My fervent prayer is every day I will love Jesus deeper, love His people deeper, and love His calling deeper. Every Day Deeper.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hallelujah Place

Church (n): a building for public Christian worship

This definition is the one found on dictionary.com, a uncomplicated- practical description of a place people either find hope or hurt. On the other hand, the definitions for church on urbandictionary.com are less concrete (and more hilarious).

“the best cure for insomnia”

“similar to a mental hospital with less physical restraints”

Clearly, the definition of church is not always easy to articulate. But when I look to the bible I don’t see a complicated, hard to describe definition for church, I see a beautiful one.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

When Jesus came to this earth to redeem His people, He left the church to be His tangible kingdom. Until we take our last breath and enter the kingdom of heaven, the church on earth is the closest we get to what Hallelujah Place will look like. A place where people are in community together, worshiping the One who gave them grace to do it. The church isn’t a place it is a family. A family with broken, hurting, confused people who hold fast to what Jesus commanded of us- to love Him with our whole hearts and love all His people well.

Oftentimes, it is easy for us to love God, or at least pretend to. But loving all His people? Loving them more then we love ourselves? That’s not as easy. Yet that is the call of the church. It’s simple but we miss it. We get so muddled in the routine of “church” we forget to live in it’s mission. The mission of Jesus that calls us to share our lives together, invite people to share in our lives, and increase the family. As described above, the early church ate together, they praised God together, they gave EVERYTHING to ANYONE in need. They served as Jesus did in His name. That is our call as the church.

In the last few years as I’ve walked closer to Jesus, I have seen how people opened their doors to strangers, loved relentlessly, and cared for the needs of many. In the last month I’ve lived with nine people and it has been a sanctifying process. When I’m at my most selfish and bratty, they’ve lovingly reminded me to get over myself and covered me in grace. Grace I don’t deserve and grace that points me towards Jesus.

As I continue in my summer here in Portland, as well as in my life, I pray grace overflows from me to those I call family and those I hope to one day call family. I pray I am challenged to share my life with others even when it is hard because Jesus gave His life for me when it was hard. As the honeymoon phase on this trip comes to an end and the days I feel weary, tired, and so unwillingly to host people over increase I pray His grace comes fast on my heart and Acts 2 comes to my mind. For the new friends my teammates and I meet this summer I pray we can be the church for them, in a way they may have never experienced- a way that glorifies Jesus fully and ushers  Truth.

Jesus loves the church, it is precious to Him. I pray it becomes more precious to me.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Summer in Portland

Portland, Oregon, a place near and dear to my heart. Near because for the last 10 years I have been only 30 minutes away and dear for one particular reason: Portland is AWESOME. Maybe I’m bias because I am a Northwest girl through and through BUT I think you would find many, many people who feel similarly. Not only is Portland beautiful and offers the outdoor adventurer constant places for exploration but it also offers places for readers, coffee drinkers, Chaco wearers, and self- proclaimed “foodies” alike. And maybe you are reading this and hate all of those things and that’s okay because Portland has something for you too, I promise. Even if its something a little weird like creating Pok√©mon characters into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because haven’t you heard…Keep Portland Weird!

Okay so now you are convinced right? Portland is wonderful. But why am I spending my summer there? Well, during this last school year I had the opportunity to apply for a summer mission’s opportunity with the North American Mission Board. After being accepted to the program and being asked to serve in a Northwest city, something in my heart felt uneasy. I spent time in prayer as well as talking to my parents full of wisdom and friends full of encouragement and advice. Before I finished my freshman year at Washington State University I felt confident God was calling me home for the summer and declined the NAMB position. When I got home, I had the opportunity to aid my Dad in preparing for his summer interns who would be spending 10 weeks engaging and serving the city of Portland, the Generation Send group and the Portland Parachute Project. While helping my Dad and talking to my parents, it became clear that this was more than an opportunity to help my Dad but an opportunity to fully participate in the experience. After a few emails and phone calls, I became an official participant of the Portland Parachute Project.

For the next 9 weeks of the summer (I can’t believe I’ve already had the joy of spending a week with these people) my team, a group of 11 other people, will live near the campus of Portland State University learning what it looks like to form churches in Portland, serve and love people the way Jesus would, and display to others what the church is suppose to be- a group of broken, imperfect people who are wanting more of Jesus and are passionate about loving others well so they will want more of Him to. This will be a time for personal growth as I lean on Jesus for strength and a time to learn more about what it looks like to serve people intentionally and sacrificially. A time of a remembering that everything I do- whether working, eating, biking, reading, or walking can be done for the glory of God. Each day there is opportunity to be lead by the Spirit and I am so grateful to be apart of a program with structure but also flexibility. At the end of the day, I believe I am called to live a life on mission. A life where I leverage my every action for Jesus and a life about identifying people on my journey, inviting them to participate with me, investing in them as we walk together, and increasing our numbers so following Jesus shifts from a ME thing to a WE thing.

I would love if you would pray for unity and peace between myself and my team that we would continue to care for one another well, for the people of Portland that they would feel known, loved, and cared for by our team and most importantly by Jesus, and that we would keep our eyes on Him- the sustainer of our lives. Feel free to email me at abby.beth@comcast.net to talk about my experience and so I can have a chance to hear more about your summer story and how I can pray for you!

With love,