Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections on our trip to the United Kingdom: part 1

We just flew in from London. . .our trip as a family was a gift in so many ways. We don’t’ take our times together as a family for granted, for example, the check-in person at the airline counter was confused when we said that two of us were going to Seattle, one to Chicago and one to San Francisco. Oh, and by the way, we are leaving one daughter here in London!

I expected to go and enjoy the reality of being a family together entering into the world of our past and present. What I didn’t expect to happen, however, was how clearly the Lord would show me the reality of his Church in the United Kingdom.

Our first week was spent in Scotland. Bill’s parents both immigrated from Scotland as teenagers so we were able to see the homes that they were born into and lived in until they came to the US. The towns they lived in were small and in close proximately to one another.

Almost every building in Scotland is made of stone. So, the churches that stood in the middle of each village or town were built to be majestic, strong and central to the lives of the people within each community.

And, the churches have been present in just that way until just recently. The church in the United Kingdom and in Europe in general have made big shifts in the past couple of decades from going to being the center of life for the whole community to becoming almost irrelevant and ignored.

I can’t tell you how many of the church buildings that I saw in both Scotland and England have been turned into something else. They were museums, community centers, pubs, daycares, antique stores, and even a concert booking center. They are simply ceasing to exist as churches in many places.

We had the privilege of staying with Bill’s second cousin, Bruce Buchan. He is a wonderful man who follows Jesus and is active in his church. His church is still healthy; however, they had to wait 5 years before they got a new pastor. When I asked why, the answer was that there just aren’t any pastors available. No one is going into ministry any longer.

His girlfriend, Christine, another Jesus follower, is active in her church. However, despite the building being big and majestic, the congregation has dwindled to 20 people. The only reason that they are able to continue existing is that a man died in their congregation and left them a lot of money to keep them going.

I am still processing the grief I felt in my observation of the Church on our trip. I am seeking to understand more of how this rapid transition took place. I am asking the question, along with many others, what is the next step?

When I ask the Lord this question, the answer I clearly hear is that we cannot live our lives for the Church, but for the One who builds the Church: Jesus.

It is only when we live in the day to day breathing living relationship with the One who created us that the Church will thrive.

This is what Missio Lux is seeking to do. We are far less concerned with ‘’being a church,” and far more intent on “knowing Jesus.” When we are willing to wrestle with the hard questions of life, move into the chaos of other people’ lives, and make sacrificial choices to follow the lifestyle that Jesus calls us to live, that we will find the Church thriving again.

Fortunately we are not in the same place as Europe and the UK. We still have many thriving churches and very few have been turned into use of another purpose. However, many sociologists say that the US is just 15 to 20 years behind what takes place in Europe.

It’s time for us to wake up and realize that sentimentalism, organizational loyalty, and even tradition won’t change us or the world. Jesus changes us. Jesus gives us a message of hope and good news to share with the people around us. Jesus gives us purpose and meaning in our lives. Jesus gives us hope.

Missio Lux is about to start our third ministry year. We will focus on following Jesus through intentional discipleship lived out in huddles (6 to 8 people meeting regularly to answer two questions: What is God saying and how am I responding?) Through Missio Communities: communities of people that gather to share a meal, focus on God and one another and plan and carry out a specific missio (missional) purpose, and finally, Celebration: bringing everyone in Missio Lux together to worship God for who he is and what he is doing in our midst.

Our structure is simple. Our overhead is light. Our plan is organic and responsive to the needs around us. Our stories of community and missio are enticing.

Missio Lux will never be a building standing in the center of a city. However, our dream is to be the people standing open and invitational to the community around us; reflecting Jesus and being the Church, just not the building, but rather the Body of Christ.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leaving for Europe

My 50th decade is starting off with a great adventure. Tonight we are leaving for Europe.

We are flying into London first.

Our daughter moved to England last August to start graduate school for Global Health. This decision came after Heather went around the world for 8 months the previous year, and God provided a last minute spot in a highly soughtafter graduate school. We are looking forward to entering into Heather's world and seeing life from her vantage point the past year.

We are also going to Scotland.

My husband, Bill, is full Scottish, his parents immigrated to the US in their teens. We are so excited to go back to their fishing villages in Northeast Scotland: Fraserburough and Inveralochy. I have longed for our daughters to connect with their Scottish heritage and understand more fully the roots from which they came. Now it is finally going to happen!

We are delighted with the hospitality we are receiving on our trip. Bill's second cousin, Bruce Buchan, has knocked himself out to make arrangements, offer his home, be our tour guide and generally do anything we need to make our time in Scotland reflect the love of the Scottish people.

The Sales Family is also doing the same in England. Heather's boyfriend, Luke, has helped make arrangements, sent us encouraging messages and invited us to come to his parent's home one day so we can experience English hospitality.

I will be blogging every so often about our Great Britain adventures, so stay tuned!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Multiplication and MIracles

My family has made celebrating my 50 birthday very significant. Bill and our daughters spent time making plans and sending out the evite.

My extended family flew in, as well as our youngest daughter, Molly, from college.

Even my very good friend from Denver, Patti, came to join the celebration.

We reserved a pavillion at a park for the occasion. After all, summer nights in Seattle are absolutely spectacular.

However, I began to wonder if we were in trouble when the morning of my party, the clouds socked in the mountains.

By the time the morning was over, it was raining, HARD!

So, two hours before the party began, we switched gears, brought everything home and tried to get the house put back together. My party would be at our house!

I think that God had a hand in this because at one point Bill gathered everyone in the kitchen and asked people to say how they knew me. But, everyone went way beyond how they knew me by telling how I had impacted their life. Every person present could speak to a way that I had helped them walk closer to Jesus and made their life more fulfilling and real.

As I stood there, listening to each word like a soothing balm, I felt like the Lord whispered to me, "These are your multipliers."

It's true. Everytime we pour our lives into someone, they can't help but take what they have received and pour it out to another.

This decade I am going to be more intentional to call people to pour into others. To see our lives as a ripple that will extend far beyond ourselves, and make a lasting mark for eternity.

As things seem to get harder in our lives through the economy, and the weather patterns, and relationship dysfunction, this is how we navigate: by keeping the call of Jesus to go and share what we have received from him. When we do this, what we give away is returned back to us in a huge way.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Celebrating a Significant Birthday

I love milestones!

I also embrace transitions because they are so important in moving to the next phase of life. However, I've struggled a bit to embrace this new decade that I move into tomorrow because life has happened so fast, and I am not ready to let go of my youthfulness.

Tomorrow I turn 50.

Not too long ago, I felt like the Lod outlined the different decades of my adultlife:

20's: Childbearing (had 3 daughters in 4 1/2 years)

30's: Training (I started working at my church one month after I turned 30 and ended up graduating from seminary two months before I turned 40

40's: Ministry (Every year has seemed to increase in my joy in participating in ministry and the fruit that comes from it)

So, I anxiously awaited the theme for my 50 decade: and I was delighted when I heard: Multiplication and Miracles.

I began to ponder: what would multiplication and miracles look like?

I am anxious to live it out to find out!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Your Back is Against the Wall

When Your Back is Against the Wall”

Have you ever had one of those unnerving experiences where you felt like you were backed up against a wall with an army of trouble coming straight towards you? Did you cry out to God and wonder where he was and how he was going to rescue you from this impossible situation?

Interestingly enough, this experience is not just familiar to us in the 21st century: the back against the wall phenomenon is a regular experience for people throughout the Bible. Take Jehoshaphat for example. He was a king in Judah that found out the bad news that “A great multitude of armies are coming after us.” The next sentence reads, “Jehoshaphat was afraid.”

His back was against the wall.

The good news is that he turned towards God and he received a strategy that helped Judah to come out on top as the victor in such a great way that they became much more prosperous as a nation as a result of it. King Jehoshaphat’s strategy will also help us in our daily struggles and in the big kairos events of crisis.

Read about the process that God and King Jehoshaphat partnered together for victory in 2nd Chronicles 20:

1. King Jo (for short) acknowledged who God is by stating “O Lord God of our ancestors, are you not the God of Heaven?” (vs6)
2. He also remembered God’s faithfulness in the past: “Did you not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to your friend Abraham? (vs. 7)
3. After acknowledging God’s character and remembering his former miracles, King Jo then asked for what he needed: O our God, will you not execute judgment on these armies invading us? (vs. 12)
4. Next King Jo acknowledged his dependence on God: “For we are powerless against this great multitude, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (vs. 12)
5. King Jo did not try to fight the battle on his own, he gathered his important counselors around him for discernment, including the prophets of the day. (vs. 13-14)
6. He listened for the strategy that the Lord gave him through the prophets: those with keen spiritual insight. (vs. 15-17)
7. After receiving the strategy, King Jo responded in a counter-cultural way to his fear: he bowed low, acknowledging his dependence once again on God to prevail and then he worshipped, along with many others. (v. 18)
8. Now it was time to act! King Jo led the people, not just the armies to move worshipping into the battle. They moved not just in force, but in faith and power of the Lord. (vs 20-23)
9. The victory came to King Jo and the people he led. They went up onto a watch tower and were absolutely amazed at the scene. They saw corpses lying everywhere and an overflowing amount of plunder: animals, clothing, tents: you name it. It took them 3 days to carry out the booty. (vvs 24-25).
10. King Jo and his followers celebrated! They threw a big party to celebrated that the Lord had brought victory to them over their enemies, and the news of it went out throughout the land. (vv27-29)
11. Finally, King Jo rested. This passage ends by stating that “the realm of King Jehoshaphat was quiet, for the Lord gave him rest all around. (v 30)

We have a choice in everything we do.

We can move in with our own plans, often consumed by fear, anxiety and doubt. Or, we can follow King Jo’s lead and turn towards God and others who are faith filled people. When we reach out for help, God is always there to show us the way. Often he does that through the wise friends we gather around us.

We also underestimate the power of worship in the midst of battle. We need to learn to discipline ourselves to worship in the face of danger because this is the Lord’s way of bringing victory through scrambling the plans of our enemy. When we worship the Lord, all the plans the enemy has against us fall down because he can’t stand in the midst of our worship.

Finally, the celebration piece is a non-negotiable after seeing God bring about a victory. When our back is no longer pinned against a wall, or like the Israelites pinned up against a mighty sea, our response is to celebrate and give God the glory and praise he deserves. When we pass it off as “it all worked out” we are robbing the Lord and ourselves of the opportunity to revel in his mighty power to save.

When we go through this whole process of finding ourselves in an impossible situation, looking to God and others, seeing him bring a miracle, celebrating the final piece is rest. Our natural rhythm of life is to have challenge and then rest. When we follow this natural rhythm we experience the fullness of how God specifically created us and how he desires to partner with us.

So, next time your back is up against the wall, who are you gonna call?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Missio Lux Goes Camping

You know what they say: anything worth doing is worth the struggle to get there!
We lived that out this weekend as we had an amazing weekend with other Missio Lux families, as well as a few others that joined in, but no one had an easy time getting there! One family had a very sick child that got well enough in the nick of time, one family had a child have a surgery so they couldn't come at all, others had to work late so they arrived in the dark to set up, it wasn't easy.

Bill and I hit about every obstacle we could find: getting lost (even though I've been there lots of time), unbelievable traffic, too little space....but it was so worth it!

I love camping!

I love being in nature, smelling the trees, seeing the stars, enjoying the coffee just brewing in the morning, best thing ever! I love sleeping in the tent, having my family close by (even though this year we took our two neighborhood children instead of our own as they weren't available), building friendships on a different level with those in our community, the list goes on and on.

One of the gifts of Missio Lux is how well the children get along with one another. They range in age from 3 to 12 in the Arbors Missio Community, yet, they are all friends and no one gets left out. The families who came that aren't part of Missio Lux remarked several times about this and how welcome they felt, especially their children.

We loved our camping location at Camp Cascades. Camp Cascades is a Covenant camp and it has two camping areas; ours had bathrooms and a picnic shelter close by, as well as trash pickup, water and a fire pit.

But, the best part of camping at Camp Cascades is all the amenities: horseback riding, pony rides, a water slide, rock climbing, a lake with a beach and several fun toys: the blog and the Iceberg climbing wall...with even a water snake included for the boys!

Sunday morning we gathered to have a focused time of worship: Psalm 8 was our theme. We measured the earth by a small round ball and then measured the sun by stretching into a 362 foot line...this is how much bigger the sun is than the earth!
We sang some fun songs with movement and then reflected on the power of our thoughts and our words: Our Heavenly Father gave his Son Jesus a blessing at his baptism, how much more we need to hear the words of blessing. We ended by dividing into families and giving one another blessings. As I looked around and watched the families, I could see the power in what was taking place.

Bill and I were able to bless our next door neighbor children: Sydney and Zach. Sydney was very moved by the experience and tears ran down her cheeks. Zach was more into climbing the trees and soon found himself "hanging on a limb,"needing help to get down.

Too soon it was time to pack and leave. It went too fast, but we can anticipate next year and all the fun that we will take place again as we live out what it means to be "the family of God to one another."