Posted in Faith, Family

My “guild” is my church!

I do not own the rights to this image. Or any image really.

Ok so the concept of a “guild” is foreign even to me as far as it’s historical/real life applications. But I play World of Warcraft so I can definitely see it in terms of an MMO world.

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody and a geek. As a young adult, I was never into the social life of night clubs and bars (Reason #1, I was saved and happily married by the age of 19. Reason #2, I’m an introvert). Paul was at first military, then FAA, then worked for UPS before he went into the medical field. Odd hours and three young kids back to back, there wasn’t any real opportunity to go on dates. But we could play video games together at 2am while the babies slept and have a fun time.

Now I’m in my 30s and I still find it more fun to be in comfy leggings playing WoW with my husband and son than “going out”. Because WoW is purposefully designed to be played in community, unlike other games. As in, you CANNOT experience the fullness of all the game developers have created as a lone player.

Well you CANNOT experience the fullness of all God our Creator has developed for us as a lone Christian, either.

World of Warcraft Classic has brought about a sense of community out of nostalgia. It’s a re-release of the original game most of us in our 30s played when the game first came out about 15-20 years ago. This game is a planet unto itself much like the fictional world of Narnia, and you (+ other players) try to be the hero with every quest. But in the modern expansions, you have things like “Dungeon Finders” or “Raid Finders” where game system automatically places you in groups and in places to accomplish objectives. In Classic, there are no such favors. Need to know where how to get to that one cave? You better ask the other players. Can’t kill a bad guy by yourself? Find some other people to join you.

People run around in different races and classes meeting their objectives, but find no problem helping the people they run by. Paladins (holy warriors, my husband’s favorite) run by placing “blessings” on random players because it costs nothing and helps raise stats. Often I’ll run by and see a single player taking on a mob – and I’ll help. It doesn’t give me any XP or loot, but it doesn’t make sense to just let the player struggle alone. Often you find yourself in an area and you can tell there’s four other players with the same objective – so you “party up” (formally create a group in-game that shares objectives, loot, and experience) because everyone turns in faster.

A lot of people feel that the world would be a better place if the community felt more like what it does in these MMOs… but I digress.

Blizzard in all it’s wisdom even designed the group efforts to require people of different skills in order to succeed. When you are going into a “Dungeon” (the enemy’s camp), you’ll set up a group of 5 people (no more, no less) where each person has a specific job based on the skill set of their character. A “tank” (the person that holds the attention of the enemy), a few “d-p-s-ers” (damage per second, the people that take down the enemy quickly), and a “healer” (the person who keeps primarily the tank alive, and then everyone else, so that the mission is victorious).

Did you know that in order for a church to be effective and growing in it’s community, it needs to employ a five-fold ministry?

1 Corinthians 12:27-30 NIV

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Many denominations differ on the definition of these things and I’m simply going to refer you to your Pastor if you have questions. But I can tell you from observation that a church that is only employing the Pastors to do ministry, or that are only relying on teaching, aren’t growing. Any physical body cannot grow or multiply if only one component is active and the rest of it is dormant. #truth

So to help find other people to level up in World of Warcraft with, many people start or join “guilds”. It’s basically a club, a group of players whose chat is in neon green font (to make it easier to catch while you are playing) and who agree to help each other out. Higher level players will help lower level players get through dungeons and objectives that are wiping them out. People will pass on resources to other guildies that they picked up but can’t use on the particular character they play with. You chat, you play through the game together, and you build friendships with people as you tackle more and more difficult/exciting/rewarding activities.

If a video game, which has no eternal benefit and no real life benefit, can take BIBLICAL wisdom of COMMUNITY and apply it to their entirely secular concepts so that they GROW WILDLY SUCCESSFUL – 3.4 million people world wide kind of successful – how much MORE should the Church be growing and thriving! Bringing people into our church is not that much more harder than recruiting players into a guild – go out there, do “life” with people and as you get along or you help someone out, invite them! It’s literally how the Church STARTED and it’s still how the body of Christ grows today – it’s not rocket science… nor does it require a degree in Theology.

The Fellowship of the Believers – Acts 2:42-47 NIV

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The absolute kicker is, we have the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit. Simply put, it’s fail-proof. Be encouraged!

I’m familiar with people who are not comfortable with going to church but feel community in their online guilds. Praise the Lord, my “guild” is my church! My introverted, geeky self has a group of people flesh and blood to do spiritual warfare with. The Kingdom of God is far deeper and wider than we can truly wrap our minds around, and the enemy spawning here on earth are far more threatening to our families and our cities today. And I am a part of it. I would love for you to be a part of it too.

Posted in Faith

When Refuge Feels Like Disaster

pin photo

Confession: While I believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I’m not one to proclaim that I am prophetic, nor do I dwell a lot on the supernatural realm around us.  I’m very much a here and now kind of believer with a healthy fear for what the Spirit is doing.

It’s no secret that I’m under a lot of stress.  My mom is starting chemo and I’m heading to see her with my kids, flying across four time zones with two ADHD boys and a girl and my medications for RA.

I say all this because *usually* seasons of stress cause me to have random, vivid dreams.  I seldom remember details – I just wake up with uneasy feelings that I digest with a cup of coffee as I listen to my Bible app.

Which is why, when I have one of those dreams that I not only remember three days later, but that I also hear confirmation, I stop and take notice.  When I woke up from this particular dream, I felt almost instantly a call to share it.  That’s not something I do without giving it a few days first.

refugeI was in a forest of sorts, and there were people living there like persecuted refugees.  I saw people with really dark skin and assumed they were the refugees, but I also saw Caucasian people alongside them.  When I spoke to some of them, a few white men shared that they had been cast out from their communities as a result of standing up for the black people.  While we were all in the jungle trying to get away from the city, I felt like this had taken the world by a storm – overwhelmed in the night, like it’s a global disaster.  I also noticed a feline creature, kind of unrecognizable but as big as a tiger, stalking the perimeter of this refugee camp.

I was so overwhelmed by fear that I looked straight up into a starless sky and said, “Oh Jesus come soon!”  And was dumbstruck by how star-less the sky actually looked.  That’s when I was approached by a white, elderly gentleman, in a suit, very pastor-like.  He tells me, in a very calm and matter of fact manner that “a third of the stars fell with the enemy down to earth.

I ask him, “What’s happening here?  What’s with all these people?!”

He responds with a voice that almost brings the catastrophe around me to a low hum:

black and white“These are the people who have chosen to stand for God’s Word.  Don’t be confused; this is not a catastrophe due to racism or political issues.  These are the people who are standing on the word of God, who have chosen to see it as black and white, so to speak.  This is the bride, facing the consequences of their actions in a fallen world, where the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour..”

I responded with, “Oh Jesus, help us to be ready for You!  We need to prepare!”  And he put a hand on my shoulder to calm me down and said, “Maria, they are ready.  They are precisely where God wants them to be in this hour.  Your mistake is the assumption that the Bride gets it all together and then Jesus returns.  But it is God Himself who makes her holy and blameless for His coming, that’s not something you accomplish out of your own merit.  None of this is a surprise to Him who brought all these people here together, and this is exactly what He has provided for their refuge.  These circumstances out in the world are merely a winnowing fork.  Their hope in God’s Word brought them where God wants them.”

worshipI took the scene in one more time and said, “This is the refuge that God has provided for them.  This is for their good.”  And he said, “Yes! And now is when you will be able to see God’s glory.  This is the place where God provides miraculously and shows His power to save.  Even now don’t you feel it?  Haven’t you experienced God anticipating your every need?  Taking care of leveling your path before your foot hits the floor?”

And as I realized that He has, I woke up.

I believe this is an overall message of encouragement to everyone.  And that it will speak to those who are ready to hear it without any further interpretation.

Posted in Family

The ADHD Friendly Church

winter church

Confession: I was THAT kid at church. Restless. Slightly disruptive no matter how interested. I had to keep busy. 

15 years later I come to church and I see my boys, among other kids, and I get it. We can have the most dynamic worship team and the funniest Pastor, it is very hard for us ADHDers to do nothing during the service.

What are you saying Maria?! You don’t sit at church and do nothing! You pray! You listen! You worship!

Fair enough, let me expand. Yes, we actively worship, and provided we can sing along at the top of our lungs you still have our attention. But sitting still and listening during a sermon is NOT our forte! Even with our best intentions, our minds wander. And we get restless. As in, grab another cup of coffee, go pee, and remember to send that email kind of restless.

True story: I either pray out loud or pray in writing. Bowing our heads and closing our eyes is how I take a power nap while out in public

My daughter asked if she could sing with Mommy and Daddy.

Which is why we seem to do better as a family in churches that are more ADHD friendly; a much more casual atmosphere, where we can laugh along with the distractions that inevitably happen without offense being taken. And where the sermons get to the point (sorry I had to be honest and say it).

What denomination is that?

I don’t know! I don’t think you’ll find it reading the church bylaws or ministry website. It’s an exclusively organic feel the congregation as a whole creates when they love your family and accept you- quirks and all. It’s a kid-friendly environment where they are not a distraction but the mission. It’s a place where you’re invited to plug in so you’re NOT asked to sit still for two hours week after week.

Our small group doesn’t just do church, we do some camping and hiking too 🙂

Before you find this blog post disappointing (seeing as I didn’t solve your problems or gave you solid answers) I’d like to share that there are things YOU can do to make church work better for your family regardless of how differently-abled your family is:

  1. Be honest and open about the disability. You’ll find most ministers are compassionate. The majority of church folk want to believe that your boy isn’t acting like hell on wheels because he’s rebellious. A lot of times, they’ve just never met anyone quite like y’all. So speak up (the Bible tells Christians we can’t be psychic)!
  2. Try to make church enjoyable for the kids: they deserve something to look forward to! Reward incentives work great. Allow them to wiggle a bit and make friends. Mainly, lighten up your attitude! Do you ever wonder why some adults only come to church for funerals and weddings? If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, and your kid can be himself, you’ll find everyone has a better time.
  3. Minimize the uncomfortableness: is it hard to sit still? Bring crayons and paper to draw during service. Or take a Rubik’s cube. Or a fidget cube. And don’t fear the electronics: an iPad with the youversion app open to write notes is ok! A bag of gold fishes has saved many moms with toddlers. Flags to wave during worship and tambourines for kids are great too (except at my church, my pastor friends kindly asked me to pass on tambourines).
  4. Have an “end goal” in mind: our family normally doesn’t eat out during the week so Sunday lunch is often looked forward to. Also, MY boys bring Pokémon cards to church (Sacrilege!). Provided the actively participate during service, they can trade with friends afterwards.
  5. Most importantly, make church about the people and the Lord, not the building. Our God is very relationship-minded and we should be too. Church for our family is the people we love! The quiet prayers, the worship music, and the listening is a daily part of our lives at home, so when it happens at church it’s no biggie! Instead, church is where we get to pray with our friends – and that’s what makes it even more special.

Have any tips to share with that Mom that doesn’t feel like she can relax at Church? What encouragement would you offer her?

Posted in Book Review, Faith

Moving Toward The Mess

In my last book review, I shared about Danielle Tate’s “Restoring the Lost Petal”.  It just so happens that I’m finishing up this other book – and it goes quite nicely with the last one!

There’s been a deep need in my heart to reach out and say some very important things.  And I believe that what God stirred in my heart with the last book and with this one are related.  So even though I was supposed to be done with Move Toward The Mess by mid-January, I think God’s timing was perfect.  It let me soak this book in a little bit deeper.

book

My last book review talked about the importance of the church addressing modesty, purity, and sexuality – since they did such a poor job with me!  I was already not a virgin when I got saved.  I was “too messy” for that church.  But we’re never going to get a grip on this much needed conversation if we’re afraid to get messy.

People will come into our churches just like I did – with soiled hands and a filthy dress – and we have the responsibility to embrace them into our Kingdom family.  We need to be the ones to affirm them in Christ, remind them of their God-given value, and remind them of their purpose.  This is not something we can do from a distance.  We have to get our hands dirty!  That’s not to say that “sinful people” contaminate us.  But we desperately need to learn to be comfortable with hugging, talking to, and spending time with people who are not washed in the blood… Because how else would they get to that point?  What else would attract them to God’s love if it isn’t demonstrated in our very own hands and feet?

muddy-splash

So without stealing the previous book’s thunder, I would say “Move Towards The Mess” by John Hambrick came at just the right time.  Because this book contains chapter after chapter showing us how God shows up in the lives of those who run towards the mess instead of away from it!

We live in a broken world.  Drive two miles away from your church and you’ll see the spiritual and moral chaos that is in every city; the poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and prostitution.  And if the neighborhood is still nice, just keep watching; they may not be poor financially, but they’re poor in spirit.  Those kids may have a house to sleep in, but be so disconnected from their family it’s not quite a home either.  There’s still addiction to fight.  There’s still young girls using their bodies as currency to meet their needs.

So I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if your Christian walk is rather uneventful or you find your church life quite boring, it’s probably because you’re in a “country club for saints” instead of a “hospital for sinners”.  That’s not to say you need to change churches.  What you really need is a new perspective.

One analogy that Hambrick used which stuck with me so well is that church is really the locker room pre-game ralley with the coach.  The hype of being in that locker room is the precedence of going out into the field and playing the game – going out into the world, “moving towards the mess”, getting our hands dirty carrying out the plays our coach has planned.  Without hitting the field, using our grit, and finding our mettle these “locker room ralleys” are useless.  We waste time going to church if it doesn’t radically affect what we do outside in the world.

football

His antidote to this attitude really boils down to knowing that we are sinners saved by grace.  When we realize just how much God has forgiven in us, we stop waiting until we get our lives together, or until we get the right “title”, or waiting for the broken to come to us.  Our own need for grace becomes fuel to love others and want to bring salvation to them.

Not many churches will experience the randomness of a girl like me walking through their doors one Sunday in February and getting saved.  I was the exception, not the rule! Most people live on the fringes of the church property and won’t step inside because they feel filthy.  Well, my friends, let’s bring church to them.  Let’s move toward the mess.

Pick up your copy of “Move Towards The Mess” here, or you can win a copy on my blog by commenting below and answering the following question:

What mess do you feel God calling you towards?  Where does your heart ache the most towards others?

Disclaimer: I received two copies of “Move Towards The Mess” by the Blythe Daniel Agency in exchange for my honest review.  I was not paid to give a good review, nor will I receive any monetary compensation from your purchase.