Killing Monsters (aka 4 Ways I Prepared My Heart Before Meeting My New Small Group)

This past Sunday night (yesterday) was the first night of fall small group at my church, The Rock. I’m writing this post before that event occurs (Sunday afternoon) so getting all the tenses correct is going to be difficult. But I hate posting on the weekend because weekends are for resting. There should be a nice lull that settles over the internet and allows us to focus on the real, physical world. I try not to disrupt the lull by posting anything.

Anyway, I’ve been excited about the start of small group this year because our small group was awesome last year. But as I prepared for the first small group to arrive, I realized that there were some seriously dysfunctional attitudes growing in my heart about my new small group. Before we’d even kicked things off for the year. So I took a few hours to try to drag these little gremlins into the light and slay them. Continue reading

The Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project – Week 1 – LOVE

I’ve been really, really angry lately. Hateful even. Not my normal style (or so I hope).

Which means that I have a lot of work to do to successfully pull off week one of FSSP. It’s a long journey from hate to love. A journey that the Lord started preparing my heart for last night in some very obvious ways. Against my will and without my permission. I was considering staying in HateVille indefinitely, which is a strangely cathartic place to be. But the Lord had other plans and apparently decided to play the whole “I am all powerful” card and force my hand.

Anyway, here’s the story of how the Lord started doing the heavy lifting for me last night:

I go to The Rock Church in Minneapolis, MN. We have services on Friday nights at 7:30. I was there last night. Kind of against my will. It was a rough week and I’d been indulging in struggling with some pretty serious anger about the varying degrees to which I felt like some of my closest friends from The Rock had suddenly disappeared over the six weeks since I started having seizures (Can you feel the drama here? It was not pretty).

My friend Natasha (who I’m never angry with because she is both hilarious and awesome… see footnote at the end of this post regarding her awesomeness) came over to listen to me vent hang out before church. When Natasha arrived I tried to talk her into going to see a movie instead of going to church. But she refused to play along. Thanks to my seizures Natasha was also my chauffer for the evening so she pretty much had final say on where we were going. And she said we were going to church. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 1

So we went to church. And one of my friends, who’d been the unsuspecting recipient of about 80% of my pent-up wrath during the week, acted totally normal when they saw me (despite having pretty much been verbally back-handed the day before). Receiving grace from others when you don’t deserve it makes it really hard to be angry. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 2

One of my favorite things about The Rock is our worship music. We—literally—Rock. I love singing. I sing loud and repeatedly bump into whoever is next to me because I’m kind-of-sort-of dancing. Except last night. I was fine for the first three songs. I don’t remember what they were but they were about God and who He is. I’m down with that.

But then they played a song called He Loves Us, which is one of my favorites. Check it out later (or now… I’ll wait). So the band starts playing this song. And I’m silent. Not “I’m so overwhelmed by your love that I can’t get the words out” silent. This was… “I’m can’t sing this right now because I’m not sure I believe it” silent.

I just stood there with my arms wrapped around myself in one of those defensive self-hugs that I almost never do (and distinctly remember doing the first time I ever came to The Rock and felt probably about as broken as I felt last night). I was not disengaged or angry. Just still. And empty. In those three minutes or so I realized that at that moment I didn’t believe those lyrics. Which was a big deal. And probably the clearest way that God could have shown me that I was having a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 3

Then the message started. It was a good one. I just checked and the link to the recording isn’t up yet, but once it is I’ll post it. It was about guarding your heart and mind so that the things that go into them produce good fruit. About staying encouraged and joyful. As soon as Karl (the pastor) started speaking, I knew it was going to be a painfully on-point sermon.

One of the verses Karl used was Mathew 12:34-35, which says:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (ESV).

My initial thought was “How can joy brim over from the black and empty pit where my heart is?” (I know, my thought life is more dramatic than you were expecting from an accountant, right?).

Karl went on to show a slide with two lists. On one side were characteristics that result from a good heart: joyful, friendly, kind, helpful, cheerful, positive. On the other side were characteristics that result from a bad heart: frustrated, angry, gossipy, selfish, worried, complaining, depressed. Yeah, guess which side of that list described me this past week? Not the good side. Again, signs of a serious heart problem. Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 4

Then this morning I had some time to kill before my favorite coffee shop would be open so that I could go do my first quiet time of the week on love (after all, coffee equals love). While I waited to leave, I flipped open one of my C.S. Lewis books in a half-hearted attempt to let the Lord show me something that would help me to get in the right frame of mind to consider the topic of love.

My attitude was half sarcasm, half unspoken plea that He’d help shake me out of this week-long funk. The equivalent of a mental eye roll, a sigh, and an “Okay, Lord. Here’s your big chance…” all in one. An attitude that I find myself having more often than I should and He has yet to smite me. If I was God and someone was giving me that crap, I would definitely want to smite them. Luckily for all of us, I am not God.

Anyway, this is what I flipped open to:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Let me translate that for you:

“Stop being such a self-centered jerk and look around you. God loves all these people and you’re missing the big picture when you reduce them to mere satellites in your overly dramatic, self-centered life. Maybe you should connect with someone and do something that could have an eternal impact instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Man up.”

Kate’s Anger – 0 / God – 5

Side note: Most of my translations of C.S. Lewis quotes end with the phrase “man up,” which I find strangely motivating considering that I am not, in fact, a man.

Okay, let’s wrap this up because my point is really this:

When I think about this FSSP, I tend to go straight for the cliché gardening images. We’re talking about growing spiritual fruit after all. Why reach for the unnecessarily complicated analogy when God already set up an analogy for you? So I won’t. Let’s stick with gardening. So the theoretical goal before me is to grow some love within a week. I don’t grow things in real life so this is all conjecture, but my understanding is that you till the soil, drop the right seeds, cover the seeds up, feed/water the seeds, and wait for plants to grow.

So let’s pretend I’ve got a little plot of dirt where I’m supposed to be growing these things. Well, as of yesterday, the spot where I’m supposed to plant and grow love was covered up by a cement block. One of those little trowel things was not going to be sufficient to break this cement up so that I could get to the soil underneath. And frankly just looking at that cement block and thinking about how to break it up and move it out of the way would have been exhausting. I would probably have given up before I even got startred. But the Lord knew what I was going to need to do and prepared the ground for me. So when I showed up this morning with my wimpy trowel and seeds (coffee and Bible?), the concrete was already broken up and I just had to muscle the chunks out of the way and get to work on the ground underneath.

Now I just need to figure out how to adjust the acidity (ahem, hatefulness) of this soil so that it doesn’t kill these cute little love seeds…



**Side note re: Natasha’s awesomeness: Natasha is a good friend. She is, for example, the kind of friend with whom you can have the following text conversation (actual conversation modified slightly for clarity):

[Two hours before we’re supposed to get together]

Kate: Hey, can you pick me up tonight for our coffee date?

Natasha: Absolutely!

Natasha: Where am I picking you up at?

Kate: Thanks. By the way…you are hilarious for saying yes before asking where I’m at. What if I said Wisconsin?

Natasha: I’d leave now (to come pick you up).

Kate: Best answer ever. But I’m at my house. You can pick me up there.


The Fruit of the Spirit Summer Project (FSSP)

I wrote this about a week ago and sent it out to a bunch of the singles at my church. Then I realized that some of you might want to participate so I’m reproducing it here. I believe it’s the shortest post on this site so far, which is reason enough to read it.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to fall away from things in the summer. We’re all busy traveling and those of us in Minnesota are busy soaking up as much Vitamin D as possible in preparation for another seven (ahem, nine?) months of winter. As a result, I end up missing things–church events, quiet times, service opportunities, etc. This inconsistency often leads to missed opportunities—for both growth and outreach.

In an effort to disrupt this pattern, I’m planning to do a little summer project. The key here is little. As in teeny, tiny.

Mark (our pastor at the Rock) has mentioned the fruit of the Spirit several times in the past few weeks and it keeps popping into my head. I thought I’d combine some weekly reading in Galatians (a short, summer-length book if ever there was one) with a weekly focus on a specific one of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Here’s the schedule I’m planning on using:  

Week of: Reading Fruit of the Spirit to Focus On
June 8, 2013 Galatians 1 Love
June 15, 2013 Galatians 2 Joy
June 22, 2013 Galatians 3 Peace
June 29, 2013 Galatians 4 Patience
July 6, 2013 Galatians 5 Kindness
July 13, 2013 Galatians 6 Goodness
July 20, 2013 Galatians 1 Faithfulness
July 27, 2013 Galatians 2 Gentleness
August 3, 2013 Galatians 3 Self-Control
August 10, 2013 Galatians 4 Love

For example, for week one I’ll read Galatians 1 during one of my quiet times and reflect on it (probably during my first quiet time of the week). Then I’ll brainstorm ways that I can be more loving (that week’s fruit of the spirit). I’ll probably try to find some other verses that talk about love. I’ll be intentional about praying in each of my quiet times that week that God will show me opportunities to grow in this particular area. And I’ll come up with some specific action(s) that I can do during the week that exercise exceptional love. Pretty easy, right? The goal is just to stay engaged and intentional during the summer in a way that is simple enough to fit in with my summer chaos.

Anyway, I thought it could be cool to do with some other people if any of you are interested. I don’t want to add anything to anyone’s schedule so we wouldn’t get together at all, but we could talk / email about ideas we have or things that come out of our reflection and actions each week. Or (for the overachievers among us) we could coordinate our big act of love/whatever for the week. We’ll see what happens (or doesn’t).

End of email. So I’ll be posting a few times a week as I work through this project. Which leads me into the next post… about my extremely rough start to Week 1: Love. Rough as in walking across hot coals. Slowly. With bare feet. While carrying a 150 lbs sand bag. For miles.