God with us, Part 2: Needing what I found…

So… Immanuel…. Yes….

If there was a polar opposite to Celebration, this is it.

Small, casual, home-based.

No glitz… no glam. No sermon series, no twitter feeds [yet]. 

Elegant in its simplicity and modesty.

Immanuel is, in essence, a room of imperfect people talking about their struggle as they with Christ. Compared with megachurches, this would be considered a small group.

Small. Small and profound. Small and absolutely frightening. Small and challenging. Small and healing.

I went and participated. I found myself pulling over on the way home and bawling on the side of the road.

I had found my place. I had found my home.

For the first time ever-hear me, ev-ah- I was worshipping with people who were exactly like me.

There is no way to just sit back and be passive. The group is too small. You know everyone there. You talk during the meal, you meditate during the scripture, and you open your soul so wide during discussion that folk can see the meal moving through your intestines.

There is no way to pretend to be to righteous there. Piety rings false there. Truth is honored and weakness is respected. Tears are common and soothing.

What… took me so long finding this? The only thing I can guess was that I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready yet for the emotions to come to the surface, let alone come out of my mouth.

But there was also the fear of losing this beautiful blessing that I have in Immanuel. But the fear of loss has surrounded me ever since I have seriously thought about settling down and building a solid, rooted life here in Austin.

I have the fear that if you really knew who I was, you would not really want to be around me. I fear that the darkness and the evil I have seen and have experienced in my life is too much for people to take. I fear that my need to have truth and to live truthfully will scare those who shield themselves with the lies that they use to carefully build their world. I fear that being a comfort to those who have seen their own flavor of evil will pull me back into my personal abyss.

But with all of that being said and no matter what else is said, there is a truth that I cannot deny.

I. Belong. Here.

And that pleases me.

God with us, Part 1: Finding what I needed…

I have to say with no small amount of joy that I love going to Celebration Church. There is a wonderful worship team, I can have Starbucks coffee in sanctuary [because caffeine always enhances the ‘God Buzz’] and the sermons are thought provoking and offered with humor, charm, and the deepest sincerity.

The pastors are accessible.  Everyone that I met has been kind; some in their own way, others completely. The small groups are warm and inviting. This is a place where Beyonce will play as the intro to the sermon series, Keri Jobe will lead the worship on Wed. night and John Maxwell [you know… bestselling author, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership  bloke?… yeah, that one] even stood in for our Senior Pastor.


if you are there at the right time…

one of the pastors will play ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ on the piano and get everyone in earshot to sing along. 

Not naming names, but it was awesome!

It is slick, bold, brassy, Christ filled, loving, and sassy.

And just too big for me.

The funny thing is I thought that that was just what I needed. I wanted the megachurch experience that made me feel tiny, filled and surrounded with the glory of Christ and allowed much room for fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And it does. I would walk in and take some time to soak in that I have been invited yet again into the house of God and I really love being there.  I would hug and catch up a bit, then Hillsong would blare, letting us know it was time for worship.

During worship, I close my eyes and listen and sing along to the words and, if I am moved, I will raise my hands in praise [not too high, I haven’t gotten to the “shoot your hands straight above your head, waving and pumping for the Lord” level yet] and allow the peace of God flow. I go up and pray when there is special need, otherwise I pray at my chair and in that moment I feel that I can let everything go. No one sees me because there are so many and I don’t feel like a fool because everyone there is there for the same thing.  

I feel safe, I feel insulated, and sadly, I feel unchallenged.

I want…[need?] something deeper.  Something that will allow me to expose my core as a sinner, allow me to confess my sins in an environment that is healing, but not packaged to appeal to the masses. A place where I can openly confess that I fuck up on the regular, that this path is hard as shit, and there is no place I would rather be.

And I found it. Quite accidently, hiding in plain sight all the time…

A place called Immanuel.