Living a life of invitation

living a life of invitation I often talk and write about [church] community life. This is because [church] community has changed me. It has transformed the way I see people; it has altered how, when, where I see Christ; it has invited me into a whole new way of being meThis way is freeing and I crave for others to enter it.

But I realize not all people live in community. In fact, I would dare to say that most people do not. Because I am convinced that investing in [church] community is completely worth all of your heart, I write and talk all about it. I write with the hopes that you may be intrigued enough to walk through the doors of a church one Sunday morning with the intention of getting involved, of joining the mission, of living in community with others. I believe that [church] community is where we grow, where we flourish, and where we see Jesus. I recognize that many Christians fail to remember Truth & Grace and many churches are not as welcoming as they possibly could be...but this post is not about that. This post is about you and your heart and how I so badly crave for you to experience the freedom that investing in community can offer.

Community life is an adventure; community becomes family and you do things like gather to sing Christmas carols downtown outside of Starbucks.

IMG_5432 investing in community

investing in community

Inviting someone into your life can be is scary. It means you are at risk for rejection, you are vulnerable for hurt, you might be exposed. You're much safer behind your own door. Alone. What I hope to share on this space is that it is worth those things: it is worth the uncertainty.

[How does one even begin to join community and live life with other people in an authentic way?]

There was a time [about 4 years ago] when I thirsted for community but also greatly feared it. What if the truth that I am deeply flawed and broken is revealed? What if I am annoying or a burden? Pushing those what if's aside, I accepted invitations to meals and events. Soon enough I realized I very much liked this community that I was being invited into - I was accepted and becoming known and still loved. I also realized I enjoyed these two middle school girls: Graice & Savannah. Oh the preciousness that encompassed them. Because I had been invited, I decided I could possibly, maybe, perhaps, in some way invite them to coffee. Could I really invite girls to coffee and maybe even open the Bible and search for Jesus with them? Could I, Natalie Mathers (at the time), truly be enough to "disciple?" [You should read my post On Discipleship because it is close to my heart]. Instantly Jesus impressed into my heart, "I AM [enough]." In that nerve wracking moment, I knew that if I invited these girls to coffee with the hope of opening a Bible, He would be with me. And He is enough.

So it began: the invitation to coffee. Inviting people into my life, essentially my heart. Inviting wasn't easy - it was scary and risky and vulnerable. If they said no, I am exposed to rejection. But I then have the opportunity to turn my heart to Jesus and ask Him to define me. For the next 4 years I got into this habit of inviting people to coffee, to lunch, over for dinner, out for a walk or a hike, to the laundromat, and so on. There were plenty of moments when I would have rather sat in my home alone and read a book - but I knew that community and Jesus was transforming me, and I wanted that for others. With every invitation, the nauseating nervousness simmered. The queasy jitters are almost gone completely; but I feel them every now and again. And I am so thankful for those silent, nervous butterflies in my stomach before taking someone to coffee or spending time with anyone; they force me to pray. They remind me that I am me, a mere human, worth nothing without Jesus Christ. I have nothing, no wisdom or knowledge or anything good apart from Him. Those little jitters remind me that I must go to Him and ask for strength and guidance and wisdom. He is my counselor and my confidence. He is the ultimate Invite-r, friends.

The author of Hebrews knows we need to meet together; life as a Christian is hard. We are called to love our neighbors as ourself, pray for our enemies, and forgive. (Who am I? A narcissist? But seriously, I have another post you should read: Freedom in Forgivness.) This call to live in authentic community is for many reasons, one stated here in Hebrews: motivating one another to acts of love and good works. We need encouragement, we need love, we need the reminder to keep going when we think we can't. We need others to point to Jesus and remind us, "He is where we are going and He is with us."

hebrews 10 24 25 Ps. When I got home from the office the other day, around 5:30, I was welcomed by a bunch of charming men and my most handsome husband huddling a fire on our patio. They were talking and praying about ways to become better husbands.

Community is where Jesus is at; community changes us for the better.

Homosexuality & Jesus

homosexuality and jesus My dearest guys and gals!

This letter is to all of you, as you are facing these same trials in your schools.

You are something else, something different, something special. Last week at youth group you shared a bit about how difficult school is. You shared that even your friends do what I would classify as bullying. You are pushed around and harassed for beliefs that you may or may not carry  -  either way, people assume they know you, they believe the worst, and let you know they think that you are quick to judge, quick to condemn, quick to hate. They have a false picture of who Christ is and they then cast it on you, because you wear the name Christian. And to be fair, we have not done a very good job of representing Christ - but we imperfect humans are working on that. (Well, He is working on that in us.)

Those hot topics bring you fear and anxiety: abortion, marijuana, homosexuality.

Your peers throw into your face what they think you believe - you are fully expect to hate, judge, criticize. And you are left without a voice, without a stand, knocked down feeling unheard. Worst of all, they don't have an accurate picture of Jesus. My Dears, the fact that this breaks your heart is what makes you so different, so special, so...radiant. The fact that you care about how far they are missing Jesus. The mark has been missed, and we are left wondering if it can ever be right again.

*Before I get into the meat of this letter, I want to recognize that this is heavy stuff. This is touchy, this is a road of sharp edged egg shells, and this is one hot topic. You know what? It is okay if you are still finding solid ground on what you believe. It is okay if you are unsure of what you are supposed to believe versus what you are told you already do believe versus what your heart is shouting. I am hoping this letter may bring you a little closer to Jesus's heart. And remember: I am hereby stating that I don't think I have all of the answers. I by no means am a genius on this, in fact, I am far from it. I love you and I want to explore these tough things with you - I don't want to shun or push away your questioning hearts. Though I am no genius on this topic, I know a few things: I have had two close friends fall into the category of "homosexual." I know many who fall into that category, and I know that I love them and cherish them as I cherish you: as a human that is part of my life. I know that Christ is all about freedom - not criticism.

Can I remind you of a few things? Here we go:

1. Err on the side of grace. This does not mean you compromise Truth. I never mean to suggest that, ever. Truth is Truth and we can firmly stand on it. Truth says that we are each created and each loved dearly by Jesus. He sees us as His children; some of us just don't know that yet. So when being bullied, harassed, or teased about being a Christian, remember to walk in grace. Remember to stand firm in Jesus's Truth, that He loves all, He cherishes all, He covers us with GRACE. Grace says, "You don't know how badly you're hurting me, but I am going to forgive you and continue to love you." Grace says, "I don't have all the answers, neither do you, can we explore them together?" Grace says, "I see you as human, and I am human, and I know how badly I need grace (and patience), therefore I will also give you grace."

Remember: Why would we hold a standard or belief over someone who does not believe in it themselves? Rules and laws don't win people to Christ, His love does. His invitation to a life of freedom, where peace and joy are always accessible.

**2. Don't limit people's value, worth, identity to who they are attracted to. This is a big one: this society as a whole tends to place identities on people based on who they are attracted to. How cruel, how inhumane, how unlike Jesus is that? Jesus strips down the walls and barriers, removes the labels and stereotypes; He sees people as human, regardless of anything.

Love never fails - patience and kindness towards others, selflessness and hoping for the best of others...those things will never fail you. View people as people; not as objects or labels.

Genesis 1:27 So God created human beings in his own image.     In the image of God he created them;     male and female he created them.

1 Peter 2:9 -- our identity: But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

3.You don't go unseen. While being harassed and bullied and seen completely wrong...He sees you and He loves you and He knows your heart. He knows the amount of love and grace you crave to pour out over all people. He is storing treasures in Heaven for you with each insult and false accusation thrown.

Matthew 5:10-12 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

 

It's not about right and wrong or them and we or you and me. It's about our hearts. We, we are humans: a team seeing each other with eyes of Grace.

In conclusion, I want to point to Colossians chapter 3. We, as Christians, get to put on a NEW self. With this new self we are invited to avoid lying, put aside anger, wrath, slander and malice and abusive speech. All of these are important, beautiful and freeing. But, ABOVE ALL OF THAT we [as Christians] are to put on love that binds us together in perfect harmony.

And remember: we are not defined by who we are attracted to, but defined by Who created us.

Learning what grace & truth really mean,

Natalie