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Monday, July 27, 2009

Running in the Rain

My story today is about a very intimate and personal encounter with God this morning. If you are skeptical about God still meeting with people or are uncomfortable when I bare my soul, you might choose to skip this long blog. I will not be offended. I am going to do this blog a little different. I will share my story, then take you through the experience with me as best I can. You may need to split this blog into shorter segments if you want to take the time to pray and worship with me as I run in the rain. Or you can just read my story and move on.

This story began last night. I worked out in my living room, and when I sat down my brain immediately said, "Let's go running early in the morning before it gets too hot." I told my brain that it was crazy and stupid - that we always sleep late on Monday. My alarm went off this morning before 7. I didn't set it, can't explain it, but it went off. I could hear the thunder in the distance, rolled over and hit snooze. I finally meandered out of bed after 8, had breakfast, drank lots of coffee, and snuggled my 3 year old Abby on the couch. The entire time my brain was chanting, "run, run, run, run." I am logically overruling that crazy voice, "It's raining, hello!" Around 10:30 a different voice, one that I've come to recognize as God's Spirit said, "Get off your butt and out the door. You don't have to like it, but you do have to be obedient." So reluctantly I tied my shoelaces and tried to bargain back with a workout video, but instead heard my voice telling my son, "I'll be running. If you need me I won't be far." He said, "It's raining." I said, "Yep. I'll be back soon."

I grabbed my phone, slid it over to Pandora to listen to some tunes and took off. No lie.... On my first lap, every song used rain as a metaphor of some kind. I was praying and meditating through Job 26:14 "These are some of the minor things he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who can understand the thunder of his power?" I often think about rain as a metaphor for God's grace and his presence. This is the song that came on Pandora as I was praying: "Rain Down" by the David Crowder Band. As you listen, pray that God would rain down his presence on your city. Pray that he would move in your life and in the lives of the people around you.

Then as I kept running, the drizzling rain became a down pour. I was soaked. Water dripped from my hair; it ran down my arms and legs. My clothes became glued to my body. Still I ran. But now I was self-conscious. The glued on clothes outlined every curve. Some of those are sexy, some are not. Fluff doesn't win wet t-shirt contests! So I ripped my focus off God and onto myself. I decided that when I finished the next loop I would go in. Then "Bring the Rain" by Mercy Me played. As you listen, pray about the crap from your past that keeps you from surrendering all that you are. What is it that brings you pain that you are not allowing God to bring healing and glory into your life? Will you sincerely pray that God will do whatever it takes in your life to bring glory to Himself?

As I was running, the feel of the rain shifted. This is the part that may be uncomfortable for some of you. I was really struggling with discouragement about working out. I was fighting with feeling overweight. I was angry that I am working so very hard for so very little results. I began weeping that I can not overcome the lack of selfworth, the feeling that I am too large to be beautiful. The feel of the rain shifted from a promise of God's presence to become a lover's caress on my skin. Chill ran over my arms as the rain slid down my skin. It was suddenly a sensual experience for the rain to drip from my hair and gently glide down my face. That's when God spoke, as a lover to a bride. "My beautiful, beautiful one, you do not need to be skinny for me to love you. I am asking you to become healthy because I want to use you. I don't want you to miss out on opportunities to spend time with me because you are too tired or physically unable to go when I call you. This journey is not about the mirror or bikinis or sagging boobs. This journey is about becoming able to say 'yes' to me, whatever I ask you to do. Being my masterpiece has nothing to do with your mirror." Wow! What a beautiful affirmation. Then "The Wonderful Cross" played as God reminded me that all of my sins, all of my struggles have already been paid for by his blood. What is your struggle that keeps you bound. Will you accept that you have also been set free as you listen to this song?

So as I headed into my third lap I began to wish that my friends could experience God's presence with me. I began praying for them to see God today. I was praying that my friends would meet with God amazing and miraculous ways today when "It is You" by the Newboys began to play. This is where I very literally stopped in my tracks to worship. God was so hearing my prayers for my friends and promising to reveal Himself to them as well. Would you let this be the cry of your heart today. "As we come to this place, will you meet us here?" Wherever you are today, ask God to meet with you.

I was rounding the home stretch, feeling the rain, engulfed in an unbelievable worship experience. Running and gasping for air, experiencing God in ways I did not believe were even possible. I began to pray about surrender. (See yesterday's blog) I began to say to God that I know there are many things in my life that I want to hang on to. I cannot let go of them alone, but I want my worship to be more than words. I want all that I am to belong to God. That was the moment that "All of the words" by Kutless began playing. As you listen, I dare you to turn lose of that one thing that keeps you from being sold-out for Christ. What is that one thing that you cannot walk away from, you cannot let God be in charge of? Give it away, or pray with me, "God take this from me, and help me want to want you to take it from me."

Almost done, I was experiencing an amazing moment with God. As my feet pounded the pavement, the water poured off me. Lightening was flashing in the distance, thunder was booming. The rain was a downpour. It was all I could do to keep running and not fall flat on my face in a stranger's yard in worship. I had run through praying for God's presence, turning over my garbage, hearing an affirmation of his goodness and love, listening to him promise that he would love to meet with my friends, and that He would help me want to want to live a surrendered life. I began praising him. Running with arms lifted in worship, I was looking forward to the future time when I could see Him face to face. When encountering God in a real and intimate way is no longer unusual. That's when "One of These Days" by FFH began to play. As you listen, offer up some praise to the Father that someday He's going to bring us home, and there will no longer be any barriers to our relationship.

I hope you used this blog to run alongside me in the rain today. I have encountered God before, but this was incredible. I loved feeling the rain on my skin, praying, and then hearing in astonishment as each song that played perfectly meshed into my worship experience. The only thing missing is that I was in God's throneroom alone. I missed each of you. Hoping you find your way into God's presence today as well.

Love you much, LaRissa

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Monday Morning 7.27.09

It's time for another Monday Morning Update. What a busy weekend!
Saturday we did another movie night/block party. This time we used Slater Creek Park, the local city park. It's new and a great location, but we had a very low attendance at this movie night. In our evaluation we came up with a few possibilities. 1. The park is not easily visible from the highway - no drive-by stoppers. 2. Poor marketing - We advertised on a mailer that primarily focused on the sermon series (was not easily visible on the card) 3. It was one of the hottest days we have had in quite a while. However, we enjoyed meeting the people who turned out for the event and are already planning and looking forward to one more summer block party in August. We will be collecting school supplies to give away in a needy community at that block party.

The church where we normally practice on Saturday was booked for a wedding, so we set up at the cheer gym Saturday night to allow the band to practice. It was so awesome to be able to practice in our own space. Yes it was hot, and I was sweaty and smelly, but we were able to totally tweak our sound and adjust the settings. I could really get a great feel for what to play and what would sound good in our space since that's where we were practicing. I appreciate the church that allows us to practice on their stage on Saturday, but the sound levels are set so differently that it is harder to really plan out what would sound the best in our cheer gym. The acoustics are just very different in a gym than in a sanctuary.

We had a new drummer hanging out with us this week. He did a great job. I was impressed by how well he listened to me on the keys and to Jake on the guitar. He also really watched Worship Dude and read his body language well for a first timer. Our bass player was also off work and able to come play. So I was just plain excited to be able to mess around a little more on the keys since I did not have to carry the bass line.

Worship Dude picked a great set. Again. This morning while I was drying my hair I was thinking yet again about how amazed I am at the talent God has blessed him with. He came to us with unbelievable talent and great worship leader skills. Then God has grown him incredibly this year. I am absolutely blown away that some guy with that level of ability is serving with us at The Crossroads. It's way more than I ever had the faith to ask God for. Oh, yeah, back to the set - Here it is:

Everyday - Hillsong
I will lift my eyes - Bebo Norman
East to West - Casting Crowns
Wholly Yours - David Crowder Band
Surrender All - Parachute Band

"Wholly Yours" and "Surrender All" have strong surrender overtones. In my Christian walk that is by far the thing I struggle with the most. It is incredibly challenging for me to be completely surrendered to God. I almost always have something that I am holding and refusing to let go. Then I feel like God will strike me with lightening when I sing, "Wholly Yours" or "Surrender All". He knows that what I really mean is "I would love to surrender all, but I don't know how to turn loose of this one thing....or these ten things." So in my head I sang, "God I want to want to surrender it all." Didn't want to lie to God!

Shawn's "God at the Movies" series is great. He has such an eye for seeing God stories in media and using those illustrations to point to scripture. Today's movie was "Terminator Salvation". This movie is an illustration of sacrifice, and second chances. Shawn talked about ways to sacrifice our life for Christ - letting go of our lives so that we can live the life God has prepared for us. (Made me think of that 10th Ave. North song) Then he talked about how we can sacrifice our lives for others. He used that Is. 58 passage that has been speaking to us this summer. His message will soon be online at Be sure to download and listen to it soon. It's one of the better sermons I've heard from him. It's amazing how he speaks week after week in fresh, interesting ways from God's Word. I love that he always explains how to apply his message to real life. He's an exceptionally brilliant man. He could preach in big, theological terms and be very academic, but instead he speaks simply, with practical application. That takes true genius.

We had several new families stop by to check us out. One of the coolest stories is that a lady who had never been to church - ever in her 41 years- came. And loved it.... wept through the whole service. I heard that she prayed to accept Christ, but I have not confirmed that for sure with anyone who spoke with her. It is so beautiful to see God at work. We also had the opportunity to pray over a new believer in our congregation who will be leaving tomorrow for basic training for the army. We have another baptism coming up August 6. I love this part of church planting - seeing God drastically and dramatically change people's lives.

Continue praying for a meeting place for us. We are in immediate need of space. We are now consistently running about 20 in children's church. We do not have space for them inside. Meeting outside with them works as long as it doesn't rain. When colder weather arrives, we will have to be in a larger space. Please pray for our workers. As we grow, we will have to pull in more workers and right now we are pretty maxed out on volunteers. Pray that those of us who volunteer will be very flexible during this time of growth. We need grace for the journey as we work with children who have not been to church before. We want to provide opportunities for them to hear about Jesus and learn how He can become their Savior. Pray that we will never lose sight of why we do what we do in children's.

We are excited about what God is doing at The Crossroads. I recently reread some of my old blogs. In one of my early ones, I said something along the lines of "I know that some of this is simply excitement about something new and will probably wear off, but I hope that in a year we will still love what we are doing." I am here to say that the excitement has only grown with time. I am definitely tired of sweating and dragging cheer mats, but it is worth every drop of sweat and every tired and aching muscle to see people coming to know Christ. I was looking forward to seeing people accept Christ but it has also been surprisingly beautiful to also see people learning to live Christ. My own lifestyle is challenged as we constantly evaluate how to apply scripture to our lives. I LOVE this church planting gig. I am so grateful to get to be in ministry at The Crossroads.