And They Had All things Together

We live in complex and polarizing times. Our institutions are declining and our sense of job security and family safety is on heighten alert. Our neighborhoods are growing in diversity with a multiplicity of cultural expressions that challenge our assumptions and codes of conduct. And we are beginning to question lots of things – truth, gender identities, race relations, the economy, politics, education, and global warming — which leads us to a generalized fear and anxiety with just about everything. This has become our new norm — the background noise of life in the 21st century.

My particular dance with all of this is in the church. Often I have heard, “The church is just not relevant anymore, even for many of those who still make it a habit of going to worship and engaging in church activities. We have lost our sense of purpose.” As I travel around the country as a church consultant it has now become the norm for me to hear stories of people and pastors who are on the verge of being done with the entire church enterprise. Not because they don’t care, but precisely because they do. Continue reading And They Had All things Together

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier

artworks_mediumMy friend Ben Yosua-Davis has launched a new podcast called “Reports from the Spiritual Frontier” His vision is to have conversations with people working on the spiritual margins of our country.  Even though he is just beginning to live out this dream, I love his concept and the interviews that he has already posted. (Okay, one of those was with me!)

I have listened to all of them and have learned so much from others who are innovating fresh expressions of faith community formation – the good, the bad and the funny. Now I have a podcast that I can refer people to so that they can have a realistic snapshot of the journey of co-creating the new that longs to spring forth.

Ben is effectively curating and preserving stories that are like the Books of Acts — 21st Century Edition! So find his podcast, add it to your phone, and the next time you are stuck in traffic or on the treadmill have a listen and be inspired!

Leftovers

What do you not have enough of?    If you had enough, how much would that be?

When I was a working parent with young children I didn’t have enough sleep or time for myself.  I dreamt of being able to crawl into bed at 7pm and not worry about the dishes, the laundry and the bedtime routines.  At times I would lock myself in my bathroom and call it my “mommy time-out” just to get a few minutes by myself.  Now, that my children are older, I wish I had more time with them.

Then there is the issue of money.  I live in a well-to-do suburb in a beautiful home with overflowing closets and a stocked pantry, but I continue to wish for more.  Not because I need more, but because I have been shaped by a consumer culture that implicitly reminds me that I am not enough until I have more. I feel at times that I am held hostage by the lie that there is not enough of anything to go around, and it is my job to squirrel away as much as possible to ensure the security of my family.

But truly, is this what life is all about? Continue reading Leftovers

This is the Kingdom of God!

Today I glimpsed the kingdom of God in an inner city church name Mathewson Street in Providence, Rhode Island. My day began with about 300 people sitting around tables drinking coffee and eating a hearty breakfast while a dear soul  played the piano.

I sat with two men who shared stories with me about how they managed in the colder months to keep warm and dry, going from shelters to libraries to churches. They talked about their hopes, joys and struggles. We toasted to forgiveness as Rev. Jack Jones invited us to a love feast and offered prayers of and for the people.

Jack and Russ
Jack and Russ

I met a man named Russ who volunteers in the kitchen starting at 5am every Sunday morning to cook his famous eggs and potatoes. He told me about how he ended up on the streets after breaking 3 bones in his leg days before he was to start his new job as an electrician. He had no health insurance and no support network. He lost everything — his tools, his possessions, his dignity and his truck. He walks with a cane and still questions how he so quickly went from living a middle class lifestyle three years ago to surviving on the streets. But today he moves with joy and renewed hope.

I met Scott, who has come back to the church, finding a community that walks the talk. He has invited over 100 of his friends to be a part of the prayer breakfast ministry. Many of them are from his connections with families from his little league teams. Continue reading This is the Kingdom of God!

Let’s Get Real

According to the October 2012 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, 1 in 5 adults are religiously unaffiliated. When looking more closely at the generational data, 32 percent of adults under the age of 30 fall within the same category. In 1950, the percentage of persons claiming no religious affiliation was a minuscule two percent.

Imagine Jesus showing up today saying to you and a few of your friends, “You will be my witnesses of God’s love in all of Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” What would you do? How would you go about sharing that good news that God’s realm is now? How would you go about helping people to be shaped and formed by that love and peace in your neighborhood?  Really…. without any pre-concieved notions of church or worship? Continue reading Let’s Get Real

YOLO BABY!

About a year ago I was referred to a physical therapist for some right leg and hip pain. Basically the therapist told me that my right leg and hip area had fallen asleep and had lost much of its muscle capacity. I was dumbfounded since I had just finished my first sprint triathlon.

How could I have trained hard for 6 months with my right leg muscles asleep? The therapist told me that this is actually a common occurrence with many people who run. They don’t even know it until the pain sets in. So she set me on a path of healing through a series of exercises that got progressively more difficult with every week of therapy. I still do those exercises every time I run because I surely don’t want my leg muscles to fall asleep again!

As I was running the other day I thought about other places in my life where I have fallen asleep. You know what I am talking about — living my life on auto pilot. A day turns into a week that turns into a month and so on. Let’s face it, how many opportunities do we take throughout the week to intentionally wake up to life in all its glory — the good, the bad and the ugly? Continue reading YOLO BABY!

Searching for… Welcome?

There is a story about a Celtic priest new to his parish walking along a country road. He saw a farmer with his horse and plow working a field, preparing the soil for planting. He hollered out to the farmer. “Hello sir, may a share a word with you?”

The farmer incredulous, looked over his field and said, “ My word for this day is to get this field plowed.”

The parish in which I find myself in Portland, Oregon is called the none zone — the spiritual but not religious zone where 9 out of 10 people do not attend church. In essence I live among folks who would rather have a root canal than walk into a church on Sunday morning.

That is why I love the story from the Gospel of Luke in chapter 10 in the New Testament where Jesus sends out 70 people as his advance team in Samaria, an unfriendly territory with a history of animosity toward the Jews.  Samaritans were known to have an indifference to God language and cool contempt for outsiders trying to preach religion to them.  And yet it is here that Jesus sends us out.

The first thing Jesus instructs us to do is to get on our knees and pray for workers because the harvest is so huge. Could those workers be us? Could he be asking us to pray for our own quest towards grace and boldness because we are like lambs in a wolf pack?  Could it be that this was Jesus’ way to shape and form his apprentices into a new way of living and thinking by jarring us out of our complacency and comfort?  Could it be that he is reminding us that we can do nothing without the guidance of the Spirit of love? Continue reading Searching for… Welcome?