Saturday, May 17, 2008

PASSION in Kyiv and life...( or "She's Venting About the Meaning of Love and the Value of Relationship Again") :)

No, this is not about something steamy :)...although the Kyiv Sport's Palace did get pretty hot as we were energetically enjoying the concert last night. :) (How did such a great word like "passion" gain such a limited usage?)

Well, this "night of passion" was referring to passion for God - in general, and a ministry from Atlanta, Georgia - in specific. When I heard about an evening of worship and praise with Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, naturally I wanted to go. The fact that the posters clearly stated "for youth 18 -28", didn't deter me. Young at heart, I say. :)

There is a lot to say about the evening... To it is interesting that Kyiv has - in the last 15 or so years - gone from a place with very few Protestant churches even, to one that in the past few years has hosted Christian music groups and speakers ranging from Delirious, (two years in a row at the Mi Chas youth festival) to Josh MacDowell (he spoke in Kyiv at a different gathering the night before the Passion concert)and now to the speakers and musicians at this gathering (Louie Giggolio, Charlie Hall, etc.). This is worth a whole post time.

Other highlights, of course, were the great music and the message encouraging youth to live their life for God and "burn" for His matter what specifically that works out to be...teaching, art, or selling shoes! Hats off to Tomlin, Redman, and Hall who even learned a few lines of their songs in Russian to sing with the crowd. (Maybe in Ukrainian next time?) :)

The best part for me, honestly though, was seeing all the people I know from all over the country. There were youth and leaders, Ukrainians and foreigners, dear dear friends and simply familiar faces from basically 9 years of living in this country. It was great to see those I hadn't seen for a long time, and even if we didn't get a chance to talk it was great to just watch them worshiping God, their faces turned heavenward, their hearts clearly focused on things beyond simply the lights and music.

In one group I saw a girl that I was sure was an old friend of mine. The way she raised her hands, the way she held her head as she was singing...I had prayed, cried, laughed, fought, worshiped with her so many years that I was sure that it was.."Sveta" (not her real name). I walked over closer to see for sure and saw that it wasn't her. This girl looked so much like her I kept staring and staring. Then I realized this girl looked like "Sveta" did quite a few years ago. Not only was she younger than "Sveta" is now, she had that uncluttered and earnest expression that I used to see on "Sveta's" face more often than lately, and she lifted her voice and hands to God in such abandon just as I always remember "Sveta" doing in the many gatherings in my living room where we gathered to worship.

I know "Sveta" still believes and I know she still loves God and maybe I don't know the whole picture, but it seems that her hands are much more full with other things now. I love "Sveta" and so will leave that conclusion up to God and simply pray for opportunities to love her and enjoy her friendship.

But seeing that young version of "Sveta" made me think about a conversation I had earlier in the day with some friends. We were talking about how sad it was that we had two friends, ministry leaders, who were at odds with each other...well, how to say that? "At odds"? Let's just say that once they fellowshipped and ministered together and since a disagreement they haven't even spoken. We discussed the both sides as limited as we knew them and as they affected us, guessed at the bigger picture, reasoned at what could be done...not just in this situation, but in general in the many unfortunate times this occurs between believers. (In fact, I have absolutely no fear of writing this publicly because I know too many situations that fit this vague description that this could unfortunately be one of many such conflicts.)

Finally, one friend lamented that "why didn't one of them just pick up the phone and call the other?". And say what? I can just imagine that if they honestly didn't feel they had anything to apologize for, what then? Where to start? (This is me trying to imagine what they are thinking. Not how I would handle it myself).

I was thinking about all this as I went about the city that day before the concert and I came to a conclusion: LOVE. These two people involved in ministry have no love for each other. No real love. Maybe that is unfair of me to say that. Maybe I am wrong. But I have to say, having gone through some very painful miscommunications with other believers, I believe that the issue is not who is right or wrong...the issue is love. I am learning that if I love someone I want the relationship reconciled more than I want to "resolve" everything. I have a dear friend who once named me the "Closure Queen". :) An apt title, for sure. It used to KILL me to not have closure on things. But now I realize that sometimes the other person is not ready to have closure. Sometimes you will never find closure because you can't find what we call in Russian "Obshe Yazik"..."common language". More than our English version of "common ground", common language speaks to me of two people that maybe agree on the major points but because of different ways of expressing themselves, different filters through which they see and experience life, etc. they just can't seem to find a common language with which to communicate. No matter how much they talk, debate, reason, they just never seem to "get" each other. And for me, that is finally ok.

Maybe I am wrong...(feel free to write and correct me! ha!)...but we are not called to always agree with one another. We are not called to always understand each other even. We are not called to prove our point (despite the many years I wasted trying to do just that...and some may say I am still trying to do just that through this blog! ha!) What we are called is to love each other. What does that mean? Just "warm fuzzies"? I don't know, honestly. I am just trying to figure that out. I know it doesn't mean I say "everything is rosy" when its not. I don't whitewash things or excuse things. But somehow I say, as the Bible says, that "love covers a multitude of sins"...mine and yours. It says I can at least speak with you kindly. It means I want the best for you. It means I care about you as a person and the possibility of reconciliation more than any wrong that I perceive having been either the recipient of or the source.

Honestly, I still do not understand it when people do not want to resolve something. When they would rather have mis-communications hanging out there and don't want to hear the other person out or be heard out and try to work through to an understanding. When they are ok with having broken relationships with a brother or sister and not wanting to sit down and try to understand things or to give or receive an apology. Or knowing that someone has been hurt by them (whether it was their "fault" or not) and not wanting to acknowledge that hurt and figure out how it happened and how to avoid it in the future, but rather just (what appears to me as) brushing it under the carpet. I don't get that at all. Its not the way I'm wired. No matter how awkward, difficult, etc. it seems to me that this is how we grow in love is by working through these things and I simply don't "get" those who don't want to (and by saying "don't want to" I mean they don't initiate reconciliation, mediation, communication, whatever)...BUT LOVE...But love has given me the peace to not have to "get it", to not have to understand it or even like it, but to just give it over to God and say "Is this person my brother or sister in Christ? Was it their evil intention to misunderstand me? To hurt me? To do something to cause me pain?" If I determine this person to be part of the family of God then the answer 9 times out of 10 has to be "NO". As my mother says, their actions are more than likely the result of ignorance not malice. And I would add, more likely the fruit of their own wounds than any desire to wound me. Furthermore, if I determine, by their actions, they aren't a believer, well, guess what, the bible says love them too! ha! But that's another topic. :)I know for myself, rarely, do I really WANT to hurt the other person. More than likely I am so wrapped up in myself that I either simply don't care about how my words and actions affect the other person, or I simply haven't thought that far. Selfish - yes, purposefully hateful - no. And maybe I'm naive, but I choose to believe that this is the case with most others, too. Particularly those who claim the name of Christ. To think otherwise is to pervert what it means to be a Christian for myself and others and then I have to really I really want to judge the intents and motives of that persons heart? Ok, I did something wrong. They did something wrong. But the "whys" and "wherefores" are a jumbled mixed bag that unless there is love and communication we will most likely hit very far from the mark in judging the whole picture.

I know for my parents and I (a great example of people who don't always agree, don't always understand each other but who have taught me so much about loving people) we joke that "well, we haven't changed the locks". Translation: "No matter what happens, the door of relationship is always open". I live far away, only come home every so often, and so we also joke that maybe that's why we get along so well these days! :) ...but regardless, the door of relationship is open. We can have as much interaction as each side wants. And we do. Sometimes they initiate, sometimes I do. Its not perfect. We aren't perfect. But we keep going. Learning. Loving.

But its not always that way. Some relationships where there has been hurt, miscommunication, side or the other determines that it would be better to have less contact and so they do. BUT the love for each other has been confirmed, nonetheless. The locks haven't been changed. For now contact is less, but the door is open for more should either side choose, or should God sovereignly ordain.

WHAT'S THE POINT? yadda yadda yadda...what is the point here? Sometimes you just don't get along with someone. True. And nothing in the bible says you have to be "friends" with everyone. But what does it say is the true mark that we are His disciples? "When we have love one for another". Sometimes I have shown my love in asking for forgiveness from someone, and then backing off. Maybe they think my remorse was not real. It was. I mourn the loss of relationship. Would I say what I said and do what I did again? Maybe. Sometimes. Do I still hold the same opinions? Some. But if there was a way to hold those opinions and yet love those with whom I disagreed, was offeneded by or was the offender, was misunderstood by or whom I misunderstood....I would grab hold of that bridge of love with all I had. Why? Because it was what Jesus did. He loved. God is love. "All these things shall pass away, but love remains".

But enough about me and back to my ministry acquaintances...So...there they are, both working towards the kingdom...and refusing to speak to each other. Sigh. "Not refusing" they might say...but face it, the locks have been changed. There is no access offered to each other. "But I tried". Try again. Life is not always uncomplicated. Usually, in my opinion, it is messy. It is when we strive to control the messy cirucumstances rather than asking God to give us peace and grace in the midst of the mess that our lives become narrow, thin, limited. "I speak to them, but not to them. I go to these situations and not those. I'm comfortable with this group and avoid that one."

Yes, I realize there is a place for boundaries. I am not the one to lecture on that because I sometimes have pretty weak ones. But look at Jesus...his life seemed pretty messy. People always needing from Him. People following Him around when He just wanted some time with His closest friends. Getting woke up when He needed to sleep. Hanging around with people who did inappropriate things at inappropriate times. Yes, He did get away by Himself to be with the Father and re-charge and we should too. I do. Although I am an extrovert and love being with people there are the times when the emails are not returned, calls not answered, when I sit in the coffee shop alone, when I take the longer way home to sit "by myself" in the middle of a crowded van or subway car....but I don't see this as the model of daily life from Jesus, I see this as the exception from time to time. The rest of the time He was in people's lives. Healing, feeding, speaking, listening, encouragin, rebuking...loving. People are messy. Life is messy. Love is messy. It is not from making more rules or higher walls that order is found but from having His love flow more freely through us. "Perfect love cast out all fear". "We are perfected in love".

Recently at our national conference John Chubik touched on this when he taught on the structure of the church. He said that if your idea of the church was that it was a "holy corporation" with presidents and vice presidents, profit margins, intake and outflow, spreadsheets and production charts then you will form your church accordingly and that's how it will look. Or to others the church is a fortress with sturdy walls and strong towers that keep Christians in, clean and pure, and keep sin out. He went on to say that the church, according to the Bible, is the Body of Christ. And that as His life flows through us the "fruit" of loving one another, finding eternal life in the redemptive blood of Christ, receiving forgiveness from God and forgiving one another, encouraging one another, helping one another - all this and more - will abound naturally.

As I listened I thought -"if I had to choose a 'form' what would I say the church should be compared to"? I guess I would have to say that along with the Biblical model of a body, I most closely relate to the (also Biblical model) of the church as a family. Yes, our bodies sometimes "act up" and do things we don't like, don't understand, don't want. But with excercise, vitamins, doctors, surgeries, etc. etc. we have the illusion of being able to control all those things. Some of us have unfortunately, sometimes painfully, found out that this just isn't true. Cancer sometimes comes without our "permission", either by acts of commission or omission. There are illnesses, diseases and accidents that rudely remind us that we are not in control of even this thing so close to us as our own body.

But if you have been blessed with good genes and good health, as I have been, then the idea of a family is the closer example of what the church looks like. Sometimes messy (whether it be actual sin or simply babies spitting up, teenage hormones or Alzheimers), unpredictable, frustrating and yet at other times - at its best - the most amazing source of encouragement, kindness, belonging, love. In a family you disagree, maybe argue, you hurt one another and forgive one another, you keep trying to figure out a better way of getting along while you keep savoring over and over the good times and planning for new ones...birthdays, graduations, anniversaries. But whatever, you keep going and you don't change the locks. (Issues of abuse, etc. are another subject all together, so for now I am just talking about your garden variety sinful-dysfunctional-wonderful-messy-"trying to do our best" type families, ok?)

At that Passion Concert there was one particular moment, though, that was like a snapshot of my life here and maybe one final word on what I am trying to say. (Believe it or not, I do have a point! ha!) So there we were, 4,000 of us they said, gathered in this Soviet Sports Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine. We were singing one of my favorite songs. This was one that I knew by heart and so could close my eyes and focus on the words, the meaning behind them, and even greater - the One to whom I was singing. "When the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be - blessed be the Lord. When the road's marked with suffering and there's pain in the offering - blessed be the Lord. Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say - Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be His glorious Name! He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say - Lord, blessed be Your Name!". Glorious. Powerful. True.

But here's the rub. I learned that song, and was singing it, in Ukrainian. But Matt Redman (who I think wrote it) was singing in English - my native language. And the words on the screen suspended on the stage behind him were in English and Russian. Now maybe for other less-distracted personalities that wouldn't be a problem...but it was for me. So I had a choice...I could get frustrated that after 17 years after independance from Russia foreigners are still translating things into Russian and not Ukrainian (this too is a topic for another time, and for the record I know that this is not an issue to all those in Ukraine, but especially pertinent here in the capital)... worry what others will think if they (Ukrainians standing around me) are singing in Russian and I'm singing in Ukrainian ("what's she trying to prove?" language is a big issue here) and Americans around me are singing in English....berate myself for not being able to focus on just one language despite the presence of the others...OR laugh and realize that this was just a snapshot of my life here in Ukraine! (Don't you feel better already? You can't be nearly as neurotically analytical as me! ha!) But this is life my life in Ukraine... Messy! Complicated! Un-expected! Multi-lingual! Everyone around me worshipping God in the way that they know best, the way they are used to, in the place they are at right now. I laughed, sang some words in Ukrainian, some in English, tried out the Russian translation that was new to me and just kept going.

Brothers, sisters...keep going. Don't give up. On God. On each other. On yourselves. Actually....wait! Maybe you should give up on each other and yourselves and just not give up on God! Realize you're going to fail. Realize others are going to fail. Love them anyway. Give God one more chance. With you. With them. With those broken relationships and with love. We mess it up all the time but God is still on the throne. He is still in control. I don't "get it" all the time, but I get His love and hope you do, too. It is the ONLY thing that matters. He loves you. I love you.

**(No actual coffee beans were killed in the process of this posting but many were ground and imbibed. Ok, so maybe they were dead.)