By Christy Herselmann
By Christy Herselmann
Last night a friend came for dinner as she does most Wednesdays. As we were clearing away the last of the dishes, I saw a car’s headlights slow almost to a halt at my gate and then drive off. A few minutes later the headlights came from the opposite direction and stopped. I pushed the gate remote and a few minutes later a man I had never met before walked up my driveway. He introduced himself as a friend of a friend and as I finished cleaning my kitchen he lent against the sink and answered all my curious questions about his life, his work and his background. A little while later a young mom arrived carrying the miracle baby she and her husband adopted six months ago. Her husband followed close behind proudly carrying the nappy bag. Next was a larger-than-life couple: the twenty something guy pushing the wheelchair of an older man and his gorgeous girlfriend leading her elderly grandmother by the arm. Over the course of the next thirty minutes more and more people bundled into our home: a family with four kids, a single mom and her daughter with a fold-up mattress under her arm, old friends, new friends, young singles, parents, dating couples, stay-at-home moms, business executives, lawyers, architects, teachers…. As I tucked my kids into bed I listening to the cacophony of voices down the passage and thought, what a beautiful lullaby my children get to fall asleep to: the voices and laughter of friends gathering to speak life. For many of the people now seated in my lounge and spilling over into the kitchen, getting there had been a major achievement. Sick kids, work pressures, sleep deprivation, school commitments, personal stress, over-crowded calendars and so many other demands made getting in the car and driving over an admirable feat. Yet here we were, by the grace of God. After greetings and catch-ups and cups of tea, we exchanged stories of hope and faith, chewed over the word of God and allowed truth to wash over us. We wrestled over how to take the sometimes tough truths of the bible and allow them to bring change and freedom to our lives. We prayed. We laughed. We cried. It was not an uninterrupted time by any stretch. Occasionally a restless child would wander out of a bedroom. A mom would step out into the cool night air to soothe a crying baby. I missed part of the conversation while administering medication to my coughing daughter. In many ways it was inconvenient for many of us to be there. A night on the couch with an episode of Miranda would probably have been a much easier option. But as I collected dirty coffee cups after the last person had left, my heart was full, broken, encouraged and stirred. I filled the dishwasher and straightened some furniture, grateful that in the inconvenience of our gatherings I always encounter God. I always learn something more about someone else. I learn something more about myself. It may have been a little inconvenient but it was a great night. It was so much fun that I think we’ll do it again next week.
Last weekend some friends, my kids and I went down to my moms’ place on the south coast. We had fabulous weather, lots of laughs and some cool adventures. Many of the laughs we had were situation jokes: little things that happened or were said over the weekend. One involved a broken toy gun someone found in the backseat of my car and a misuse of the word “drive-by”. You had to be there to know how funny it was.
But that’s how it is with situation jokes: you have to be there to get them. When someone explains them to you after the fact, they just aren’t funny. And when the group of people who went away together are reliving a situation joke, any friends who weren’t there feel a little on the outside.
Over the weekend I was chatting to a good friend who goes to the same church as me about why we gather as a church on Sundays. It was a great discussion that really made me think. Is it enough for me to be a member of a church, socialize regularly with other members of the church, maybe go to a home group, read my bible and pray, but seldom attend the church’s Sunday gathering?
And as I pondered it, I had to think back to the days before I was a pastor’s wife and a member of the church staff. Those were the days when getting out of bed early on Sunday, prioritizing church above other things and going to a weekly church gathering regularly was totally my prerogative. And I realized that the reasons I go now are the same reasons I went then (thank goodness)!
Among the many reasons, here are my top three:
Call it FOMO, but I hate missing out. Especially when it comes to God. And I know that when God’s people gather to worship him, stuff happens. And so it is my earnest prayer that for as long as I live I will be like my kids and wake up every Sunday shouting, “Yay! Church!”
A couple of months ago I stumbled upon a little abandoned blue book. It had an ancient scuffed cover and a faded gold embossed title on its spine reading Oxford Songs of Praise. Being a lover of language I lapped up the beautiful old English and the richness of the hymns. Often, when I have a quiet moment, I flip it open and drink in the deep and meaningful words. A few weeks ago we spend a glorious long weekend at a friend’s beach house in Mozambique. One day as the sun was rising and I sat sipping my tea on the deck, I opened the little blue book to a section containing songs about the morning. The one which caught my eye and heart started like this: So here hath been dawning Another blue day. Think, wilt thou let it Slip useless away?” Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) My first thought was that I had absolutely nothing useful planned for the day. The agenda included a whole bunch of swinging in hammocks, some good books and a significant amount of beach time. Isn’t that what holidays are meant to be? But as I sat there taking in the vast expanse of the aqua ocean and holding my breath periodically at the massive splash of yet another whale, I remembered something I had heard years before. It apparently comes from a document called the Westminster Confession. It says this: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” For the rest of our time in Mozambique, this quote was my mantra, and it has been swirling in my heart ever since. But after four, sweet phone-free days of simply “being” it took mere moments after our border crossing for messages and emails to begin pouring in, demanding that we start “doing”. Work emergencies to be dealt with, enquiries to be answered, tasks to be done. And so the wrestle in my head and my heart began. In a culture where I am encouraged to dream big, aim high, work hard, achieve much I felt I was somehow missing the plot. What did it all mean, really? These busy, complex lives of ours filled with grand pursuits. Are we missing out on what is really important by rushing around trying to fit everything in? And then I came upon a scripture in the book of James which read: “… And the rich shall fade away in the midst of their pursuits.” That’s us. The ones who read blogs and drink coffee, the ones with jobs and cars. The ones who can educate their kids and follow their dreams. We run the risk of losing the vibrancy of what really matters in our pursuit of the things of little consequence. So, I asked myself, what is it that really matters? And all I have is the Westminster confession: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That has to be the starting place of all else. A writer way more articulate than me, named Gregory Boyle, put it like this: “We try and find a way then to hold our fingertips gently to the pulse of God. We watch as our hearts begin to beat as one with the One who delights in our being. Then what do we do? We exhale the same spirit of delight into the world and we hope for poetry.” Don’t get me wrong, I have dreams in my heart but I have realized that I don’t want to achieve anything very grand. I may publish a book one day. Or maybe not. I might take an award-winning photograph, but chances are not great. I might still get to work for the United Nations. Who knows. But the truth is that the things I really, truly want are far simpler and more profound. I want to be the kind of wife who still makes her husband’s heart skip a beat when we are both old and grey. I want to be a daughter who truly honours her parents all of their days. I want to be the kind of mom who leaves her kids a legacy of love, grace, compassion and integrity. I want to be the kind of friend whose words carry life. And most of all I want to be the kind of Christian whose days reflect the beauty of the One who dreamed me up. I want to enjoy Him forever. And that, I believe, is enough. (This post first appeared on Christy’s fantastic blog. You can check it out here.)
I always end my day in the same way. And it is always a highlight. I go to the beds of my sleeping children, make sure they are warm enough, snuggle my face into their sleeping necks, breath in the beautiful scent of them, kiss their soft cheeks and whisper goodnight. I think most moms love the sight of their sleeping children. When the chaos of the day is over and they are finally still. For me it is a chance to just take in the goodness of them, thank God for his goodness to me and have a quiet moment of reflection as my love for family overwhelms me again. I purposefully make this part of my nighttime routine because there is not much time for quiet or reflection during the daylight hours. Like most kids, mine are loud, busy, funny, challenging, boisterous, vibrant, curious, demanding, animated, mostly happy, sometimes a little wild, periodically grumpy and basically full of life. Parenting them has been the greatest challenge and the deepest joy of my life. When I was pregnant with my first-born, Emily, I was given a book called Spiritual Parenting – how raising children shapes your soul. At the time it was merely a good read, but I have come to realise that it contains profound truth. Being a mother is just as much about my growth as the growth of my children. Being their mom has caused me to face my own shortcomings, dig deep when I feel like I have nothing left, put others before myself, sacrifice and lay aside my dreams for a season. It has taught me that I can grow in patience, that I need far less sleep than I thought and that I am capable of far more than I imagined. These, and a myriad of other things, I have learned by being in family. And I know that the same is true of my husband and each of our children. We would not be the people we are today and would not be growing and maturing daily if it were not for the deep, unconditional love, the demand, the reality, the vibrance, the complications and the in-your-face, 24/7 richness of family. And I have come to realize that this is a picture of the church. Over and over again in the bible, God speaks of his people (believers) as a family. He speaks about us as sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters. We are not just people who believe in the same God. In ways even deeper than blood, we are family. God says he sets the lonely in family. We are not built to be alone. We are meant to be surrounded by like-minded believers who encourage us, spur us on, sometimes grate us, test our patience, force us to dig deep, celebrate our finest moments and love us at our ugliest. And the way this outworked is in the local church. It is a beautiful thing. But it is not perfect. I once heard it said that the church would be a perfect place if it weren’t for all the people. The only problem with that is that the church is the people: a whole bunch of imperfect people trying to figure out life and faith. The reality is that there will be times we disagree, there will be times we irritate each other, there may even be times we hurt each other. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are family. We love each other deeply. We have each other’s backs. We want the best for each other and are committed to doing life together. Most of all we love Jesus and want to see his plans and purposes unfold in each of our lives. We sacrifice for one another and blow wind in each other’s sails. We are growing and learning. Becoming more like Christ. Yes, life may be simpler without family. But the truth is that we are way better when we are together.
By way of life and culture, the act of celebration is reserved only for the most important of occasions: birthdays, weddings, great achievements. Often everyday life is more of a struggle than a celebration. And yet every now and then, we’re taken a little by surprise. About four and a half months ago I met six young people, who had given up a lot to come to South Africa and serve, six young woman who had sacrificed first-world comfort to live in a small township and volunteer their time to an almost forgotten community. But this sacrifice seemed easy for them, they were full of joy and life. Abi, Keziah, Hannah, Catherine, Emma, and Pippa have been serving the community of Amaoti for the entire time they have been here. Trading Tescos and Maltesars for early mornings and cold showers, they have poured themselves into the lives of orphaned children and disadvantaged schools where more than 40 kids crowd into a single classroom. These six ladies are in my life group, and when we visited their house in Phoenix recently for our weekly meeting (change of scenery often brings perspective) I was both challenged and encouraged. Sharing a two bedroom, one bathroom house with cold water and no TV is a far cry from the comfort they are used to, yet all over the house was the evidence of people so full of life, and of love for the kingdom, for Jesus, and for the people they have come to serve. Pictures and activities from the school children line the walls, as do scriptures from the girls’ daily devotions, prayers for girls that have been trafficked, and the reminders of things they had done whilst away from Amaoti on holiday. They have even taken turns celebrating each other with a ‘South African’ birthday where they allow that person to pick the activities for a day. My favourite thing in their house, a ‘#100daysofgratefulnessladder’, is stuck onto the wall as you walk in the door. This ladder counts down the last 137 days of their stay here, and has a myriad of things on it. The idea is to name one thing a day that they are grateful for. These things varied from lasagne, to the return of team members’ families, to new relationships, but each one important to the girls. This spoke to me so powerfully. These girls have given up everything, and yet they have kept a humble attitude and a grateful heart. They celebrate EVERYTHING, big and small. No thing, or person is too small to be celebrated. This really challenged me… because, you see, God is like that. He celebrates, and loves every part of us. I have been so challenged to be grateful for all the God does for me, from the simple things, like providing the food on the table, to the really big things, like a job. The lives we live are worship to God, and I for one always want it to be a testimony of God’s goodness.
Recently we filmed the first in a series of videos about church life. This one is called ‘Community’. We asked a few of our fellow Rockers what community means to them and how it plays out in The Rock. Click on the image to take you to the video.
A few months ago God told me to move to Cape Town. And as much as I would have liked him to give the 101 signs and confirmation, he didn’t. Although I know for a fact He changed my heart. He didn’t send raging flames down into my room nor did hear I him audibly. I didn’t even get a picture or a scripture, but I know He changed my heart. All my life I have loved Cape Town and it was always my dream to move here. In grade 11 I told just about everyone what my life plan was. I would move to Cape Town the day after I finished my matric finals and would study teaching there. For a full year and a half that was my plan, and no one could stop me from following it through. Matric came and still my plan was, teaching and Cape Town. Until… I was blessed with an amazing job at Umhlanga College as an intern. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Also God had planted my heart so deeply into Ignition (the youth) that I couldn’t bear to leave them. My plan hit a standstill but it was still my plan, the flight was just temporarily delayed. I still went to Cape Town the day after my last exam, I had a seven week holiday of which I hated every second. My heart had changed and I kicked the plan to move to Cape Town far, far away. It was a shock to everyone, including myself, but I knew, well thought, Cape Town was clearly not where I was supposed to be. For the next two years I was so incredibly blessed, I had an amazing year at Umhlanga College and then had another amazing year teaching at a school called Little Treasures. Last year was probably the best year of my life, I had remarkable friends, an incredible job, owning UNISA and just living and loving life. I learnt new talents and achieved amazing things and pushed myself further in everything I did and everything in God. I had forgotten about my life long plan… the big Cape Town move. I went to Cape Town for my cousin’s wedding in September and, while she and were chatting, the move came up. I decided that it would happen in 2015. Yoh, God has a sense of humour because the next thing I knew, I was looking for jobs in Cape Town for 2014 – not too sure how that happened. I pushed and pushed to find confirmation, but nothing. So for a week and a half I phoned 37 schools to look for a job, and again nothing. It was like I had hit a wall and yet I still felt it was right. My next thought was, “Maybe God is checking if I will take a step of faith and trust him to provide.” That scared me to no extent. I love Jesus radically but to drop everything for something that might just be my own ‘good idea’, I wasn’t so sure I could do it. I had a group of very close friends who knew everything about me, yet still accepted me, I had 17 little kiddies who thought I was a super hero, I was part of a leadership team that saw a bunch of teenagers getting radically touch by Jesus’ love. How could I leave this? So, for this first time in my life I took the biggest jump of faith ever! Within two weeks of a changed of heart I had chatted my decision through with the church eldership and resigned from my job. The day I resigned I just opened my bible, literally just opened it, and this is the first thing I found: (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV) Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed!” For me that was my big sign. God said, GO, young grasshopper. Feeling mind blown I thought as a joke to myself, if I just flip open my bible again another moment will happen. Well… It did. Luke 5:1-11 basically saying I would be provided for abundantly! I am now in Cape Town and been set more on fire than I have ever been. I have been so incredibly welcomed and loved! I already have an amazing group of friends and am involved in an incredible church called Life Changers. I want to just honour you Capetonians for a second: I am blown away by your amazing love and acceptance, I have only known you for three months now, but I feel like it’s been years. You have given me responsibility and just loved on me. Thank you for being an unbelievable blessing. While being here I have been overwhelmed with blessing after blessing, I have an awesome little car, an amazing job and my aunt has been beyond incredible to let me stay with her. I have a solid group of friends. I am still my very crazy self and still people love me. Everyday I have someone encouraging me and building me up. I fall more and more in love with this beautiful city and amazing people. Lots of insecurities have been broken and my heart is always happy and fighting for more of God. It is going to be a great year and years to come. I miss everyone in Durbs and enjoy hearing from each and every one of you! I stop in awe every day at how amazingly God has blessed me, and I constantly ask why everyone is being so nice to me. Only by God’s incredible love! So my one word of encouragement to you is don’t get comfortable, because just when you do God will shake it up, and it will be the best thing ever. Take that step of faith, because you will always have an amazing family to catch you if it doesn’t work out, but God is always with you. There is an adventure out there for you, whether it be starting a walking club in your area and live a life that unsaved people want, or whether it be radically changing your office atmosphere. We are called to be atmosphere changers, so let’s get up and change our atmosphere, let go out there and take risks. He is good all the time, all the time, God is good!
The greatest of these
I recently read something on Twitter that really caught my attention.
This quote is pretty well known, in fact I have even read it before. But it’s never really resonated with me so strongly before. Over the last year or so God has really been challenging me about loving people the way that Jesus would, about being intentional.
I saw a video this past weekend, posted online. It was footage from a Switchfoot concert.
Switchfoot: A Pop-Rock band made up of Christians who write positive, real, genuine music about love, war, and even God.
The band had been targeted by a group of religious extremist protesters. These men and women chose to camp outside of Switchfoot gigs, citing scriptures over megaphones, holding ‘turn-or-burn’ style placards, creating something of a distraction. And yet Jon Foreman, the frontman of the band, had the most inspiring response… one of Love.
See, Jon could have had a very different response. He could’ve pressed charges, got the law involved or even encouraged his fans to mob the protesters. Yet He didn’t. Click here to see what he did.
My favourite part of the clip is how easy he makes it look. Here is a clip that has pretty much gone viral, yet there is no song and dance, ‘blow-your-own-trumpet’ attitude from Jon, just a simple request from a man who understands that he has been bought by love, and that the currency of the Kingdom is love, that love is part of our inheritance.
Having been involved in youth ministry, I have seen that love can have another face. Sometimes it’s accepting someone, or not judging a person by the colour of their hair (#gingersarecooltoo), or including someone who is at church or youth for the first time. I think that this is just as much an action of love as Jon’s.
Whether it is an action of love that requires a little more courage, or a little more humanity, each one requires less of us. Less of us, and more of Jesus. I think that ironically enough the more we step out in an action of love, the easier it is to rely on Jesus. It’s almost an unlocking of what he’s put inside of us.
1 Corinthians 13 Talks about the prophecy, tongues, and the other gifts of the Spirit. It then goes on to detail the characteristics of love. Followed by the following statement; from verse 13:
The church is a beautiful thing. We are God’s dream team. We are the ones he chose to be his hands and feet, to love the world and to draw people to him. There are times we may disqualify ourselves because we are not in full-time ministry, don’t know the bible well enough or feel tongue tied when people ask us about our faith. We can even go so far as to say that the work of the church should predominantly be done by the elders and the church exists to support them in their ministry.
But the first churches in the bible shows us that this simply isn’t true. Yes, churches were led by elders who carried responsibility to care for them under Jesus. But the church was powerful and effective because it operated as a body, ministering to one another and spreading the gospel. We are called a royal priesthood, which means we are all ministers of God’s word, each with differing gifting which God uses in different ways and at different times.
This past weekend I had the privilege of being part of a team which reflected this truth in a profound and powerful way. My husband, Brad (who is one of the elders at The Rock) and I were invited to spend the long weekend down the coast with some friends from our church. In total, there were four couples and eleven kids. Of the eight adults, five were musicians from our worship team who were going to lead worship at Southcity Church in Ramsgate on the Sunday morning. Brad and I were not going for any ministry reasons but rather to spend time with our friends.
On the Saturday afternoon the muso’s needed to practise and I was keen to do some training so Brad offered to take nine kids (varying in age from three to ten) swimming on his own. Early the following morning the worship team headed off to set up and we took care of the kids until it was time to go to church. During the service, a friend who was with us, and I, each shared a prophetic word which led into a time of ministry.
Sometime during the worship I looked across at my husband holding the daughter of one of our musician friends and I thought: this is the church. This is the body. This is the priesthood. The elder is not always the one with the up-front ministry. He is not always the one sharing a word from God. He is sometimes the one holding a little girl whose mommy and daddy are leading the church in worship. The church is never about profile or hierarchy. It is about knowing we are all priests in the house of God. It is about knowing our gifting and knowing each other. It is about creating space for the gifting of others to bless the church.
Whether an elder or a two-week-old believer, whether leading worship or taking kids swimming, it is all about Jesus. When we understand that we all carry his authority and we have a revelation of his servant heart, we will see every task for what it is: a powerful advancing of his kingdom. That is when we operate as the dream team God wants us to be.