Being Locked Out is an Inconvenience

Being Locked Out is an Inconvenience

I’m writing this to you all the day of and shook. I was cat sitting at my aunt’s house and stepped into the garage to throw something away in the garbage can. As I lifted the lid of the garbage can, I heard the swift, yet gentle closing of the house door behind me. I winced, turned around, and tried the door handle. Locked.

Okayyy. I assessed the situation. I was in the garage. Locked in the garage. I had no keys, no phone, no purse. It was just me. And tools. I had no idea if my aunt had a spare key and no way to ask her. I opened the garage door to let some fresh air come in and sat at the doorstep of a lovely and locked abode.

Think, think, think. What do I do, Lord? I’m locked out. With no phone. And whose numbers do I know? How would I call? Where do I go?

It’s astounding how quickly one can feel completely lost and helpless. I went to the front door and saw the umbrella I had left outside. Okay, now it was me and an umbrella. I walked up to my aunt’s outdoor security cameras and explained to her the situation. My hope was that she would watch the video from where she was and somehow contact someone who could come help me out.

I was expected at a friend’s house for dinner and didn’t have much time to wait around for the cavalry… so, I grabbed my umbrella, closed the garage door, and headed out to find assistance. It’s a Sunday… offices are closed, so I thought, What’s open? CHURCHES! I’m a believer and believers are supposed to help everybody… so, I’ll go to church!

I walked down the street and around the corner to an Episcopal church I’d driven by hundreds of times. I had no idea what to expect and felt so helpless and out of place. It was weird. As I walked, I recited numbers I knew. I had my mom, my aunt, and my roommate’s numbers memorized and kept chanting them in my head, terrified that I’d forget. Two of the people’s numbers I knew were out of the country… not too helpful. And  my roommate was at work. It was going to be a toss up.

I approached the church and stood under the porte cochere because it was starting to rain. People entered and left the building, but no one really greeted me or inquired as to why in the midst of all these dressed up people there was a young adult female in yoga pants, a large Springsteen t-shirt, and an umbrella.

The courage it took me to muster to ask someone if I could use their phone is sad, y’all. But it takes courage to ask complete strangers if you can use their phone! You don’t want to feel like a psycho! Two girls were coming out of the church and I asked if they had a church office. They didn’t, but one of the girls graciously let me use her phone to call my three contacts and attempt to sign into every social media account (which I couldn’t remember the passwords to any of them). She had to leave with her family, so she passed me off to her brother who was staying at the church longer. He, then, graciously let me use his phone to call my three contacts and attempt to sign into my social media accounts again. All fails. I texted my roommate my predicament and location, then asked her to let my dinner friends know I was alive and see if they could pick me up. After that, I looked at the brother and was like, well, I don’t know what else to do. The brother said he’d come out and let me know if my roommate responded.

After all that was done, I had nothing else to do. I sat down and… sat. I had missed dinner at my friend’s house, so I was pretty certain they believed me to be dead. There was no way for me to tell them otherwise. I opened my umbrella. Closed my umbrella. Twirled it around. That took up about 30 seconds of my time. Then, I sat some more.

May I invite you into the fantasy of what I thought my trip to the church was going to be like?  In my head, I walk up to the church and ask where the church office is. A very helpful person leads me to the church office, listens to my story, and invites me to use their phone and computer to get a hold of someone. They are invested in my journey, are concerned for my welfare, and ask me how they can help. Maybe offer to buy me an Uber ride so I can get to my friend’s house and receive help from there. Oh, and while I wait, would I care for some coffee or a bottled water? 

That’s what I had imagined. My reality was a heavy rain, a porte cochere, and the church people passing by me with polite smiles, places to get to and people to see. My two phone people had left. I wasn’t sure if the brother had completely forgotten about me or if my roommate’s work was so busy that she hadn’t seen my texts.

Let me tell you how easy it was to feel sorry for myself. It was about instantaneous. I could feel the tears welling up, the why me chorus warming up their vocals, and the dread of being part of a late-night-city-gang-fight-under-a-porte-cochere later. What kind of damage could I do with an umbrella? 🤔

I remembered what I had read in my counseling text book the day before. We, as people, develop “must” and “should” messages throughout our lives that we don’t even know we have. Things like, “People must treat me fairly and if they don’t it’s absolutely awful and the end of the world!” Instead, we need to change up the language. For example, “I’d like people to treat me fairly, but if they don’t, it’s an inconvenience.” It’s less dramatic and more reasonable.

So, I tried it out in my situation. My initial statement was something like… “I can’t believe this is happening to me. I must get a hold of someone and get out of this predicament immediately or else all hope is lost and my day has been completely wasted.” I tried a different statement out. “It’s unfortunate that I locked myself out of my aunt’s house. I’d like for someone to respond to my messages for help, but if they don’t and I’m stuck out here longer, it’s an inconvenience. I know that God is sovereign and He can handle the who, the how, and the when. I’m going to be okay.”

It changed my perspective so fast. I sat against a column of the porte cochere and watched the rain. The church had a pretty courtyard area and it felt safe to be there. I thought about what I could do with the time and realized I could think through some details of a ministry I’m currently developing. It has been consistently placed on the back burner due to school, but since all my school stuff was locked away at my aunt’s house and I didn’t have a phone… I was able to free up some thinking space. My situation was pretty relevant and helpful to a portion of the training materials I have been stuck on for awhile.

I sat for a total of an hour and a half (I found out later since I didn’t have a way to tell time…) and saw a familiar car pull up. It was the two girls that had originally let me use their phone when I had first walked up to the church. One girl got out and said she had been asked to come back to the church to help out with something. Her friend came with her to check on me because she felt like something wasn’t right. She asked me if I needed a ride somewhere. I was elated! As I got into her car, she let me use her phone one more time to try and contact someone. I texted my aunt and she texted back immediately! There was a spare key and she gave me all the information I needed to retrieve it. 🙌 As this was happening, the brother came outside and said my roommate had just responded. It was like God opened all my channels of communication at once and got me exactly what I needed. He knows the who. He knows the how. And He knows the when.

The girl drove me around the corner to my aunt’s house and said it was nice meeting me and she was glad I was able to get in the house. I was glad too! My aunt had also seen the security camera footage I had done at the beginning and called her neighbor. He came out as I pulled up and helped me find the spare key. Guess where the spare key was? IN THE GARAGE. 🤦🏼‍♀️

I know everything happens for a reason. I’m sure I’ll be seeing life lessons in this experience for a good while, but here are some lessons I gathered today:

  1. Memorize SIX people’s phone numbers. You never know what’s going to happen.
  2. Don’t let a door close on you.
  3. As a Christian, be watchful for opportunities to help.
  4. Rest in the sovereignty of God.

Looking back on the day, the fantasy I had as I walked up to the church should have also been my reality. It’s tough asking people for help. It’s tough stepping into the doors of a church building without being invited. I was literally at the entrance to a church and was not invited in by one person. It’s hard to know who is a friend or foe these days, but it can’t hurt to ask some simple questions. If someone looks like they’re lost, new, or needy… it’s probably because they’re lost, new, or needy. Take the opportunity to show the love of Christ before even speaking a word of the gospel. Caring and hospitality speak volumes! I’m happy to say I go to a church where I do believe my fantasy would have been reality. I pray I’m right. I will say that I’m going to be testing myself from now on, at least. I know what it’s like to be the person with nothing to their name. Goodness. It’s not a great feeling.

Thankfully, everything worked out for me and I was only out of the game for a couple of hours. Praise God! Did I learn some unexpected lessons today? Yes. But hey, it’s part of the grand adventure with God. You never know what each day you’re given is going to be like and that’s what makes it an adventure! Enjoy and please, memorize six people’s phone numbers.

Godspeed, friends.

 

“My Worst Day in Sobriety Is Better Than My Best Day Drunk.”

I’m a little over midway through my first semester at Dallas Theological Seminary right now and thought it was about time I gave an update. I’m a little worried that I’ve taken my favorite class first! I don’t know what I’ll do with myself for the next three to four years!

The class I’m currently taking is “Addictive and Compulsive Behaviors”. Since I’ve been in codependency recovery for the past three and a half years, this class has really struck home for me. I am a byproduct of a family with a history of addiction and dysfunction. I didn’t grow up in a home with an active alcoholic or drug addict, thankfully, but many of the struggles I hear from recovering addicts are relatable to me. They grew up in dysfunction and developed poor coping mechanisms to protect themselves… and so did I. Mine formed into love addiction, love avoidance, and an overall codependency… theirs took the form of alcoholism and drug addiction.

I’ve learned so much about addiction and how it affects a person’s whole being, but I’ll save that for another time. My main focus for this post is a confession: I believe the church, as I know it, is sick.

When you go to church, do you attend knowing that if you don’t, you might not make it through the rest of your day a sane person? Do you go to church like you need it… or does it need you? When you attend church, do you engage joyfully in the worship like you’ve been saved from death? Do you listen to the sermon and understand that the truths being spoken are needed like water in a desert? When you leave church, do you feel encouraged, supported, and motivated to tackle life? Do you serve others throughout the week? Do you feel so excited about the gospel that you can’t help but talk about God with the next person you see?

I don’t.

But I’m starting to get it. I’m beginning to understand that I must have that attitude, because if I don’t… how great is my God? How impactful is the gospel? Just how close to condemnation was I before Jesus saved me?

Do you know when I can answer “yes” to all those questions about church? After an AA meeting.

As I’ve been visiting AA, NA, and Al-Anon meetings for class assignments, I have left inspired, full of joy, and wishing… YES, WISHING, that I could be a part of their group! But I can’t because, hey, I’m not an alcoholic or a drug addict. I know if any of the people in those groups heard me ever say that I wished I was an addict, they would say I’m absolutely crazy. I don’t want to downplay the hardship that comes with walking the path of a destructive addiction and starting the long road of recovery. I really don’t. I’m just being honest about the thoughts and feelings that popped in my head as I observed a world so different than mine.

But my question amidst all the reflection is this: Why on earth am I jealous of groups that support each other for a specific addiction when my group should be supporting each other because we were all once dead! And now we’re ALIVE. What is worse than being an addict? Being dead. If you’re dead, you’re not alive. It’s that simple. I was dead before Jesus came into my life. Now I have life.

So why on a Sunday (at any given church) do I look around and see routine? That neutral face of just being present because that’s what we do. As Christians, we attend church because it’s a good thing to do. Well how lovely is that?

I don’t want this post to turn into a session where I just vent, whine, and complain about “the church today”. I think what I want out of all this is… change. And I’m going to start with myself.

When I began codependency recovery three and a half years ago, I had no idea what kind of freedom, clarity, and joy awaited me. I believe that many recovering addicts can say the same thing. There’s a saying in the 12 step program that, “My worst day in sobriety is better than my best day drunk.” How true that should be for any of us who have come to believe in Jesus Christ! Even on our worst day… it’s still our best because we are saved from eternal separation from God. Wow! It’s just unbelievably awesome.

I want to see that awesomeness in the faces of my fellow church attendees… and I want it to just radiate off of me. I want us to be so thankful for our freedom in Christ that we go out looking for hurting people that need to hear the truth of the gospel. They’re out there and we need to go get them!… but we have to believe what we’re preaching. If we don’t, why should they?

I have so many fun ideas that I’d like to implement in the way church works… but I don’t know what role I have in all this stuff I’m learning. So, I’m being patient and waiting on God to show me what’s next. I’m an impulsive person and have to remind myself to slow down and pray. Let me tell you though, the wheels are turning and I am completely inspired.

To everyone that has supported me and made it possible for me to take this class: thank you! You are an answer to prayer and I pray that God uses me however He wills with the training I am receiving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic of the church. I’m not sure if other people feel the same way I do and would be interested in your opinions.

Thanks for reading!

 

Revelation Spotlight: The Rapture

Revelation Spotlight: The Rapture

Out of all the views and beliefs from Revelation, the rapture is one of the more widely known. It’s apocalypse 101. People disappear leaving their crumpled (or folded) clothes behind and panic ensues.

So where did the idea of the rapture come from? Is it biblical?

While I don’t know the very first person who read scripture and was like, yes! rapture!, I can show you the scripture and the logic behind the idea of the rapture.

First, let’s go to Revelation itself. In a previous post, I spotlighted the seven churches. Revelation 2-3 gives a message to these churches and each one is promised a reward for endurance. Check out their rewards below:

Ephesus: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7b)
Smyrna: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10b)
Pergamum: “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17b)
Thyatira: “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star.” (Rev. 2:26-28)
Sardis: “The one who conquers will be clothed in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Rev. 3:5)
Philadelphia: “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Rev. 3:10-12)
Laodicea: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3:21)

After Revelation 2-3, the throne room of heaven is introduced in chapter 4. This is where we find a great clue to back up what is called “the rapture.”

John has just received a word for the seven churches and looks to see a “door standing open in heaven.” A voice tells him, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” This is the break that takes us from the present to the future. We’ve seen a vision of Jesus standing in the midst of seven churches. There is a call to the churches to persevere, conquer, and look to a future reward. Now we are introduced to what takes place after the church age.

“After this.”

John finds himself taking in a throne room. The one sitting on the throne has the appearance of jasper and carnelian with a rainbow surrounding the throne. This one is God Almighty. Take a look at who is seated around this grand throne. Twenty-four elders.

Revelation 4:4 states, “Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads.”

The first two visuals that should pop out to you are the white garments and golden crowns. To the church in Sardis, John writes that the conquerors will be dressed in white garments. The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia were told they would be wearing crowns. To top it off, those who conquered in Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Laodicea would all have places of authority and rule next to God the Father.

And what is the description of the elders in Revelation 4? They are “seated on thrones.” These people are ruling. They are “clothed in white garments.” They have “golden crowns on their heads.” These are the believers from the church age who persevered to the end. They remained faithful to God and are now seated with Him in the throne room in heaven!

In Revelation 5, a scroll is introduced that can only be opened by one who is worthy. No one can be found and John begins to cry. He reports that, “one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

This is a fantastic image that should be so comforting to any Christian. The one the elder described is none other than Jesus Christ. Look where He is standing: between the throne of God and the four living creatures and among the elders. Jesus, forever the church’s advocate, has successfully conquered and is worthy to open the scroll. Like He said to the church in Sardis, “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” He is standing in the midst of the church just as He was doing during the church age (Revelation 1:12-13).

Important note: As we venture into Revelation 6, the seals to the scroll are opened. Guess who is not mentioned from chapter 6-18? The twenty-four elders! We see them again in chapter 19. They are still around the throne of God worshiping Him and getting ready for battle.

This brings me to the second point that goes outside of Revelation: God never subjects His people to His judgmental wrath. Throughout the Bible, we see that God draws His people away before His wrath is commenced (see Noah and the ark, the rescuing of Lot, the Israelites during the plagues on Egypt… how about God sending His Son to take on His wrath so that we don’t have to??). God is faithful and unchanging. Believers didn’t experience His wrath in the Old Testament or New Testament and we see that they won’t in the future either.

There are more arguments for the rapture than these two, but this is a good framework to start with. If you want to go in-depth on different views of the rapture, check out this book. You’ll have more detail than maybe you want on people’s rapture views. 🙂

Enjoy and be encouraged!