Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Discipleship’

Releasing the Knot

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

My poor little daughter, Bis, slept in a wierd fashion on Dec. 23.  The next morning she had a stiff neck and couldn’t turn it.  Even if I gave it a little massage it wouldn’t get any better.  Poor little thing.  When she’d turn to look at something her whole upper body would have to turn – breaks your heart to see it.

Then, in the middle of the night her little voice would cut through the night.  She couldn’t move and needed help.  We didn’t sleep well on the 24th, 25th, 26th.  And in the middle of the night on what would technically would be the 27th I decided a trip to the doctor was in order…we needed to get this knot out…and…I knew what I would preach on for New Years Day.  God spoke to me.

This little girl slept between mom and dad, knotted up neck that kept her from being herself – kept her from exerting all her energies, all her power, all her joy, all of what makes her our Bis.  And in the glow of my alarm clock God made it clear that I am the same way.  I have a knot that has been keeping me from everything that God has made me to be, and it was time to get the knot out.

So I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon after having written two letters addressed to different parts of the United States.  As I wrote them I found that my knot began to smooth out.  I released over 1,000 days of anger and resentment and rage and hurt that I’ve been harboring against a couple of people.  They will be surprised to receive a letter apologizing for sending three years of evil thoughts in their direction, I’m sure, but I felt I needed to say I was sorry.  No blame.  None of the words I dreamed up for them over the years – just one paragraph letting them know that I am now moving toward wishing them well.

Bis has been to the doctor a couple of times.  She’s turning her head both ways and starting to jump around the house and jump on the couch when she thinks I’m not looking.  She’s coming back.  I can already feel the same is true of me.

I’m hoping for some good sleep tonight.

One in the Parenting “Win” Column

September 28, 2011 2 comments

My son is an american.  He’s into baseball, potty humor, and canned ravioli.  He’s also into having more money – always looking for ways to make money: sell this, go door to door that, “let you pet my dog for a dime” kind of things.  So, when I walked into his bedroom a couple of nights ago I was not surprised to see him with a pile of change.  His sister was with him, and they were counting.

“What’s with all the money, Alex?”

“Bis gave it to me.”

“Oh……………Why would she do that?”  At this point I’m expecting an explanation of an older brother’s well-executed scheme for getting money from a little sister.

“I’m going to help hungry people.”  Not what I was expecting.  Knowing my son, I knew that if anything good was going to come of this, I had to let him make the next move.  So…I let it sit.  The next day he approached me.

“Dad, want to make a donation?”

“A donation to what?” I’ve heard this before.  Usually it’s a donation to the ‘Buy Alex a Puppy Fund.’

“I’m going to help hungry people.”

“Of course I will make a donation so you can help hungry people.”  My heart is swelling.  It’s not that my son is more selfish than any other 8 year old boy, but I haven’t seen this out of him very much.  “Would you like me to help you get it to the right place, and see if I can get more people to give?”  I’m going to pour gasoline on this small fire.

We opened the computer and looked at our denominational website and found a way to feed kids in Malawi.  We’re going to enlist the help of our church (and you, if you’re interested).  Of course dad the church planter is going to let the paper know about his plan to help hungry kids.

The goal is to get a mile of pennies.  If you lay 84,480 pennies end to end they reach one mile.  They also feed 17 kids from Malawi, Africa for a year and give them the chance to hear that God loves them and cares for their well-being inside and out.  We have little cardboard donation boxes coming that we can color.  I picked up some flyers and posters the denomination has available, and we’ll have a special offering.

Later in the day I asked Alex what made him want to raise money for other people.  “I was sitting in my room thinking I didn’t have enough money, and trying to think of ways I could get some money,” (all this is exceptionally believable, by the way), “Then I started to think that there are people who don’t have ANY money, so I started thinking of ways I could help them get some money.”

As a good friend of mine always says, “Parenting is not for the faint of heart.”  And this is true.  I stumble along and do the best I can and trial and error my way through parenting, like most people.  But a moment like that is what keeps me going.  It’s like the one shot on the golf course that keeps you returning.

So, celebrate with me, and if you feel so inclined send some pennies to our church’s mailing address: 630 State St., Holland, MI  49423.

Moving to Two Services

Embody has come to the place of making a big decision: do we move to two services or move to a new location?  We’ve been worshiping for nearly 2 years now, and this is an exciting delimma to be in because it means we’re growing.  The leadership team has worked on this for quite a while and looked at options, prayed, and discussed the matter and come to the conclusion that it’s time to go to two services.

This causes some concern amongst the Embody family because it means not worshiping all together.  It bumps up against the value of community that we have forged and honed.  So, I was not surprised that the church went into anxiety mode when they heard about the change.  Now, I should say that this is not the first that they had heard about it.  We met 6 months ago to discuss the possibility and heard concerns and questions at the time…and decided that then (6 months ago) was not the time to start moving in that direction.

But now our growth is dictating that it’s time to do “something.”  It’s well-documented that when a church is 80% full (or feels that way) that the church won’t grow.  Our capacity is 100 and we start to feel full at 85-90 (something we’ve had about 7-8 times).  In the summertime (a slower time in West Michigan) we have been in the 60’s and 70’s with a few 50’s and 80’s.  If everyone who calls Embody home were to come at the same time we would be over 120.  As the Fall approaches, people will find a routine that includes worship – and people for whom worship is not part of their routine…they may be looking for a safe place to explore faith.  It’s a prime time for growth.  The way I see it the options are these:

  1. Move to a new location – (problem…there are not new locations available in our area – the place we are called to minister)
  2. Alter our worship space – (problem…we did that and created space for more people…now filled up often and feeling full)
  3. Alter our worship space further – (problem…doing that would mean more money than we have, and we can not get a loan until we can cover our own expenses – something we can not do yet)
  4. Buy the land and build something – (same problem as further altering our worship space)
  5. Worship in two seperate services until we reach the amount of people or offering to cover our expenses and make a change to our space where we can worship together again…which is a goal – (problem…many are concerned that we will become two churches)

These are tough choices to work through. It comes down to a choice between two values: 1. the value of ministering to a locale underserved by churches and 2. worshiping in the same space at the same time

Both of these are important values.  One of them, I believe, can be overcome by intentionality of community-building and spending time together as a people outside of set worship times.  The other places us outside our sphere of influence and inevitably within a snowball’s throw of another church.

Way to solve the problem #1: immense donation by a rich uncle (this I don’t want because it keeps us from working it out together – that and I don’t have a rich uncle. #2 Become tithers (this takes time and a growth in discipleship) I anticipate this coming over time, but it is not something I can push because many in the church have been burnt and feel that churches just want their money.  #3 Grow in number of regular worshipers (this takes time – unless I went around to all the churches in our area and tried to skim off the top – something I won’t do because it’s not what I’m called to do, and…it tends to gather malcontents.)

I hate having to focus on numbers of people and $, but they are a reality if not the focus.  You can’t hide from them, just deal with them.  The reason to have more people is not because they bring a pocketbook but because they have an opportunity to engage God, God’s word and faithful people in a meaningful and authentic way.

So…here’s where we are: the decision has been made, the concerns and questions heard (they have been very helpful), a “make-it-happen” team formed, the anxiety raised, the plea for help raised to our God, and I’m asking you to be in prayer for Embody as we start this next phase of growth.  (Oh, and if you’re a rich uncle – anybody’s rich uncle – call me.)

The Big Glue

May 5, 2011 2 comments

Dana will remember and point it out to me after she reads this.  I can’t remember where it happened, but I do know when it happened.  It was Good Friday and we bumped into random stranger lady who made a comment about it being strange that the calendar landed on both Good Friday and Earth Day.

Earth Day.  You might know it.  It’s when the hippy community and the Christian community have an extra thing in common – caring for creation.  My first interaction with Earth Day was from my science teacher in 8th grade, Robin Ringland.  I grew up in Stanwood, Washington, and there was absolutely no way Robin could have professed Christ in the midst of her teaching overtly – she’d be out faster than you can say molecular biology.  But she did point us in the trajectory of Christ – especially on Earth Day.

Back to random stranger lady – the kind of person I like to interact with.  She mentioned the shared date of Good Friday and Earth Day with a big question mark on the end.  We were walking away when I saw the glue that brings the two together.  Reconciliation.  Good Friday and Earth Day are all about reconciliation.  God is reconciling to Godself the creation: both humankind and the Earth.  Why shouldn’t they happen on the same day?

If you are one who calls yourself after the name of Christ, I’m guessing you’re called to be a part of that reconciliation.  We usher in this coming Kingdom of God which has within it a shalom, a wholeness, a complete-as-it-was-in-the-beginning kind of reconciling between God and God’s creation: man, woman, mineral, vegetable, science, truth, beauty, art, hard work, work without toil, sabbath, relationships, clean air, birds, and horses.  World without end.  Amen.  Amen.

Primum Non Nocere…or…The Hippocratic Christian

April 29, 2011 1 comment

My friend, Chris, is a pastor in town.  His church has a building with a gym in it.  It’s medium sized, but very useful and they use it.  On Tuesdays about 30 guys from the community show up.  3-4 of them go to his church, 3-4 others go to other churches, but the rest have no connection to the body of Christ…except of course that they gather every week in the church building for fun and fellowship: pretty close.

Chris is one of my heroes.  He showed up in town about the same time I did and started serving a church that has been around exactly 100 years.  This church has tons of tradition, and they are just down the road from an alternative school…a school with no gymnasium.  You see where this is going, right?

Church reaches out to school of troubled kids, basketball team has a place to play, troubled kids do better in school, school starts to trust church, kids start to look up to pastor who shows up frequently to mentor kids, kids tell their friends about the gym, friends…older and a little rougher…show up on a weekly basis, pastor communicates to congregation what God is up to with their building, people start praying, pastor asks the question: “What am I supposed to do with these guys?”

Primum Non Nocere.  That’s the latin for “First, do no harm.”  These kids now have, perhaps, their first connection to a church, and are really skeptical.  The whole thing is tenuous at best, and my friend, Chris is wondering how far do I go with the whole “Don’t look now, fellas, but you’re in a church building” activities.  I say first do no harm. 

There are a lot of well-meaning Christians who feel the need to immediately present the gospel message to anyone and everyone.  I understand this impulse.  There is a certain immediacy to responding to Christ.  But.  But what if God’s not in a hurry? What if your neighbor or your brother-in-law or your friend at work needs to experience Jesus and the coming Kingdom of God in you and your life before they are anywhere near able to hear the message?  What if your immediate words are lost on someone who is skeptical, and your anxiety-laden pleadings will make things more difficult for them?

Why not get Doris and Philbert to pray for these basketball-loving twenty-somethings?  Why not invite some more church guys to come and just play…just play.  Why not get Sara to bake those award-winning pies and surprise the guys with goodies – no strings attached – just pies because it would be nice?  Why not be there when there’s an inevitable crisis?  The pastor who is there every week and plays ball shows up in the emergency room to be present and offer a prayer.  The lady who baked a pie brings by a meal while someone heals up from surgery.  Doris and Philbert drop a card in the mail saying that they are praying for a quick healing.

Let things happen.  Let life happen and let Jesus show up in His own timing.  Do no harm.  Be a Hippocratic Christian.

The Jist of the Quist

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Quist At Work

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine.  We see each other on Tuesday mornings at the Way Cup Cafe on 17th Street.  He’s young.  He’s a pastor.  He’s a pastor of a church in our target area.  He’s thoughtful.  He’s funny.  He’s smart.  So…he’s a young, thoughtful, funny, smart pastor of a church in our target area.  Oh…and the best part: he get’s it. 

His name is Mark Quist and he pastors a medium sized church (for this area).  The church has been around for a longish while and has all the properties of a church with multiple generations.  So, Mark has his work cut out for him in some areas and has it made in others.  Mostly, Mark is the kind of guy who knows how to patiently walk with a group of believers who genuinely want to make a difference for the Kingdom of God in their area…our area.

I love LOVE LOVE! it when I get to see Mark at the Way Cup, and I’ll tell you why.  It’s not because we sit for a few minutes before we get our sermons started for the week.  It’s not because he laughs at things I think are funny.  It’s not because we see things in the same way.  It’s not even the fact that we’re the same height (something tough to find for me in Dutchland here).  It’s this: every week when I see Rev. Quist I feel like Elijah under the broom tree when God reveals that he’s not the only one out there.

I am encouraged.  I’m strengthened.  I am reminded that God is at work in multiple places in multiple ways to do the same thing: usher in the Kingdom of God on the South side of our town.  Renewed and invigorated, I carry my coffee cup back to my table, laptop, Bible (mobile church office) and am spurred on to greater faith and works.  Who is that person for you?  For whom do you fill that role?

Categories: The Slow Grow Tags: , ,

You Mean I’m Going To Look Like You?

Spring Break.  My kids were watching TV when I came downstairs this morning.  I was prepared for many questions like: what’s for breakfast? or when are we going to crazy-bounce? or will we see our friends this week? or can you help me in the bathroom?  But I wasn’t ready for the question that did come first.  The kids were watching the animated movie UP.  I could see that they were at the point of the movie where the old man was dealing with the loss of his wife after her death.

They heard my “Good morning” and Alex made his way into the kitchen to ask me, “What happens to us when we die?”

Ok.  Good morning.  “Well, Alex, the Bible tells us that when we die we live with God forever.”  “What about our bodies?”  Now, I’ve been struggling with teaching my children dualism.  It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with, but I just went ahead and embraced it for the moment until they are a little older and we can have a better conversation about the distinction or connectedness between the body and the soul.  “Our bodies go into the ground and our souls, our thoughts and who we are inside go to heaven to be with God…to keep living with Jesus forever…in fact the Bible tells us we’ll get a new body.”

“You mean I’m going to look like you?”

“Bad news for you kid.  The older you get the more you’ll look like me.  Take a look, buddy, because this is your future.”

Then it was back to the movie and breakfast and crazy-bounce prep.  I headed out the door to get ready for Easter and began thinking about the whole interaction.  Death lurks just beyond the next corner always, but because of Easter I don’t have to fear it, in fact the adventure only turns a page…but a preface to the rest of my time in God.

The real challenge is becoming the type of person I want my children to look like.  If they’re going to look like me, I better pay a little more attention to what they’re seeing, so that when they look in the mirror in 30 years they don’t mind passing along the type of person they’ve inherited.