August 19, 2013

Orange Blossom or Orange Crush?

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:27 pm by Broken & Brave

This post has been welling up in me for three or more weeks. I have scribbled in my journal, dreamed of it, lingering my thought life and prayer life through it as I hear the Lord penetrate my heart with instructions on what I should say. This post is straight from the heart with the purest love and intention to heal a wounded heart and introduce you to the love of a lifetime… and so I write…

I grew up in church.

I think I “accepted Jesus in my heart” at the age of six. All I remember about this experience was that it was in a small, kind of dimly lit, Sunday School classroom. There were barely any kids in my class. In fact, I recall frequently being the only kid. My teacher was old. When I prayed the prayer she gave me a gift. It was a small mirror, circular in shape and on the back was a picture depicting Jesus. I still remember the warm feeling this older woman gave me (I liked her though now I can barely remember her) and that mirror became a prized possession. I think I knew exactly where it was always until the age of 17. That is how much that memory meant to me.

I have incredible parents. I am completely aware of how special it is to have been born into the family I was. I love my family, each and every member, and I have deep loyalty to each of them. My parents did not grow up in church. My Mother was a bit of an uptown girl, raised by some pretty incredible people, in my opinion. They were not rich but they were comfortable and as a family they made beautiful memories together, but they did not know God.

My Dad grew up on the “other side of the tracks”. His Father was a commercial fisherman so was out to sea for long periods of time, leaving my grandmother, the Mom of four children (one girl and three boys) to raise them alone. She did her best, but the boys grew up with very little adult supervision. To say the least, three boys down at the docks, my Dad and his brothers have a lot of stories of the mischief they made. I am sure it was God’s grace they are all alive and well today for us to enjoy the stories. God was irrelevant in their home and my grandparents never came to know God in a personal way before passing.

It was when I was of preschool age that one of my aunts went with a friend to a home Bible study. She was changed. God touched her heart and she experienced His love and presence. Many of my relatives…aunts and uncles…grew up together in San Pedro, CA, my birth place, and were friends as adults.

Within approximately a six month period, the Holy Spirit did a sweep through both sides of my family and nearly everyone became a Believer in Jesus Christ. God is good and He was very good to my family.

Both of my parents had incredible and extreme salvation experiences. Baptism of the Holy Spirit, knocked out on the floor speaking in tongues kind of a thing. God definitely had their attention and had their hearts. My Mom got saved first and my Dad just watched with skepticism. Over time, God had so touched him through the changes he saw in my Mom that his heart softened also. The final result is seen in the fruit…we are a Christian people and I have aunts and uncles who have served as ministers and missionaries all of their adult life. This is where I come in, the little girl with the Jesus mirror.

Though my folks had Pentecostal encounter with meeting God, they chose to raise us in a Baptist church environment. I believe this is a gift to me because I believe every church that calls on the precious saving blood of Jesus has a unique offering to the entire Body of Christ. A definite strength of the Baptist Church is their knowledge of the Bible. So, I grew up with that and God put His Truth in my heart. However, as an adult I was drawn to more charismatic fellowships because this is where the heavy emphasis of my spiritual gifts lie…the power gifts, which are seen in operation in Pentecostal and charismatic non-denominational or charismatic Catholic churches.  However, growing up, though I had nothing against church, it wasn’t until I was grown that I developed an appreciation or love of church.

If you are disenchanted or lack interest in going to church or church people, then this blog is for you. I’d like to touch your heart with my own personal story, as one who was raised in the church,  shying away from going to church and still deeply in love with the church.

I feel my Christian church experience is so unique from the average church experience of a believer…or maybe it isn’t? I can only speak for myself and so I do. As a young adult, maybe 22 years of age, I smacked face to face with God in such an intimate way that I was completely changed. See, I have always had a soft spot for God…always. Though I didn’t think about it or even understand it, I knew he was my friend and I could feel him with me always. Even though I spent very little time doing things like reading the bible or being super involved with Christian or church activities. To be honest, by the time I was in Jr. High, but especially high school I felt like a church “misfit”. I didn’t fit in.

I grew up in a small town that had two high schools. There was the town’s name-sake school and then there was that “other school”. I went to the “other school”. My entire church youth group, minus maybe a couple other kids (who didn’t attend regular) went to the preferred school. So, though the youth pastors did all kinds of things to be cool and make it fun for us, EVERYTHING revolved around the social calendar of the other school. Literally. It was incredibly awkward for me. Everyone would tease me bout it, but honestly, it hurt. I felt very left out most of the time though I was included. Have you ever felt that way, included yet excluded? Yep, that was me. Many kids who feel awkward or left out at church shy away or maybe get into the party scene at school. That wasn’t me either. Though I was very shy and quiet, we were faithful attenders at our church and I think my Dad was a deacon most of that season of life. At school I was maybe known of as a bit of a “goody-goody”. If I ever did venture into a party with my friends, the kids that were there would get uncomfortable and ask what I was doing there? Didn’t fit in there either. Party scene just wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t really attracted to that type of lifestyle. So, I felt like a misfit even though I could get along with virtually anyone and was involved at both church and school. Didn’t feel I had a true place at either place.

In my adult life I had 3 different occassions where 3 different women slandered me, shunned me and then recruited others to shun me as well. I’m over all that and I have no hard feelings to any of them, but when it happened, it was hard. The first time it happened I literally became sick to my stomach the pain was so deep. If you have ever been shunned it is the most excruciating pain, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But even this, I see how God used it to blossom even deeper love in my heart for the misfit, the outcast, the rejected. I think that is how Jesus approached his ministry life anyway. So, if I truly want to be like Jesus, I must be willing to lay down my reputation, dignity and pride and take on his countenance, his transparency, his vulnerability and touch the hearts of others with pure and true empathy. For this purpose is the absolute only reason I even mention my hurts or pains from the church experiences growing up.

The point I am leading up to is clear and it is this…

Allow God to be the mender when your heart bleeds. Do not measure your Hope in God on people.

He alone is the reason we have church to begin with. Our hope is not in a church, it is to be in God alone. The people who go to church are people just like you and just like me. We are all moving through this journey hoping to not stumble, but we do. We are all trying to honor the One whose Love encompasses our heart, bringing Delight, that right there is a picture of my love, Jesus Christ. Just like my little mirror.

All sin is equal in God’s eyes and he is the respecter of no man but the intimate lover of all. If you are hurt, bitter, offended – let it go. Place your hope and your focus on God alone.  I guarantee there is someone out there who has hurt because of something you’ve done and the same is true for me. We all fall short. We all are capable of disappointing others. That is what makes His loving Grace so amazing yet for so many too difficult to comprehend.

I know I have endured very extreme scenarios of hurt in my life for I have only mentioned a few. At least, they are extreme to me. I am sure there are thousands who have had it tougher. But through it all I have learned to trust in Jesus alone and how to lean on God.  I don’t share any of this so you will think the church is awful. No! The Church is BEAUTIFUL!  For I can also share stories of the incredible relationships I have been given because of my faith connections.

There are many who have walked away from God or from a church because they got hurt. God bless my message, yes he blessed me, with each of these encounters so that He could work it to your benefit.

I understand if you are hurt. But let me take this time to implore you to hear my heart and learn by my example and I ask you to do the same. Love those who hurt you and bless those who persecute you.

We are all married, one to another, in the Body of Christ. We need to fight for each other like a loyal relative. It is no good to fight with each other. We need to protect each other, not malign or misrepresent one another. Bless and respect, love and protect…by these virtues the rest of the world, the one’s who are curious about this Jesus we boast so firmly of, will see His brilliant light glisten through you and through me. God bless the Over-comer!

He is like my Orange Blossom…pure, sweet, and satisfying. An orange is full of healing properties, anti-oxidant vitamins, nutritious a side from being delicious. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

What I came to realize, as an adult, was that as a child I was so consumed by being good and doing good, following the rules and the establishment, I was unintentionally stifling my own gifts of the spirit, talents and the unique creativity that resided in me. I was trying to fit the cookie cutter of how Christianity was being painted to me.  I think it is an innocent mistake, but many people, not just myself, have picture of how they expect ministry or church or Christian people to be. The only common thing to God’s methods are His LOVE. God woke me up to the reality of who I was in Him and how he had gifted me and wanted to use me and it didn’t look very traditional at all! I felt like a misfit because I knew I wanted more or that there was more than what I was being fed, despite the fact that what I was being fed was good. God woke up my senses, for my heart had grown dull, and his love and joy began to burst out of me! At first I had trouble controlling it because it was a bit supernatural. But it was glorious and it made me fall in love with Jesus all the more. All of my senses became on fire…like the blue flame of His Holy dwelling being stoked in me and for the first time in my life I could see with crystal clear clarity and a deeper vision was birthed in me.

When you are hurt. When you are weary. When you have nothing left.

With what will you fill your heart?

You can choose the one who is holy and founded the Church, Jesus (the Orange Blossom). Or you can choose to turn to people, to possessions, to self-pity, to the status quo or religious mold (Orange Crush). You can be a victim or you can be a victor. When we fill ourselves with things that cannot satisfy…which is pretty much everything outside of Jesus, then the satisfaction or edification doesn’t last. It is like the soft drink, a cheap carbonated experience that tantalizes for a moment but really is only empty calories that will make you fat. Choose to live the life of an overcomer and choose to feed on the one thing that can satisfy…Jesus.

This post, as I mentioned, has been stirring in me for weeks. I say again, I love the church and have no desire to point out flaws. We all have flaws. I do however, want to draw back to the church those who have walked away and would say,

“Yes, Nicole, I’ve been filling up on Orange Crush instead of the Orange Blossom.”

Are you ready for something deeper that will satisfy and comfort and heal all those aches and pains that are weighing you down? Then, Beloved, turn to Jesus…it’s the sweetest name I know. Step into His presence and have a true and pure encounter with him.

Do not just wield the name of Jesus like a magic wand (paraphrase from my pastor this morning, James Byrd), but when the relationship is right, the POWER of Jesus is out of sight! Drink deep of his love tonight. He is the one who put me up to writing this, so I think it is safe to say, he is waiting for you. He loves you that much. Maybe today is your day of surrender. For truly…the best is yet to come.

God wants us to see him through the fresh new eyes of a child…full of celebration and delight. God’s love is the key and it is unbreakable, unfathomable, unquenchable, admirable, capable and oh so unique. Perfect in performance and undeniably good beyond human reason. Isn’t this all reason enough to take a drink? Let it steep…allow it to sink in deep.  Amazing, refreshing, like the orange nectar…His Love.

He has promised his love and he has pledged it eternal. Do not be distracted by the things that leave you empty. When you shift your focus, even from the promises of God, to the Giver of the Promises…that is when you move into abundance.

God bless each and every one of you in all you say and do. May it be not by your own effort, might or strength, but in the quiet submitted place of His Power and Peace that your true rest comes. Allow Him to restore the broken pieces of your heart…because you’ve got more.

I love you…

Nicole

 

“In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” Psalm 62:7

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