moving, still, even when I am unsure of where to go. And the way that the Spirit pulled both you and your husband in the same beautiful way..it gives me hope.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Hope is a beautiful thing and I’m so glad this story inspired it in you, Holly. Blessings, friend, for your church-seeking journey.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  3. always a tender heart. . . seeking and following where He wants us to be. that’s what it’s all about.
    beautiful. and beautiful YOU.
    love you.
    steph

    Reply
    • Erika

      Thank you, my lady-love. I LOVETH you too!!!

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
  4. Don’t you love that it’s really all about obeying the Spirit? Of course you’re not turning your brain off, but isn’t it nice to know that at the end of the day “we” are not responsible for figuring it all out, for planning our courses. All we are responsible for is being obedient. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Erika

      I really do love that, Lindsay . . . It takes so much pressure off, eh? Thank you for being with our hearts today . . .

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  5. Love this…we have been out of the organized church for 20 yrs…I am sensing some rumblings…maybe being called back to this very place…and you summed it up…not my will but YOURS be done…that is it….in church…out …doesn’t matter…but just to be willing to be where He calls us. thanks for this…blessings~

    Reply
    • Erika

      And many blessings to you, fellow traveller . . . wherever the Spirit might lead you in the coming days.

      Much Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  6. This is so rich with truth. It is moments like this that keep the fire in my heart burning in periods when the Spirits work seems quiet in me.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Thank you, Matthew. We all need each other’s fire to keep the faith and keep going, eh?

      Bless you,
      Erika

      Reply
  7. YES Erika! This! One of a million reasons that I love your obedient Jesus-loving guts!

    Reply
    • Erika

      “Jesus-loving guts!” You speak my language Lady-Love!!!

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
  8. What a wonderful idea, to stop striving and rest. To obey because “we only have enough time in our short and precious lives for being the most obedient we can.” I love the simplicity (and lovely complexity) of that.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Oh . . . thank you, Diana, for being with our hearts. Bless you.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  9. That feeling–the helter-skelter sensations, the mutual and unmistakable nudge of God’s pinkie finger (love that!)–my husband and I are still waiting for *that* when it comes to church and a soul-community. Your description makes me so very hopeful that we’ll experience it too, when our own story reaches the crucial plot twist.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Oh, man!!! I WISH I could be a part of your “crucial plot twists” in REAL life!!! I just have this feeling it would be so exciting . . . Someday, I hope . . .

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
  10. Just read this aloud to Hubs and he asked me to repeat the “all kinds of tender” sentence. You express this odd place so well, thank you. I recently tried to watch the live steam of our former church and my heart felt overwhelmed with sadness, so I asked God to give me a pure heart so I could watch it without distraction. For the first time in a while I “heard” his voice as He said to me in that moment….”Stop going back to your old well.”
    That gave me hope that a new well beside my living room is possible and it also helped me know that I cannot just go back to that church and pretend like nothing happened and all is well.

    Thank you for this beautiful message of hope!
    Susiehttp://www.recoveringchurchlady.com/

    Reply
    • Erika

      I love this so much, Susie. And I’m praying for the new well that the Spirit is bringing you to to be revealed in good time.

      Very much Love,
      Erika

      Reply
    • Erika

      P.S. Thank you for your sweet kindness, for sharing in this story and speaking encouragement to my heart.

      Reply
  11. I LOVE knowing the church you’re talking about. I love knowing the people you’re talking about.

    I ask God all the time if I can come back up north. Plant a church. Do church. Just walk and live the gospel out in a place that is so broken when it comes to faith.

    I love this post =)

    Reply
  12. Betty Huizinga

    Dear Erika;
    “(Can we all admit that our faith-speak has become–and is–old sometimes? That we’ve lost originality, even while serving an infinitely original God?)” This is so true, but I don’t think you have a problem with that, it’s us who have been steeped in “Christianese” all our lives who have a problem with new ways of expressing our stories of Jesus in our lives. God bless you my precious granddaughter, you are such an inspiration to me.
    Gramma

    Reply
    • Gramma, you made my day . . . Thank you for seeing me that way, it profoundly touches my heart.

      I love you so much,
      Keeka

      Reply
  13. It always amazes me how the most personal stories are often the most universal. This is so eerily like my own story, it can only be God. Beautifully told, as only you can, E. Love you to the moon.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Your response bolsters me even more, Sarah Bessey. Thank you for being with my heart today, it means very much.

      I love you PAST the moon (did I win?!). ;)

      Reply
  14. Absolutely beautiful. Beautifully written, beautiful truth, and I think those same convictions are chasing me down as well. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Erika

      Thank you, Christy, for saying so. I’m so glad this story meant something to your own faith journey.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  15. yes. darlin’. yes. i am not currently pulled to a church, i feel the whole world is where i need to learn the reeds of scripture *right now*. but you listening to your calling? you embarking TO you thought your had embarked FROM? it reminds me in a soft whisper that this road is long and twisting… i may yet land back into a pew. a few of us are starting this discussion over the book LEAVING CHURCH by Barbara Brown Taylor… how all of our lives are bending and pulling, pushing and growing. oh, this is holy work indeed. … in case you’d be interested in check out our discussion we’ve got such a beautiful conversation going over via Facebook too {link to that in this post}: http://redemptionsbeauty.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/leaving-church/

    Reply
    • Erika

      One of my favorite things about God is the way He speaks so differently across the globe. I believe with all my heart that you are right where He wants you to be, even though it’s the opposite of what He’s saying to me. He is ANYthing BUT prescriptive, eh?!

      I’m going to check out your conversation as soon as I can!

      Love you,
      Erika

      Reply
  16. Jumped over here per Tara’s suggestion at the Redemption’s Beauty Book Club . . . and wow. I love the freedom in your piece. The way obedience is not a grindstone, but a generous wind of joy.
    And may it ever be, even if we are called to different paths. Like you said, Erika, in your previous response — “anything but prescriptive”. Here’s recognizing that the destination is, perhaps, in the journey itself.

    Reply
    • “Obedience is not a grindstone, but a generous wind of joy.” Gah!!!!!! I love that sentence with an everlasting love. :)

      Thank you for jumping over, Kelli. So glad to have you! :)

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  17. I love that you’ve shared your journey here, that you’ve taken us along with you. You inspire and give hope, love.

    Reply
    • Ashleigh Baker. You bless me so big. And I LOVE the hind end off you – but I’ll let you keep your hind end because you’re much cuter with it (plus, your husband wouldn’t appreciate if your hiney went missing).

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
  18. There are so few people in this world willing to listen to His voice and eager to obey. The fact that you weren’t looking for a change, and yet changed nonetheless is beautiful. He is so pleased with you, and I am so proud of you. I miss you!

    Reply
    • Erika

      Thank you, Lori, for affirming us . . . It means the world. We LOVE and miss you too!!!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  19. So…why am I not surprised AT ALL by this lovely news? Maybe because I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that God might do exactly what it seems that God has, in fact, just done?? Yeah, E – I’ve pictured you and that man who adores you and those three spitfires you’ve made together folded into a larger community. Why? Because the larger community needs you all. . . and because you need them, too. And that city of yours? The one you’ve adopted right into your family? That city needs this to happen, too. Because all that wonderful stuff that you’ve been learning and practicing will now be multiplied in interesting and eye-popping ways. The work that God has been doing in you will seep out and around and through these people you worship with. And that worship?? It will send nourishment down to your toes for the work that is yours to do. THAT’s what the church does, you know? Creative, heartfelt worship turns us to God and to one another, fills us when we’re empty, empties us when we are full and reminds us that we are better together. May you continue to both BLESS and BE BLESSED by these ones to whom you’ve been called. Thank you for being obedient. Love you TONS.

    Reply
    • Erika

      You just gave me a GIANT breath of fresh air, Diana. Thank you for seeing so far beyond the surface of our obedience and giving a glimpse of the Face to come. You can speak into our lives ANY day! ;)

      Amen and amen to all of that.

      Love YOU tons,
      E

      Reply
    • I’m quoting you Diana, this is bea.u.ti.ful, your comment here about the church. Amen!

      Reply
  20. how we feel about what kind of church we participate in doesn’t really seem like the point to us anymore . . .can I tell you how much I love this piece you’ve written. As the wife of a pastor who leads a church planting movement, as a woman who is a spiritual mutt herself, it all boils down to obedience for me too. You expressed this so beautifully, I am full. I’m exploring the question “How do we walk out our faith in the midst of pain, suffering, disappoint and loneliness” over on my blog for the next six weeks. We’ve started a book club (Redemptions Beauty Book Club) on FB, conversation about faith as we read Leaving Church. It has been rich. Would love for you to join us if you feel led.http://redemptionsbeauty.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/when-loneliness-is-more-than-being-alone/

    Reply
    • Erika

      Shelly, what a treat to have you invite me to participate in your church conversations! I am eager to check into what you all have been processing so far. :)

      Thank you SO much for spending time with our hearts today . . . I am profoundly blessed.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  21. Rachel Benson

    Thank you so much for posting this…in such a vivid, descriptive way! I’m a part of an “organic” church, you might say, and I/we identified with you sooo much. I love and resonate with how you said it all boils down to obedience, not “which way is better” or even “which way I like better”…and then to be so intimate with our Father that I can hear and sense how to be obedient.
    Thank you so much! And it’s so good to see there are others out there experiencing similar things as me/us. How encouraging!
    Rachel

    Reply
    • Rachel Benson

      Sorry, I had a typo on my email address before…

      Reply
    • Erika

      Rachel, it does my heart good that you found our story encouraging. So many blessings to you as you travel deeper into the heart of God . . .

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply

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