Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Loaves and Fishes at Occidental Park

The line stretched around the entire park. The people kept coming. . . .
We purchased enough food for 250 people: hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon and chips. But, it was quickly obvious that we needed Jesus to show up and multiply our small lunch into a great banquet.

While the bands played and gave the homeless an afternoon of music and a party atmosphere instead of the monotonous day they usually experienced, the smell of BBQ permeated the air and their stomachs rumbled.

The burgers and dogs began to be ready to serve. There were the usual issues in the line over people who didn't wait their turn. There were attempts to take more than one drink. But, for the most part, there were hundreds of appreciative people taking their plate of food to eat with a friend or to fill an empty part of their stomachs.

But, this is just the beginning of what we can do to love those that Jesus loves. We can give value, which is a greater gift than food. We can look them in the eye, ask their name, touch them and listen to their stories. We can sit down and hear their dreams--which for most of them are long forgotten, but possibly for a moment they can remember the glimpse that they carried earlier in their lives, and it can begin to breathe life again.

An hour and a half into the afternoon, we needed way more food. The Bread of Life Mission did a run and got 350 more burgers and dogs. Not too much later, we needed more food. My husband Bill literally became the multiplier of the loaves and fishes. He left his post as overseer of the line (to protect against cutting and rioting) to go and purchase over and over again hot dogs and buns, until the store was down to turkey dogs and bread.

We finished serving at 5:30, after 4 1/2 hours. Just like the loaves and fishes, we actually had some hot dogs left over. It wasn't until we began to add up all the purchases that we realized that in a few hours we had given a meal to eat to the poor and disenfranchised of Seattle approximately 1,000 times.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Party in Occidental Park

Missio Lux was able to live into our missio DNA yesterday as we put on a party in Occidental Park for hundreds of homeless people.
The idea was to bring Jesus into a park where the homeless gather through music, food and essential supplies of life!

We partnered with Bread of Life Mission and the Rag Band. Jay Boone is the leader of the Rag Band, he has a guitar shop in Pioneer Square close to Occidental Park and he has an amazing recovery story. The Rag Band shows up faithfully every Monday night to lead worship at Celebrate Recovery, so we are developing a friendship and a partnership for being the church present to the world.

I am going to tell this story over a few days because there is so much to tell, and I am still processing all the ways in which I saw God present and at work!

The day was full of contrasts for me. I spoke at the Mother church, Pine Lake Covenant in the morning. I hadn't been to a worship service at PL since our commissioning in early March. It felt a bit strange, but by the end, very familiar. Pine Lake is a great church in an affluent area, so driving into the city to Pioneer Sqaure reminded me of the vast difference in the two environments.

When we arrived, Jay Boone gave us a full barrell full of men's underwear, socks and deoderant. We began to assemble the bags to give out to the men and when I looked up, I saw a line of hundreds of people. We didn't have hundreds to give out, we had about a 100 bags, so that meant that right off the bat we were going to disappoint more people that we were going to please.

The line never went away. As soon as they smelled coals on a BBQ, the line got longer. Read tomorrow to hear about how God multiplied food for 250 into food for a 1,000!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

10 Years

I like to think about what is going to happen in 10 years. I like to dream about what Missio Lux can be in 10 years as we become committed followers of Jesus, inviting others to know him in relationship.

I was dreaming about this with Laurie, who also likes to consider "what can be." She came up with a very powerful vision for what can happen when we pass on our faith to others.

If we start with 20 people focused on living Jesus' proiorities and being his witnesses in the world, it is very realistic to double in one year to 40 Christ followers. That number would become 80 in two years and 1280 in six years. In nine years, it would jump to 10, 240 and in 10 years, an amazing 20,480 people could be living out Jesus priorities of loving God, themselves and their neighbors; as well as inviting people to follow Jesus too.

This is what Jesus did. Don't you marvel that he raised up 12 followers which really became 11 after Judas betrayed him. He spent 3 years doing life with them, which involved a lot of modeling and teaching in real life situations.

If we take 3 years to raise up 12 disciples, then the math tells us that in 12 years, 20,736 people will follow Jesus and in in 18 years,it will increase into a whopping 248,832 people. If these 248,832 people are intentionall about inviting people to know and follow Jesus, in 24 years (get this!), 429,981,696 (that's 429 million) lives will be changed. And, in 30 years, one generation, the whole world could know Jesus. That's the fulfillment of the Great Commission: Go into all the world and make disciples.

We often fool ourselves into thinking that if we don't do our part, it won't matter. We underestimate the power of our influence and the multiplication of what can happen if we take Jesus command seriously to "go and make disciples."

Begin to dream about who God is showing you wants to become part of his community. You will be glad you did when you stand in heaven and see the multitudes that come after you because you took the plunge and shared your life with people as you invited them to share their life with Jesus.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Chocolate Party

One afternoon last week I was invited to a "Traffic-Free Chocalate Party." It was an innovative idea--to serve chocolate to raise awareness of yet another injustice in our world.

Around 12,000 children have been trafficked into cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Children are either sold by their parents or stolen, shipped to the Ivory Coast, and sold as slaves to cocoa farms. Once they get there, they are stuck, they cannot get out. They are beaten and abused and forced to live a life of pain and slavery.

I can't imagine the despair of a family so desperate that they sell their children. How deep the pain must go in their hearts, probably to stay there a lifetime. I can't imagine the utter horror of being kidnapped as a child and taken into slavery. We worry about our kids crossing the street, but in many places in the world, the fears are much more extreme.

Once these children and others start picking the cocoa bean, another injustice arises. The bean is acidic and eats away at the skin on their hands. The jungle is also filled with poisonous snakes that can bite the picker, to injure or even kill them. Boots and gloves help make these dangers much less prevelent, but the boots alone cost $10, and on a yearly salary of $77, this is a luxury no one can afford.

Isaiah 1:17 states this: "Learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."

One way that we can seek justice for these children and cocoa bean workers is to help provide them with boots and gloves. This is what we did at the chocolate party.

We can also buy chocolate that ensures that their product is slavery free. Companies that can not ensure that their chocolate is slavery free includes: Ben and Jerry's, Ghiardelli, Hershey, M&M, Nestles, and Sees Candies.

We can also pray. We can remember the tragic stories of the cocoa bean pickers and let our hearts be broken for them.

Organizations that are addressing this injustice:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Going to Iglesia Latinoamericana on Sunday

I was invited to speak about Missio Lux at Iglesia Latinoamericana Covenant Church on Sunday. This is a church that meets at Highland Covenant in Bellevue, Washington. It's a small congregation that worships in Spanish.

Our family went together. I didnt' know what to expect, except that I would be interviewed by the interim pastor about Missio Lux.

While we were worshipping, I experienced one of those times when the Lord was very present with me, giving me clarity on what to say, how to make connection with the people, and he even went to far to show me that he gave us the name Missio Lux because he wanted many ethnicities and languages represented, so it needed a name that wasn't English. I was thrilled with that new thought, and very grateful that we have a name that isn't "usual" for a church.

I was directed to the day of Pentecost. Did you know that there were 18 cultures and languages represented that day? Think about all the seeds which were planted and taken back into those different cultures. Think about how the Gospel began to spread from the very first moment, and it has never stopped spreading since.

Once God showed me a picture of a dried dandelion; the kind that look like a ball of seeds. He took it and blew it and I saw seeds going everywhere. He said that this is how Missio Lux is going to spread. Whereever a seed falls and takes root, a missional community can rise up and begin to meet, making their own seeds to blow in other directions.

We had a connection with Iglesia Latinoamericana Sunday. Even though a language barrier existed, (but it was great to have Bonnie to help interpret), the commonality of loving Jesus united us. I met so many wonderful people that day because their community was evident in how they love one another.

I am richer from the experience.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Homecoming

It's been a long awaited day, the arrival of our middle daughter Bonnie home from 5 months in Guatemala. We bought the biggest balloon we could find to welcome her home, and filled the house with beautiful summer flowers. Our house is brighter when Bonnie is in it, she brings such joy to all of us.

Bonnie went to YWAM, which stands for Youth with a Mission, in Gutatemala as a pre-requisite for her next training: to become a midwife for 3rd world countries. This combines all of Bonnie's passions: the poor, other cultures and mothers and babies.

She loved Guatemala. She loved the people, the culture and the experience of living in South America for the second time (she also spent a year in Ecquador as a freshman in college.) Bonnie was able to live with people from many different places: Canada, Austrailia, El Salvador and others. They did their studies both in Spanish and English, so her Spanish increased dramatically.

Bonnie is born to live in other cultures. She is at ease with people different from herself. She loves the poor and the disenfranchised. She cares about justice and involves herself in ways to bring justice.

Yesterday we met with a representative from IJM: International Justice Mission. IJM is one of the leaders in addressing human trafficking. I saw Bonnie's face light up when she spoke about some of her experiences in being a part of the solution, and most fully when we were told that sex trafficking for minors is almost non-existant now in Cambodia. Bonnie wrote a paper on that very subject in college and has committed herself to pray for freedom ever since.

I know that Bonnie is on loan to us, she has been since birth. God entrusted her to us so that we would be good stewards of her life: giving her encouragement and permission to follow her passions, even if it means to places that are at times rather disconcerting. Bill and I look forward to the next year that Bonnie will be home before she leaves for Austrailia for midwifery training, and then we will do it again: put her on the plane to a far away place to follow her passions and the very unique and specific dream that God planted within her since birth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Detox from Church-Part 4: Come to the Table Together

One of the big questions for Missio Lux is "What are you going to do with the children?" It has been a stumbling block for many families in their willingness to engage the lifestyle of Missio Lux. It seems that we have been conditioned to believe that our families are meant to be segmented.

But, I wonder, is that really what God intended?

If it is, why does Jesus tell everyone around him, especially the disciples, that he is never too busy for a child?
If it is, why did God make such a big deal that parents needed to train their children up in the ways of the Lord?

Let's dream about how it can be at the table. Have you ever sat next to a child during a meal that isn't your own? Have you watched them and the amusing things they do? Have you ever heard the funny joke from a child that makes absolutely no sense, but they laugh and laugh, until everyone else is laughing too? Have you ever had the chance to affirm a child, watching their eyes water from the praise?

We need each other. Adults take one another way too seriously. Children bring joy and laughter, yes, also a different pace. Perhaps we can adapt to how children learn by having lots of movement and song and a short focus.

My favorite conversation from last week was with a young man in Missio Lux. His name is Daniel. He is 10 years old, but the wisdom he carries is light years beyond his age. I asked him what he was reading in the Bible and he told me that he had just finished Revelations. We had a fascinating conversation, one that left me feeling like I had eaten a meal at the most fabulous restaurant in Seattle.

Children are a gift and a blessing. Part of what can happen as we take the step away from the traditional church that sends them to Sunday School is remembering what it is like to have interaction and relationship with people of all ages and lifestages.

Let's come to the table for a rich and satisfying meal!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Detox from Church--Part 3: Come to the Table

As I move away from the busyness of being at church, more and more I can experience Jesus' call to "Come to the Table." This phrase has been remuniating in my mind over and over, and making something deep within me long for more of it.

What does "Come to the Table" mean?

What is Jesus saying in his invitation to us to come?

He invited his disciples to come to the Passover table with him before his arrest. They, of course, didn't know what was coming as they gathered around the table, experiencing Jesus' presence, his laughter, his love, and his servanthood as he washed their feet.

But, I know that when the disciples looked back on that night, they knew that they had been invited to the table with Jesus and the experience totally shaped how the early Christians lived.

I keep going back to Acts over and over. Today I read it again (Acts 2) "they met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generousity." The Message says that the early Christians "committed themselves to the apostles teaching, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers." Right after that it states, "they worshipped in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful.... People in general liked what they saw."

There it is: the DNA of the early church in action.

They made being together a huge priority, in fact, they met together every day.

They did life together. They ate in one another's homes, blessing the home by their very presence in it.

They had fun together--laughing from the deep place in their bellies.

People on the outside saw what they had, and wanted it.

This is a far cry from many of the meals I've shared with other believers. They most often took place in the fellowship hall of the church, and everyone just hoped that by the time they made it through the line, there would be enough food. Most times, the people were gathered around an event, a missions talk, or a new members class, or the end of a Sunday School class.

We've substituted organizational gathering for the real thing: community, authentic friendship, living life together.

We've been so busy doing the organizational gathering that we've forgotten how to "live life together."

There's been a couple of people in the Missio Lux communities that have questioned, "Why do we have to eat a meal together? It makes it take so long--we could really shorten things up if we skipped the meal."

But, they are missing the point. The point is the meal. We are invited to the table with Jesus and with one another. This is the heart of what Jesus did. He hung out with people, going to parties, weddings, celebrations. Many of his best teachings happened in the context of the meal.

There's so much more that I can say about this. Jesus keeps calling me deeper into as I explore what it can be. I hope that you are hearing and responding to his invitation to "Join him at the table" but wait, don't forget to invite your friends, for they are desperate to come too!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Detox from Church, Part 2

I've been thinking a lot about the comment that Jason Zahariades made in his paper, "Detoxing from Church." He says, "This may sound harsh, but in order to BE the church, we need to LEAVE the church."

At first glance, this is extremely offensive. Doesn't Jesus tell us that we need to become part of the Body of Christ? Yes, he does. But, he doesn't tell us that in order to follow him, we need to follow the religious structure of the day. In fact, this is the very thing that he came to confront. The Pharisees were keeping people so busy following their rules (they had over 400 just for the Sabbath alone) that the people didn't experience the relationship with God, the very reason for which they were created.

God came to earth to pursue us. He wants to know us, and wants us to know him. The only way to do this is through relationship, both with him and with one another. I don't think that we can truly experience earthly relationships the way that he intends for us unless we first experience relationship with God.

We know that all relationships take time. They can't be microwaved--they need to bake in the oven, so that we smell the sweet aroma of baking bread and are filled through experiencing it.

So, when we remove ourselves from the constant busyness of life in church, what is left?

What do we do to move toward God?

Part of the answer involves finding out what thrills us, and awakens our heart.

Is it being out on a boat on a sunny day?

Is it having a Starbucks coffee with a friend?

Is it working in our Garden, experiencing the joy of seeing the beauty of nature come forth (this is easy to do in Seattle).

Is it playing with children and seeing the world through their eyes?

Perhaps it is opening the Bible and letting the Creators' Words speak to us.

Perhaps it is enjoying the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit sweep across our face.

Perhaps it is going to serve in a homeless shelter, offering ourselves for the sake of others.

Whatever it is, let's find it.

Let's find those ways to reconnect, or connect for the first time, with the One who Created us, and who adores us.

Let's find ways to understand what it is to BE the church, through first finding a way to know the One who created the Church.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Detox from Church

There's a website called "the off ramp" that is written by two former Vinyard pastors. They left their positions because they realized that working on the staff of a large church was toxic to their faith. They didn't realize it right away, it took some time away from it to get their perspective, but once they did, they knew that they had been sucked into a lifestyle that was often at odds with what Jesus asked them to do.

I've had similar conversations with people in my own life. One person remarked after they had been away from their church position that "I could actually hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me again." Another person I spoke to said that after several years of worship leading in a very large church, they knew they had lost their true calling.

Recently a woman that is part of Missio Lux told me that once she stopped participating at our parent church, she began to have connection with Jesus that looked very different than what she had experienced while in church.

Is it possible that we have allowed our worship to be more about the church than Jesus?

Is it possible that we have gotten so busy "running the church" that we lost sight of the fact that "we are the church"?

Is it possible that we have substituted activity for relationship?

It is vital that we put relationship with Our Creator before anything else. Time with the One who Loves Us puts the rest of our day on an even keel that carries us through challenges and joys. Time with Jesus gives us space to make room for his priorities in our life.

Missio Lux is not about creating busy Christians. We seek to be authentic Jesus followers that are living counter culturally to both our world and to much of the traditional church.

We want to live lives of worship, making room for Jesus' interuptions in our day to help a neighbor or a stranger. We want to experience community of coming together with people who Know who we are, so we don't feel the familiar isolation that is so prevelent in American culture. We want to leave a meaningful impact on the world, one created through relationship and lived out of the missio that God has planted into our spirits.

Now, let's take a deep breath and enjoy the summer day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Power of One Life

Her name was Irena Sendlerowa. She lived in Poland when the Germans had the Jewish people imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. Irenea was responsible for the identification and treatment of tuberculosis so she had frequent access into the Ghetto.

Irena knew that her life mattered beyond treating TB. She saw the handwriting on the wall for the Jews in Europe and knew that she had an avenue to help bring freedom. It wasn't an all out assault, it was more like a slow trickle of hope offered to the imprisoned Jews.

This is what she did. She smuggled infants and young children out of the Ghetto.

This is how she did it: she trained her dogs to bark whenever the German guards were present so that the children weren't detected, even if they were crying in fear. She put them in suitcases, bags, even coffins to smuggle them out.

Eventually, Irena was caught and brutually tortured and sentenced to death. However, she bribed a guard and escaped. All in all, she saved 2, 500 lives. She kept their names in a glass jar buried in her yard, so that when the war was over, she was able to re-unite many of the children back to their families.

I love this story.

I love the idea that if we take our ordinary circumstances and think creatively with God's imagination planted within us, we can do extraordinary things!

I dream about what can happen with Missio Lux. Imagine people all over the world, dreaming and asking God how they can take their ordinary life and make it count for something that will transform entire villages, generations, or even the course of history.

Irena Sendlerowa died on May 12 this year. She was 98. We won't have a holiday named after her, but for her courage, she deserves one. I choose to remember and honor her life, the power of her life should not be forgotten. Who do you know that is making a silent difference in their circumstances? Perhaps it is you; let's tell the stories!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Fall

Thursday was the day we had been waiting for: Heather, Molly and I were going to San Francisco to celebrate Independence Day with Bill.

Bill is my husband and he works in San Francisco. No, really. He gets on a plane every Monday morning and flies to the city where he works all week and comes home Friday. This weekend, however, he was hosting a baseball game for some clients so he invited his family to come join him too.

I was really looking forward to it. Something about July in Seattle (perhaps the sun?) just makes it a rule that we have to put work aside and have fun.

But, before we left, Heather and I wanted to do some work in our garage--several moves home and some parent's things brought from Colorado where they are downsizing for a move to a retirement home has made our garage rather full and very disorganized.

I climbed the ladder to put some sleeping bags on our camping shelf. Suddenly, I knew that I was going to fall. I guess I even said it. It was almost as if someone or something pushed me over. Down I went, feeling a bit in slow motion.

But, the landing felt very much like concrete and kitchen chairs sticking into my arms, my side and my back.

I look like an abused woman. An bruise covers my entire right arm. I feel like an old woman when I move a way that arouses the injuries.

It's just got me thinking, however, about how much our physical state affects our entire life. The pain I was in affected my ability to enjoy San Francisco. It makes me feel vulnerable too. It makes it harder for me to embrace the challenge and delight of each day.

Take a moment to think about someone that you care about that lives with physical challenge. Pray a prayer for them.
And, just a word of caution: watch out for standing ladders!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One Prayer

If you only had one prayer to pray, what would it be?

I think that this has to do with the dreams God planted with in us, and as we listen to his voice in our lives, we can determine what that prayer would be.

What is your prayer?

Mine is to create a structure that will free God's people up to live out their dreams.

I dream of seeing people owning their faith, living like Jesus and responding as he did, with compassionate, truth and grace.
I dream of seeing people live in such a way that people around us like what they see and want to be part of it.
I dream of living out our faith as Jesus followers in such a real way that we have a true connection with Jesus and authentic relationships with one another.
I dream of people having so much support through their community that they have the courage to take the risk to discover and to walk out their dream.

The prayer.

I am beginning to live out my dream. I am beginning to see Missio Lux form in such a way that the lightbulbs come on. . . and as the light shines, we come alive and we decide that we will do anything we need to do to live out God's dream in us.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Divine Appointments from Around the World

We started having neighborhood dinners to connect and build friendships with our neighbors. Last month we hosted it, and my next door neighbor brought a friend who was from Bulgeria, which used to be Communist until the late 80's. She brought up the Christian faith because her current boyfriend was a Christian and was telling her that she wasn't good enough for him because she wasn't also a Christian (I wonder what Jesus would think of those conversations?).

Scot and Kim were there too and we were able to talk about our faith and our relationship with Jesus in a compelling way, painting a very different picture than she had from her Communist upbringing and current boyfriend. After she left, we also prayed for her; that God would change her circumstances, her relationships and her heart. (We heard through our neighbor that her boyfriend broke it off when she got back home.)

This month my same neighbor, who is from China, brought her cousin who had just arrived from China that day! He is in his last year of University and is studying to become a lawyer. I asked him about the Christian faith in China and he told me that it is illegal for anyone in his university to become Christian. I asked him how much he knew about it and he told me that he didn't know much, but that Christians followed a man named Jesus. I asked if it was okay if I told him more about that Jesus and he said yes, he would be honored to hear. I said a bit and he indicated that he "would be honored to hear more about my faith."

Let's just think about this opportunity for a moment. Here is a young man that will carry influence in China, the emerging world leader. He has heard nothing about the Christian faith, but is living on my street for the summer and has expressed interest, an honor, in hearing about Jesus and following him. Wow, this is a divine opportunity that I must not miss.

Wait to hear more! and while you are waiting to hear how my second conversation goes, pray about whom you are being called to invite to dinner, to plant seeds and to build relationships, and then dream about what God can do which is beyond our wildest imagination.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Independence Day

Yesterday I got a card in the mail inviting me to a new churchplant to celebrate our country's birth and independence day celebration. It struck me a bit odd that this new church would pick this weekend to send out a mailer inviting people to attend. For the obvious reason that a lot of people leave town, but bigger is the confusion that comes with trying to mix our faith with our allegience to our country.

But, in further reflection I remembered a sermon that I preached a couple of years ago on July 4th entitled "Our Citizenship is in Heaven." I thought it was important to remember that our first allegiance is not to our country but to the One who created this country: the One True God!

I think that this distinction is really important because when we begin to mix our faith with our patriotism the message of Jesus gets blurred. Jesus priorities never included getting elected or reigning on an earthly throne, but there were many around him who thought that was his goal.

I am comforted by the fact that even after all the disciples experienced with Jesus, they still didn't get it when Jesus was ready to ascend into heaven. They still asked him the question, "Lord, are you going to restore Israel now?" He had, but not on earth, and not through the political or military process. So, if at times we don't get what's happening, we have good company!

I also remember that historically the first 3 centuries of Christianity were really the church at it's best, when it was illegal and hidden. People were caring for one another to such an extent that people became saved because they liked what they saw taking place. Everything began to shift, however, when Christianity became the state religion.

We are blessed but also challenged by our political freedom. It is easy to take our faith for granted and expect that we will always have the privilege to live it out without interference. But, I look at China where it costs them something to live out their faith and I see a maturity and willingness to sacrifice, and I wonder what it would look like to Americans to live that way.

I love the 4th because it's a fun holiday but I always remember that my first allegiance is to Jesus and his kingdom come on earth. May we live as citizens of the King!