Thursday, October 20, 2011

My boy

You know that old saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?" You might have noticed it's been a while since I've been on here...Butt! Here I am. Not because I have all kinds of nice things to say, but because I haven't said anything in so long! And, honestly? I think that saying is kind of stupid. I think we hold back way too much because we're so concerned with being "nice", when maybe we need to try on a little honesty. (Just don't direct it at me. I might smack your honest face--just kidding). Smacking faces isn't what I want to talk about though...although it would be a pretty fun topic. Maybe next time.

I've started another year of homeschooling with my kids. I have high hopes that this year will be so much better than last year. (I was amazed at my aptitude towards grumpiness last year). We are part of a public school for homeschooling families. Basically, you get to pick and choose from a wide variety of classes to involve your children in. Last year, it was metal arts, pottery, martial arts, musical theater, etc. THIS YEAR, I've enrolled them in the classes that we spent so much time fighting over last year...math, science, language arts, etc. and I get to be the one to do the fun stuff with them. It seems to be working out. I have pretty awesome kids. If you haven't met them, you really are missing out and you probably should get to know them. If you have met know what I'm talking about. They're incredible people.

Here's the thing, little rant, if-you-will. As great as this school has been for classes and what-not, it's weird. We've been here for almost a year now, and we still have not been able to break into the little cliques of parents and students. We've tried. While Zeke was in musical theater, he made a little friend who he thought was pretty cool. So, he called him to try and invite him over. He didn't call back. So, he called him over spring break to invite him over. He never called back...they were gone on vacation. So, he tried to call him several times over the summer. He never returned one phone call. Here's the long do I let him keep pursuing a friend who doesn't seem to be responding? And why doesn't that mother teach that boy to at least have the courtesy to return a phone call? (It makes me mad at that mom, too. I think I end up putting some of the blame of my son's loneliness on her parenting...but, yeah. Not so reasonable on my part.) It breaks my heart to know that my most social child is consumed with a painful loneliness. And as a mom, there's nothing I can do to make it happen.

I sat across from him at lunch the other day. (First of all, what 10 year old wants to sit with their mom at lunch?) I watched him as he watched his brother and sister go off and have lunch with their new friends. And then he sighed...really heavy.
"What's wrong, Zeke?"
"Oh, nothing..."
"Why the heavy sigh?"
"I just wish I had some friends to hang around with..."
I had to fight hard not to cry at that moment. It's amazing to me how you can feel so lonely while surrounded by so many people.

So, I find myself asking the question. What is wrong with us? Why is this so hard to break in to? To be honest, I've never really had a problem making friends or even having people want to be my friend and Zeke is the same way! So this is kind of a blow. It makes me wonder if something happened to us in the process of the move to make us undesirable to potential friends. Did we turn into nerds all of a sudden? Aren't nerds cool right now? Is it that I'm NOT a nerd? Do I not look friendly? Do I look too grouchy? Am I acting like I'm too awesome for everyone so no one wants to approach me? AM I too awesome for these people? (-just joking). Are my clothes ugly? Is it my hair? Is it my freckles? Do I stink? Do I smell intimidatingly too good? What's wrong with us? Is there something wrong with me?

A part of me has to wonder though, with how unusually hard its been to break in, if this is just not where God has intended me to be. I wonder if I would never be comfortable in this environment, because He has plans for me somewhere else?

I think that answer will be coming soon as we see God clearing the way for us to move on down (this weekend!) to the neighborhood where we will be planting a church. Stay tuned for that. Until then, pray for my boy. I would love for God to bring him a buddy.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My little quandary...

Here's something that might seem obvious...unless you're me: if you're wanting an objective opinion, don't talk to homeschooling moms about your inner debate to send your kids back to public school or continue homeschooling! I did that last week...believe it or not, it's not helpful. Homeschool moms aren't super objective about public school. Throw that in with the realization that we think differently than a lot of people about church and ministry, and you've got the makings of one confused mother over here! So, here's my attempt at reasoning with myself.

Many of you already know that our family has taken on homeschooling this year. This decision wasn't made out of a conviction based on how horrible we think public schools are, a need to shelter my children from the world around them, or a belief that I have some extensive amount of knowledge that I need to impart to my children. It was merely a decision of convenience. Before "the move" I would lay awake at night (sometimes until 2 in the morning) just stressing about my kids. I'd stress about yoinking them out of an environment that they are familiar with and throwing them into a brand new place in a brand new town where they didn't know anyone or their way around! Yeah. I would lay awake crying about that little scenario. relieve some of that anxiety, we decided to homeschool, which brought on a whole different KIND of anxiety...but that's a different story. I love to be with my kids (most of the time). Every year, as I would walk them to their first day of school and say goodbye, waving to them, watching their little backpacks bounce on their backs as they ran in...I would hold back tears and wonder if I could just keep them home. I love those guys. They're some of my favorite little people and I don't like to be away from them all day long! (I know that little scenario makes it sound like my kids are little...they're not. I have a 13 year old man-child, a 12 year old mini-me, and a 9 year old version of Will Ferrel. And their backpacks are bigger...but they still bounced when they ran). We actually talked about keeping them home almost every summer. So, I just seized the opportunity this year to give it a whirl. But, looking at next year I am feeling a little torn: To homeschool? Or to Public School? argument FOR homeschooling? Well, for starters, we may be in for yet another move. We are currently renting our house (until November) out here in the suburbs...but we feel that God is moving us toward planting in the urban areas of North Seattle. Having just put my kids through a huge life transition just to get up here, I didn't think that 2 more transitions within the next year would be the best option for them. (If you're having trouble with the math: 1 transition into public school where we currently live + 1 transition into another school if we move in November= 2 transitions within 6 months).

Another argument for OUR family to homeschool is this: given our thoughts on public school and being where people are, we gave ourselves a year to try this thing out. If at the end of this year, we found ourselves further withdrawn from the general population, then we would know it was the wrong decision. (I strongly disagree with "holing up" with other Christians.) However, last week, as I was talking with another mom (ironically, I was kind of disappointed thinking at first, that I was talking to another Christian), I was struck by the fact that this we are enrolled in quite a diverse school. I looked around and saw so many different nationalities, different religions being represented, and heard different languages being spoken. Later that same day, I was talking to several other moms about our husband's involvement in our children's education. I was struck by the lack of involvement of some of the dads...and the toll it can take on a marriage. And it hit me again. This could be an opportunity to support other parents at this school...By looking for ways to support and encourage both parents in their marriage as well as their homeschooling endeavors.
Finally, my last argument for homeschooling is our family's schedule.
  • There is no more rushing around in the morning, yelling at kids to hurry up with their shoes and get to the car, only to drop them off at the school crying and stressed out.
  • There's no more homework that takes up the entire evening, or last minute panic over projects that have been forgotten about.
  • There's time to rest in the morning when the night before has been a late night filled with meetings or practices.
  • There's been freedom in my schedule to be more involved and available for Micah on the forefront of planting another church.
HOWEVER, I agree with Dr. Tim Kimmel (author of Grace Based Parenting) who says this:
"the secularization of the non-Christian community has risen proportionately with our withdrawal from it...the less we need to engage the lost world around us, the more it will be left to its own devices...God left our families in communities to serve as porch lights, if you will, for the lost people around us. We are to be the steady glow that helps them find their way out of the darkness..."
Couple that with children being such a natural bridge between families, and you have our family's convictions. I want my children to know and interact with people who do not think the way that they do, so they can learn to express and stand up for their own beliefs. I want them to be around friends whose home life may be hard or different than their own, so that they can learn what it means to be compassionate and care for their friends' tangible needs. I want them to be around friends from different cultures, traditions and backgrounds so they can learn to relate to all people and respect them for who they are. And, I want to give my kids every opportunity to stand up for what they believe and be aware of the real world that surrounds them. Tim Kimmel goes on to say:
"the real test of a parenting model is how well equipped the children are to move into adulthood as vital members of the human race (not the Christian subculture)...we need to have kids that can be sent off to the most hostile universities, toil in the greediest work environments, and raise their families in the most hedonistic communities and yet not be the least bit intimidated by their surroundings...they need to be engaged in the lives of people in their culture, gracefully representing Christ's love inside these desperate surroundings."
We need to be where people are. We need to teach our children that THEY can and need to be where people are. It has been our experience that...yes! Public school is hard. I've been surprised at how early those petty girl issues start (you know: boys, clothes, judging one another on appearances, being friends one day and hating you the next...that starts now in 2nd grade!!) I've had a son who was slipping through the cracks because school is not geared to his learning style (which is being a boy). We've had talks on what it means to be gay, and in turn have had the opportunity to talk about what it means to love people where they are at. We've had discussions on standing up for our friends who are being mistreated on the playground. We've had our integrity challenged, and sometimes we've failed, then learned about grace. We've had to live out and practice forgiveness, compassion, grace, and boundaries. But, we've also had countless opportunities to develop and care for our friends, and to have community with people who are not just like us or believe like we do. And, I feel that is what we are all called to.

I have heard the argument that this is great in theory, but not at the expense of our children. I feel the temptation to put aside my faith that God has a plan for each of my children, and make this decision based on fear and "protection." I was talking about this the other day with another (homeschooling) mom who said to me "but the Bible says: the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour... I'm not sending my kids out there, Satan is so much stronger than we are" I told her that I disagree. While that verse is in the Bible, (and yes. Satan does prowl around looking for whom he can devour...)the Bible also says "greater is He that is in you (us), than he that is in the world." In other words: If God is for us, who can be against us? (or) God has defeated Satan through the cross, and because I have accepted Jesus and He is living in me, Satan, then has no power over me. (she looked at me all confused at this point...I had ASSumed that we believed the same since she was sitting there with her Bible open... come to find out, we were coming from two drastically different religious views). I strongly believe that God has an individual plan for each of my children, and while I will do my best with them, His plans for them may just be in spite of my best efforts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A shout out to the peeps...

First of all, I know that my last couple of blogs have seemed “bleak.” For those of you who know me well, you can attest that I am not normally a “bleak” type of person. Maybe this made you concerned for me (aww…that’s nice. Thanks for your concern). Or, maybe it made you bored with me and leary of my future “blogging”. (well…screw you. I’m aloud to be bleak…pfft) After my last blog, though, I feel a need to give a shout out to the positives.

I am realizing more and more of our need for one another, or specifically, my need for others. (Which is pretty huge coming from a girl who prides herself on her independence and her need for no one.) Why does our American Society praise such independence? Is anyone really happy being an island? (I’d be happy ON an island, but not AS an island...just thought I'd throw that out there). I think there can be pride (in a good way) in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, or being self-made, sure. But think on this: what would the depth of relationship be like with that person that holds out the hand that helps you up, when you’ve been struggling and yoinking on your bootstraps? Or that person that has loved you long before you were self made, and still saw something to celebrate in you? I’m just sayin’…we are told that we should be so proud and happy to be independent, but we were never intended to be alone in this life!

About 6 months ago, we were called to give up our home and move to Seattle to plant churches (blah. blah...I know you've heard this story). As you can imagine, giving your house away isn’t a super economic move. We didn’t have a lot of money to move…how fortunate for us that we are part of a family much bigger than our immediate one. The week that Micah announced to Compass that we were being called to plant churches in the Seattle area, a guy who’d been attending Compass for only 2 weeks (I'll leave his name out of this so I don't steal his praise down here and in turn gets jipped in heaven) approached him and said “Hey. I’m new here… but I was already asking myself: When’s this guy going to leave already?” He was joking, of course. (Looking back, I HOPE he was joking!) But, his next statement was this: “I just moved here from Lewiston, ID. I know it can be expensive, and I want to pay for your move.” He then went on to give us a significant gift that allowed us to hire movers, and put a down payment on our rental home. I never personally met him or his family.

As some of you may know, we came to Seattle to work (part time) at a church that will eventually be our “mother” church for a church plant, North Seattle Alliance. I’m going to be a little honest here. This church scared me. The median age is about 60, my kids doubled the size of the youth group, and we were here to help with a “redevelopment” of sorts to help this church make changes in order to reach its surrounding community. AND, for those of you who might have read earlier blogs, I had a fear of old people. I know. It’s bad. And, please believe me when I say that God has used NSA and the people there to change me. I am realizing that God has placed me in the perfect spot to get over some of my super dumb issues. I am also super excited about so many of the people at this church who have lived so much life...and I find that I want to learn from them, hear their stories...and just know them!

Anyways, I have been blown away and humbled by the generosity of the people here at NSA. In our first week of attending, they had us stand outside in the foyer so people could line up and meet us. (Which of course, makes me a little IBS), they then gave us a basket full of welcome cards from almost everyone in that church. And in nearly every card, there was a gift card for Fred Meyer, Albertsons, etc. This outpouring of generosity paid for our groceries for almost 2 months after arriving!

(Side note: I was amazingly humbled at the generosity of this church, and their genuine warm welcome, but there was one card that moved me to tears. When you’re a mom, your brain gets all switched around. Suddenly your first priority and thought is of your children and their wellbeing. You find that you hurt when they are hurt, and when my kids cry (about the real hurtful stuff anyways, not the dumb stuff that some kids cry about that just makes you mad) I cry for them, and I feel for them deeply…arguably deeper than they may feel for themselves. I think that’s just being a mom. Anyways, there was one card in the pile that was addressed to my children. All it said inside was “We know everyone is happy that you’re parents are here, but we are so excited that you are here too…” And inside were individual gift cards for each kid to Old Navy. Yeah. That made me cry! That was the best gift someone could give…to welcome and acknowledge my children.

I don’t say all of this to brag on all the gifts we’ve received or to say that gifts are the only way to care. I don't say this because I think that we need people's "love gifts". I am just grateful for a God who will bring me to a place where he graciously shows me the errors in my stupid thinking. He's allowed me to see my need for people of all ages, from all cultures, and from all different economic status' (?). And, I could not have imagined making this move without the support of our future family. And, it’s a comfort to know that we don’t have to make these huge, hard life changes on our own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sun Substitute...

Today I'm questioning what the heck we were thinking in moving up here.
I'm pretty sure I'm not exaggerating when I say that the people up here pretty much suck. And I have not yet mustered up a love for the people of Seattle.
Do you know how many times I've stood waiting at a Redbox for my turn in line, and somebody walks up and says "I'm just returning a movie...can I go in front of you?" To which I want to reply: "HELL NO! Why is your time more important than mine? I, too, have been standing in line! I was actually standing here in the rain and the wind BEFORE you walked up!!" What is that? And you know the funny thing? It's not asked as a question but as an expectation. If you say no...expect them to become enraged at YOUR nerve to give an honest answer! (You may have guessed...this just happened to me). After this little incident (which peeves me more than a little), I drove over to Safeway to get some milk and stamps. As I'm trying to get into a parking spot, I notice that the guy in the spot next to the spot I'm taking is backing up. So, instead of doing my 10 point squeak & turn to get into the parking spot, I decide to wait for him to back up and THEN I'll park. But, as the guy pulls out of his spot, and goes to drive away, he opens his door and hangs half way out to yell at me! I was surprised, since I thought I was doing something nice to wait for him to back out! I don't know if it was saying goodbye that afternoon to our dearest friends (they had been visiting and we miss them), if it was PMS, if it was the rain, or whatever else...but it affected me! It was about then that I decided....I hate it here! I hate the rain. I hate being cold and never warming up. I hate being yelled at for who-knows-what. I hate having given up my home and my incredible friends to come up to this city full of douche-bags. And the task of changing this city seems daunting. Especially when you have no love for it and any appeal that you might have had, slips away with all of these encounters with angry people!
Yeah. That's the kind of day today was.
After watching two drivers jump out of their cars, yell and cuss and almost go to blows because one honked at the other who was blocking a driveway (there's more "honkers" up here than anywhere else I've lived), Zeke, our youngest says: "I think that everybody up here is super grouchy because they don't get enough sun, and they don't get to go outside very much, so they probably don't get enough exercise". True dat! People up here are so grouchy!! And it's contagious.

But, what I realize is that while I am pointing the fingers at everyone, saying how much they suck, I am no better. I am letting them "steal my zeal" (I just made that's pretty catchy). But it's true. All of these grouchy encounters, honkers and glares make me realize that I, too, am getting grouchy. I am becoming "honkier". I glare at those people who try to merge onto I-5 going 40. Therefore, I too, seem to suck.

As we were called to plant a church in Seattle, I feel like God first gave us a name for the new church (or movement, actually)...LUX. It means light. And he gave us 1John 1:5-11 to back it up ("God is light and there is no darkness in him at all...") And, while I am not perfect. That is what we, as a family, are called to. To be different than the super grumpy people up here. To find a way to love the people of Seattle when we don't see much there that we WANT to love! To return the middle finger, not with 2 middle fingers, but with a wave and a smile (or apology??) I'm going to go ahead and call it being a "sun substitute". While the lack of sunshine might be part of the reason that people up here are so stinkin' grouchy, we can substitute a little bit of warmth and light in its absence. Our kindness and grace towards people should not be swayed or hindered by others' grumpy responses toward us. And how much more will we shine (if we can be strong enough...that's easier said than done, obviously) in comparison to the angry, impatient people around us?

Micah's thoughts:

Following Jesus is incredible. When we realize that we also suck or have that darkness clinging to us, we are one prayer away from being brought back into the light. 1 John 1:9 says that God not only forgives us, but takes away the sin. He literally cleanses us. That's good news when we realize the problem isn't just "those people" it's us too. And that good news is motivation to try to help everyone see the brightness of God.

When we first discovered that Seattle is a LOT less friendly than other places we have lived, we began (and continue) to have talks with our kids about doing our part to change the "mood" of Seattle. We asked them: "what if we could shine God's brightness through Seattle one person at a time? By being friendly to a clerk who has had a bad day or smiling at the driver that is showing us who's number one with his special tall finger, or whoever else crosses our path"? The kids suggested that it was too big a task. That it might be impossible. Nonetheless, we keep coming back to this conversation. It might seem impossible, but (by God's grace) we can try to do our part. And when we fail, when we fall short and when we lash out, God is there. Willing to welcome us back and dust the darkness off so that we can shine again.

Mumford and Sons captures this idea in the song Roll Away Your Stone. The lyrics say, "Darkness is a harsh term don't you think, yet it dominates the things I've seen. It seems that all my bridges have been burned, but you say that's exactly how this grace thing works. It's not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with a restart."

And there are those bright moments, when you ask someone how they are doing and their faces light up. They begin to share, or open up, or maybe just move along, but we've had an opportunity to reflect God's light. After asking how a grocery clerks day was going, she replied, "you're the first customer to ask that in a long time."

So, that's where we're at. We're having to learn how to shine in a rainy city...But, we're just learning. And we need a lot more practice...

Monday, March 21, 2011

...just an update

It's been a while, I know. So, I just thought I'd give you all a little update on what's been going on up here!
I guess we are mostly settled (after 5 months), but I've been surprised at how hard this transition has been! I thought (and told some of you) that my family loves change and is quite adaptable...I guess I was going off of the 2 previous moves that we made. The first when I was pregnant with my first child (technically he didn't make that move since his little womb-room moved with him). And the second (we moved from East Vancouver to West Vancouver) when my oldest two were 2 and 3 years old. Yeah. Transition was super easy back then. But, we all love change (for the most part), so that's what I was going off of. What I've been in the process of discovering, though? Transition is very different when you yoink your kids out of school, decide to start homeschooling a 4th, 6th and 7th grader (this was a decision made from circumstances and convenience, by the way...not a huge life conviction. Just in case you were wondering.) and discover that you are now totally responsible for their educational, emotional, physical and social well being!
I have come to realize that nothing can break your heart like your own children. I'm not really an overly emotional person, (I get stressed out and have laughing attacks) but I have found myself crying more in the last 5 months than I probably have in our 14 years of marriage. It's one thing to feel lonely. It is quite another to see your children struggle through it, to feel responsible for it and at the same time helpless to do anything about it! It's been hard and it's been lonely...for all of us.
HOWEVER!! There is a light at the end of this gloomy thought. As I mentioned earlier, we are settling in. We are adjusting! We now know where to grocery shop and where to find stuff. And we are having fun exploring the fun stuff around Seattle. My kiddos have slowly started making some friends, but it is such a process! It makes me realize how I had taken the friendships that they have had since baby-hood for granted. And, I'm not going to lie. They are going to a public school for homeschooled kids and there are a LOT of super dorky kids there. Picture a homeschooled kid...high water jeans, dirty, orthotics-looking white tennis shoes, messy hair...Yep. That's what the majority of them look like. I came out of the shower one morning and heard my boys fighting...and that was the insult of choice. One was crying because the other one said "you look like a homeschool kid". To which I told them. "You all look like homeschool kids! You are all being homeschooled right now!" Anyways. I know I'm being all superficial right now. Sorry. But, I probably won't erase it. I'm just trying to paint a picture of a bit of the culture shift my kids are dealing with...
Anywho, Hannah was so excited when she came home from painting one day and told us that a girl there had invited her to her youth group! (And, I can't even tell you how relieved I felt!!) Zeke has met friends in musical theater (which, I'm not going to lie...scares me a little), and EJ gets to beat up a kid with a mullet (bordering on "skullet") in Martial Arts (just kidding...he doesn't beat him up. He just kicks and "HiYAH!"'s on him)...Over all, though, I think having a regular schedule and the opportunities to connect with other kids, no matter how different from us, has helped them feel settled and hopeful. They are such happy little people...really.

So, now that we are somewhat settled, I DID end up getting what we call my "moving" strep. It's a strep throat I seem to get only when we move! But, this time it was kind of a blessing! I mean, it super sucked having strep and a super high fever and all of that, but there were some great things that came out of it. First of all, we may have found a DR. (or at least a clinic) that we thought was pretty great! And that ALSO makes us feel a little more settled. Second of all, when I went in to get checked out for strep, they discovered that I was anemic. I guess it was pretty bad (according to the numbers were horrible and I didn't even have stored iron. I guess usually you have backup iron?) Anywho, it was bad. Now...a month later. I am so surprised at how many symptoms I had that were "lack-of-iron" related! I won't go into all of the details (as it's pretty boring), but I would have never guessed that dizziness, confusion, depression or a weird heartbeat would be related to iron...but it was! I had been thinking that I was feeling depressed or tired because of the transition! (seriously, there were a lot of mornings where I struggled to even get out of bed) And I thought dizziness and a weird heartbeat were because of high blood pressure or something...oops. And confusion, well...we'll see if that's any better next Costco or Winco trip. OH! And the biggie. I was always crunching ice AND I wanted to lick the sidewalks or eat dirt. Turns out, they're all symptoms of an iron deficiency! (Which is good because I was starting to scheme about how I could sneak a couple nibbles of dirt here and there...seriously. I had a craving.) And one more bonus...since taking iron, I've shaved almost 2 minutes per mile off of my running time! So, yeah. I am grateful for that little bout with strep. Because in the long run, it seems to have turned things around for all of us.
We really are hopeful for the future. We really like where we are living and are excited to explore more of it in the Spring and Summer! As for what is happening with planting the church...we're going to need a whole new blog. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whoa. This got deep...


I've been wrestling with the idea of church. As some of you may know, we are kind of "in the business" of church. So, I guess some thinking about it would be good. The problem is, as I think about it, I'm not sure we're doing it right. We come in and hang out with some peeps (usually the ones we know and are comfortable talking to), pour a cup of coffee (because we're post-modern so coffee in church is all the rage), go sit in our seat (sometimes the same seat every week...and if anyone else sits there it almost visibly puts us into a tail spin!), we sing some songs (sometimes led by a good band, sometimes a quite mediocre/ teetering on sucky band...ok, honestly, sometimes the band just sucks and its too distracting to worship but we raise our hands anyway and try to get into it), listen to a "message" (which sometimes is filled with so much "and all God's people said...?" and "Can I hear an Amen?" 's that it makes me a little crazy....I'm pretty sure I'm one of God's people, but I never know how to fill in the blank. "I don't know...what did God's people say? Woot?"), then we end and leave (sometimes to find our car smashed in the parking lot without a note...that happened to us last week. I just thought I'd add that in. It's ok to laugh). Let me tell you, sitting beside someone who might be coming to church for the first time, you pick up on the little things that might make them uncomfortable! How ARE they supposed to know what all God's people said? I had a friend lean over to me during worship and ask why everyone was raising their hands. I think we get so comfortable with our churchy selves that we forget to see how church would look to a fresh set of eyes. I think it would look pretty weird. But, I think we're comfy. I think we've been misled for the last couple of hundred years that there is a formula to follow, and as long as you're following that, you're good. You've done your duty, and someone's life might be changed along the way. I'm wondering how much life change is happening in our churches anymore, or if its becoming our excuse for complacency during the rest of the week. But the fact is, why would someone wander into these churches? And what would church have to offer them? The church has been following the same "formula" for hundreds of years, but culture is in constant's time for "church" to grab a clue and change along with it!
So, here's what I'm wrestling with: given all that, I'm tempted to think that in order to make a difference, or the ONLY way to make a difference is to start new and fresh. To say "screw this", leave "church" as we know it, and forge our own way. To some extent, that is what we need to do. However, I was hit with this thought today. What the church really needs is for those of us with a desire for change to STAY and change. To allow the church to see a revolution beginning within its own walls. It only takes a couple of people with a vision to start a revolution. And shouldn't that revolution be started in the middle of the people around us who have become complacent? To inspire people who are comfortable to step outside of that comfort zone? Can you imagine the impact if we start a revolution where a spark can trigger a fire? Where people who have the skills and resources can be inspired and encouraged to do something DIFFERENT than they are used to! To those brave visionaries out there: GO!! Start a revolution! But don't hide what you are doing away from those who need to learn from you: the people that fill our churches. You could be that spark that lights a fire under those bums filling the pews, and rescues our churches from the complacent state it's in!

Oddly enough, Micah and I were thinking the same thing when I started to write this blog and I invited him to chime in. Here's Micah:

We can be certain that continuing in complacency, continuing the same traditional approaches, and perpetuating the attitude that the church exists for "church people" will result in the same discouraging results we are seeing today.
Recently I was at a church where a pastor friend of mine used a great deal of "Christian jargon". I know this pastor has a tremendous heart for people outside of the church, but his practices communicated that church exists for church people who know the insider vocabulary. As it was bugging me (which I know is my own sin issue), I was tempted to give up on trying to influence him otherwise. I excused it saying, "that's just his style", but I was struck with the very challenging fact that to give up could result in yet another church drifting into it's comfort zone with comfortable Christians. We talk about sharing the good news of Jesus and people applaud, but when changes are made to help us better share the gospel the feedback is of a different nature.
What will the uphill battle take? What will those revolutionaries have to endure to see the sparks ignite?
A number of years ago, I remember hearing a pastor of a new church that was effectively impacting its city say that their effectiveness was linked to really getting back to the gospel and repenting of their indifference for the world around them. At the time, I thought, "yeah that's good, but what does that even mean?" Since then I've had a number of experiences that help me see what he was talking about, or at least what I think he was talking about. The future of the church and it's impact in the world is directly connected to our understanding of the pure essence of the gospel. The challenge is getting at the pure essence of the gospel. When you think about how churches handle the gospel, there is so much added to it. A few examples: I remember hearing an individual say, "can a democrat even be a true believer." A friend of mine in college was perplexed and concerned after a trip to Nepal. He was so concerned about these people who hadn't heard the message of Jesus and asked one of his favorite college professors how to handle this. The professor's response was, "good thing we don't have to worry about it". A popular pastor prescribing that Christians never dabble in yoga, lest they invite little demons into their life. These examples share a common thread, an enculturated gospel, a gospel of Jesus and....(political views, entitlement and judgement, separatist world views, etc...)
Another illustration came from a recent conversation with a friend who spent several years in West Africa. He was describing the polygamist practices in Mali. He said the men take several wives because of the work load of their agrarian lives (the wives do most of the work). He told me of several families that had come to know Jesus and started participating in the Mali church. Knowing how many of our stateside churches would handle a polygamist family attending their church, I was curious to know how the church in Mali handled this. His answer was simple, it's a non issue. Coming to Christ is a free invitation that required no jumping of cultural hurdles. This practice, polygamy may change in future generations as generations of Jesus followers abandon the practice, but coming to know Jesus doesn't first require the jumping of cultural barriers. The gospel is truly being presented as an invitation to people right where they are at.

So, back to the pastor, the talk I didn't really get, and the discussion of igniting fires of revolution within existing churches. The call of this revolution is simple and yet I believe it will be a battle. The call is to simply present the true gospel (let's call it Jesus 1.0) less all it's cultural baggage and first let it impact our own lives in a way that creates a tremendous sense of urgency. Jesus' gospel is an invitation to follow Him, find forgiveness, and be invited into a life changing eternity with God that starts now.
The call also means that we reflect Jesus in the way we invite others into this life changing eternity. Jesus left heaven and his perfect relationship with God to become one of us. Jesus, the Godman was sent and made His dwelling with us. That same kind of sending is what God is calling us to. To go into the world (not staying inside the church doors) and dwell with people, living the goods news and sharing the good news.
Let me give you a couple examples of people living this out, so that you can see what this looks like...and how easy it could be:
Family number 1 has extended family and friends who don't know Jesus and are not comfortable stepping foot into a church. Dad is an elder at his church and tattoo artist. Seeing people who are far from Jesus and opportunities to care for them, they step down from leadership in order to open their schedules and home to people who are seeking and questioning.
Family number 2 decides to wake up early on a chilly Saturday morning to make breakfast burritos, meet up with friends and deliver said burritos to the homeless. 57 burritos are delivered along with hot coffee, and an eternal impact is made on their children in teaching them how to think outside of themselves to care for others.

A man at our church here in Seattle, after hearing and considering the story of the Good Samaritan, feels compelled to go out and search for people who need shelter, food, or medical attention. He goes out daily during the week to help those in need. He tried to get help from the church, and only one person offered to occasionally help with vehicles.

A local doctor has a vision to extend his knowledge and gifts to people in need. He starts a free medical clinic within a church with little recognition.

These people are revolutionaries. They are seeking to extend God's love outside of the walls of the church.
Imagine for a moment the impact of existing churches turning the corner and using their strengths, assets, people for the sake of the world. Dream of the impact of abandoning our comfortable traditions and truly seeking to exist to present Jesus to the World. Conceive of churches restructuring around the idea of existing for people outside the church and willingly letting go of how this challenges their preferences.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm not sure what to call this one...

Hello Everyone!!
So, I just got back from a pastor's renewal retreat in Cannon Beach. I know. It sounds "pastor-y", and it was. I kind of had a little panic attack the first night. First of all, we had about a 9 hour drive (from Wenatchee), so we walked in late to the speaker. And it was crowded. So we climbed over this one guy to find seats. I was wearing my Michelin Tire Man coat, but it was too crowded to take it off without elbowing everyone around me in the face, so I kept it on and became very claustrophobic. So, I started panicking! I got all hot and squirmy in my seat, and totally resisted the urge to bolt out of there! That's what happens to me at conferences like that! What's my deal? Talking with any of these people one on one is perfectly fine and comfy! And I knew a lot of them...and they are all awesome people! But, you put a bunch of pastors in a group and it stresses me out. Anywho, that doesn't have anything to do with anything. Except that the time away allowed me the space to make a couple of realizations.
First of all, the speaker was Ruth Haley Barton. She is the author of "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership". Now, this might come as a surprise to many of you, but I haven't read the book. Probably because the title is "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership"...and I don't know really what that means, and I'm not really in leadership. However, she was inspiring (and a little intimidating)! But, she had us take this test to draw attention to the state of our souls that asked questions like: Do you find yourself hiding from people that you run into in the grocery store?...Do you find yourself using escapist behaviors like mindless television? Do you find that you are easily irritated? And we had to check off Always, Often, Sometimes, Rarely, Never. I have to say...most of my answers (out of about 20) were in the "always" to "often" range! So, as we sat there and analyzed my little test, my first realization of the week was: MY SOUL IS SCREWED!! Now, I'm not sure what to do about this yet (as I was barfing the next day when she gave us the "what to do about your screwed up soul" talk)...but I plan on looking into and working on the health of my soul...I guess its a starting point to just know, right? Rather than to go on wondering why you're so worn down, yelling at bad drivers and my children, hiding from people in grocery stores then coming home to veg out to Spongebob Squarepants! So...more to come on that journey!
The second realization came on the 9 hour drive to the beach. I was talking to Micah and I realized (and verbalized) I don't know who I am up here in Seattle. I'm just DOING some stuff, some of it intentionally, but mostly just doing...And, it's a weird place to be. But, not only that, I also find myself fighting against people's expectations of who they think I should be. Here's some examples:
"Are you going to the women's Bible Study?"
"There's a great Sunday School class for you and Micah to go to..."
"Why isn't your child in Sunday School? Does he want to go to Sunday School? Would you like me to show you where his Sunday School is?"
"Do you go to B.S.F (Bible Study Fellowship)?"
The answer to all these is NO!! I am not interested in women's bible studies or MOMS groups...I hate BSF...I am not interested in Sunday school and if my children aren't either, I don't blame them and won't make them go! But so far, I have been afraid to say so. And instead, I'm glad I have an excuse not to attend! I'm even hesitant to help with worship because I think it furthers the "box" that people put me in as a pastors wife. The fact is, for some reason, God has chosen to use my openness, my honesty, my humor, my openness of my unlimited number of shortcomings and even my contempt of "church-y" things to draw people in to a relationship with Jesus.
Please understand, I DO think that there is a place for women's bible studies and I've seen MOMS groups change entire families. (I'm not too sure about BSF or Sunday school though as I think it is a way to "hoarde" or "quarantine" mature Christians and keep them from engaging with people who might be far from God). I'm just pretty sure that is not what God has called ME to. And believe me, I've tried and even led them. I believe that God is graciously using my shortcoming and the crazy way He's put me together to show those who might not know the grace of Jesus that He not only loves and accepts the extremely imperfect, He uses them to break down barriers, to blow away expectations and prejudices, and to further His Kingdom.