Priming the Resolution Pump: pause

This year is coming to an end, which means that I made it through December… again.  This is the first year that I have felt some sort of perspective has been built up to look at December’s of the past and contemplate on what it is about them that gets me down.

It typically happens within the first week or two of the month.  I have never been able to put my finger on anything tangible that triggers it.  In the common vernacular… it is just ‘a funk’.  I like that term, because in passing it is really quite simple… but with contemplation and conversation, the phrase can be unpacked quite far.

At this point in the journey through many Decembers, some of the unpacking that I have done this year has revealed a few things about what ails my soul so much.

A friend of mine who knows that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year because of it’s simplicity and freedom from commercialism/greed, asked me if I basically, ‘fall into the deep end of depression’ after the simplicity runs out, and the battle to keep Christmas… well… Christmas begins.  He may have touched on a bit of it there… but not enough for me to really take note of at this time… maybe now that the seed has been planted, I will notice more on this stream of thought next year.

This year, as I wrestled through the fog… I noticed that the feelings of unmet expectations for the season were not in any way low because of material possessions… or the ability to ‘make the kids dreams come true’ on Christmas morning; rather, the unmet expectations that were on the forefront of my mind, largely in part to the fact that I have to many irons in the fire.

I have a naturally charismatic personality when it comes to things that I know I can do well… even if I am not passionate about it… I have a propensity to lead and to get things done.  But when spread to thin… I can’t even count all of the things that were left undone this year.  My years are consistanty filled with good intentions… and the belief (at least in the initial moment) that I will get things done.  Much of this comes from my care for others… and the curse of not wanting to let people down.  I am willing to say no to just about anything… truth is… I don’t often pause long enough to remember too… and so promises are made… and my best intentions become things left undone.

Of course… you can’t make everyone happy when your passion doesn’t produce fulfilled promises…

Not only do I know that this is an issue for me… it is something that I feel at a deep level… and the gravity from the deep pulls me down into a dark season.

I could then… just stop caring whether or not that I leave promises unkept…

or I could just remember to make fewer promises… and trust that God’s grace will fill in the gaps in other peoples lives… I am not their messiah…  As much as they may think they need me… or as much as I like to be needed… quite simply… I need to make fewer promises… and spend more time in the moment… with the people, places, and things in my presence.

There is more to unpack about the December funk… and there is no way of knowing how accurate this assessment is until the next December…  but I do pray that these thoughts will cause me to pause this coming year… and remember to evaluate what it is I am to be present for…

 

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the story after the Christmas story…

Twas the day after Christmas… and all through the house…

Christmas sketches an outline of a picture of Jesus as the true world ruler: the Lord, the Messiah, the savior, the real king of the world instead of presidents and kings… of corporations and political systems.  Yet, it is not a picture of glowing royal colors, world dominion… of power and majesty.  Rather, it is a picture of a simple food trough and a young family.

The author of the Gospel of Luke leads from that simple scene into the somber realization that a sort of kingdom that is much different than that which we see in today’s economic and political elite.  The kingdom that Jesus has in mind is different that what we may expect.  In particular, the gospel becomes a story about suffering.

We are introduced to a man named Simeon, who is waiting for God to comfort Israel.

We are introduced to a woman named Anna, who is one of a long line of people waiting for the redemption of Israel.

They are both living in a world of patient hope, where suffering has become a way of life.  With the introduction of Jesus into the world, it now appears that God’s appointed redeemer will deal with this suffering by sharing in it himself.  Simeon speaks dark words about opposition, and about a sword that will pierce Mary’s heart as well.

Luke is telling us that this is what happens when the kingdom of God confronts the kingdom of the world.  And we are given front row seats to watch, throughout the remainder of his Gospel, as the prophecies of old come true.  In time, Mary will will on with dismay as her son is rejected by the very people to which he offered the way of peace, by the very people he had come to rescue.  Finally, the child who is, as Simeon says, ‘placed here to make many in Israel fall and rise again,’ himself passes through death and into resurrection, taking with him the hopes and fears of the city, the nation, and the world.

With that, Luke has a picture much bigger in mind.  He is also showing us that the kingdom brought by baby Jesus is not for Israel alone, but for the whole world.  Simeon had grasped the truth at the heart of the Old Testament, when Israel’s history comes to its God-ordained goal, then at last light will dawn for the world.  All the nations, not just the Jews, will see what God is unveiling – a plan of salvation for all people without distinction.  This is the true glory of December 25th.  Israel was the bearer of the promise that from them, the true ruler of the world will arise.  This isn’t exactly what and how Israel had in mind… and we can relate to that a bit if Christmas has come and gone this year, and we wake up with unmet expectations.

Christmas is more than just a story, or the one day a year when gifts are given and received.  Christmas, in whole, should be part of a vocation for those who call themselves Christ Followers.  We all have a role to play in God’s plan.

For some, this vocation of being promise bearers to our world will be active, obvious work in the public eye: preaching and teaching the Gospel, or taking the love of God to meet the practical needs of the world.  For others, it will be quiet, away from public view, praying faithfully for God to act in fulfillment of his promises.  For many, it will be a mixture of the two.

Mary and Joseph needed Simeon and Anna at that moment; the old man and old woman need them, had been waiting for them, and now thanked God for them.  The birth of Jesus… and of John the Baptist… was the beginning of gathering people… slowly and daily… into all sorts of new worship and fellowship.

With this… the day after Christmas… it is my prayer that the season would not be ‘winding down’ until next year.  Rather, that it would be for you and for yours, the beginning of a gathering.  Continue to enter into the life of others as the lights come down, and the decorations get packed away.  Christmas is not the culmination of God’s promises coming true, but the beginning of their manifestations in the flesh.  Be that manifestation of hope, security, redemption, restoration, and salvation for someone today.

Christmas

Sing a song of Christmas, of emperors and angels;

Sing a song of Christmas, of darkness now past;

Sing a song of Christmas, of shepherds and of mangers;

Sing a song of Jesus, of peace come at last.

Buried beneath the remnant trash of the presents that lay under the tree… I would venture to say that ‘peace come at last’ would make the ultimate of gifts we would all desire to receive this Christmas. We live in a chaotic world. The songs that the angels sang… or the prophecies of Isaiah… each tug on the hearts of so many in our world who are dealing with debt… grinding away in a work that does not reward appropriately their labor… praying for loved ones who are waging war in a part of the world they will never visit… When we think upon the message of Christmas, we can all agree at a basic human level, ‘let’s do away with all the pain and injustice… God send a savior.’

But in a few days… as the decorations get packed away for their annual storage, and Christianity becomes a private religion again… until Easter anyway… or perhaps as something tolerable for old ladies and young children… it won’t be much use to us when it comes to the problems we face in the real world.

As we watch the news coming in from around the world, it is no wonder our hearts sink as we wonder if things will ever change. It often seems that the blind are leading the blind into a ditch. As we corporately look in the mirror, it is not a stretch to say that our country is being reduced to chaos by someone else’s inept and money-driven warmongering. It is this that should cause us to come to grips with the promises of the Christmas story that lead to thoughts of peace. We cannot read Isaiah 9 this Christmas season and then quickly forget that it does in fact speak to the rest of the year that we will live in a day-to-day fashion.

At Christmas… in light of the Biblical narrative… we should easily ask, how can we turn this season into action for the rest of the year. How should the rulers of our world… from national to the local of our own homes… adjust their priorities because Christmas happened.

This time of year, many of us don’t give much thought to the ideas of empires and money and wars when we put up our trees… make trips to the local charities that ensure there are presents under the tree… Many of us only have a Christmas experience in our churches that will hopefully make us feel good on the inside. Maybe that is part of the problem in the way we have treated Christmas in our culture. We have filtered out the emperors from the Biblical stories… and in doing so… have only received a partial message of the angels songs.

The Christmas story… as told by the prophet Isaiah… isn’t about an escape from the real world of politics and economics… of empires and taxes and bloodthirsty wars. It is about God addressing these problems at last… because God comes into our world… and we are reminded that it is his world. And he is coming in with authority to deal with the problems of evil… chaos… violence… and oppression in all of their horrible forms. It is only when we look hard at the promises and come to grips with what they really mean are we able to grasp with real comfort and joy that Christmas does truly provide. If we don’t, then we are embracing only a private comfort at the inflated cost of allowing the rest of the world to continue in its misery.

Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus takes the trouble to tell us about the Roman emperor Augustus, and his desire to take a census of more or less the whole known world. This isn’t just background information that provides some local flavoring to the story. Empires, censuses and taxes were as hot a topic in the Middle East in the first century as they are in our time. Maybe it was a heavier burden then… after all… when we take part in a census, we fill out a boring form and send it off in the mail. Many in our country have conceded to the idea that they are going to tax us anyway. In the first century, anytime there was a census, riots would break out, and people would be killed… censuses raised the question in the back of everyones mind: “who really rules the world, and how are they going to run it? who is profiting by the huge government over us… and who is going to be crushed in the process? when will all of this ever change? can we do anything about it.

Luke has placed Jesus’ birth and the angel’s song within this everday story of Imperial behavior because he wants us to know that Jesus’ birth is not an invitation to a private religion into which we can escape and feel cosy, but a summons to us, as it was to his first followers, to sign on under his authority, to celebrate the birth of the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, and to work under that authority for the growth of his promised kingdom of endless peace, of justice and righteousness.

Perhaps we have done a bad job of embracing this message of Christmas… and our world suffers as a result. You may be thinking… ‘things have always been like this. politicians always get it wrong. the church always muddles things up. why would we expect anything different?’

Is that true?

It’s been a century and a half since the end of slavery based largely on the effort of William Wilburforce in England and anti-slavery activists here in the United States. The battle to end this trade took decades to resolve… and some would point out that equality among the races is still a long way off. The Christian faith played a major part in the progress of just this one area alone.

It can be done.

There are many that believe in the extraordinary idea that the gospel of Jesus is not about emperors and angels… but about a private spirituality and a promise of someday escaping this world altogether… instead of extending His Kingdom. In a story without empires, the angels lose their authority, and become gooey pictures on calendars that look pretty. They become a piece of a Christianity that longs to just escape from this world someday… and a contentment to let the empires go about doing their own thing.

It’s time that Christmas gets its glory back… then the angels songs will promise real justice and real peace.

I am praying that God will call us this Christmas season to not only trust him for ourselves, but also to put some rubber to the asphalt through prayer and faith… through social and political action… to carry forward the work of the kingdom that was launched a the first Christmas. We need all to work together… laity and the ordained. We need to stay focused to that very task.

For lo, the days are hastening on,

by prophets seen of old,

When, by the Spirit’s might power

Arrives the time foretold:

When peace shall over all the earth

It’s promised splendors fling,

and the whole world give back the song

which now the angels sing.

So where can you start? Not all of us will be William Wilberforces… we cant all run political campaigns… we can’t all lead great reforms. No. But we can pray, we can watch, and we can listen. We can, in fact, inhabit Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth right were we are. We can pray in love and devotion before the Christ-child, trusting that his new kingdom of peace and justice will come to birth within us and through us. And then we watch the empires… the Augustus Caesars of our day… we can keep our eyes open for where the powers that run the world are crushing the little people who live on our street, in our town, in our local hospitals or prisons. We can listen for the song of the angels. It may come in surprising ways, as it always does.

God doesn’t call everybody in the same way. But if you are learning to love the Christ-child you will find your eyes gradually being opened to what the powers of the world are up to and your ears gradually become tuned to the particular song that God’s angels are trying to sing to you… and perhaps through you. You will discover, in fact, the things we call vocation… maybe simply volunteering to work on behalf of the least of these. Writing a letter to the opinion formers in your community or on the television… organizing prayer vigils and chains… running a blog to raise awareness of the issues that need a voice… Every great work begins with little steps; usually it continues with little steps to.

And remember the story of the shepherds and the manger. We are so used to hearing about it, that we often forget the point. The shepherds were told something quite ridiculous: that God’s Messiah, God’s only Son, had been born up the road. Now, how on earth are you supposed to believe that? And what on earth could you do about it? But they were given a sign: you don’t normally find babies in feeding troughs, but that’s where this one is. And so they went, and they saw, and they believed, and they worshipped. What is the equivalent for us today? Well, when you worship the Christ-child for yourself, and learn to open your eyes to empires and your ears to the angels, you may well wonder whether there is any point in even trying to do anything about it at all. It all seems quite ridiculous.

And then you may begin to notice places where there are, so to speak, babies in mangers: places where God seems to have startling at at work.. in a hospice… in a prison… in a day care… at the coffee shop… in your small groups… in the lives of drug addicts… prostitutes… pagans… debt campaigns… in debt relief and unjust laws… whatever it may be.

And then: watch for the empires, listen for the angels, worship the Christ-child – and go for it.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his kingdom shall be established with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

… inspired by Mr. Wright…

working class pastor and the indie music scene

i love music.

for those that know me even just a little bit… the obvious is that i love U2. there is a whole story and a theology and a philosophy and a night alone contemplating suicide in the bathtub when i was a teenager kind of story to explain that. not going there with this post. but, i’m always game for a drink and conversation about U2… so holla… i’m there.

most of my daily listening involves artists that, when mentioned by name, typically get a strange glance, and the simple question/statment: “who?” the interesting thing about this is that i don’t usually have to explain who they are very long until the other person in the conversation goes, ‘oh yeah… are they still doing music? i haven’t heard anything on the radio by them in forever.’

i know…

and for years i’ve watched artists that have held a place in my itunes catalog break away from… what steve stockman effectionately calls, ‘the music ghetto’ (more specifically the ‘christian music ghetto’… but the illustration works in any genre). by ghetto… stockman is referring to the industry that determines which songs and artists get airplay… creating a handful of stadium or arena sellouts… while at the same time, shutting the door on many other artists, who are as good… if not better at so many levels of artistic integrity.

artists like derek webbkevin maxjoy williams… all of whom once held a special place in the christian music industry… only to be passed over, for various reason.

what has inspired me, as a human being and as a pastor… is that these artists have increasingly gone to place is message and in sound that… truth be told… would never have been able to go had they been locked away in the ‘ghetto’ that they once dwelled in.

don’t get me wrong… there was some good music that came out of those years in that scene… but if you haven’t listened to ‘i see the world upside down‘ by derek webb… you need to.

after years of watching this… and having found myself not being able to find a position within the church circle that i was molded in for many years… i began to wonder if it would be possible to go indie as a pastor. to be able to take the calling and the message of kingdom… christ… salvation… restoration… and all of those themes… and see if I could break away from teaching a discipline that i didn’t fully agree with (and to stop trying to get others to nod their head in agreement with positions that we both knew was not Scripturally based.)

i was formally trained in the wesleyan tradition. i love the narrative of john wesley’s life. i love the fact that he encouraged us to come as we are… but not expect to stay that way. but after a few years, i began wondering if the denomination (that he didn’t want started) had out wesley’ed wesley… and after a sabattical of sorts for about a year and a half… i had a moment where the question went through my heart, ‘in ten years, do i still want to be apologizing for a denomination that i don’t feel a part of?’

hear me… i’m not against any denomination… they all have their strengths… and weakness…

but i knew in the heart of my hearts… i wasn’t wesleyan…

i am more of a collision of eugene peterson and nt wright. and i know that.

so, we ventured off. into the land of mosaic… and at a time in 2009 when i didn’t want to experience one more day of ‘church’… along came this Community that inspired me…. and encouraged me to ‘be the Church i believe God wants to see’.

and so here i am.

i have a day job… behind a desk… working hard for the money to pay the bills.

and i have a wonderful little church…

i’m a working class pastor… and i love it.

Resolutions… and Your Mother

Each year I have given a bit of my time and energy to the ideas of New Years Resolution. Personally, they have become good things as I have matured, and they are not things to be taken as lightly as I did in my younger years.

When I was just a wee little lad, making a resolution for the new year was a part of the celebration that took place on the eve of the new year. The excitement of being able to make a decision for some transformation to take place in my life was fueled by the energy in the room when a group of friends got together to stay up way past our bed time, and was motivated by identifying some flaw in my character that seemed to encroach on my desire to belong or fit in better to the world in which I found myself.

As a middle school student, the motivation may have been to ‘be liked more’ by those awkward and drastically changing people in my life. To wear my hair a certain way as to mimic someone I looked up to as ‘being cool’. The masochist in me even vowed to give up the good things in life like, Sour Patch Kids… or Pepsi. But alas, by the time the Rose Bowl was on the television screen, I was stuffing my face and acting the fool in the excitement of watching the Michigan Wolverines defeat USC.

If I were able to ‘forgive myself’ for violating the sacred covenant before school resumed after our long Christmas break, then at least I would have a few days of excitement among my classmates as we compared notes on what we had given up… or what changes were going to be made. Within a week or so, however, life went back to normal. Resolutions were soon forgotten.

Humorously… as I slowly matured in years, there was a turning point in resolutions that gave me a bit of a longer rang view of change that I desired to see as the new year ‘wiped the slate clean.

It came in the form of an annoying little phrase that I was using way to much in my vocabulary.

“Your Mother!”

It seemed that any time my wife would say something to me, my response would simply be: “Your Mother!

“Chad, can you take out the trash?”
“Your Mother!”

“Chad, what would you like for dinner?”
“Your Mother!”

“Chad, what should we do this weekend?”
“Your Mother!” (a bit awkward, I know.)

I am sure that, while funny at times, this little phrase had passed the point of annoying for Em much sooner than it did for me. But she was more mature than me, and I was a little further down the road of time before I said to my self, ‘dude, that is getting old.”

So… somewhere in my 20’s, New Years Eve came around again, and in the weeks preceding it, I was determined to drop “Your Mother!” from my vocabulary. And like smoking, or any other bad habit, generating the will power to control the tongue for such a simple little phrase was going to be more work than I thought it would be.

The ball dropped… kissed were laid on anyone you could get away with… the noise died down… and the bed was found for a long night of sleep. Until, the sun came up… and the journey past “Your Mother!” began.

I knew this was going to be difficult, as my best intentions to drop “Your Mother” from my vocabulary failed semi-frequently in the realm of polite conversation.

I soon realized that “Your Mother” had become a part of my life, and letting go of “Your Mother!” was going to be difficult. I would find myself listening to a conversation, and when sensing the moment in which I would be able to get my words it, I had to learn to leave “Your Mother!” out of it.

Within the first month of the new year, I found a separation taking place, and “Your Mother!” had a smaller and smaller place in my life. It was difficult, because everytime “Your Mother!” filled the room, I was reminded again, that this part of my life had such a hold on me.

It was then that I realized that this New Years Resolution was going to take more than just a one night commitment for change. If I was going to drop “Your Mother!” from my life, I was going to have to commit to a Resolution that lasted more than just January1st… Leaving “Your Mother!” behind was going to be a journey that would indeed last… the whole New Year.

And so rather, like many people, who set off into the new year with the best intentions for change… who soon found themselves settling back in to old ways… and who quickly forget about the desire for new rhythms for life… I knew that something more would need to happen.

And then it happened, I knew that a New Years Resolution was something that I had the whole year to conquer. I knew that I would fail and fail again as I walked into the winds that would push me back to complacency. If I was going to get ‘Your Mother!’ out my life, then there would be days when victory was in hand, and defeat would hold me.

When victory is in hand… joy is experienced.

When defeat has us… humility rules the day.

But… come February, there are still well over 300 days left in the year in which to slay ‘Your Mother!” And so we fight on.

December is a bit rough for me each year, now that I am a little older and (hopefully) maturer. I find myself reflecting quite a bit on what the year has been to me… and who I have become. Some of it is wonderful… other parts can be down right depressing. I could never put my finger exactly on what it is that brings me down… but I think it has something to do with this:

In my soul, I am preparing for another journey of transformation in a new year. And it all culminates into that moment when I enter into January, ready to put in my pack, something that I will need to eventually leave behind… and the resolve to do so will need more than just a one time ‘name it claim’ moment of clarity.

So much of transformation is about the moment of burdensome anticipation for the journey… until we finally reach the trailhead, when all of our preparation gives way to the reality of taking things one step at a time.

New Years Resolutions are like that. They are the trail head of a mountain that we are set to climb. The top of the mountain is where we can lay that thing to rest. It would do us no good to quit the journey up at the first change in the weather… the first bad attitude of a traveling mate… the first blocked path. Many people do turn back when the path gets difficult, or they realized that this is going to more work than they thought.

But press on towards the top of the mountain… embrace the difficulties on the way up… celebrate the moment of clarity when the path becomes easy again. And given enough time, determination, humiliation, energy, persistence, and grace… in a moment of time, you too will be able to leave ‘Your Mother!’ at the top of the mountain… and then leave… back down the mountain, ready for your next climb of transformation.

opening

A gentleman named Robert Mulholland has put forward for consideration that spiritual formation is about being transformed into the image of Christ ‘for the sake of others.’ While there is a private aspect to ‘being’ with Jesus, I am convinced that it is not the primary one. God lives life within the context of the trinity… a place where community is built in. We are meant to live in relationship to others within community the same way that God does.

It is in the company of others that we make our journey to the deeper place of our soul, and it is where we learn to tell the truth about who we are in those places. When we explore those levels of our person hood in the company of others, we learn vulnerability… giving love… and receiving love.

We put much on the line when we open up our lives to others. Being real, connected, knowing others, and allowing ourselves to be known by others will cost us. Not being willing to pay the price will leave us in a position where we are cut off from God, and from others… and down the line, possibly even cut off from our self. When we, in appropriate ways, open ourselves to each other in the presence of Christ, we discover ways in which it is possible to ‘lay down our lives for friends’. We learn how to be a shelter for people who are longing for a warm embrace from others, and ultimately to God.

When it comes to ‘opening up’ your life, and ‘sharing life’ with others… where do you experience tension in your ability to be vulnerable?

Disciplines for this Season

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun has gifted us with an amazing book, the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.  I recommend you pick it up.

In the very back of the book, there is a section on the Seasons of the Soul, and as I was perusing it again this morning, and asking the question: What Season are we in in this journey, the answer seemed pretty clear… SPRING.

According to the handbook:

Spring is the season of new life, new beginnings, new growth. Enthusiasim for the things of God accompanies spiritual springtimes.  Desire for more of God breaks forth in a beautiful way. Disciplines of worship and hearing God’s word seem to come naturally in this season of love for God. Often the desire to share our lives with others takes root in the spring.

Further in this section, Calhoun discusses the stages of growth that take place.  One of the stages is an awakening period.  Maybe that is where we are at… maybe not.  I’ll explore the stages period a bit more in the future.  But for now, the awakening stage can be explained as such:

Awakening is the stage in which we encounter God and ourselves. This stage can be gradual or radical, a moment of conversion or a long journey to trusting God. The awakening stages gives us the comfort of belonging to God.

I believe it is fair to say that we are in a Spring Awakening period of life, at least at Dayton Center right now.  The lovely part is that there were many people who said that DC should have died off during the last winter.  But that obviously hasn’t happened.

So, what to do with all of it now?

Questions that we must ask ourselves as a Church now are: What is life as Dayton Center about? Who are we?  These are important questions, because you can see a belief in the people there that they are known by and belong to God.

How do I know this?  What are we seeing that proves this?  The answer is pretty simple… there is a thirst for meaning as a Community of Christ Followers.  There is an awareness of longing in the worship and teaching times, a state of awe before God.  Yet… we have yet to embrace Jesus’ mission.  The pieces are there, however.

There will be some temptations to turn back as well… Will taking that ‘next step’ as Christ Followers mean that we will miss out on day-to-day life?  If we truly embrace the things that we are willing to ‘die-for’ as Christ Followers, what will the implications of that be?  If we identify the things that we are not willing to ‘die-for’ as Christ Followers, what will the implications of that be?  Are we willing to take that step?

Some of the things that we can expect to hear from those who are not ready to enter into this season of the the Community:  “We are/ I am to busy”… this is a sign of being disconnected.  “I’d rather just remain anonymous.”… “We are not willing to do what it takes to grow with and as a Community of Christ Followers.”

Things that we can be intentional about during this season:

  • Confession and Vulnerability
  • Studying the Scriptures together
  • Developing Conversational Prayer
  • Worshiping Together
  • Encouraging Spiritual Friendships and Mentoring
  • Remaining Teachable (from the bottom-up)
  • Disciple… Disciple… Disciple

Pivot Day (as far as the blog is concerned)…

Had a great cup of tea at the Koffee Kuppe today with the beautiful Erin Clark.  Second great conversation this week about Community and Mission.  Erin has spent quite a bit of time over the past few years working in England.  However, a recent rejection of her work visa has left her in a spot where she will need to re-evaluate what the future holds.  It will be nice to have her in the area for a while to have more conversations like this.

It was during this conversation that it dawned on me that I shouldn’t let much more time go before the journaling of this journey get under way.  My memory is enough that I can recall all that has happened in the past year in a half since leaving full time ministry.  At the same time, it is clear that we are almost to the next trailhead in the journey up the mountain again for this new Community that God will unveil here in this little corner of West Michigan.

So in the life of this blog, there will be much that takes shape in days previous to today, and for the days to come.

As Eugene Peterson would say… we are approaching Square One.

I find the need to pay homage to those who have shaped me up to this point, and also to the ideas and God-callings that I feel will be important to keep in focus as we move forward.

Emily… she could have married for money. But she chose a man who would ‘never become a pastor.’  Now look at the life we live.

Stephen Hammond and the Mosaic Arlington Family.  It would be a travesty on my part as a human being if I neglected to mention how important this Community was in my healing the past couple years, as well as the living example of a Biblical Community.  If there is a model that I continually put on the table, it is going to be them. The things about Church that I will die for… and the things about Church that I am not willing to die for… the Mosaic family gave me permission to just be a Pastor.  Life in Christ… the whole of it.

My family in Texas who held me up when I was experiencing more than a dark night of the soul.

The Hanna’s… for opening up more than your home.

The Dayton Center family.

The Byrnes.

Kim Deur… for helping me believe that just being me, and ‘doing what I do’ may be all that God and this community expects of me.

It’ll be interesting to return to this post and see how close to the heart of the vision that we were able to stay.

Called to Converse

I’ve been wrestling a bit with what to do with the vision for the Christ Following Community of Faith, Love, and Hope… and still be sensitive to the fact that there are some people locally who aren’t sure of where I fit now that we are back in Fremont.

Today it all came to a head, as I was set to meet with a long time friend to catch up since our move back to the area.  He is a trusted man, and someone that I would choose to lean into when it comes to the moments of life that obviously can’t be done on your own.

The question in the back of my mind was, ‘will I open up about my ideas for Community? or will I politely hold back the calling that I feel upon my life?”

I chose the first option, as we were able to share our dreams and desires for the Community of Christ.  It is interesting to experience the freedom that other people seem to enter into when they feel safe to discuss matters of the Church.  It was clear that my friend had had these thoughts in his life for quite some time… and perhaps he had felt safe to discuss them with other, but I wondered how free he had felt in the past to discuss them with a church leader such as myself.

The point that he made that stuck out the most was that he longed to be a part of a Community where people were free to minister, without feeling that they needed to have ‘permission’ to move ahead.  Where does that kind of oppression come from that men and women from the Body of Christ feel choked to death by form and hoops.

He also shared that some of the membership requirements of churches are a bit more than Scripture seems to require.

In the mix of conversation were the role of accountability (particularly in light of looser membership requirements), and how we as men can continue to be an encouragement to each other in matters of faith and family.

 

Relevance is NOT an Option