Friday, February 22, 2013

Live Oak Lenten Blog - Week 2

My 'thing' for lent was to add 30 minutes of scripture reading and prayer to my day. Right away, I have noticed a huge difference in the mornings that I actually get up when my alarm goes off at 5:45 (yes, AM) compared to when I sleep a bit longer and tell myself I'll 'do my time' after I get back from dropping off my son at school. It has been enough of a difference that since February 13th, I've only NOT gotten up twice - an I've regretted it both days.

First of all, the only time I get a solid, focused 30 minutes is prior to anyone else in the house waking up. Secondly, if I wait until later in the day, I might be alone, but I have a crowd of 'to do's' constantly running though my consciousness.

Getting that 30 minutes in the morning has been crazy helpful. It gives me time to breath and focus before I take off running for the day. It has given me new insights on familiar scriptures. Most of all, it has given me the mindfulness to give myself, my day, and my family to God.

What an awesome Lent this has been so far and will continue to be!

-Chesney Szaniszlo


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Live Oak Lenten Blog - Week 1

Hi - I'm Chesney Szaniszlo, pastor for Care and Hospitality at Live Oak Church. I have an incredible husband, Chris and awesome 8 year old son, Lee. I have an awesome life but can never quite find contentment because I can never please myself. Despite my determination to be the best at everything, God has been whispering, then talking, then yelling and then finally silent and waiting in His attempt to help me understand that I can't be perfect. He has been waiting for me to understand that I actually can't do anything without Him. This "God-renovation" has become pretty hard core over the last few years as I've finally run out of my own power. It has been a period of growth in my spiritual as well as personal life and, for the most part, it has not been pleasant or easy - on anyone.

Those of you who have followed my blog know I struggle with the idol of perfection. No matter what I do the lie that "I have to be best" whispers constantly in my ear and over the past 30 plus years has worn me down. I have been conscious of God's actions to rid me of this idol since my early 20's but I have spent over a decade just shifting it from one aspect of my life to another in a false attempt to get rid of it. If I let go of pursuing perfection of my physical body, I begin to pursue it in my mothering. When that doesn't work I pursue perfection in my child. When that doesn't work, I find another area in my life to pursue it or return to one of the others.

Over the years, God has let me wear myself down to my spirit and I have had to acknowledge, particularly, in the past few months, that I am nothing more than a broken person desperately in need of a Savior. Which I already knew and have KNOWN, but have now been brought back to that knowledge on a deeper level than ever before.

This Lent I have realized that I don't need to try harder, yell less, practice more patience, or promise myself to be better tomorrow. What I need is to open myself to God's grace and allow that grace to settle deep inside me and flow out to everyone else in my life. So for the next six weeks I am not trying to do anything or be anything: I am simply going to commit to being in the presence of God for a solid 30 minutes a day so that I am reminded who is the one who is really PERFECT and who is the one who needs all the help she can get.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No Chocolate and Fish on Fridays

Ash Wednesday (Feb 13) marks the beginning of Lent this year. Lent is a six week period of deliberate focus on the sufferings of Christ. It is a time to meditate on the great sacrifice that God made for us. Your average person in 2013 will probably tell you that Lent is a time to not eat chocolate, give up desserts, or comment on the fact that restaurants begin to have fish specials every Friday. These aspects of Lent have come about because the Church wants people to have a tiny, little taste of the suffering of Jesus and traditionally has asked its members to give up the extravagances of life. At its core, however, Lent is about focusing your attention on Jesus: who He is, what He has done for you, and what He is calling you to do for Him. Sometimes, giving up something that you will miss helps you to do this.
What we (Live Oak Church) want people to do is add or subtract one thing from your life that will help you to focus on Jesus. Give something up so that every time you want to do or eat that thing, you think about God. Add something to your daily routine that will re-focus your attention on Christ. It doesn’t have to be something drastic, but it needs to be something that will be important to you and remind you to re-focus your attention on Jesus not on what you are missing.

As a congregation we will be reading through the Gospel of Mark together. If you were not at church this past Sunday to pick up your copy of our devotional guide, make sure you grab it this week.
Starting on Feb 13, 2013 we will be having members of our congregation blog Tuesday through Saturday about their experience with this challenge to re-focus on God. (I'll still blog on Monday's.)
The next six weeks are going to be an amazing time with God for our congregation. Please check out Live Oak’s FB page, read the  posts and add your comments!

Chesney Szaniszlo


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Just Stop...Dying to be Better

All of us (myself included) spend too much time on self-improvement and thinking that if we just try hard enough, we can be better, faster, kinder, thinner, richer, (you fill in the blank). I know I’ve lain in bed at night telling myself what I’ll do the next day:

Tomorrow, I’m not going to raise my voice when I get frustrated.
Tomorrow, I'm not going to worry.
Tomorrow, I’m not going to….

You fill in the blank. What is on your list for tomorrow? 

All through the Gospels, Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow him, we must die to self - we have to lose our life to find it.

This is the opposite of what most of us spend our lives doing on our quest for self-improvement. We spend our lives searching for 'ourselves' instead of losing ourselves in Jesus.

Losing your life to find it is hard. It's a weird concept for us in our modern world of instant gratification and egotism to understand. It’s also incredibly difficult to put into practice. That's why most of the New Testament is about how to do it and encouragement to keep trying when we fail.

We can't work harder each day to make ourselves better Christians and perfect people. None of us will ever achieve either – those are titles from the 'self improvement' checklist we need to throw out.

No matter how hard we try we can't lose ourselves in Jesus without Jesus. The more we try to do it on our own, the more we will fail. The only way we will find ourselves and the life that Jesus calls us to live is by giving it all up to God - all of it.

We will never get it totally right. We can’t because we are human and sinful. Lucky for us, God isn’t calling us to be perfect people when He calls us to new life in Him. He is calling us to simply abide in Him and let Him work through us. We don’t have to save ourselves, our family, or our world. Jesus already did that on the cross. Our job is help people know that it’s already been done.

Instead of telling yourself what you are or are not going to accomplish tomorrow, ask God to help you empty yourself so that He can fill you up. Ask Him, in the words of  Love Come to Life by Big Daddy Weave, to ‘Bring your love to life inside of me. Why don’t you break my heart ‘til it moves my hands and feet for the hopeless, and the broken, and the ones who don’t know that you love them…”

-Chesney Szaniszlo

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillipians 3: 12-14