Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Tonight we gathered for an Ash Wednesday Service. Since the idea of ashes are a new experience to many Evangelicals, I was asked several times "Why observe Ash Wednesday?"

I had to think about it as I have never been part of or led an Ash Wednesday Service. The word "Pause" came to me. Today is the first day of Lent and making the intentional decision to make space in our lives to consider how we will walk through the next 40 days is really important.

The reason? We can't fully appreciate the resurrection without considering the Cross.

This is the reason for Lent (which means "long" as the days of Spring grow longer). The 40 days leading up to Easter, which by the way, don't include Sundays because Sundays are a celebration day, are time for us to prepare for how we will walk the road with Jesus.

But, this is the most important part! Jesus invites us on the journey to the cross with him. We were created because God wanted relationship. So, our greatest gift to Jesus would be to make an intentional decision to take the journey to the cross with him. Think about it. When all his disciples ran away in the Garden when he was arrested, and then he heard Peter denying him to the servants in the courtyard, how much would it mean to him for us to say, "I will walk the road with you."

The ashes are a sign. They are a visual reminder that we have committed ourselves to journey with the One who loves us, the One who would have died on the cross, even if it was only us.

It's not too late for you to Pause to consider what your response will be. Perhaps you will decide to abstain from a certain food item or activity. Perhaps it is to engage in a relational, meditational way one of the Gospels. Perhaps it is a decision to make time for the lonely, to speak to people in lines, to purposely love people.

I can't wait for this journey. Jesus is waiting for you to come too; will you accept the invitation?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Retreat at Bethany Covenant

I had the privilege of speaking at the Bethany Covenant Women's Retreat this weekend!

It was a true pleasure to be there because I saw the hunger for Jesus in them. I was also reminded about what happens when a community is more stable in terms of longevity, instead of being so transient, like where I live in Seattle.

I met several women who had been friends since the nursery or since 1st grade or even earlier! I was able to see how that stable foundation has made them more willing to invest in one another and not to hold back in fear. It was refreshing and it made me long for the dream of community even more.

I am realizing more and more that the Church today has something very special to offer the world in the experience of community. I am drawn over and over to the passage at the end of Acts 2 where the new Jesus followers begin to live life together. Their lifestyle is what made people long to be part of them, and willing to make the life choices for it to happen.

It was their willingness to share with one another when there was a need, or to pray in big faith for miracles of healing, or their laughing together through their daily meal. They didn't hold back, but they invited one another in. But, they also invited those that were outside of their community to be part of their daily life with Jesus and one another.

The Message says that "People in general like what they saw." Their community life with one another was appealing. The next statement says that "God added to their number daily those who were being saved." They grew. They didn't get stuck, they kept adding people to their community knowing that Jesus always held his arms open.

I sometimes observe that Jesus followers get together and think, "This is really special! Let's keep it just the way we are." But, in their desire to protect what they have, they often lose it because a community that becomes closed almost always falls apart after about 3 years.

Sunday, we will be pursing the dream at our Celebration for Missio Lux. We are going to explore how to live out the elements in Acts 2 in our 21st century context. We are going to press into experience the community that makes the Gospel so compelling as we "Seek God's kingdom first and all these things shall be added to us!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Surprise

Two thousand years ago, Jesus left his disciples sitting on a mountainside with their mouths hanging open as they watched him ascend into heaven. I often think about how much trust Jesus put in his disciples as they had only moments before asked Jesus a question that leaves me wondering if they ever really got who he was and what his mission on earth was all about:

They asked him, “Jesus, is now the time that you are going to restore the kingdom of Israel?”

Why is this such a big deal? They were still looking for an earthly kingdom to be established, but Jesus always knew that his mission was to bring forth the heavenly Kingdom of God. He knew that as we seek the greater things of life and faith; we step into the place of great meaning and fulfillment in following him.

He even taught his disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God to come. You know it: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our role as his followers is to discern what God has done in heaven and to call it forth to earth.

What do we know for sure? Heaven doesn’t include death, sadness, suffering, pain, isolation, war or poverty. We know that God reigns and that there is no challenger; the enemy has no ability to thwart God’s purposes or to interfere in Jesus’ followers lives.

So back to the mountainside. Jesus had instructed his followers to go and wait and pray in Jerusalem for the promise of his father: the Holy Spirit.

So, off they went after two angels admonished them to pick up their chins and go back to the upper room to wait and pray. And, pray they did because I believe that they were praying prayers of “Help God, what are you going to do?”

Do you ever feel that way? You think you get something but you aren’t sure that you fully “Get it.” Jesus knew that his disciples didn’t fully get it, but he wasn’t worried. Why? Because he trusted the Holy Spirit to bring forth the truth, direction and power to guide the disciples through the birthing of the New Testament Church.

It’s hard for us to imagine the immense shift that took place 10 days later when the Holy Spirit came as wind and tongues of fire, empowering all in the upper room to go into the temple courtyard and begin to speak in the 18 different languages listed in Acts 2.

Peter’s sermon is recorded. The very first words out of his mouth include a writing from the prophet Joel. This Scripture is so important because the emphasis moves from the priestly role to the role of relationships in the New Testament Church.

Peter begins to mention different roles in the family: our sons and daughters, young men, old men and even slaves. He says that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people. It’s no longer about the Jews, or the priests, or the men, it’s about everyone! The whole world.

What happened that day? Three thousand people decided that the offer to follow Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the context of relationships was worth making a commitment to embrace.

The last few verses of Acts paints a picture of what life for the early Christians entailed. It ends by stating “People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

Are we living a lifestyle so attractive that others look at it and want what we have?
Are we so fully rooted in God’s love for us and the truth that he is for us, that he has our back, that we can move through the day confidently?
Do we have a witness that is full of invitation to know the One who created us and longs to be in relationship with us, rather than a message of sin and condemnation?

We will have opportunity Sunday, March 1st to explore more fully how we can live as a New Testament Church in the 21st century. God is calling us to remember and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide us as we make the transition in how we worship and live a lifestyle that reflects Jesus’ life! In the meantime, let’s spend time waiting and praying as we listen to Jesus’ word for how to live out the Kingdom of God on earth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Insights in Learning Communities with 3dministries

Missio Lux has decided to join the 3 d ministries Learning Communities after our experience in South Carolina last week. Despite the challenge of getting there, my time there was full of confirmations that make it clear that this is God's leading for ML.

The 3dministries mission statement is: "to personally invest in church leaders; equipping them to connect to the Bible, personal calling and cultural context to build healthy missional churches in the power of the Holy Spirit."

This mission statement aligns perfectly with Missio Lux' value system!

We believe in relationships. More and more we are coming to realize how much a lifestyle that follows Jesus is about relationships: with God, one another and the world. 3dministries models relationships in their approach to leadership, relationship is the glue that holds people together.

We believe in equipping leaders to know Jesus and follow him through living a lifestyle that he teaches us through the story of the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that each and every Jesus follower has a personal calling; we take seriously Ephesians 2:10 that states: "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." God has unique plans for each one of us to live out, he created those before the universe was ever in existance.

We believe that we must be present in the culture, but seek to live counter culturally within it as we offer an attractive life that others see and desire to be part of!

We believe that a life that looks up toward God, looks across towards the people around us, and looks out towards a world that needs to know how deeply God loves them and pursues a relationship with them. This is missional living at its best!

We believe in a life of health. Healthy relationships, healthy bodies, healthy emotions, healthy families, health.....following the way of Jesus brings health to our lives.

Finally, we understand that it is impossible to live a lifestyle like Jesus without the power of Holy Spirit. Jesus told his followers when he ascended into heaven: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses. . . "

It will be so fun to see how God moves as 3dministries Learning Communities and Missio Lux come together. I believe it will be good for the Kingdom of God!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A surprise in the Dallas Airport

We left the house at 4:30 a.m. to make the plane for my trip to 3dministries in South Carolina on Monday. I got to leave for the airport with my husband, Bill, because his commute to work involves flying to San Francisco on Monday morning and coming home on Fridays! It was a gift to enter into his world~usually I am sound asleep at 4:30 am on my day off Mondays.

Everything was going okay to get there, despite the fact that it was snowing in Seattle again! We got on the plane, everything ready, seatbelts fastened when we heard the dreaded voice over the intercom: "We have a broken windshield wiper, so we have called maintenance." Everyone around me began to freak out because we all had connecting flights to catch, but something happened in me. I began to experience a tangible peace come over me.

It wasn't about the circumstances because sure enough, it turns out that the next flight to Charlestown, South Carolina was 6 hours later than my scheduled flight.

But, I did have an amazing experience with Jesus in the Dallas airport, one that I won't forget for a very long time.

This is what happened. There was a young man sitting across the isle from me on the plane who was also going to Charlestown, so we decided to face this challenge together. We re-booked our flights, had lunch together at a fabulous BBQ restaurant, and then went to our gate. We watched each other's stuff so the other could explore. When he came back, he had found a comfortable lounge and so we moved to it. Then he offered me a Starbucks coffee!

When he brought it to me, I had this overwhelming experience that Jesus was present with me. and, that the afternoon in the airport was given to me as a Sabbath rest. New thought, right? It was a six hour interruption, but Jesus reinterpreted it to me as a gift. I was able to do some of the things I love: read, listen to my IPOD, chill without any other thought of a to-do!

The next few hours were filled with a peace that only Jesus can give. It didn't matter than I didn't reach my destination until midnight; it mattered that Jesus and I, along with the gift of my new friend, spent time together.

And, oh, guess what! I got the chance to experience making a choice to view the interuption as a gift again on the trip home. We were actually out of the gate when we heard the dreaded intercom again say, "We have a strange light on, one that I've never seen before so we will be going back to the gate."

Two and a half hours later, along with an actual plane change, we left the Dallas airport. We didn't get home until almost 5 a.m. South Carolina time. Even though my body is really tired today; the peace and presence of Jesus remains strong within me. He took my very type A personality and showed me a different way to respond to life' interuptions. Sometimes they are just gifts from the One who loves his friends.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Friends: Until I Delete You

It's no wonder that people feel isolated these days.

Have you heard about the Burger King challenge? They offered a free Whopper to anyone who be severe the sacred bonds of facebook friendship to 10 people.

The campaign boasted of ending 234,000 friendships overall. they ended the campaign rather than tweak it to fit the Facebook policy, but for some the damage had already been done. One woman, a stay at home Mom in Arlington, VA. found that when she angrily deleted a lifelong pal after a falling out, she started to really regret it, and now wonders if they will ever speak again.

The question for me is "Is this what friendship has become?
Something that can easily be erased for the sake of a "hamburger?"
No wonder our culture takes 7 times more anti-depressants today than it did 25 years ago.

Contrast this scenario to what is taking place in one of Missio Lux' Communities: the Peace Seekers. This community is comprised of stay at home Mom's who are taking steps towards investigating who Jesus is and what it looks like to follow him.

One of the emphasis' of this community is learning to care for one another.

The leader was elated this week when one woman told her story of having a child with rather severe disabilities. Many of the women in the room began to cry as they empathized over her challenges with her son. They began to form ideas of how to lighten her load: they could bring dinners, they could raise money for the professional caregivers so she and her husband could have a night out, they could pray for her...and on and on it went.

The Bible speaks to this kind of care: Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

These women weren't hiding behind their computers wondering how to earn more hamburgers, they are reaching out to follow the way of Jesus, picking up one anothers' burden for a time so that they can rest along the journey of life.

Friendship, it's here to stay where Missio Lux is concerned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Focus US Aid on the poorest of the poor

I read an editorial recently that was entitled: "Focus US aid on the poorest." I thought it was a great editorial, written by Dr. Larry Donohue who is a retired physician in the Seattle area.

The statistics about the poor continue to be startling, if we let them.

More than 25,000 children die, every day, because clean water, adequate nutrition and basic immunizations alude them.

72 million children, primarily girls, do not attend school.

The world's richest 20% nations consume 76.6% of the world's resources.

880,000 million people live on less than one dollar per day, and 3.14 billion live on less than our Starbucks coffee per day.

There is hope, however.

The microloans are an amazing road away from poverty. Women who are trusted with loans in average of $75 are developing businesses that prosper and allow them to hire others who go on to prosper. The default rate is less than 2%, making these microloans a very good investment: especially for the Kingdom of God!

In 2007, 106 million of the world's poorest families received a microloan.

Dr. Donahue's ideas are these:
Focus our foreign aid on "reducing poverty" rather than just giving handouts.
Focus on the poorest of the poor
Set targets to achieve bold and measurable outcomes for the microfunding
Monitor progress to ensure we achieve the results.

How can we get involved?
He states that "the price and promise of our citizenship is to get involved. Write our senators and representatives and let them know your sense of urgency for this because now that the world is so globally connected, these poor and forgotten are truly our neighbors, and we are called to "go out of our way, like the Good Samaritan, to help them."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Leaving for 3dministries Learning Community

I am excited because tomorrow I am leaving for the 3dministries Learning Community.

Mike Breen is the leader of 3d ministries, and he has a powerful story. He was a pastor of a parish in England when his town shut down the local nightclub. The closing of the nightclub was significant for this town because when the evil within it was shut down, people began to come to the Lord in great numbers. Soon, the church had to move to the building that once held the nightclub because the church couldn't hold everyone who wanted to attend service on Sunday.

Well, one day Mike heard the Lord ask him a question, "What will you do when you don't have this building anymore?" Sure enough, within a week the fire department shut them down for asbestos and for being a firetrap.

What to do? The church came up with the idea to start missional communities of around 30 to 70 people. These missional communities only worshipped with other communities one time per month, and the rest of the time they were the Church to one another and to the world.

Sound familiar? Yes, this is what Missio Lux is doing! We are forming communities of people with a missio: missional purpose.

I am so thrilled to become part of the Learning Community. The LC consists of up to 15 ministry leaders who come together through common vision of leading dispersed model churches and befriend and learn from one another.

This is what I have been looking for since I started Missio Lux. I am anxious to have a coach who has more experience and whose brain I can pick, as well as be part of a huddle where I will receive training and coaching. I am looking forward to getting to know the other ministry leaders in my learning community and experiencing the struggle and challenges together, rather than alone. I am also looking forward to taking a team to the Learning Community two times per year so we can expand the mission of Missio Lux.

Please pray for me as I journey to Pawley Island, South Carolina tomorrow to take my first step in joining a 3dministries Learning Community.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Birds and the Squirrel

I have a struggle going on in my backyard.

I have a great birdfeeder where the cutest birds come and feed, they are all small but different in color and shape and design. However, they are constantly challenged by the squirrel and the pigeons. I started thinking about how this struggle is much like our daily struggle to follow God and resist the enemy in our lives.

I have caught the squirrel climbing upside down my kitchen window screen so he can jump directly to the birdfeeder. I see him stalk across the yard, planning his next manuever, so he can eat the spoils of the birdfeeder. Meanwhile, the cute little birds that the seed is meant for is scattered all over the ground.

The pigeons intimidate the smaller birds. They come in sqwaking and in great numbers. They are at least 10 times the size of the little finches, so thelittle birds leave and go away.

Stay with me here. If we take this scenario seriously, the finches are God's people. The squirrel is Satan himself, the pigeons are his demons who do his work, and I represent God as the provider for the birdfeeder.

The finches come to be fed by God, they want to take in the seeds of his Gospel and receive his provision. But, they are often thwarted by Satan stepping into to take the seeds, so they don't get them. The pigeons come and scatter the seeds so that they don't have any ability to take root in the finches.

It seems like a helpless situation. But, it's not. I, representing the Lord, have a white towel that I throw over the birdfeeder. It keeps the squirrel from being able to jump to it, and the pigeons have no ability to get through it. However, the towel doesn't cover all of the birdfeeder, there is still a pathway for the finches to get through. They continue to eat until they are full and the birdfeeder is empty.

The white towel stands for the covering of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Despite all the obstacles in getting towards God, the Holy Spirit provides a way through and provides protection from the interference of the one who does not want us to get through.

The action in my backyard has given me new insight to God's love and provision in my life. I know how tender and protective I feel towards the finches, and I realize that God's love for me and for our family is an entire universe greater than any love I could ever feel.

Do you have a birdfeeder you need to fill? The birds are waiting. . . .

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Who is in your backyard?

Look around you? Who is God showing you is in your backyard? If you are surprised by his choice, don’t be; there’s a reason why he is highlighting that person to you. As you take a step to get to know them, you may understand why God sent you to befriend them.

Last week at the Celebration, Debbie Moore told her testimony. She has lived in Issaquah for a very long time; she’s lived in my backyard. But, it wasn’t until she walked in the first Celebrate Recovery that I knew about her. But, somehow I knew she was a person that I was to get to know; her backyard story matters.

And, although the details may be different in her story, her story is our story too. She lived a life of presenting one person on the outside, but living in shame, fear, and a destructive cycle of drinking when her disappointment in her circumstances rose up. She knew she needed help, but that she couldn’t do it alone. The day she walked in Celebrate Recovery, she knew it was a place of acceptance and safety; two key components for an invitation to go beyond the surface in a relationship.

There’s a name for the idea of acceptance and safety; it’s called “Grace.”

Grace is what we experience because Jesus took our punishment and gave us his life. We have life because he was willing to give his life for us. Grace is our invitation from Jesus, and then his instruction for us to share it with those in our backyard.

Luke 10 is a chapter written to teach us how to live as Jesus followers. Jesus tells the lawyer looking for the loophole of how he will inherit eternal life that he is to love God and love his neighbor as himself. The lawyer, wanting to make sure he has his bases covered, asks the key question: “Who is my neighbor? Who is in my backyard?

Jesus tells the most astounding story ever. It’s not about the person next door, or the Jewish people themselves, it is the Jews most hated enemy: the Samaritans. Jews used to walk 20 miles out of their way as they trekked to Jerusalem to avoid going through Samaria—20 miles is no small chunk of exercise change!

In Jesus’ story, a man gets robbed and is dying by the side of the road. He continues to lie dying as the priest goes by and then the Levite goes by. They each cross to the other side of the road, unwilling to help the dying man.

But, the third man does not pass him by: he crosses over and has compassion on him.

Think about it: the enemy the Samaritan crosses the street, which signals a willingness to go out of his way to help the dying man. Then, he lets his heart open up with compassion. And finally, he does something practical.

He helps him, and takes him to an inn and cares for him until he can stay no longer. Then, he pays the bill and tells the innkeeper to keep close watch on his recovery.

What can we learn from the Samaritan?
First, he was willing to be inconvenienced.
Second, he was willing to let his heart open up to care.
Finally, he did something practical!

Where are you in the spectrum? Are you willing to let your day be interrupted to listen to a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, or a stranger? Are you willing to lay down your agenda and let Jesus move in you?

Are you filled with Jesus so that your heart has some compassion to give? I think that many of us feel compassion fatigue from the constant suffering we hear about through the internet, CNN and the newspaper. This phenomenon can only be cured through spending quality time with Jesus as he continues to fill us with his compassionate heart.

We often think that we have to do the big things for it to matter. But, in Jesus’ story which teaches us how to reach out to those in your backyard, he shows us that the practical things matter: the meal to our sick neighbor, an email to a hurting friend, an offer to drive for a harried mother, mowing grass for an injured neighbor. All of it matters.

Take a moment to stop and pray. Ask Jesus to show you the people in your backyard that you can be present to come alongside this week. And then make a commitment that if you are prompted, you will respond with a yes in your heart and an action with your hands!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Holy of Holies

This morning when I spent time with Jesus, he reminded me that my body houses the Holy Spirit and that my spirit is the Holy of Holies where I can worship and commune with him any time day or night.

The idea seemed to become reality as I sensed a level of his presence that I don't often experience. Even though I didn't see anything in particular, I was aware of God's majestic invitation to enter into this area of worship with him.

I started to think about the difference of being a New Testament follower versus an Old Testament Jew. The Jewish priests only went into the Holy of Holies one time per year, and only one person went at a time. So, that means that a priest maybe experienced the Holy of Holies once in a lifetime.

Compare that to our invitation: to come into the Holy of Holies any moment of any day.

This is what Jesus accomplished when he died and became resurrected. We are given access to areas that the saints throughout generations only dreams about.

Hebrews 11 says this:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

The chapter finishes with:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

These great heroes of faith could only look forward and dream about the opportunity that we have to relate to God on a more personal and accessible basis. We are invited into the throne room with Jesus.

I ache for the Church, for Missio Lux, to recognize, accept and live out this truth. I believe that when we truly begin to understand what God has invited us to experientially, our faith will take off in ways that we never dreamed possible.

Jesus is the something better. He is the Great High Priest who has provided the access. Let's meditate on the words of Hebrews 10:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.

Take a few minutes to enter into the presence of God with this song Here in Your Presence with New Life Worship. Click here to Link to the Video on YouTube.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Seeds of Hope Sends Children to School in Kenya

January was a pivital month for Seeds of Hope. Seeds of Hope missional purpose is to support Sudanese children in boarding school so that they can become educated in order to go back into Sudan and help bring solutions and help to their war torn country.

Do you know the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan? Well, we are partnering with two Lost Boys: John Kher and Arok Garang, who are from the southern village of Paliau. When the United Nations decided to close the Kakuma Refugee Camp, the children from this village had nowhere to go. If they were shipped back to Paliau, they would not have the basic necessities of life since a great majority of them are orphans or have parents that are unable to provide for them.

This is where Missio Lux came in. We recognized the need for these children to be safe, fed, cared for and educated, and through our relationship with John Kher, Seeds of Hope was born. Even though Missio Lux was still in the birthing room itself, we made the commitment to get as many children as we could to school. We set the goal higher than we our funding; but we sent them in faith believing that God trusted us to be good stewards of these children's lives.

In June, I met Arok in Colorado. He told me that he had put 17 children in school and a few of the Sudanese brothers were trying unsucessfully to fund them. Seeds of Hope doubled our number of children we had in school that day as we agreed to come alongside Arok and help his village children become educated too.

This is the exciting part! We held an event to introduce Arok and tell his story in November, and 90 people showed up. A Missio Community: Seeds of Hope Denver has launched since that gathering. Now Arok has the support and encouragement of a team coming alongside of him to help find sponsors for the children to stay in school.

But, the even more thrilling news is that we were able to send all 34 children to school in January fully funded for this year! Yeah.......God is doing his part in planting the seeds of hope into each one of these children. We celebrate being able to follow along behind him in faith.