Posts Tagged ‘church’

Shell or Rock?

Moana was a fantastic movie for so many reasons. The chicken made us laugh. The grandma was one we all wish we had. The usual motif about “someone realizing there was something mystically special about themselves all along” – is something many of us hope to discover.

There are roots in there story with amazing truths, if we will notice.

There is a girl who is taught her entire life, that her value comes from her ability to maintain what has always happened. She is expected to make wise decisions, to rule well, and to navigate the difficulties of island life. That someday she will place her stone on the highest mountain, atop the stones of previous leaders, making her contribution the highest point on their island.  But within her stirs a discontent. A “holy” stirring that not only she, but her people, were created to do more than what they’d done yesterday.  That perhaps even, looking far back in their history, they might find stories of a completely different existence altogether.  They were not a people meant to thrive on how well they could perpetuate status quo. They were wired to thrive on creative discovery, and to craft stories of stepping out into the unknowns, in faith that something greater than themselves held their fate and future. That actually, their fate depended on complete change in what was being done. They were facing struggles no resources could be found to solve. The status quo way of maintaining routine was slowly losing its ability to provide life.

So she set out to discover what else could be done. Sacrificially, she launched a new initiative toward becoming vulnerable – not just for her own sake but for a people who were temporarily without any idea of what might happen next.  Collectively, they looked toward tomorrow with hesitancy, but hopeful faith for what could be. Enlight16

It turned out to be exactly what was needed. As she returned to share this new way of life she’d discovered, it was immediately embraced by the people as being their actual story. No longer were they island people, who valued being able to efficiently stay as they were. Connecting to their ancient roots, they were a people “on the move”. Entrusting themselves to something larger, they collectively were reidentified as New Creations.  There is a brief scene where we simply see a shell placed on a stack of rocks. No longer would success be measured by the highest point on an island that was ultimately no source of life.

From now on – they’d become a people who’s measurement for Life had been altogether transformed.

The wisdom here offers us a moment to contemplate as leaders and servants in the Kindgom of God. Are we willing to let go of our chance to place a stone, if it enables others to actually be transformed toward a New Life altogether? Can we trust God to guide us as we launch out together toward a New Land?

There is, after all, a world out there already placing stones upon stones – waiting for followers of Jesus to show them a better way…

 

A new perspective on the “Good Samaritan”

In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law stands up to ask Jesus a question. The purpose of the original question seems to be in “testing Jesus”. It may be that he wants to reveal Jesus as a false prophet. By asking “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, it’s possible he was trying to catch Jesus in saying that something other than being a Jew can lead us into being a “child of God”, and thus worthy of the inheritance. We know that a lot of people were trying to catch Jesus in a moment of blasphemy against the Law, and yet in true Jesus fashion – He totally turns the tables.

With impressive rhetoric, Jesus asks the man a question in response, “What is written in the law?” The man answers proudly with his knowledge, and as Jesus pats him on the head in verse 28 the man remembers his original intent. Still wanting to test Jesus, and justify his original question, he asks for clarification, “And who is my neighbor?”

In response this time, Jesus tells the story we know as “The Good Samaritan.” He closes by tying the story to the original question by the expert in the law. Earlier it was stated, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here we have Jesus pointing out that the assumed definition of “Neighbor” (any member of the Hebrew nation/commonwealth) fell short of this new movement the followers of Christ were proclaiming. Here, the main character we assume was a Jew (heading from Jerusalem to Jericho seems to point that way). The character in the story who had the most in common with him in regards to loving (Luke 10:27) ends up being the Samaritan. Even though there was a long history of tension and conflict between their people (and remains still today), Jesus is pointing out there is a grouping of people that goes beyond national boundaries or allegiance to human leaders. There is a foundational difference in the hearts of those who are living from the Love of God. This brings us together beyond any worldly division of culture or ethnicity. It melts away any prejudice we may have, for the purposes of God’s Love, mercy, and compassion.


Now, maybe the Samaritan knew this was a Jew. Scripture tells us he was “attacked by robbers…stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” Maybe there were torn clothes nearby, or he noticed the man was circumcised (if he was naked). But it’s also possible the Samaritan was simply doing what he would do for anyone, whether friend, brother, or enemy of his people. His citizenship was in the Kingdom of God, which means that he was someone for whom “Love” was his native language. Love for all.

So was Jesus challenging the expert in the law to love “like” the Samaritan, showing mercy and compassion to even those who are broken, bleeding, and lying in the street? Or was Jesus challenging the expert in the law to admit that even here, in the people of Samaria, there can be those who are understanding what this Kingdom of God’s Love looks like?

It sure seems like the latter. Jesus was pulling back the curtain, opening the shades, and clarifying the unexpected Truth for this expert in the law – there may be more invited to this “who’s in?” party than you originally thought.

What are the implications here for us?

There are many, but here are a few thoughts: The Samaritan was so motivated by Love, he wasn’t worried about the terms of this world. Whether touching the man on the street would make him unclean or not, or whether they agreed politically or not, were not important issues. He was motivated first by Love. The opposite seems true of this political expert, who seems to try and catch Jesus in a moment of heresy. He has been living according to “who’s in” and “who’s out” for so long, he wanted to help catch Jesus off guard. But the heart of God is not stuck in the patterns and molds we like to form equations by. We cannot reduce becoming a child of God to a stamp of approval, a “sinners prayer”, or a purity ring. By doing so, we fail to love our neighbors who may already know more about actual Love than we do.

This story invites us to let go of sitting in a room deciding what we can do to be people who are “in”, and go out into a world of hungry, beaten, slaves to proclaim freedom, resurrection life, and sustenance. As Bob Goff has written, “Love Does”.

So how does this story offer to challenge our local churches? I think most of our local churches would be quick to tell you how much love God has for the poor. They know God loves the broken, the drug-addicted, and the alcoholic just released from prison. They’ll welcome them any day of the week, and proclaim God’s Love. The challenge in this story might be a bit harder to pinpoint, and might vary from family to family. Decatur is a city with quite a few ethnicities, cultures, and religions. It would be a pretty big “zing” for our people to admit some of these people who know nothing about Christ might in fact be living with more love for others. So what is it about our practices, our unspoken rules, and the ways we do church….are keeping us from existing and being known from our love for all others?

we dance.

It was Father’s Day – a pretty great one if I might add – and they’d each helped select a gift that would make me smile.  Addie got me a Detroit Redwings decal I could put on my new (to us, thanks to awesome friends!) car.  Sophie drew me a picture of myself, and put it in a nice small frame.  Even Phoebe got in on the action from Africa, and sent me a bowtie made out of African fabric.  Each of the girls helped answer questions in a small booklet, all about their daddy.  Apparently I’m a professional cuddler. (said in my best “King Julien” imitation voice)

All of the gifts were awesome, but one that instantly grew was from Ruby.  She helped select the soundtrack to the most recent Muppets movie.  Even though I’ve not seen it yet, the girls knew I’d be excited to experience anything new related to the Muppets.  This gift, of course, came with certain expectations.  We had all afternoon, as it was a Sunday.  No plans, and the girls knew that.  So what should we do?  9ojti

Open the soundtrack, play the music, and dance…of course. 🙂

Confession: We dance a lot in our house.  Two of our girls have had ballet lessons, but the 3rd daughter is the one who’ll convince you she’s had several years instruction.

We danced with them.  We watched them.  Their smiles, laughter, and movements were beautiful and lit up our living room.  This was the un-purchased gift that warmed a daddy’s heart on Father’s Day.

This is the activity we join together in, as we enjoy the gifts God has given us.  To dance and enjoy the goodness of His creation is not a denial of evil or suffering.   Yesterday morning, they were clearing a major area because of shots fired at a hotel.  A suicidal man was firing rounds into the air as many of us simply drove by on our way to work.  It was a morning that faced the harsh realization that our world includes suffering and brokenness.

But last night, over 80 people of varying ages and backgrounds gathered in our church gym.  We shared a meal, talking and telling stories.  We spilled drinks, and laughed as we cleaned up.  We sang songs, some goofy with motions and some straight out of the hymnal.  We told a story that had a 6 year old leading 70 year olds in making trumpet noises.  We confessed the painful truth that some of us have yet to see the response of God to prayers we’ve made for a long time.  We prayed.

Our lives as followers of Christ, are not denials of the evil in our world.  Our lives are powerful statements that even in a world where evil has made an impact, Jesus is Lord.  Even in a world where brokenness exists, beauty abounds even more.  In a world where wrong motivations and false Gods lead people astray – we invite people to dance with their Heavenly Father.

My kids are getting it.  One day at a time.  I think my church is getting it to.  I’m so proud and excited for the family, and church family, I get to dance with.

any news?

I love getting this question.  I also hate it.

We’re surrounded by so many amazing people in our lives, who’ve connected themselves with what God is doing in and through our lives.  I know that so many of our friends and family carry the burden with us, and bring it to God on a regular basis.  I’m reminded of that every time someone I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while asks, “any updates on Phoebe?”road

Or the even funnier question we sometimes get, “So do you have her home yet?”  Ouch.  That’s right, we’ve been traveling this road since March 2012.  Over 2 years now.  It’s possible to see people we don’t see very often, who honestly think “surely they’ve got her by now.”  So many of you have been on this road with us.  So many of you have given, way more than we could ever have anticipated/expected/asked.  We’re humbled as we are constantly reminded how “not alone” we are.

We know that national attention is being given to so many parents who’ve completed the adoption process, and still are not being allowed to bring their children home.  I can’t even imagine what that’d be like.  But I know I’d love to be in that stage.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating.  I had no idea how much simply the journey of adoption itself, would make an impact on our home, our family, and our community/relationships.  My children will not only remember the fact that our family was involved in adoption…they will remember how we prayed and waited on God for years as a part of this.

I know it could have been faster.  There are plenty of countries in suffering, where children are being adopted and brought home.  We celebrate whenever we hear of a child finding a home.  But this was the road we followed God down, and even though it seems like a really hard season to travel…we know that as we’ve offered each step to God, He’s brought purpose and redemption to every moment.  We are not waiting to bring Phoebe home, safe and sound, before we declare “Look, this was indeed the call of God and He has provided!”  We are declaring it even now, even when the road ahead is still long, and the dust gets in our eyes from time to time. 

Because that’s our story as God’s people, right?  That God isn’t waiting until it’s all “made right” to bring His redemption and life-transforming purposes.  The formative years of our home, are being wrapped around having to trust in God.  Our relationships are being flavored by prayer and honest burden-sharing.  Our marriage is strengthened by the mutual “labor pains” of bringing our daughter home.  Children and families in the DRC are being prayed for, conflict/wars are being prayed against, and support is becoming connected to an area of the world that has been desperately needing it for a long time.  Our story is just a small part of that bigger story.

A lot of this came to mind, as I heard a song earlier today that I’ll share the lyrics from as I close:

“We found hope on this long and dusty road
at the table we were fed as he broke the bread
We found hope on this long dusty road.

We found hope on this long and dusty road
In His presence we found truth, that we bring to you
We found hope on this long dusty road.

We found hope on this long and dusty road
He’s alive and brought us peace, now we gather to feast
We found hope on this long dusty road.” – Von Strantz (free download here)

So keep asking us if there are updates. We may initially struggle with getting our answer out…but it’s worth contemplation…:)

 

trendy witches?

A new article in “Newsweek” recently caught my attention, talking about a growing number of young people (teens through 30’s) who are interested & participate in the occult/witchcraft.  I’ll be honest…most of the time when someone starts talking to me about witchcraft, or the occult, or even the “wiccan” people….I have flashes of this movie play in my head:

But apparently, it’s gotten more hip.  At least, in big cities that define “hipness” for the rest of us.  I’m not too worried, really.  A news-source is supposed to do what it takes to tell stories that sell more copies.  Getting the general public worried about witches, or making the average Joe who’s looking for something new that’s socially acceptable….will definitely move issues.  Especially around Halloween.

But what caught my attention was toward the end when they had statements from a woman who’d recently moved to Brooklyn.  First she says, “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious….But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic.  Spirituality is a lot cooler.”  (nihilism = believes values are baseless, and nothing can be known…denies all established authority and institutions)

So she and many others in our culture have thankfully come to realize the result of nihilism…and how empty that approach is to…well, anything.  But to jump from that to the trendiness of a vague “spirituality” definitely seems to be the move our culture is making.  Whether you follow this article as highlighting an actual trend, or you look out your window…we know people are searching for “something”….and it’s much more socially acceptable to keep calling it “something” than Jesus.

Unfortunately, we find a result toward the end of her interview…as she follows up with:  “It’s hard to say if anyone is actually invested in any of this occult stuff they meddle in…it almost devastates me to say this, but daily life can be so mundane.  Applying thematics of epicness to your life makes it more exciting.”

It’s amazing how spot on she is, and yet because of her rejection of “traditional religion”, she’s missing out on the “epicness” of a life lived for Christ, and joining God in His story of redemption/New Creation.

More than anything, her statements and this article can be an encouraging invitation.  Our world is recognizing now more than ever the internal desire to be a part of something much grandeur than ourselves.  Something powerful.  Something that I can actually live for…instead of just wait to die for.  May we, our families, and our churches continue to be places where the story of God is happening in ways that testify to the power of His Spirit…the Love of God….and the New Creation possible in Jesus Christ.  No goat-leggings required.  🙂

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