Friday, January 7, 2011

The Journey At Hand

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I would look at my life and the various events which would occur, and regularly say to myself, "I should blog about that." New furniture, a great recipe, some thrift-store finds, or a parenting dilemma were all viable candidates for a new post. I am not quite sure what happened. Suddenly this "blogging momma" went from once a week to... well, it has been four months since my last update.

All that to say, though I don't think I'm jumping back on the weekly wagon, I do hope to get back into blogging if simply for the sake of documenting life a bit. It is fun to look back on previous entries and remember valuable lessons learned and great deals found.

Ok so onto the actual blog post...

We have been in Visalia for almost seven months. Amazing to think about how much life has changed since January of 2010. In the last year we took a trip to the devastated country of Haiti, Tim took a new job with Valley Orthopedic, we moved to Visalia, got rid of the pacifier, bought our first home (which I consider as big of an accomplishment as getting rid of the pacifier), Tim went back to school, found out we were pregnant with #2, and survived two whole years of parenting (happy birthday Sawyer).

In the midst of the change and adjustment to life back in the Valley, we were praying regularly that God would lead us to a good church. Praise the Lord, by August of last year, we had found a home. We have plugged in at Radiant Church in Visalia and have been blessed beyond all get out during our time thus far. Radiant is a non-denominational, charismatic church of about 200 people and it is an alive and growing body.

Let me pause for a moment and address what I know some of you may be a bit hung up on. That word "charismatic" can bring a whole host of feelings depending on your experience and knowledge. When we were first invited to the church and were told it was "a bit on the charismatic side," we were hesitant, partly due to strange experiences, but mostly out of ignorance to what in the world that might mean. I am so thankful we did not allow our lack of comfort to keep us from visiting and finding the jewel of a church we are now apart of.

Because many of the variables involved in any given Sunday service are not what we were used to, it did take some time to adjust and learn about the many expressions of worship we had never experienced at our previous churches. Though I was somewhat comfortable with gifts of the Spirit such as tongues or teaching, I had never been in a service where someone received a Word from the Lord and stood and spoke it for the benefit of the entire congregation. In Guatemala I attended a church which had reserved half of its sanctuary as a dance floor (where, every week, the first people to utilize the space were the elders of the church). Though there is no designated dance space at Radiant, it is not uncommon for people to worship in dance.

Tim and I have spent many hours discussing these new and different means of expression worship and how they fit into our current understanding of scripture and the direction God has given His church. We met with the Senior Pastor and his wife (who, yesterday, brought me over a batch of the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls- winner) multiple times to ask questions and share our hearts on the matter. We were like sponges. Travis, our Senior Pastor, called us a few weeks ago and said he had a book he thought we would enjoy. He brought us "Empowered Evangelicals" by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson and encouraged us to read it as we were processing through these new experiences.

I started to read the book before Christmas and ended up giving my dad a copy as a gift. Though I am not done, the book has really helped me to understand the roots of both the charismatic and evangelical movements and why they can, at times, be so polarized in the twenty-first century. The authors do a good job of exploring the relationship between worshiping in both Spirit and Truth and the error that comes when one is emphasized over the other. Here is an excerpt I read last night:
An honest reading of the Scriptures and church history demands that we maintain an open attitude toward the work of the Spirit to renew the church. God is God and he does whatever he pleases in the way that pleases him. The mere fact that we feel uncomfortable, or that there is a mixture of wheat and tares, doesn't mean God is not at work. 
But along with a posture of openness we must also exercise discernment. "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thes. 5:19-22)...Some people seem to think that genuine openness to the Spirit and discernment are incompatible,. But the work of the Spirit demands discernment, since the Spirit interacts with human beings who are anything but perfect. It is essential that we understand what is from God and what is not...The fact that conservative evangelicals can learn something from charismatics and that charismatics can learn something from conservative evangelicals doesn't mean we have do adopt everything the other side offers. So with openness we must also hold on to discernment. (pg. 55)
This new journey has been fascinating so far and I know God has much more to reveal to us as we continue down this path. I am excited to know and experience Him in new ways and am so thankful that we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who desire to worship God in both Spirit and Truth.

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