My6inchchallenge's Blog

Tackling difficulties and overcoming the challenges life serves up – by Dona Halliday

Archive for church

Don’t Judge Me!

That Sunday afternoon found me in the kitchen chopping veggies as I prepared Sunday lunch.
I was wearing my “intelligent design, interior shorts,” with matching green shoes and an orange floral top–exposing my shoulders, midriff and thighs.

The door opened and in walked my mom, Laura and Laura’s cousin. “I love your outfit,” she said, as she gave me a hug. I turned to her with mocked seriousness and said, “You know I did not wear THIS to church?” She laughed, then responded, “Even if you wore it to church, I would not judge you. I’d just figure if that’s how you want to do church, you should do you.”

What is it about that generation, I wonder, that make them so quick to state that they neither pass judgment or want to be judged. Are they correcting some flaw they saw in the generations before them? Is there possibly some confusion about values, right, wrong and the act of passing judgment? Or is there something that we all can learn from them?

Let’s explore…
Her name is Saffron. She’s deathly still as she sits in her car. There is no life in her eyes, except for the tears welling up in them. Until, as if suddenly jolted to life, she starts pounding on her steering wheel, crying, “My life HAS to change, I can’t live like this anymore…”

She turns on her car and starts driving, noticing for the first time how many churches she passes on her way home. In her 21 years she had never been to church except for weddings, and she’d never had a desire to go. …The HOPE Cathedral; New Beginnings; Changing A Generation; A Church For The Community; Whosoever Will Come; Lifesavers Ministries; The Love Center; Haven of Rest… She kept reading the signs, her heart yearning for what they all promised…

She pulled in the parking lot, slipped out of the car then with horror realized she had not thought about how she was dressed. She was still wearing her shorts and high heels from the previous night and shame gripped her once again as she debated returning to car and going home. She was so tired, tired of her life the way it was, tired of where her choices took her and so tired of feeling ashamed.

She slipped in the back door hoping to sit in the back pew, unnoticed. Instead, it took an eternity to get to the open seat in the middle of the church. As heads turned and eyes stared, she fought to hold back her tears. “Would someone just help me?” her heart cried?

…If this was “your church” how would they respond?

Would the Outreach Ministry present Christ to her? Would the intercessors be crying out on her behalf? Godly women who had been taught to be uncomfortable about their bodies and made to feel insecure in their relationships, would they view her suspiciously, wishing she had gone elsewhere? Would the older women, steeped with propriety be able to see pass her attire and discern her need?

Would the men offer her Christ or themselves? Would they be so comfortable with a life of continued sin to confidently offer her Christ AND themselves?

What would I do?

What would you do? Would our actions make it difficult for her to receive the Word?

Would Saffron find Christ at the Church or would she find selfishness and judgment?

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Impelled at the point of surrender

Have you ever started a journey to a certain place, yet found yourself in a different location realizing that it was where you needed to be all along?

As I continued my study in Acts I started listing the different seasons of the early church: times of power and growth, peace and favor, obedience and courage, death and persecution…

Stephen had just been stoned to death and Acts 8:1 says, “…a great persecution broke out against the church… and all except the apostles were scattered …” These acts of persecution that were intended to destroy the church were being used by God to fulfill the great commission. Once again I felt unsettled by the reminder that God still allows, and moves through painful and discomforting circumstances.

I was amazed by the actions of the disciples, for though they had been thrust from their places of comfort, security and familiarity it is recorded that they preached the Word in all the “displaces” of their persecution.

Once again I was led to one of Catherine Marshall’s books, “Meeting God At Every Turn.” I didn’t know why I felt the need to track down her book, but at a time when we are being taught to declare and decree what we want, to demand an end to our discomfort  — what about a time of surrender?  Trusting God to work through us to accomplish His purpose no matter in what season we find ourselves.

“In Meeting God at Every Turn”, as Mrs Marshall traversed through some tough decisions and challenges she does this intentional probing of her life, her heart, her motives.  As she examined her life, I started examining mine, and felt deeply shaken by the awareness that there was a part of me that I kept closed, protected, even from God. Protected from that place of complete surrender, lest surrender takes me the way of Calvary — that place of “others-living,” where it’s not about my space and comfort but it’s a willingness to deny me, ALWAYS, for the cause of Christ.

This is the place where I had not intended to journey but was a journey that I needed to make — broken, honest and exposed before God, I surrendered everything…

One thing I know about the Word is that it’s active and alive. It probes our heads and hearts, challenges our places of comfort, exposes our motives and reveals hidden things with the intention of transforming our lives. For if the Word has no power to impact our living, if there is no intimate personal relationship with our Savior, if there is no indwelling of the Spirit to empower, lead and counsel, if there is no Difference Maker, then what would be the point? We could do life anyway we see fit. But at the point of our surrender to God, I’m convinced that’s when we are most powerful, where no matter what impels us, our hearts and lives can affirm, God’s Kingdom come, His will be done….

Religion: Finding safety in the enemy’s territory

Sunday after Sunday she shows up to church, sings in the choir and helps with the children, she then heads home, and in another attempt to keep her husband, plies her young daughter with alcohol so that her husband can once again have sex with their child…

She hates going home, she dreads being left alone with her father and his friends, she’s only 9 years old but she has been called every degrading thing you can thing about by her dad. She’s just a child, but her innocence was stolen a long, long time ago….

They were just young boys, twins, who were sent to church I guess to learn about God, instead, they became prey and were molested by the priest their family trusted….

She’s been abused physically and emotionally by a husband who openly cheats on her, she goes to church and says she loves God but she wonders sometimes if she could get away with killing her husband…

Blow the trumpet in Zion, SOUND THE ALARM….

For while we are caught up in our women’s day services — choosing what colors to dress up in and having hat contests — women are shouting right along side us then going home and making compromises that would blow our minds; while we are debating about the clothes our children are wearing and pointing our fingers at all that’s wrong with the youth of today our children are being broken and harmed in the places they should find safety. While we are doing church as usual, people are dying.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm… Rend your heart and not your garments and return to the Lord your God…

What happens when our lives are threatened in the places where we should find protection?

David was in such a situation when King Saul was trying to destroy him. The bible says that David took refuge in the enemy’s territory, among the Philistines. I’m convinced that this is the trick of the enemy to make the places where we should be nurtured, loved, protected, where words of life should be spoken into us, become places from which we feel the need to escape , and persuade us to run to the enemy for safety.

The problem here is that King Achish, though he gave David a location where he could escape Saul’s attack, he saw this man that God had destined to be a king, as his servant. As a matter of fact he thought to himself that David had become so offensive to his own people, the Israelites, that he would never return home and he would remain his servant forever.

It’s painful and heart-breaking that some have to face the kind of challenges they do, and it hurts because there are no easy solutions. When Adam and Eve scoffed at the idea that sin brings death they could never have imagined that their choices would plunge the rest of humanity into a life-cycle of physical and spiritual death, brokenness, pain and destruction. I believe that today, when we make choices against God’s will that the wages of sin have not changed, when we sin something dies and sometimes it’s not only in our lives.

I don’t know how a mother could make her daughter an object for her husband to take advantage of, or why a dad would be so hateful toward his young child, why broken and wicked men who claim to represent God pass on their of brokenness to others, or why husbands and wives hardly seem to have lasting love in their relationships. One thing I know for sure is that running to the enemy is never the solution, for the enemy may know our potential but he will always offer us less than what we have been destined to become.

The Good News is that God restores, through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus, the broken, hurting and those who have made messes of their lives and the lives of others can find restoration, they can go home again. In addition, He offers His power to destroy the patterns of broken behaviour and the power of sin in our lives so that we don’t have to be the ones passing on the cycle of brokenness to others.

When sin is in the camp, destruction may be near

It’s Saturday, a gorgeous day, the sky clear,  blue and beautiful. I’m loving the gentle breeze as I lay in the shade in the park — reading. I’m familiar with the story but have never seen it quite this way.

I turned the page thinking – the way that they are living will cause others to die…

Something had gone wrong. The had had everything they thought they needed to ensure their victory, but they had failed and thousands had died …

They were equipped with:
1. Two men of God accompanying them to battle
2. The ark of the covenant which represented the presence of God
3. A shout that was so mighty that it caused the earth to shake and terrified their enemies when they heard it.

Yet…
1. Their priests had died
2. 30 thousand more soldiers had been killed
3. and the ark of the covenant had been captured by the enemy

They did not know:
1. They could not manipulate God with religious words, acts or symbols
2. Sin was in their camp. The wicked ways of their priests were not overlooked by GodGod had already pronounced judgment, they were going to be destroyed
3. If God is not impressed by our shout, it does not matter who we try to frighten with it

The journey to “suddenly” – It can all change in a moment

There is a journey to suddenly, a time of growth, transformation, readiness - then, "Suddenly"
Prepared for “Suddenly”

I really don’t know how it happened… I kept wondering if things were ever going to change — get better, you know? I was at a point of desperation, and just when I thought I could not hold on for another second, suddenly there was a knock on the door and my life changed completely…

I don’t know whose story those lines are from but I know that we have all longed to get that place of “Suddenly.”  That pivotal moment when our faith interrupts reality and we know it has to be something supernatural, a God thing, because just a second before suddenly occurred there was absolutely no evidence that things would, or could possibly even change.
A funeral procession, a grieving woman who had recently lost her husband now cries over her dead son, her only son, THEN SUDDENLY….
A grave yard for a home, living among dead people, clothes torn, restrained with chains, his mind and body no longer his own, THEN SUDDENLY…
A  church service, a woman who could not even lift her head toward heaven because of her crippled body — bent over for 18 years, THEN SUDDENLY…
He sits on the roadside, begging, blind, and crying for mercy, THEN SUDDENLY….
I don’t understand God’s timing, but in my own life I’ve come to appreciate the journey to “Suddenly.” That season of stillness, challenges, pressure, growth, change. I believe with all my heart that God makes the difference. He shows up in our circumstances, and with a word and a touch; years of graveside, crippled, blinded, churched and dead living meets the transformation of “Suddenly.”

Are you in a situation that desperately needs the God of “Suddenly?” Seek Him and remain steadfast in your faith.

How much is your word worth? Build a relationship with trust

“When we see persons of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see persons of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves,” so says Confucius.

Lately, I’ve tried to answer the question,“If someone’s word has no value, how can one build and navigate a relationship with such a person? What if this is the kind of relationship where you can’t just walk away, but you have to engage that person in some way.

We seem to live in a society where ones’ word is given without thought and where promises are made quickly without counting the cost of what it will take to fulfill them. I still don’t know and therefore I’ll have to learn how to navigate such a relationship, but this has caused me to examine the worth of MY word.

In the busyness of getting things done, getting to there from here and trying to balance life, have I decided that it’s acceptable to be a person whose word holds little worth? And who can I look to as an example of one whose word has utmost value and is known to hold a perfect record for keeping promises?

King David writes of God in Psalm 138:2 “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” This is fast becoming one of my favorite verses in the bible because it speaks of relationship. Mine and yours with God. It’s a relationship of commitment, one of trust and one of principle on God’s part; and like David we have to choose our response.

There is something that excites me about the God of the universe who so honors his covenant with his people that as the Clarke’s commentary on the bible puts it “He preferred faithfulness to his promise to the attribute of his power.” God who has the power to cause and accomplish anything and has created all things, understood that it’s difficult for trust to develop and relationships to grow without confidence in one’s character. So to build relationships with humanity He offers this promise — that with every powerful act that has proven His name – creator, deliverer, savior, healer, provider, counselor, king…, He has placed His obligation to fulfill His word, to honor His promises, above all.

This is good news to me because as I grow in my knowledge of God I’m learning of His character, I’m learning to trust Him, and trusting Him leads me to love Him. On this journey where my seeking God in prayer, bible study and worship has placed a stamp of confidence in my heart in the infallible God, I find an increasing desire not only to love Him but to grow up to be just like Him.

Then it was Springtime. Passed from death to life.

Dona Halliday experiencing Spring

"It is Springtime!"

Recently I had a flashback from the most unlikely place, with a few notes from a song long forgotten, “Let’s get it on,” I was back in my 25th year. So much had changed during that year – my neatly packaged life, with its black and white distinctions of right and wrong, started unraveling.

The place I had felt most secure suddenly turned into a war zone. Two of the people who had nurtured me, the pastor – my spiritual father, and my former Sunday school teacher – one of my spiritual moms, were at war. I don’t know why it started, but blows intended to wound were hurled from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday, and soon the place I had loved going to, became a place I dreaded.

The first mistake I made during that time was to stop attending church. Mistakes two and three followed when I stopped reading my bible and then gave up on prayer.

Mistake number four showed up shortly after, a tall, handsome Trinidadian four years my senior, wearing the most beautiful smile. We started dating. He gave me my first secular CD, a mix of songs by Marvin Gaye. The first song on the CD, “Let’s get it on.” With him I tried my first alcoholic beverage, beer – yuck! alcohol was not for me. My first club experience was also with him – that was not for me either, and when back then I decided I would never get married and therefore there was no need to “save myself for my husband,” he was still around.

Note to self –  If I have children do not teach them to save themselves for their spouses. Make sure they build their values on a more lasting foundation.

We continued dating then I ended the relationship when he started talking marriage. Have you ever heard Christians, with much delight, talk about the fun they had before they came to Christ? I have. But I was not having fun. The poor choices I made were not fun to me. I was in rebellion and I knew it. I stubbornly resisted God as I challenged the notion of him as a loving Father.

Those were dark, winter days, I felt spiritually dead, and though consciously I chose not to pray, sometimes in my sleep I would happen upon my spirit crying, “God, don’t let me live life without you!”

I don’t know anything that is as beautiful and powerful in its ability to transform, like love that is consistent, sacrificial and forgiving.

Have you ever been loved into submission?

I can’t explain it, but as my rebellion and disobedience met God’s love, I started changing. Love, God’s love, makes me want to be better. The thing I would not change about that time was the journey of questioning, seeking and experiencing God for myself. The relationship I have now is not based on what I’ve been told but it’s based on discovering God’s heart and character.

It’s Springtime! To me, this is what knowing God is about. For even after we have committed our lives to God we may still have challenges that can seem dark and death-like. But don’t give up on the journey, question if you must, but continue to seek God.

God is not threatened by our places. The journey is that place of learning, discovery and growth, and with each lesson comes the opportunity to be awakened to a new understanding of God’s love, and life – vibrant, exciting, colorful, abundant life.

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