Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Priorities

I remember reading something a few months ago where one man said that when they stopped "going to church" and started meeting as the church in their home, it took them almost a year before they could move beyond just forming the relationship with one another and finding Jesus in a new way.

I remember thinking, "that sounds odd," what did they need to let go of?

I am beginning to start to understand it. It's a shift of priorities from working for God to the relationships of enjoying Jesus and his continual presence in our lives.

My recognition of this has come as a slow unveiling. Little by little, Jesus is showing me where we have been so focused on getting the "work done," that he miss him. We rush to our business in team meetings, we close in prayer with a short thought because we are out of time, we don't hear how one another is doing before we start the business so we walk away feeling more alone and isolated then ever.

Last night I met with a group of people. We ate dinner together. We centered our conversation on God and how he is working in our lives. It was natural and it fed us beyond the food on the plate. We went to prayer naturally several times instead of taking prayer requests. At the end we began to pray spontaneously for the needs that we had heard through the course of our time at "the Table."

I walked away filled. Spiritual formation took place as we listened to one another and to God at the same time. We dreamed about the ways that God is opening up for us to serve the world.

Knowing God. Loving One Another. Being the Church present to the World.
Jesus' Priorities for his followers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

God's Surprises

God likes to give his children gifts. It makes him happy as a Daddy. He gave one of those gifts to me this week.

Molly is our youngest daughter. She was flying back to college as sophomore in Chicago. We had a hard departure last year as emotions were running high and circumstances were working against us. So, this year was an extra special gift.

Here's what happened:

Bill flew in from San Francisco** to say "good bye" to Molly. He was planning to surprise her in the Alaska Board Room. Right after I found out he had come, Molly asked me to come inside with her to make sure that her bags weren't overweight. (I was able to do this because my first appointment of the morning had just cancelled.)

We approached the open Agent, who was the most congenial and helpful agent we had ever encountered. When she discovered that Molly was going back to college, she asked me if I wanted to accompany her to the gate. (Amazing!)

So, I was able to see Bill surprise Molly and then we all went to the Board Room to spend close to an hour together before she left to board her plane.

As I left the airport, I realized what had happened. God had surprised me with a gift. He redeemed the painful experience of last year and showed me once again that he cares about every areas of our lives.

I will always remember this day and this gift because it gave me a chance to love Molly well as I basked in the love of my Daddy God!

**Bill commutes to San Francisco for his job

Friday, August 22, 2008

Come to the Table

Last night I was invited to "Come to the Table" at the house of the woman whom God healed two weeks ago. Her family gave a party to celebrate the miraculous healing God did in her life.

I felt in many ways that I was sitting amongst spiritual giants. Her father is from South Africa and his grandmother met Jesus through Andrew Murray. This man now teaches and exhorts pastors and leaders in many places throughout the world. Our conversation very much revolved around the idea of Coming to the Table.

What does it mean to "Come to the Table?" We explored this the Missio Lux Celebration Service Sunday night. I am still exploring it but this is what I believe Jesus has shown me so far.

First, it is a multi-faceted invitation. It starts with Jesus' invitation to us.

Revelation 3:20 says: "Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I will come right in and sit down to supper with you."

Jesus is the one who pursues us. He is standing, knocking, all we need to do is open the door. Jesus is there and he wants to do life with us. He isn't going to hestitate or criticize our house or our meal, he comes right in and sits down. He takes what is ordinary (supper) and makes it extraordinary. The mundane things of life become full of meaning when we respond to Jesus' invitation to be part of them.

Next, it is an invitation for us to come to the table together.

God's design for people are to be together, knowing one another and being known. In those deepest places of our lives. To be loved and accepted. The early believers understood sacred hospitality and practiced it so fluidly that people liked what they saw and wanted to be part of it. The Message states that "every meal was a celebration: exuberant and joyful." This is life at its' fullest! Last night we crowded around the dining room table, many conversations taking place, all filling us up as much as the meal on the plates.

Finally, it is an invitation to be present to the world through invitation to the table.

Luke 14 tells us that the next time that we put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends, family and rich neighbors: the kind of people who will repay the favor, but go into the streets and invite the lame, the poor, the crippled and the blind.

It is when we have come to the table with Jesus and experienced real community with people that we walk through life with, that we are able to extend the invitation to fill our table with those that Jesus tells us to invite.

Where are you in this invitation to Come to the Table?

Have you experienced doing life with Jesus, seeing the ordinary becoming extraordinary?
Have you experienced a crowded table with people that know you and accept you for all that you are: faults and all?
Have you reached out beyond your safe world to love up those that Jesus calls us to love most of all?

If not, accept the invitation today to hear Jesus' knock and to open the door. It's time to change the world, and it starts with our invitation from Jesus.....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Americans Believe God Can Heal

I really have to blog about this because so many people brought it up to me in the last two days.

It was in the newspaper yesterday:
Majority Believe Divine Intervention Can Revive the Dying!

It seems that 57% said that God's intervention could save a family member even if physicians declared that treatment would be futile. The article goes on to say that people want dr's to include this form of treatment as an option in their assessments.

How interesting. . . .

I have to tell a story. About two weeks ago, I had a coffee date with a woman that I am getting to know. We were going to talk some about Missio Lux while we took a walk (unlike today when it is raining, the sun was shining brilliantly!) But, for some reason, I poured coffee and said, "Let's just have a cup of coffee before we walk." Within minutes she had shared a personal area where she was struggling and we began to pray.

We prayed over this area and God was really present but he surprised both of us beyond our wildest dreams. This woman walked with a cane as the past three years she had hip dipleasia and was in constant pain. When the prayer time was over, she went to her car to get her Bible and when she came back, she was holding the cane. She said, "Tamara, look at me."

I looked and she walked down the stairs, holding the cane! God had healed her instantly in her hip. But, the funny thing is that we weren't even praying for her hip, we were praying for emotional/spiritual areas.

But, as she confessed and forgave that day, God moved in big ways. He took the area where she was outwardly lame and healed it as a sign that he had healed the area that was lame in her inner life.

She left the cane at our house that day. She spoke at Missio Lux Sunday night as she is telling everyone who will listen what God has done for her. She is walking in faith!

God does heal. He hears our hearts and when we are able to receive his love and forgiveness, we also get healed. Sometimes it's instant and other times it's a process, but healing is his heart for the people he created.

I am glad that the world is opening up to the supernatural movement of God. I am glad that the Church is begining to invite healing more intentionally into it's realms. I am glad that Missio Lux has healing prayer as a foundational ministry because when we experience healing and freedom we are able to share it with others.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coming Home from Celebrate Recovery Summit in California

Last week I attended the Celebrate Recovery Summit in Orange County, CA.

All together 3,000 people gathered to find out more about CR or to become equipped and inspired to continue to meet weekly to offer those with hurts, habits and hang ups to heal so that we can become the people God created us to become.

It was interesting. My first impression of the crowd seemed to be one of very conservative people, most looked very Christian. But, my first impression wasn't right on. As I listened to story after story from the ordinary people I met, I was blown away by the depth of pain in their lives and in the amazing transformation that had taken place as they courageously looked to Jesus and lived out Christian 12 steps.

I met one woman who had just gotten out of prison for battery against her husband. She was sent to state ordered alcohol rehab. While she was gone, her husband cleaned out their entire house, bank accounts and cars and she came home literally to nothing.

I met another woman who used to be a drug dealer that sold heroin but now leads Celebrate Recovery in Oakland, CA, one of the most dangerous places in the US.

I met one man who was two years clean from alcohol and drugs and is following Jesus for the first time. He spoke of how dramatically different his life had become when he turned around and started to follow Jesus. He made more money than he'd ever made before, he is sleeping and exercising, and feeling great.

And, so it went story after story. We heard unbelievable stories during the sessions, the kind that you just can't believe because the pain is so deep but the healing is so complete.

I am glad that Missio Lux is encouraging everyone to live a 12 step lifestyle as we follow Jesus.

The twelve steps are really much more about becoming like Jesus than doing AA or OA or NA, or one of the other A's! It's about acknowledging that our life is unmanagble and looking to Jesus to be our higher power, it's about forgiveness and taking responsibility for our decisions and then it's about giving back. It's about reaching out beyond ourselves and serving.....

Sounds like a great idea to me. When do you want to get started?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

God's Reversal at Occidental Park

I met with Lance today. I hadn't had a chance to connect with Lance since he and his family helped at Occidental Park. He told me a story that I knew just had to be told:

He decided to spend his time at the park talking to the different people hanging out that day. He ended up sitting by a man named David Davidson, in his mid 30's, on a step. It turns out that as Lance got to know him, David told him a story that blew his socks off.

David had a landscaping business prior to becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. His addiction caused him to lose his business and he became homeless. One night he was all alone out in the desert, crying out to God, when he realized that God was present and he had put his hand on David's shoulder. It was such a powerful experience in David's life that he hasn't touched drugs or alcohol since.

Lance is a fairly new Christian; one that longs for more personal interaction with God. He expressed desire for an experience like David's and said so. He asked David, "Why do you think that God chose you for this experience?" David answered him profoundly by saying, "Because I was stripped bare and was crying out to God."

This is the incredible part: David turned to Lance and asked him, "Would you like me to pray for you?"

Here it is: God using a homeless man to pray for a successful business man in affluent Sammamish, Washington.

This is God's reversal.

See God gets that we need faith like a child. He gets that it's not the rich and the powerful that have the greatest hearts for God, or even the most effective witness. God gets that as we reach out to those that are very different in their circumstances, God can take it and flip us around.

This conversation and prayer have been part of a transforming process for Lance. He gets that life can change on a moment's notice and that the bridge between both men isn't all that big. He gets that as he allows his life to be touched, he may know God far beyond anything he has experienced to this point.

He is ready for a deeper faith experience, are we?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Reaching out at Eastside Women's Shelter

Last week Missio Lux was able to shine light and offer hope at Eastside Women's Shelter. My next door neighbor, Nancy, was the point person and she wrote a wonderful email describing her experience:

"I've driven by the church in Bellevue three hundred times before and never knew this pace existed. It's a YWCA shelter housed in a church and they feed women who come there for lunch and even breakfast if they have anything available. The timing was perfect for this morning. Syd, (her daughter) and I walked in at 9:30 with fruit and juice and muffins and we were warmly welcomed as they had run out of things for breakfast. They were very happy to have the rest of the food as well."

The woman who oversees the shelter told Nancy that the women, mostly 35 to 65, come from all over the area looking in Bellevue for jobs, and they stop at the shelter for meals and assistance. This is an age group of women that have a hard time finding employment and life on the streets is tough, however, there are very few services for women in comparison to men. There are no overnight emergency stays in the Eastside for women, and only 3 organizations in Seattle that provide overnight accomodations for women. They are part of the invisible homeless that have very little resource to fall back on.

I am in that age group. I often take my comfortable home, food to eat, and meaningful work for granted. It's always a gift to be able to reach out to those that have much bigger struggles as Jesus tells us "if you offer a cup of cold water or a hot meal in my name, you are giving it to me." Nancy and our neighbors offered Jesus both last week through the Eastside Women's Shelter. I hope that they experienced a glimpse of his love through our service, and I hope that I keep perspective on my struggles through remembering those around me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

One Last Thing Occidental Park

One thing that has stuck to me like glue as I continue to celebrate what God did at Occidental Park is that the homeless people became helpers. I didn't even realize until the next day that the woman that stood at the BBQ for hours and the man that was eager to help troubleshoot any problem, carry any heavy item or generally be great help, were homeless. They looked like the rest of us in many ways.

The woman, whose name I do not know, told Bonnie my daughter that she was thrilled to help. She said, "If I was in the park today, the police would just be pushing me out but today I am able to do something productive by helping."

That is a gift most Americans take for granted. Waking up each day and having a specific purpose to live out and goals to accomplish. Being homeless often means that the hours of each day are spent in absolute boredom, just waiting for the next day to arrive.

One of the men that was in the front helped become a bouncer in the line. His name was Robert and he had big muscles. My husband Bill recruited him to stand on one side and Bill stood on the other to help prevent line cutting and rioting! Robert got a couple of extra burgers for his work, but I don't think it was the food that motivated. It was the sense of purpose and productivity that came with the assignment.

The man who was the eager helper put the prayer canopy back in it's cover. It turns out that he came from Detroit two weeks ago and is waiting for kidney treatment. He's homeless at the moment.

Let's bring Robert, the man with the kidney issue and the BBQing woman to our minds as we remember that these are real live people with real life stories, and there were a thousand more of them at Occidental Park last Sunday!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Gift of Music and Prayer at Occidental Park

When I arrived the first band was setting up. All in all, five bands came to play their music, their gift, to those that gathered in Occidental Park. One of the bands played Amazing Grace with rootbeer bottles. The Bread of Life Mission band played together as those that were finding help to get clean from the temptations of life. Another rocked out, but gave a testimony for how Jesus had changed their lives. Jay's band, The Rag Band, played awesome music with songs that testified how 12 step and Jesus had given them life. Jay's son, Joey, played alongside his Dad, already learning at a young age to love those that Jesus loves.

During all the music, prayer took place. We set up a prayer tent for more privacy and for an established place to go as an invitation. We also had prayer cards for those that didn't want to go and receive prayer directly, but still wanted the gift of prayer. We also went down the line and asked the people if they wanted to get prayer. One man came and asked for us to pray that his murderous anger would go. He stopped us when he knew it was gone.

In between the bands, we told stories of how Jesus changed our lives. Dan, a recent amputee, spoke about "Why Not Me?" and how he knew that God would use his amputation as a way to indentify with the broken and the lost. The crowd listened attentively and asked questions. Another, Tami, spoke about her life with alcohol and drugs and how she lost her marriage due to her addiction. She gave Jesus the credit with having set her free. She let the crowd in a song that lifted all our spirits.

Music, story and prayer. Three ways that God opens our hearts and gives us hope for another day. (SEE BLOG ARCHIVES FOR MORE OF THE STORY.)