Friday, January 30, 2009

The Simple Way

Today was my monthly prayer day and I was directed to read the Sermon on the Mount taught by Jesus. Instead of my traditional Bible, however, I read it out of the Message and it seems that every word stuck out; so I wanted to share it with you as we seek to understand how to live the simple way of Jesus. (I say the "simple way" in jest because in its simplicity, it is also rather impossible without Jesus doing it with us).

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Which part speaks most to you?
I am struck by all of them in that they teach a different paradigm of approaching life and relationships than what we have been taught in the American way.

I spent time wondering today how we would live if we truly learned to live like you want to find out?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

T3 Missio Community

Sunday was Missio Lux' monthly Celebration. We come all together one time per month to experience the wider body of Missio Lux, remember our vision and to worship Jesus for who he is and what he is doing in our midst: we tell the stories of what happens in the individual missio communities.

I wish you could have been there. . . .we meet at 5, so about 3:30 a team of people showed up to help set up.

They were the T3 Missio Community; T3 stands for Teaching Teens to Trust.

T3 is made up of families that have teenagers. Amazingly, the teens are often the ones asking to come. They like hanging out with their parents whether they will openly acknowledge it or not. The parents are beginning to realize too that they are experiencing something that they haven't experienced very often before: developing their life of faith as a family, not as individuals going separate directions at church.

This is one moving story of what took place in the T3 Community. They take communion each time that they meet. One week the host family asked a teen to serve it: as he took a big gulp and went around the room saying, "this is Christ's body broken for you" he came to his mother. She had to choke back tears as she realized that this was pivotal moment for her son, for herself, and for her family. That day she knew that her son stepped into a new place, and that is of being a spiritual leader.

This is why Missio Lux is appealing. We have been segmented as families by our culture as we are often driving them to a sports practice during dinner, but also by the Church as we walk in the door and then split off to go to our age appropriate program. It's a treasure to have a memories of growing and pursuing faith and doing missios together, alongside your teens and your young children.

But, back to the Celebration. This month T3 took a step to support the Celebration and they came to set up, they set the table for the delicious dinner that the community made and they helped clean up. It made me so happy to see the T3 families' in action, but even greater it was a gift to see the family of God in action serving those around them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Seattle Freeze

The Seattle Freeze:

It’s cold outside in Seattle, but it’s not from the weather. The front page of the Seattle Times on Saturday, Jan 17th, was entitled: “Friendless in Seattle.” The article described a condition called the Seattle Freeze, which is the struggle to build friendships in our city. People are so desperate for a human connection that up to 150 per day advertise on Craigs List for friends.

We were built with a desire for relationship; in fact, it’s the very reason for which we were created. God desired a relationship with us so much that he created us so we could have it. The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit models that relationship for us. The book The Shack actually puts some earthly ideas to how the three persons of the Trinity relate to one another.

But, we have gone far away from God’s intention for us. Our culture has helped it to happen. Socialogists state that the invention of the garage door opener has put one of the nails in the coffin of relationships. How often have you seen your neighbor drive up, push their button to the garage, and drive in, so that a conversation with them is prevented? How often have we done this ourselves?

Technology has also made it harder for us to have face to face relationships. In fact, people are sharing far more on facebook or on a blog than they would ever dream about sharing in front of a real life person. The temptation to create an “image” often takes precedence over taking off our mask so the real “person” can stand up!

Seattle is a city full of very gift entrepreneurs who work hard. Work is often a barrier to relationships as well. We can be so exhausted at the end of a day, the last thing we want to do is the work of building a relationship. The temptation to zone out in front of the TV or internet is real and strong.

We’ve identified the reality of the Seattle Freeze, so now as God’s people, intentionally following Jesus, what can we do to Melt the Freeze?

Our first priority needs to be seeking Jesus’ priority that he gave us with the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord God with everything you are, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Our first step must be knowing God and understanding his desire for relationship with us. When we slow down long enough, we are able to connect with him and understand that he is like a new Daddy that can’t get enough time with their newborn! He can’t stop talking about us; he shows everyone pictures of us. That’s how much God loves us.

Romans 8 in the Message states: “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.”

After we know God and his love for us, we are able to love ourselves. This is important for being able to love our neighbor; to thaw the freeze. It’s when we come to a place of acceptance of who we are; being healed of our hurts, training our self talk to be positive and truthful from Scripture, we can know love for ourselves. We become prisoners when our self-talk is negative because instead of agreeing with God’s truth of Scripture, we are agreeing with the enemies’ lies to us.

John 10:10 tells us: “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I, Jesus, came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of.”

Jesus stands ready to give us a life on earth that is full of meaning and fulfillment. It isn’t a life that goes through the motions and drops into bed at the end of the day; it is a life that can’t wait to get up in the morning to experience what Jesus has in store for them.

Back to the Seattle Freeze. Look around; who do you see? Who do you run into on a regular basis? Who do you work with? Who are your neighbors, next door on both sides and across the street? If we were to choose 4 people that we feel called to befriend, and begin to pray for them, I believe that at the end of this year; we would see many lives changed.

Why? Because we were created for relationship. That’s the true point of our existence.

I have an idea; why don’t we start putting building relationships on our task lists? If we prioritize it, it will have a better chance of happening. So, today, put asking your co-worker for coffee on your task list; put dropping by your neighbor’s house to say hi on your task list, put contacting one of your missio community members to check in on your task list. Let’s put melting the Seattle Freeze on our tasklist, and watch the sun come out!

Let’s get back together next week and see what happens!

Romans 8: the Message: God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Map Your Neighborhood Missio Community

This is written by one of the leaders of the MYN Missio Community:

Saturday 1/17 was a momentous day for our Missio Community, Building communities, Map Your Neighborhood.

Our community is about reaching out and helping others in need and helping people build relationships. One of the ways we are doing this is offering training. This training uses a tool that is easy to use and a non-threatening way to get to know neighbors who live close by. The training is called Map Your Neighborhood and is about meeting with neighbors, getting to know each other, individual strengths, resources, needs, and how to help each other in the time of a disaster when emergency help is not able to respond.

This was the first training our community offered and it is the start of something BIG and seeing a dream come to life, Love your neighbor as yourself.

The best part is it is not about us but about working together for the greater good.

For example, we are working together with the City of Sammamish to help them achieve their goal of having every neighborhood ready for when a disaster happens. Residents can take care of each other and be a part of accomplishing the goal of the City.

In preparation to the training our community spent time together in prayer, listening for God, and asking Him to go before us to make our paths straight. Our prayers were answered more then we could have imagined.

The response to the training was fantastic. Before the class was held we received many emails from people excited about the opportunity and thanking us for making this available. There were many reasons people came to the training including looking for motivation, better understanding, planning, and action. During the training there were many questions and great interest. At the end people were ready to take action. There were a few people who live in the same neighborhood and they didn’t know each other and plan to work together to help their neighbors be prepared.

As we completed the training we invited those who are interested in being part of our community to let us know. As I was talking with one of the participants she was very excited about our community and asked how she can learn more about our community. When I said we would love to meet her and get to know her she was so amazed and deeply touched.

We really felt a sense of people longing to learn how to be prepared to take care of themselves, their families, and to be able to get to know their neighbors so they can help each other.

The event was a complete success and we are looking forward to our next one with great anticipation of what God has in store.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrating Our New Day

Today was a day that we will remember, much like 9/11 or Columbine.
Most of us can tell you what we were doing when we found out about those events, except this time, it's something that we can celebrate positively. So, what were you doing when O'bama got inaugurated?

It didn't take much today to experience that patriotic feeling that I felt as a child when I would learn about how the young immigrants fought the strong British for their independence. Or, how our government was formed, or when Francis Scott Key penned the National Anthem under a sky of fighting....or how Lincoln stood for what was right when it came to slavery.

But, seeing the vast crowds gathered for the inauguaration and listening to O'bama call all of us to action, acknowledging the challenges, but calling for every American to step up, that makes me want to step up. It makes me want to recognize the potential we have to be light in the world, to stand for what is good, and right and honorable. It makes me want to be the best person I can be, because it takes all of us being our best selves and we can be a place of hope once again.

Some of you may be saying, "I didn't vote for him and I don't feel as enthusiastic about him as our president." I get that, but my hope is that we will take seriously our call to pray for our leaders in 1 Tim 2: 1-3a:
"I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings (and presidents) and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior."

Let's take this Scripture seriously and pray for our new government because this pleases Jesus. and, who knows what can happen when every Jesus follower takes this seriously, the result will be beyond our wildest dreams.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Celebrate Recovery Celebrates One Year of Freedom

We started Celebrate Recovery intentionally on Martin Luther King Day last year because he stood for freedom. Celebrate Recovery is all about freedom too; freedom from our hurts, habits and hang-ups that keep us from knowing God's love and experiencing friendship and acceptance with people.

I just came home from Missio Lux'** Celebrate Recovery. It thrilled me to see how many people are benefiting from a Christian 12 step that teaches us to live like Jesus did, in truth, in grace and in freedom.
Freedom from addiction and freedom from fear.
Freedom from co-dependency and freedom from financial devastation.
Freedom from isolation and freedom from destructive habits.

The cool thing about CR is that everybody comes onto the same footing: life under the cross. No one is better, no one is more powerful, everyone is the same. Everyone is quick to acknowledge that they are a "grateful believer in Jesus, recovering from.... " and the list goes on. Our identity is not in our addiction, it is in our relationship with Jesus.

This is the cool thing about Jesus, he created us for relationship. And, in those relationships, we can be safe, accepted, loved and heard. We can be present for one another, rather than living in isolation. We learn healthy relationships through Christian 12 step because the principles come from the Bible; the ones Jesus taught us to live.

Thank you, Betsy, Kim, Bill, Chas, Kelly and Trish for your faithfulness in making Celebrate Recovery all that it is today. You have done this through what Jesus has done in you!
Thank you, Rag Band, for giving yourselves to lead worship every Monday night for the past year. The lives you live amaze and inspire me.

I count it a privilege to be part of the Celebrate Recovery family.

**we share this ministry with Pine Lake Covenant, our parent church

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration of our New President

No matter who we voted for; I think everyone can agree that our country has entered into a new era. It's been quite awhile since the Democrats have been in majority, we have never had a black President, but even more, the last 8 years have been hard on everybody as we've watched the dramatic shift take place in the world.

Today I was able to see about 20 minutes of the pre-inaugural events. Bono and U2 were singing, a fun country trio sang "This Land is Our Land" and President-elect O'bama spoke. I was struck by how he was able to refer to the 4 landmarks around him and the people for which the landmarks were created. He was helping us root in our history as we take a step forward into our future. He acknowledged the level of challenge for our country, but he helped us to remember how those before us responded in times of challenge.

It made me wonder: What do we need to remember and take root in right now as Jesus' followers, as we take a step forward into the new territory of following him?

I think about the Israelites as they left Egypt and began their life in the desert after they were miraculously set free from slavery.

I think about the Israelites when they watched the destruction of Jerusalem and were taken as slaves to Babylon.

I think about Israel when Jesus started his ministry and challenged just about everything that they held sacred spiritually.

I think about Paul when he was walking one way and was dramatically re-directed when he met Jesus on the road.

The times of greatest disequalibrium are also the times of greatest potential.

Louisa May Alcott spoke this quote. It reflects where we are as a culture and as a nation, but even more where we are as Jesus' followers:
"I do not fear the storm for that is where I learn to sail my ship."

My prayer is that we will not see the days ahead, not as so full of challenge, but as the opportunity that we have to walk as people of faith, and to invite those around us to walk in it too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God Cares

I started a Gratitude Journal as part of my 2o09 New Year Resolution. As I wrote in it yesterday, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for the recent trip our family had the privilege to take to Asia. I am still reveling in the miracle of God's gracious act of moving the mountain to bring forth a way where there seemed to be no way in getting a new passport for our daughter, who discovered the night before that hers was expired.

The reason that this has made such an impact is that "it was our negligent mistake that the passport was expired." It was fully our fault that we didn't check to make sure that all the passports were current. But, this is where I am experiencing God's mercy in action.

I think that deep down many of us believe that God doesn't really care about our lives all that much, he is busy doing the work of running the universe and can't be bothered with our petty requests. I know that the response of some who were asked to pray was: "this was their screw -up, they will have to deal with it." It was our screw up, but that didn't matter to God and his involvement in our lives.

He loved us so much that he intervened with a passport agent who had every right to say no to Bill and Molly as they stood there first thing Monday morning without an appointment. He intervened in opening up a flight when days before we were told all the flights were full. He intervened by providing tickets that weren't over the top expensive, even being purchased the day before.

Mark 11:22-24 tells us that we can speak to a mountain and if we believe in our hearts that God will move it, it will move. My faith is increased after this experience, but even more, my sense of God's love for me and for our family is bigger because I saw how he cared for us...he cared. He was present, merciful, and generous.

My hope is that every one of us who follows Jesus will have stories like this one to share as we recognize that we follow a relational God who does care about "every hair on our head, and every desire that we carry."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sights and Sounds of Asia

We are about to leave for the airport-after a full two weeks in Asia. I have so many different things to process after being in a part of the world which starts at a very different vantage point than the West. It's going to take some time, but hopefully our time in Thailand and Cambodia will help make me a better global citizen and more aware of how Jesus loves the whole world.

We visited a lot of temples. We went to two Buddhist temples in Bangkok and we spent all of yesterday visiting Angkor Wat and Angkor Thum in Seam Reap, Cambodia. These magnificent structures built as long ago as the 12th century were constructed out of their worship for the Hindu and Buddhist gods.

I heard the statistics of how many Christian followers exist in both Thailand and Cambodia. In Cambodia, it's about 10 percent, but in Thailand, it's just one half of one percent. I keep wrestling with the thought if one is born in Thailand, the chances of knowing Jesus and his love for the world and each individual, is extremely low. How much of the culture affects our ability to know God?

Anyway, these are just a couple of my questions, and I hope we can blog together as we sort through the answers.

In the meantime, I reluctantly say goodbye to Cambodia; a very hospitable culture with a very devastating recent past.