Archive for the ‘Different Moments’ Category

leading from behind…

We carried them.

Then they began to wobble forward.

Next, they grabbed our hands as we ran together.fallersons

Now – they run ahead.

It can be easy to feel like my job is done, but any parent will be quick to remind – we’ve still only just begun.  Walking is not the goal…just another part of the journey.  I love to watch them wander through the woods.  To watch them play, and see the sparks of wonder inspire flames of imagination.  It’s fulfilling, to offer them the ability to lead as we take to the forest, and see them choose paths both winding and well-defined.

There are so many pressures today to grow the next generation of world-changers.  To mold them into products that are marketable on the future economies of skill and value competitions.  To form them into athletic renaissance machines that can out-perform the others and shine in ways that obviously deserve scholarship money.

I’ll confess – I’m not immune to this.  Even in realms of spiritual maturity, there are major parts of me that want my kids to shine with the love of Jesus.  Not for healthy reasons, but to show the world – here, is a product I’ve helped create and offer my fellow humanity as proof of my/our worth.

So every once in a while, on purpose, I slow down.  I watch.  I absorb their wonder.  I stop measuring things and start inefficiently using time with them.  Another confession – I don’t do this enough.  I’m busy.  I’m a student.  I’m a pastor.  I’m a husband.  I’m a ________.

All of that to say – I hadn’t said anything much about parenting in a while, and this was originally a parenting blog. 🙂  So I figured I would remind the reader – I’m still a parent.   I’m not winning any awards, but my kids seem to be increasing in love.  My wife and better half probably deserves a TON of that credit, as she gets the most time at home with them.  But I’ll take a little.  And I’ll watch them run ahead with her, and pause to be thankful for it all..

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Love & Belonging

I know most of us these days enjoy captivating, attractive speakers who entertain and inspire. Or perhaps we enjoy well-proven theologians/scholars with shelves of published achievements, or a blog with millions of followers. But there is a growing necessity for us to listen to those who quietly serve with the heart of Jesus, without seeking fame or notoriety. Here are some phrases I pulled out to whet your appetite – but I encourage you to watch…there’s much more within…

“Each person is precious. We’re in a world filled with communication, but frightened of presence. People don’t get lost, if there are enough people to hold their hands. Young people become lost in a world where the only objective is “normality”, success, economy, power, & control.

Community is not the place of security, community is necessarily the place where there can be divisiveness; cause community is about welcoming difference…Unity comes as we learn to live difference.”

For anyone who loves Jesus…church…community…Henri Nouwen…etc.

Or for anyone who really despises church or religion or even what they’ve heard of Jesus…

This is incredibly good to watch:

This little light of ours…

IMG_1993The sun is big. Like, really big. Bigger than most of us can even fathom, given how huge our own planet seems.

For a quick example, the circumference of the sun (how far one continuous path would be around its surface) is over 2.7 Million miles. In perspective, the circumference of the earth is just under 25,000 miles.

In regards to the massive size, people who sit around figuring out such things have determined that it would take about 1.3 Million earths to fill the area of the sun.

All of this really makes the moon pale in comparison. At a mere circumference under 6,800 miles, it’s pretty small in comparison even to earth. Yet, on August 21, 2017, the moon will cover the sun for about 3 minutes (in the center of the viewing areas path), casting millions of people into freakish mid-day darkness. This happens even with the size differences, because of proximity. The moon is 400 times further from the sun, than it is from the earth. It’s the same as being able to hold a background national monument in your hand, using proximity to make it look real. IMG_1991

So how do we harness this occasion, to listen to what Gods’ creation might be whispering into our lives? What important message might this offer, especially in conversation with our kids/others?

Some small things can bring large amounts of darkness. Especially in regards to our consumption and/or creation of content in social media. Something that may seem tiny or insignificant, can actually make a larger impact than we first realized. Whether it’s movies, music, Apps, or other; we can easily inadvertently place these things in such a position in our lives that makes it very difficult for the light of Gods Love to shine on, or through us.

Thankfully, scripture reminds us: nothing has the power to separate us from the Love of God. But, we can choose to elevate other things into our field of vision, forgetting where our True Life comes from. This causes all sorts of expressing ourselves in the world – seeking the identity and peace that we’ve been created to receive from the Love of Jesus.

The question becomes – What might be “eclipsing” the Light & Love of Jesus from being the foundational light by which you see all things, yourself included? What small thing, if moved out of your focus even a small amount, or completely if necessary, could allow Love & the perspective of Gods Grace to illuminate your life in new ways?  The Love of God for you is strong and deep enough, no matter how long you’ve lived under an eclipse, to shine just as warm and brightly  as ever.  You might find yourself needing help to “move a moon” that has been in position for way too long. God has given us the power of His Spirit, always with us. Not to mention, the gift of living these lives together in Loving community.  Open yourself up to committed life together with others who desire the Light of New Creation to shine.

The beauty of it is, even as a small object like the moon can eclipse the light of the sun – a small candle can illuminate darkness. How will you shine your light this week? Where can the Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control be humbly lived out as the Fruit of His Spirit? May we be even more geeked out about discovering these opportunities. They are light that will shine well into the coming Kingdom from which they derive their lumens…

safety

A few weeks ago, my wife sent me a picture our daughter had drawn.   A stick figure that seems wrapped in a straight jacket, that my wife (because she rocks, naturally) asked our daughter to tell her more about.daddycross

Let me pause for a moment to remind the reader: We’ve had our daughter home from the DR Congo for a bit over a year now.  She’s learned a lot, and grown in so many ways.  One of the sources of her growth has been involvement in church activities and lessons.  A focus of our children’s’ ministry here at Moundford Free Methodist Church last year was to teach the kids about faithful followers of Jesus.  People who suffered for the cause of spreading the good news of the Love of Jesus – even when there were sometimes large prices to pay.

So when our daughter explained the picture to mommy, she shared “It’s daddy, and the mean people tied him up.”  My wife asked why, and she said “Because he was telling people about Jesus.”

It may have just been a silly moment of imagination.   But it may have actually been something in the back of her mind/heart for months now – wondering if and when daddy might actually be taken away or hurt because of how he spends his time telling others about the Love of Jesus.  We’ve assured her, thankfully, daddy doesn’t have to worry about this.  My job is safe (although maybe it should seem more threatening to the powers that be at times?) to do.

It made me incredibly thankful, when I allowed it to settle. Hanging from my door lately is a leather cross made by Coptic Christians in Egypt, given to me by a friend back in college.  It reminds me each day as I walk into my office – how thankful I can be to have a place where my life and work is not threatened each day simply because of Jesus.  It causes me to pause and pray for those for whom “safety” means something so far away and unknown.

I’m thankful my daughter (now) doesn’t have to worry about daddy being hurt or killed by “the mean people” who don’t know about the Love of God.  But there are children globally who aren’t free from that worry.  May we lift up our brothers and sisters in prayer even now, and live lives that strive to not take for granted the freedom we have to proclaim the love & peace of Jesus in the unique ways we’re given…

a snapshot of celebration.

Easter week is over.  The dust is beginning to settle on a roller coaster of a month.  There are still large unknowns about what God has in store, but we are incredibly hopeful about how we can not only be used for His Kingdom, but be blessed in the process.  This week in my “Spiritual Formation” class, we focused primarily on the spiritual discipline of “Celebration”.  We read the chapter from Richard Foster in his “Celebration of Discipline“.  I wrote a short response, which included this paragraph:

“How much more powerful is a testimony of someone who clings to and proclaims the goodness of God, in the midst of great struggle – than that of someone who praises the goodness of God, having just escaped the clutches of suffering? It doesn’t take divine empowerment to have joy in the midst of visible blessing. However, it does often require the Holy Spirit to Love someone who has (or continues to) offended you. Foster says the Joy and Celebration he speaks of come after the other disciplines and a life of obedience he’s been writing about in this book all along. ”

Looking back on what I wrote, I could see someone reading it, and missing the important focus.  It is easy to hear culture these days, and be influenced to want blessing and comfort so that we can proclaim “Look, God is good!!”  It’s easy to hear my words above, echoing those of Richard Foster and many other great Christian leaders, and want to seek suffering along with a broken world so that we can proclaim by God’s strength, “Look, God is good!!”

The emphasis, however, should not be on the conditions we’re experiencing.  Which is kinda the point.  We are called to proclaim the goodness of God, simply because God IS Good!  God is not “good” like anything we’ve ever called “good” before, and yet God is the substantial essence of which all other “good” is merely an echo. 

So yes – my brothers and sisters who are enjoying the blessings of a comfortable life this week – I join with you in proclaiming “Look, God is good!!”  To my brothers and sisters suffering and oppressed, I join with you in proclaiming “Look, God is good!!”  To those of us stuck somewhere in between, our voices come together as we proclaim “Look, God is good!!”

Not because we are naive.  Not because we don’t see the immense suffering and brokenness in our world today.  But because we know that God is with us within it, and working to bring redemption even now.  Not only this, but because He has invited us to join Him in bringing freedom to those who are bound, forgiveness, grace, Love, light, Hope, and by this to bring others to faith that New Creation is coming – and has already been launched.  Not as a “someday” future hope that we can escape all of this.  But as a “right now” hope that it is precisely “this” (whatever “this” is for you) that God is interested in bringing redemption and healing through.  Our celebrations.  Our hurt.  Our confusion.  Our joys.

I pray you’re able to declare “God is good.” this week.  May He reveal His goodness to you, and through you…

 

 

Flight Check…

When I was in High School, I was able to attend “NYC 99” with the Nazarene Church in Toronto, Canada. It was pretty awesome. There were humbling times where a young deaf girl taught me how to play “Simon Says”, & blessed times where I met the woman I would eventually marry (even gave her a rose, only to realize it was her way after we began dating in college!).

In 2003 I was able to join with the worship team of NYC 03 in Texas, to lead over 10,000 teens in worship with Bob Diehm & team. I was just beginning married life after college, and I remember how awesome it was to help lead so many young people into moments of worship and surrender.

Fast forward a few more years, over a decade of youth ministry in the Free Methodist FMYC2017_logo_cChurch and this week I’m flying to Colorado to meet with other FM leaders to plan our next national youth gathering (FMYC) later this July. Teens from all over the US will gather at CSU in Fort Collins, and participate in a short term community life of young worshipers.

I know it can be done wrong. Neuro-chemistry tells me that experiences during our time together will raise levels of dopamine & oxytocin to trigger feelings of addiction and relational bonding. That can be unhealthy, if we’re not pointing such experiences to the realities and Spirit of God.

But if we release all our preparation and direct our desires into the powerful use of the Kingdom – all the neuro-chemistry research could never endeavor to explain or comprehend the ways these moments can be used by God. To build friendships and a familial bond that stretches far beyond superficial topics our young people may stick to on a regular basis. To connect students with a God who wants not only to Love them – but wants to love their family/friends/neighborhood/enemies through them.

As I look at my own experience of having gone through a youth ministry, I’m reminded these things are not finding their “end” in the teens who attend. Our goal is not to build successful events for teens to attend and enjoy. Our “end goal” is seen decades later, as these moments have simply become milestones on a much larger journey of God’s children growing and serving God in their context. As they are transformed, to continue becoming those through whom transformational love of Jesus arrives and is shared/proclaimed.

May we become as relentless as our God’s Love, when we hope, pray, and work toward the changes that can come as we offer who we are to His mission of redemption for all humanity and creation…

 

“Uber” Exciting

This past week, ride-sharing app “Uber” opened up in our city, only to be followed the next day by “Lyft” as well.  Decatur, IL was finally getting “on the map” in a way that seemed to echo finally being included in “Craigslist” a few years before.  Certainly we’re no Chicago, but we are a greater-area population of about 85,000 – and potential for growth as we were also recently identified as #3 most affordable housing market in the WORLD.

uber-redesign-russellwarwickI’m a confessed extrovert, and love meeting new people.  So it wasn’t surprising to my wife when I joked about signing up as an Uber driver, not as a money-making venture, but for fun.  Even after quickly moving through the process, snapping pictures of my documents like insurance and registration, and getting notified I was approved – I didn’t think I’d find myself driving anytime soon.  Although as a pastor there was another layer of appeal.

Fridays are my “day off”, and the rest of my family was occupied at our homeschool co-op.  My wife told me to take the morning to enjoy.  As I sat at Panera, reading the latest edition of Harpers, I flicked the “Online” toggle on my Uber-Driver App, and officially became available.  I figured, it would be fun to give a ride or two, in the midst of my morning coffee.  Ten minutes later, it was obvious Decatur didn’t need many Uber drivers around 9am on a Friday.  Almost an hour in, I realized it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the morning reading with coffee.

Then it happened.  I don’t even remember much about what the alert looked like. All I could think of was “There might be several Uber drivers getting this same notification, I’d better accept it quickly!”  Boom.  I accepted.  Then I looked at the address.  It wasn’t far, so I loaded up, made sure the radio wasn’t blaring princess music, and began to follow the built-in navigation system within the Uber app.

As I eased my family mini-van into the driveway of a nice quiet neighborhood, a smiling middle-aged man and his wife emerged with two suit-cases.  I quickly asked his name to confirm, though it seemed pretty obvious he was definitely my fare.  I helped load his luggage into my trunk, and opened the door for both he and his wife.  As I started the van, I slid the “Start” button on the Uber app, and asked him where they were headed this morning.  He smiled and said the airport, which I’d kinda anticipated from the luggage.  There was only one issue:

The airport he was talking about was 1.5 hours away in Peoria, IL.

For a brief second, I thought he was joking.  I think he caught my surprise, because he clarified, “You saw that when you agreed, right?”  I looked at my clock, and saw I had just enough time to get there and back before the family came home for lunch.  Why not?  I was honest, however.  Laughing, I confessed I’d not seen it, but it was no problem – let’s go!

He and his wife were very kind, and were in good spirits as they were heading out of town on vacation.  Their flights had been changed last minute, and they decided to try Uber since it had proved useful in previous times of transportation need when they’d visited larger cities.  They even tipped well, although Uber does not require this habit.

Altogether, I enjoyed my coffee and met some new people whom I was able to offer God’s blessings to for their journey ahead, as I dropped them off for their flights.  They’d paid Uber about $75, and I received about $55 of that (plus their gracious tip!).  Probably the most I’ll ever cash in with Uber, since I was just doing it for fun.  I was thankful that their few hours of need happened during my few hours of availability.

I also learned an important lesson: Before you agree to help someone get somewhere, make sure you know where they want to go.  (That’s probably a deep profound truth, eh?)  Next time I’ll make sure I check the request fully, before accepting.  I suppose I could be glad they weren’t heading to an airport in Chicago, or Canada…? lol

Thanks, Uber.  That was fun.  Maybe we’ll do it again someday.

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