Now AND Later

I finally became a real Christian at the age of 38 or maybe just a better one. Ok I admit- I am sometimes prone to exaggerate to make a point or to clarify an idea. My husband knows this of me. My co-workers have probably figured that one out too. I am convinced that being a Christian...or "saved" or a Jesus follower is SO NOT dependent on one magical decision where you raise a hand and or utter a prayer.  Or say "yes" to an altar call. It's SO MUCH MORE than that.

Being the people pleaser I am...superficial "yes" moments occur over and over in my life without much long term stickyness. For example, I've adopted too many pets [that I later re-homed] and bought way too much Mary Kay, Arbonne, Pampered Chef, Essential Oils and ThirtyOne bags.  I have an "all in" or nothing at all personality impacting my friendships, my pets, my life style, my diet, my schedule and my bank account. My mostly unused Y and Weight Watcher "all in" passes are further proof. Not necessarily my finest attribute. That's why I don't like decision cards,  altar calls, or urgent prayer requests for that one kid who didn't say yes to Jesus at summer camp. Well meaning practices of completely missing the point.

This being a Christian thing may have been what my parents raised me to do. Or maybe why youth pastors paid attention to me during my formative years and perhaps why now my seminary training beckons me to stay the course [what else can I do with a seminary degree?] I do know that becoming a believer in Jesus sprouted with my awesome Christian parents and the childlike faith I had at age 3 in 1979 [saying yes to an altar call of some sort] But becoming a hope filled Jesus FOLLOWER came later.

My first inkling that Christianity was SO MUCH MORE than just "getting saved" came first after reading Blue Like Jazz [yup I am THAT old] by Donald Miller. Which still makes me feel bad for making my friend Heather cry in 10th grade. I told her I was worried she might be going to hell if she didn't believe in Jesus while we ate lunch in the school library. After reading Jesus Wants to Save Christians and Velvet Elvis [both by Rob Bell] my path to follow Jesus became more about being Good News NOW and not scaring people with an ominous LATER. I even sent Heather an apology on Facebook for the immature me she put up with in high school. I am no longer compelled to be a part of a church throwing huge colored water fights or concerts for teenagers just to trick them into being stuck in a room for 30 minutes to hear a so called "gospel" message to save their souls. My days of the "bait and switch" gospel are SO OVER.

A few weeks ago I experienced a powerful -I- really- love -my -church moment standing in the middle of a farm eating strawberry shortcake with Shane Claiborne, the author of An Irresistible Revolution. This moment, among many others, continue to launch me gently into a deeper and wider faith journey. Two days after meeting Shane in person I was on a mission trip lying in a really uncomfortable bunk bed in Detroit devouring every word of his book. With my body pressed against a dusty cheap old bunkbed mattress, I was lost in this book. I could feel the uncomfortableness of the wood planks beneath me with every page I turned.

In Detroit, with Shane's book in my hand, all I could think about was the GOOD, compelling,  and also uncomfortable message of the Jesus Gospel. In this moment. In the Blue Like Jazz moments. In the "Jesus wants to save Christians" kinds of moments are when I most catch glimpses of what it means to live the way of Jesus. In these pages my soul is refreshed and my passion for living into the reality of God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven renewed. Again and again through cups of cold clean water and coats for impoverished kids, I see glimpses of heaven on earth now.

As though I was kind of like born again. My faith made new again. Like I once again had fresh eyes for scripture and could throw away all the stale "Always Live In View of Eternity" I heard in Bible College. There is suffering and darkness and orphans and refugees and widows and hungry people who need to experience God's Kingdom NOW. Not later.  I do believe in eternity with Jesus but it starts now. This Good News hope-filled gospel has been pulling me towards places like Mars Hill. Shane's book helped me to re imagine what following Jesus can really be like in the now of my life. 

Working towards measurable change...for now, not just later. Living in missional community...now, not later. And announcing the arrival of God's Kingdom now, not later. That is why Mars Hill. That is why Grand Rapids. That is why NOW is more exciting than ever.


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