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Takin my time...

by Tami
I was born in the hot Summer of 1974. My mother's due date was around graduation, and they had to roll the car out onto the field just in case we decided to come during the ceremony; of course, we didn't budge. My twin sister and I were overdue, so we were induced.
I can take a page from that little story about me-- that I took my time being born... In those days, inducing meant medication was administered to the mother during delivery which, as it did for most mothers back then, pretty much rendered her unconscious. It made babies fairly groggy as well, so I came into this world in a crazy little haze...

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."--John 3:3

Now since then, I've grown up a little. Being in the wee corners of the Bible Belt, I've said "the sinner's prayer"--- a few times. I wasn't raised in an evangelical family at all, but I said the prayer because I attended Wednesday Bible Club; then again at a Summer VBS I was invited to, again at Wednesday Bible Club, and then at a four-square youth rally. I was assured each time that I was well-covered by the blood of the lamb (this was not comforting to me), and going to Heaven (I want my certificate of authenticity)... Heaven was the goal, the mecca, the ultimate outcome of these prayer fests, and heaven (well, more like avoidance of the other place) has always been the one compelling reason why to say the prayer, and also to tell others to say it. Over the years as my journey's complexity increased and my faith has waxed and waned, I've noticed that the whole "heaven logic" has dropped off, maybe to a fault: I really just want to live authentically in this world and get closer with Jesus. I would never say I'm "born again," mostly because of the stigma and dishonesty the ideas surrounding all of that carries with it, but also because I'm not all the way done yet...

Being born again is an ongoing, lifetime process for me and many of my friends. I don't talk about it much-- There's always that risk of sounding theological or having someone tear me apart and tell me my theology stinks... Well, it's not like I don't know the arguments, and at one time doggedly agreed with them... But this is my journey now. It's a deep and personal journey I want to be on, and I don't want to cheapen it by hurrying it or faking any part of it. I want to experience every single step along the way, however many steps there are, that take me to a deep, open, and fully alive relationship with Jesus

Here are some things I've heard through the years that have changed how I see my relationship with Jesus, and that I'm really letting God work on me about:
  1.  "Let's just pretend for a moment that God really is sovereign."-- Oh, yeh... A momentary lapse as I was over here thinking I could just take care of the whole world by myself....
  2.  "And what does God say when you pray about that hard situation?"-- 9/10 times... I haven't even asked God about it...
  3. "It's more important to be kind than right."-- My #1 biggest struggle, as I can be the world's biggest bulldozer...
Born again. It's happening... I wish it would happen all at once in a flash, but it seems that I'm taking my time... I'll continue He's sovereign on this one. :0)
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Born Again, and Again, and Again...

- by Karl

“I tell you the truth, you must be born again”
 - Jesus

I love Easter. It proves that I am not left with the life I have created, but I can have the life He creates.

Jesus promised to never leave me, but I have often tried to get away from Him. But He hunts me down, and loves me till it almost hurts.

I have often heard the words “have you been born-again?” but never “are you being born-again?”

This Easter I am thinking about being born again, and again, and again…

I have been born again a lot.

I remember when…

I first found Jesus - I was born again.

I was sad and started smoking but then I quit - I was born again.

I met my wife and fell in love - I was born again.

We got pregnant before we married and I was asked to leave school but we survived - I was born again.

My wife forgave me for being really mean to her - I was born again,

I was sick with depression, but got some medicine that helped - I was born again,

I got sober - I was born again.

I am sure it will happen again really soon.
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Eviction Notice

- by Richard

Okay, Addict.

I’m sick of you. Literally.

I want you gone. You’re through.

You have had control over my life, my time, my behavior, my thoughts, my attitudes, my relationships, my body, and my mind. Because of you, I have messed up my life and I have wounded the people I love the most.

Frankly, addict: I hate you. I thought you were my friend. You promised excitement, reward, and escape from the fears and pains of life. You lied. The excitement was fleeting, the reward was phony, and the escape was momentary. You failed to deliver – thousands upon thousands of time, you failed. Every single time. Every. Single. Time.

You deceived me. Oh, you’re clever. You kept offering me this package of fake goodies – and every single time, for decades, I would take it. Your control over me was almost absolute, and because of you I did unspeakable things. I want you gone.

I am not you, Addict. And you are not me. Yes, you have been a part of me, a big part of me. I have been powerless over you, despite my resolve not to let you do these things. You have made my life completely unmanageable, despite my outward appearance of competence and confidence. But the real me is not you. I want you gone.

I’m not going to try to manage my own life. I can’t. But even so, I am going to win. Not on my own; my own power is pathetic. But make no mistake, Addict: you’re history.

I’m finding power somewhere else. With this new power I’m finding, I can do this. I’ve tried to kick you out before – perhaps thousands of times – but this time it’s different. I have a new friend. My new friend is actually an old, old friend whom I have tried to serve all my life, but never with my whole heart. This friend is known by many names, but I go with the name God. I’m going to give God the keys to my place, my life, my mind, my heart, my behavior, everything. With God’s power, you, Addict, don’t stand a chance.

Consider yourself evicted. I want you completely out of my life. I know you’re going to want to come back. When you knock on the door, with God’s power I’m not going to let you in. Oh, I may slip up sometimes and let you stand on the doorstep. I used to think that when you got to the doorstep I had no choice but to let you in to ransack the place – but now I see that letting you back in is not inevitable; in fact, it’s not going to happen, so go. Just go.

Addict, I am envisioning you walking away from my life, your bags packed, trudging away, your figure getting smaller and smaller, farther and farther away, diminishing, diminishing, until you are just a speck. Just a speck.

Good riddance. I’m a much better person without you, thank God!

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
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- by Linda

This time of year draws me back to my spiritual roots. There is something about Lent that ignites a longing for quiet and reverence in me. And although while growing up Lent seemed like a lot of rules and giving things up, I also, even as a child, loved the quiet in the church and the sense of awe that was present there.

My family went to church every Sunday and there were so many of us it was usually not a quiet, peaceful hour. I was often trying to keep younger ones hushed or in their seats. But during Lent, it was different. During Lent there were all these extra services to attend and my mom would only take the older kids. It was peaceful. There weren’t as many people, there was space. There was quiet and often the lights were dimmed. And I got to just BE. And God seemed present and close and I soaked it up.

And then life happened and there was a period of time when I didn’t go to church at all and then an adventure to figure out where to go when I did return. And I ended up in churches in various denominations. And I found a different richness there. I learned and grew a lot spiritually. My faith became more real, more personal. And, being a quiet person, at times I also felt very out of place. The church seemed noisy and busy.

So, the last few years, during Lent, when I especially sensed that longing for quiet reflection with God, I allowed myself to visit the church I remembered as a child. And I loved it. I didn’t let myself get caught up in the little things I don’t agree with anymore, I expected them. I just soaked up that presence of God that comes to me in the quiet, in the tradition, in the liturgy. I don’t necessarily understand how He comes, I don’t think there is anything magical about the traditions themselves…I just know I sense Him there in a different way.

I think God calls to us in all kinds of ways. I am sure many find him in celebration and in things I might call noisy. I know He is there too.

And one of the things I love about The Refuge is that there is space for both. This lovely group, where the majority probably prefers the celebrations…still makes room for quiet reflection. It’s an unusual combination, but I do appreciate it.

So as the weeks of Lent unfold, I am looking forward to seeing God show up in the quiet times & being challenged to see Him also in the celebrations.
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What's in your Box?

- by Megan

How can One
shows One's love
if One knows not what love is
For One has to learn
the art of Love
before love can be His

* * * * *

I think Love is one of the most difficult of human emotions. It can be intertwined with so many other feelings. Want. Need. Lust. Desire. The Warmth of Kindness. The Agony of Betrayal.

But in all of it, we still need Love. We need to give it and to accept it. Offer it to another and allow it for ourselves.

So what's in your box? That place in your heart the holds all the good or all the bad, that makes it difficult to give or accept...

What do you need to hold onto or let go of so that you can show, and know, Love?
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Finding Strength for the Cause

-by Jenny

Is there a cause worth fighting for? Do you have a passion for making a difference, a stirring in the heart? Do you feel called to advocate on behalf of a group that needs support?

Sometimes it's a no-brainer. We know just what to do and can keep plugging away, but at times the discouragement sets in to cloud the vision that seemed clear, seemed strong and sure. It can be difficult to find a way, or we run out of steam and get discouraged. There may be resistance and intimidation that push back. Sometimes our resistance is within.

Saturday night at our first Express evening of 2012, we spent some time identifying the causes we feel are important and and exploring the things that get in the way of our passions for advocacy, and how we can overcome those things. A story from Martin Luther King, Jr's life framed our evening.

There was no one else that he could turn to on that lonely night. The discouragement was great. He had worked so hard in Montgomery, but he was receiving harsh criticism and death threats. Martin Luther King, Jr. was sitting at his kitchen table, and over a cup of coffee, he wrestled with weakness and called out to God. Then he heard these words:
Martin Luther, Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth...and lo, I will be with you even to the end!
It was what he needed to revive his soul. He became reassured that he was to continue on in this important cause he had labored over.

As I think about causes that touch my own heart:
  • What is pushing back at me, intimidating me and keeping me from doing what I can? Are there voices that threaten me to forget it, give it up, and believe it's all too hard or too dangerous to continue?
  • Am I doing the right thing?
  • Where will I find strength for this weakness? What will revive my soul?
  • Are there ways others can be involved?
  • What are things we can do as a community to help strengthen each other to overcome what keeps each of us from our passion for advocacy?
If you have thoughts about this, add them here. We can explore together.

If you would like to listen to the kitchen table story in MLK's own words:
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