Thursday, 29 July 2010

station stop - our street church-in-the-park

I'm still going through my old posts, in preparation for redesigning this blog site - and found a pretty cool description of one of our street church gatherings.  Enjoy! 

So here goes....

I got up this morning at 4:45 and boiled 2 dozen eggs. Then I went to church-in-the-park/ basement and it was so neat! And I learned some amazing things! Thank You, Papa!

When I got to church-in-the-park (aka, at the moment, church-in-the-churchyard-and-basement, lol!), I started setting things up. Pastor P came in and told me we can start using the stoves in the kitchen! Yay! So I can make up cheese biscuits, bread dough, etc, at home, and bring it in and put it in the oven to bake! I can also make porridge there! Even boil eggs there!

Looking forward to that, instead of always having to make it at home, and bring it with me, pulling it in my "granny cart" (since I usually walk, and it’s a half hour trek, and the weather is cold now, everything ends up cold, which is not so great! It will be awesome to be able to provide hot-from-the-oven/stove stuff!)

So I was digging around to see what was available for today. Coffee, black and green tea (quite a few people happily taking a couple tea bags home as well), hot chocolate, juice (well, made from powder…). B was outside cooking hot dogs on the campstove grill. Inside, I put out brown and white bread, and Eggo waffles by the toaster (with a variety of toppings, of course). Also instant oatmeal packets.

There was no milk, so one of the guys donated a couple twonies (those are Canadian $2 coins, for the information of you non-Canadians!), and another guy hopped on his bike and went to the 24-7 Convenience Store to get some. Also dug around in the fridge and found mandarin oranges, apples, homemade cookies, some Hallowe’en candy. And also put out the boiled eggs. It was a feast! Everybody (almost 120 folks turned up! It seems to grow every week!) sure enjoyed it!

It was such a beautiful morning. Very little breeze and almost clear sky – nice when the sun came up. Most of the folks were hanging around outside, but would come in periodically for coffee and food, and to warm up. It seems to me like a lot of people are hanging around longer, instead of just “eating and running.”

About 7:30 or 8:00, a teacher and 4 students from a local middle school arrived with bags and bags of clothes they had collected, after hearing about homeless people, and wanting to help out. They spread them out on at least 6 or more long tables, and all the street folks came in and joyfully dug through the piles of clothes. There were a lot of winter items (jackets, hats and gloves, warm pants, sweaters, sweat shirts, etc) and they were so happy to get them. A lot of people are still sleeping outside, even though it is November and the weather has been pretty cold (below freezing some nights) and wet. There seem to be more people still sleeping outside in November this year, than in previous years.

One lady, who is in a wheelchair following a stroke, was delighted with all the pretty, feminine clothes she found. She filled up the big bag on the back of her wheelchair, smiling from ear to ear. She said it was like Christmas! She couldn’t wait to go home and try on her new wardrobe – dresses, skirts, pants, blouses, sweaters, even pyjamas and underwear. She was SO happy! I was helping her pick out items, but pretty soon all the students joined in to help, and then even some of the guys helped.

People were happily choosing clothes for themselves – but then someone else would need something they’d already picked out, but couldn’t find any more – and those who already had picked out those things for themselves, would dig into their own piles and share what they’d found with the others! They also were picking out clothes for people they knew who couldn’t make it this morning.

As often happens, one of the men came in, concerned because no one had seen one of the street guys for several days. He talked about it to Pastor P , who promised to check the hospital and make some calls. The family on the street really do look after each other!

Of course there are some people who don’t get along very well with some other people – but everyone understands that at church-in-the-park you leave your disagreements behind. Because it is known to be a safe, family kind of place, a number of these “dislike relationships” have over time turned into good friendships!

About 8:30, a pastor who is also a ventriloquist arrived, and everyone sat down for a show (an unusual event at street church). It was really entertaining, lots of good jokes and laughter… but also a clear message of the peace and happiness God brings into lives, and encouragement to get into God’s Word, and come to know Him.

About 9:15, after cleaning up the hot-dog set-up, as well as the table of free Bibles and some other Christian literature, some folks came inside and helped clean up there as well. More and more people are pitching in to help set up and clean up. It used to be really on Pastor P’s shoulders a lot of the time, with some help from 3 or 4 volunteers, but more and more the street community themselves are really pitching in and sharing in the work.

(Oh yes! Someone had donated a bunch of reading glasses – and people were happily trying them on. Little things like that make a big difference in peoples’ lives).

Then those who wished to do so, sat down around some pulled-together-tables (Pastor P would love to get some couches!) with their coffee. After prayer (which also happens together at the beginning of the morning, individually or in small groups throughout the morning as people need it, and again together before everyone leaves), Pastor P brought some teaching. He had some new business cards, and he handed one out to each person. On the cards were listed, besides his contact information, some verses that are key to Another Chance Ministries. He read each verse by turn, and explained why he had chosen it for the card. At all times, people were free to ask questions or make comments.

Some of the new believers really have no “background” in the Bible or Christianity at all. They ask some really basic questions, and it is neat to hear Pastor P and others explain things in simple terms that they can grasp, using examples related to their own lives….

Questions like “ Why are some words in this Bible red?” … and “Well, if that is who Jesus is, then who is Christ?” (which led on to an attempt to simply explain the basics of the concept of the Trinity!), and, after Pastor P was reading the passage about the “woman caught in adultery,” the question, “Why did they only go after the woman? Men are worse adulterers!” (which led to a discussion of 1st century society… and then to present day differences in religious beliefs and in different societies… and how Jesus’ teaching on equality before God really upset(s) a lot of people!). Finally, the young woman who was asking these particular questions begged, “Stop! Stop! That’s all I can absorb at one time!,” and everyone laughed and agreed!

This is typical of “church services” at church-in-the-park: while Pastor P more often than not has a short  “teaching” planned, the Spirit of God often takes it in some interesting directions or a different “plan” altogether, and Pastor P is very sensitive and open to that (but also very wise in recognizing things that are “rabbit warrens” and keeping the conversation and teaching from going those directions).

Also, of course, not only Pastor P answers and teaches and shares; others are also free to contribute, and do. No question or testimony or other sharing is looked down upon, from any person (although purposely silly or negative comments and questions are quickly dispensed with). Also, everyone is always encouraged to take a free Bible with them when they go, and to dig into it, learning from God’s Word themselves, and getting to know God on an on-going personal basis, rather than just depending on the teaching at the gatherings.

By the way, the verses on the Another Chance Ministries card are:
Matthew 22:39 “… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 8:21 “… My mother and My brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.”
John 8:7 “…He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone…”
1 Corinthians 13:13 “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

And these verses do reflect the emphasis of the part of God’s family that is “Another Chance Ministries” (aka church-in-the-park!)… a gathering of believers and seekers – and anyone who wants to come and experience the family life that is found in Jesus. By the way, some people who come to know Jesus from experiencing this street ministry, will go on to also participate with other “churches” in the community (all part of “the church at Penticton," of course!), while still taking part in church-in-the-park, and continuing to reach out to, and be part of the street-level family).

(You can check out the website at – the site is a bit in need of updating, but it will give you a picture of this family).

So… we had to pack up about 10 am, because the generous folks of St. Andrew’s Church, who so generously offered free use of their grounds and their fellowship area (dining room, washrooms, kitchen) – were gathering together to do some choir practice before their own church service, and to set up for their own coffee time.   But as usual, we continued fellowshipping outside, until it was time for folks to head off to the soupateria for lunch.

November 8, 2009

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

another station stop along the journey

Another post from the past....

I had an interesting dream this morning. I was at a church meeting of some kind. It was an attempt, I think, to be free-flowing and to allow different people to take part and so on. Still, there was a man, up on a platform behind a podium, kind of running the meeting... at least announcing a general outline or agenda. It was his first time to do this, and he goofed! He missed some events that the woman who usually was "in charge" included, and she stopped him and loudly reminded him of what he was leaving out, insisting that these things happen immediately. However, the people who normally "led" these things weren't prepared for whatever reason, so everyone in the audience was sitting there figgeting while those folks tried to organize themselves. So of course you-know-know (yes, me!) got up and made some "suggestions" to get things organized and back-on-the-road again. Oh dear. Lord, are You telling me something???)

When it comes to this whole conversation about "church," it is not so difficult to SAY "we need to change," or even to say, "We need to focus on Jesus instead of on our programs" (or instead of on our vision or our mission statement, or even on the vision of the senior pastor or board or whatever).... but it is not to easy to CAST ASIDE things that we've previously accepted, committed to, participated in (possibly enthusiastically), encouraged (or pushed) others to participate and commit to... things we have even "believed in."

By the way, is there a difference between all those attitudes and actions, and actual, personal, "believing in?" Is it possible to actually "believe in" an organization/program/idea... or can we really only "believe in" a person? What or who is the object of our belief? Does that thing or idea or person have enough of what it takes, that we can "put our faith in" it or him/her, and be truly satisfied, and truly be able to trust that object of our belief no matter what?

It comes down to the fact that human beings, no matter how wonderful, can never, in the end, fulfill those expectations and needs, which we seem to have been created with, and without fulfillment we are left floundering and lost. And the same thing applies to human institutions and constructs of any kind, be they organizations, ideas, programs, theories, buildings, liturgies, whatever.

Which really does bring us back to our very deep-rooted need for the supernatural - for God. Not "a god" or even "gods" or "Gaia" or "a higher power," but The God, our Creator and the root of our Purpose, and our Way, our Life... the Truth. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only true God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen" (I Timothy 1:17).

Our problem seems to be that we want to place God into, well, into a box of our own making; to redesign Him or even create our own God whom we can understand and control.

We can't, of course.

But when we try - when we attempt to "download" Him into a man-made program, firstly we leave most of Him behind because He just won't fit into our narrow parameters; and secondly, our programs, no matter how wonderful, seem always to be in beta state, with endless glitches... and crashes.

What to do? We are human. And we can't comprehend all that He Is. It seems inevitable that we need some kind of structure, some kinds of metaphors, that help us to relate to, yes, to be in relationship with, our unlimited God, Who is, clearly, very Personally Relational, and yet, in so many ways is also incomprehensible to us with our limitations.

And in reality, that is a good part of the purpose of "the church" - which of course He Himself designed. The problem for us seems to be that we want to take something very beautiful, very workable, elegantly simple, really, despite it's inherent mystery, this church with our God as its focus, and with all of us who believe in Him, in unity with and under Him, and with each other in Him; and then we want to add endless complexities, that in the end put the focus on us. (Because we truly do want to be in control ourselves: it seems to be our number one human drive... and our number one failing in relation to our created purpose to know and worship our Creator).

We, His church, are to gather together; that is clear. But how do we keep the church being His church, and not our/my church?

Yes, we have to be in relationship with Him. He calls each of us personally to be sons/daughters/children of the Father, brothers/sisters of Jesus, inhabited and taught/guided by/infilled by the Holy Spirit... but He also clearly calls us to be many fruit-producing branches all connected together and drawing our sustenance from One Vine... to be all the multitudinous parts of one body, with every part of great value and all parts working together, under One Head... to be one flock, going in and out together, feeding together, obedient to and under the care of One Shepherd.

The one church of Jesus Christ, under Father God over all, and led by His Spirit, has One Vision and One Shepherd (senior pastor?!?).

In its human form, there are leadership roles, but they are roles of teaching and caring and servant-hood, and they are roles that are meant to be taught, shared, passed on to others, and from them to still others, and so on. How can any "church" then be "under the vision of the senior pastor" (or under the vision/kingship of any single human being, or even human committee)? Carried to its logical outcome, that church then has a very strong chance of becoming "our church" (opposed to "those other churches"), or worse, "my church" - and no longer the "church of Jesus Christ."

We cannot solve this problem ourselves, obviously. Our human bent is always to take control, ourselves. So we have to keep focusing on, submitting to, obeying, trusting, worshiping Him. And yes, we need to truly believe in Him, and be moment-by-moment under the control of His Spirit - individually of course; but we also need each other, encouraging one another, keeping each other focused on Him, realizing that each of us has something unique and essential to contribute and no one of us is so all-sufficient as to warrant being truly "in charge," and therefore, we need to be sharing together so we don't fall into our self-controlling bent, individually or even as a group. He Himself designed His church that way. He is Relational. He is Love. And that is to be, in the end, the sign of His church, His people, His family, His body.

"This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us." (I John 3:23)

They'll know we are Christians by our - by His - Love. They'll know we are His church by our - by His - love.

So profoundly simple. Isn't it? But impossible unless He is truly at the helm, and we are truly His church.

(This one from September 14, 2008)

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

station stops along the journey

In the process of going through my old blog posts and preparing to re-design this blog, I have been reminded over and over of where Papa has brought me in this journey.  Over the next few days, I will be re-posting a few items from the past.  Here's the first one:

This morning I was reading So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore? and God opened my eyes and a great burden was lifted from my shoulders ... and a great joy and peace and freedom dropped in its place… and suddenly I thought, “I don’t want to go to church anymore!" - a great freeing thought. It took away the fear I have been under about all that phrase has suggested to me…

... I was reading and suddenly felt God telling me to close the book and pray along, there on my living room couch, with those praying at the “pre-church prayer meeting.” I felt called to pray for unity, peace, moving of the Spirit among them… and at the service this morning, too…

And I was wondering, should I “go to church?” So I just asked God to show me when (and if) the time came, and I asked God to walk with me this day and help me see His people the way He sees them. At 10:20 hubby said, “Oh no, we’re going to be late for church,” and got busy getting ready. I just felt myself smiling and suggested maybe we were being late because of God’s timing. Anyway, we got there – and put our “stuff” on “our chairs” … and got our coffee… and the special hot chocolate Robert gives me! – but I did not feel like going to my seat, even though the music had started.

So I sat at the back, on a step, and just watched. It seemed to me that “the church” was really "being church" at the back by the doors as people came in, and ___ was greeting them… and then there was ___ wandering around doing her smiley, huggy, happy, welcoming people thing… and a little native girl came up to me and just stared at me with her big serious beautiful dark eyes… and some of the pre-teen girls were in the corner happily giggling together… and a couple men were just enthusiastically chatting together about something- quite loudly!… and when I had come in I had seen one of the men turn his chair around and take the hands of the sad-looking man behind him and pray for him…and of course a few people were standing in their rows facing the front, listening to the music, and a few were singing along, and others just kind of listening, or maybe even praying or just worshiping, yet some seemed to be standing there wrapped in some sorrow or pain…and there were little ones running about happily smiling, and folks were smiling back at them… and yet, astonishingly, hardly anyone was looking even slightly annoyed by all the goings-on, and that seemed so awesome to me, and so different than so much of the “church” I have known in my life…

And suddenly it seemed to me like I was sitting in a quiet place, alone, like on a beach on a hot, quiet summer day without a breath of wind, like the world was holding its breath… and then a sudden breeze was arising from nowhere, and the leaves on the trees started rustling, with the sound of a little babbling brook,and the air was becoming fresh and light, and there was a gentle feeling of joy and expectancy, like all of creation was sharing together a joyful little moment….

And as I looked about the church – God’s people – I could see Jesus walking about, and he was looking at the children playing, and the happy greetings, and the friendly chatter, and some singing while others just stood quietly, and all the things that some people so often think should not be happening in a church service… and He was smiling and happy, and walking among them, reaching out and touching the children's heads~ stopping to listen and watch and smile, moving - no, mingling - in the midst of His church, His people, the children of Father. And He was pleased them! Because they were being His church and He was among them and in them, and they were living His life with His Spirit there among them and in them. It was so beautiful.

It had nothing to do with the building, or the worship music, or the preaching, or anything that people can do. It was just Jesus and His people, abiding in the love of God, in relationship with Him and with each other.

Yes, there were some kind of dark places, mostly up closer to the front… it seemed kind of far off and I don’t know, kind of lonely… But Jesus was like in the middle of His people and facing them, looking at people’s faces, reaching out and lightly touching them, moving among them… The music drifted from far off in the background and didn’t seem too important, but every now and then there would be a swelling in it and a lifting of joy and I couldn’t help but join in for a line or two… yet it was also so lovely that the music wasn’t at the center at all.  Jesus was at the center, in the center of the room, not up front, and he was moving about with his hands gently reaching out, touching, loving, healing…

The “service” seemed to kind of fade away, and for a few moments it was just Jesus and His family having some happy family time together, His love just gently floating through and among His family, His church, His body, His people… 

And then one sister spoke encouragement and affirmation… And a brother gave a “freebie” – a word from God that was not “planned” … and I was hoping upon hope that more of this freedom in Jesus is coming…

So I was a bit disappointed when the “sermon” started… and I was, for a moment, distressed when I heard the words, “Let’s embrace this building that God has given us” – because God had just freed me from the whole building thing…

Yet just at this moment the speaker said, “God has set you free… and God has need of you in His kingdom…"

And I realized that God has His own plans and purposes for each of us moment by moment… and that for some it may be in this building and system… and for others it may be not in this building and system… yet each of us are part of His church, His body… and He will use each of us for His kingdom and He will integrate us into His church, and into Him... into the relationship He has for us, into His love, into His wonderful plan for our lives, exactly the way we are. 

He'll not leave us the way we are but will bring us, holding our life, into the person He purposes for us to be, into the good things He has for each of us. (I’m writing what the pastor is preaching! So this “sermon” is part of God’s plan for me, today, too… and it is encouraging me, because I’m here just because this is where He wants me today, and I’m not worrying about one moment into the future but waiting with anticipation for wherever each moment, each step with Him, takes me.)

Thank You, Father, that You love us! Thank You for Your Son’s sacrifice, for Your Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. Thank You that I am always in Your Presence, wherever Your plans and purposes take me in any moment of time.

God, I don’t think I’ll be here much longer with this particular gathering of Your body... but whatever happens, I want only to be where You are, at the center of Your will, in total relationship with, and trust in You.

(February 2008)


Busy the past few days going through my old posts.  Found a poem I wrote awhile back.  Hope you'll enjoy it.

Sudden, utter stillness.
The panic of my soul cut off.
(I'm not quite sure how to handle it.)
This is Your way,
Isn't it, Holy Spirit?
Just sit and wait
In the stillness.
Rest (how, Lord?
Teach me, I pray).
Just trust You.
Okay, thank You.
It's time to go, Lord.
Let me walk...
No, let me be
With - no, in - You.
And You in me.
Oneness. Unity. Obedience.
Childlike faith.
Trust and obey -
And be happy in You!

(November 23 2005)

Monday, 26 July 2010

hiccups and relationship with Father and His church

Dan Allen, in his weekly update at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine, wrote the following:

I realize more now that every issue and "hiccup" in our lives affects the way we interact with others. If we were content to go to an institutional church gathering for two hours on Sunday morning as an end-all be-all then the issues we faced during the week would not weigh in on how that gathering went, but where we seek to have genuine relationships with other believers, hoping God will use them and us to help each other grow closer to him, the things that we face every day will effect those relationships and what we share with them and how we respond to what they share with us.
He explained his thoughts in more detail - and then gave two further lists:  "concrete church type things" in his life  in the past week, and "what's next" - things that are coming up.  I hope you'll go there and check out what he has to say.

On the other hand, reading his post helped me realize that a lot of little things in my own life, that on their own don't seem particularly exciting or impressive or even very important on their own, and sometimes even seem like annoying interferences in my walk with God and relationship with His church, are actually things that Father has placed in my life as part of His perfect plans and purposes. 

So here's a "concrete church type things" list of my own for this past week:

- an email discussion with a friend that really opened my eyes to so many different ways "community" can be lived, and what it can mean

- in the process of re-designing a blog, read old posts from several years back - and was amazed to see how God has all along been preparing me for and pointing me to the church community where I am amazed to be!

- received an email from a friend whose mother is quickly succumbing to dementia - and being able to pray for her and to comfort and encourage her because Father has taken me down that path already

- made a quick drive to the bank, but the street was busy and I had to park some distance from the bank.  Walking to and from the bank, I ran into 3 of the street people from our church gathering, and was able to encourage them and get to know them a little better - unexpected relationship building!  I also ran into an aunt of mine I haven't seen for a very long time ... and she surprised me by coming to my birthday party

- had an all-day drop-in birthday party on Saturday - and "former church friends" actually came by - surely a sign that Father is doing some healing among His people  (you can see details here).

Why not stop right now and make your own list?  What little incidents in your life are part of Father's purposes for you in your relationship with Him and with His church?

Four burner theory? What's your center?

Recently, Chris Guillebeau at "The Art of Non-Conformity" posted his thoughts about Four Burner Theory, which he in turn read about in a quote from a David Sedaris article.  The quote read:

One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.”
The gist is that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
Chris had thought about this idea a lot, and he said the following:

These ideas always strike some people as offensive, as if we should be grateful for bad jobs and unhappy lives. Maybe things will magically get better! Meanwhile, other people are somehow able to embrace change and pursue lives of meaningful adventure. (We tend to focus on the second group over here.)
But then again, perhaps the four burners theory is another way of looking at the same concept. I’d like to be healthy, and I’d like to have good relationships with my family and close friends, while also being successful at my work. I don’t like the idea of choosing or cutting off one of the burners.
Well!  Within a couple days, Chris got over 200 responses, and counting.  He posted a selection of the responses today in a new posting, here.  I found the comments really interesting.  The thing is, most people want all four burners.  But they also seem to think that, realistically, you probably can't have them all, or at least you can't have them all at once.

I am thinking that if you don't have an overarching center or core in your life, it really does become a loosely connected set of "burners" - one or two of which will inevitably take on a kind of "core" status, to the detriment or even total loss of other burners.  We are created, I believe, to have a center - our relationship with God - and when we don't have that center, we naturally reach out to whatever seems to give us "passion" and "success."

Why not take a look at the comments folks posted?  I think they are really revealing of the way the world views life ... and I think they also have relevance to us as believers, in relation to realizing the great privilege we have to live loved in our Father's purposes for us.

What do you think?

happy birthday community style

July 26, 2010

I have a perfect excuse for not posting the past couple days :-)

Saturday was my 55th birthday, and I hosted an all-day drop-in birthday party!  I advertised on facebook, by email, and handing out invites to friends I met during the week previous.  In the end, I received 70 facebook greetings, several more by email, half a dozen phone calls, and 35 friends dropped by!  It was a wonderful, amazing day!

Eat and be merry!

We had blueberry crepes for breakfast, fish salad and egg salad sandwiches for lunch, and a huge crock-pot full of chili for supper - with lots of snacks along the way!  A friend brought along a big birthday cake and helium-filled balloons (the first I've ever had on my birthday, lol - I was as excited as a little kid).

There were lots of leftovers, so I took them to our street church gathering on Sunday morning.  The chili went really well with the hot dog breakfast menu this week.  And I received lots more birthday greetings and hugs - and another cake!  Wow!  By the time I got home, I was partied out - and with the hot weather as well, I ended up doing the "day of rest/ siesta" thing for the rest of the day. :-)

Friends and fellowship

We had quite a selection of guests who turned up to our Saturday party.  Folks from the street ministry.  Relatives I haven't seen in ages.  Good buddies, old friends.  My kids and grand-kids.

And friends from a church I used to attend.  That church had gone through some rough times, and finally closed down.  People have been hurt, and hesitate to speak to each other.  Others have been puzzled that I no longer attend a "real church" and have, in their discomfort, kind of avoided me.  It seems as though "our church" was the connecting thing in the past - and when that formal grouping disintegrated, people no longer had much "in common."  We talked a lot, back then, about how we loved each other and how we were family - but when hard times came, sadly the "family" connection didn't seem to hold up.

Even at my party, former church friends came at different times of the day, in little groups.  Fear, I suppose.  And yet, they did come, taking the chance of running into each other.  That's a good sign, I think, because I've tried to host get-togethers before (like for my hubby's birthday), and some folks just "couldn't" come. 

We enjoyed eating together, and catching up - and sharing what God's doing in our lives.

It was a wonderful birthday!  Thank You, Father!

Friday, 23 July 2010

more on community

A few days ago I was sharing in a discussion between blogs about "community." I mentioned it to a friend, by email, and she took a look at the conversation - and passed on the links here and here and here and here, too, to another friend ... and they had an email conversation about it, and then emailed their conversation to me - with permission to post it here.

Adrienne wrote:

We had a couple here for supper yesterday and she is very ill and her husband is her caregiver and their relationship is breaking down from the strain...
She talks and walks with difficulty....what does community look like to them?

We have another friend who doesn't read facial expressions or know how to socialize without dominating the conversation..most people hate him...but he is a sweetheart really.(and he's a gifted mechanic and very intelligent to talk to) but I have to practically yell his name to get him stopped and say "Rick ! It's my turn to talk!" so I can get a word in edgewise while he goes on and on perseverating on subjects that interest him...he believes he's being witty and tries to be interesting to be with....what does community look like to him? It takes a lot of us taking turns being with him....

What if people are poor and they are way out of town and don't have wheels to get to anything? In the old days I guess they just didn't see each other that much eh?
Maybe we are just fellowship junkies ! Maybe our expectations are too high?

What if they are young adults and have low self esteem and are depressed? what does community look like for them? Who even cares about shy people? Introverts? Sick and poor people?

The native people across the bay here already know how to do "community" - we should ask them. They live close together and literally have to love their neighbor.

And Jean wrote:

Good question - what does community look like to me?

I have been talking with the Lord about the unity of the Body and how this will be manifest.

I do know that we're no longer going to have "get togethers" that has served to strengthen and refresh the Body. You know those amazing "group" fellowships that we have enjoyed in our homes or small gathering places. Sometimes I long for that again - when we were all of one accord. There was a sweetness and unity as the presence of the Lord saturated us as the Holy Spirit descended - sometimes like a gentle dove, sometimes like a thick cloud. How I loved that time of community with brethren.

We cannot go back to that:

We are moving into the greatest revelation of all. We stand at the beginning of a marvelous time. A time when we will know all mysteries and walk in the power and authority of the Lord. We will be ONE with Him and in Him as this marriage takes place. As we minister from the very Holy of Holies - the very presence of God. This is Kingdom reign. The Kingdom of God is OUR COMMUNITY. This will happen - and I am hoping soon. This is unity. It is not dependent upon us and our works but we will all come to recognize that who we are is hid in Christ and when we see this (Him), we will be like Him - the veil will be lifted from our understanding:

we are born of His spirit
we are clothed in His righteousness
we are saved by His salvation
we are at rest in Him who has completed ALL works

The awesome revelation of who we are in Christ will erupt within us when we least expect it. This is manifest in the Body (manifestation of the children of God) in us first and then ministered to the world for this harvest of the gentiles.

I know we are no longer experiencing what we have once cherished in times of fellowship. No matter how often we meet or how sweet the worship, the experience of God is no longer present as before. Hold on, have faith - because that which is coming is greater than this world has ever seen. It is last days ministry. We want to run toward the prize of the high calling - as the Apostle Paul says. Also, there will be a time of great restoration both spiritually and physically as it was when the Israelites came out of Egypt. Read Psalm 105 - we are to see this again in our day. The Psalm also says, "There was not one feeble person among their tribes" - so some of us "gently aging" persons will have vigor and strength.
Joel 2:25 "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you."

I can't even imagine what fellowship will be like but I do think there will be places where people can come and hear the Word and be ministered to in every way. We are a royal priesthood. We carry the authority and grace and mercy of a loving God toward a hurting world.

God will establish places that are open day and night. Places of RESToration and Refreshing and abundant provision with healing, thanksgiving, worship, deliverance, food and drink - every thing Jesus did and even more. People will understand all mysteries, will have visitations, dreams, prophecies. Everyone (even little children) will know the fullness of God's spiritual blessings and His physical provision.

Jesus went out to the people as the light to this world and I do believe that wherever we gather for the places of refreshing (Bethany Houses), the light of God will radiate out to draw people in (as the light from the tabernacle/temple would be seen for miles showing people that ministry was taking place. The priesthood was meeting with God). People will come to us because of our God. There will be no self glory or lordship over one another. We shall all flow in the fullness of His life in us. We will eat from the tree of life and the last enemy - death - shall be destroyed (study the garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies and you will see that we can enter in through the veil beyond the cherubim into the very presence of God and why we can eat of the tree of life).

Yes, when I think of community, I think of the Kingdom of God and that its authority is going to be experienced on earth very soon. We will have an immense sense of unity with one another and with God.

This will bring in the last days prophecies concerning the Beast and False Prophet but they who know their God shall do exploits. We shall understand all things and walk in wisdom and unity. We will not walk in fear but in Faith. We will not be hiding away somewhere but shining as a light on a hill in our Bethany Houses that are open for all. Such ministry that we are going to see! We are here to minister to the world in this time.

These will be difficult times for the world but God's manifestation on earth will draw many to salvation. As in the days of Noah. This coming time will be a time of judgment and salvation. At the end of this time, God's Kingdom shall be established on earth for the thousand year reign.

We are going to experience the community and relationship that we have all longed for.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Over the past while I've been writing about the Another Chance street church in our community, and along the way have been thinking about whether, as believers, we ought to leave care of the poor to government agencies, or find ways to reach out to the poor and work with them to try to bring them into wealth (or at least middle class comfort?), or whether we should follow the New Testament church example, and share with and/or sell our stuff, in order to provide for the poor.

Here's part of a really interesting quote from a 1st century believer, that I came across in a blog I read today.

"That we should be considered poor is no disgrace to us, but an honor. A life of luxury weakens the spirit. Frugality makes it strong. And yet, how can anyone be considered poor who does not feel any want, who does not covet what belongs to others, who is rich in God's eyes? Much more should he be considered poor who always craves for more while he already has much...."
(Minicius Felix, 1st century believer)

Why not go to the subversive1 blog, read the rest of Felix' words and story - and share what you think!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

a cool discovery while re-working my blog!

July 21, 2010

Well, I have taken the plunge today, and am in the midst of reworking my blog - or possibly, blogS and website. Anyway, I started with this one. I can see it is going to take some time, and I'm really asking Father to lead me!

But a cool thing has happened along the way. I've been going through my posts (which go waaaaaayyyyyy back) and I suddenly realized that my participation in our street church/gathering isn't something that "just suddenly happened" one day when I was out for a walk on a cold winter morning, and they hailed me, and invited me to join them for hot-dogs for breakfast. Now of course that incident did happen... but, reading my old posts...

I see that Father has been preparing me in so many ways for a very long, long time! (Even well before I started blogging, as I now realize!).

I love it! Thank You, Lord! :-)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

what to do with this blog? help wanted! please comment!

July 20 (looking back over the past week or two)

I'm delighted to note that my blog here is suddenly getting a lot more comments and traffic. I've been following a number of other blogs related to the whole topic of changes in the way we approach "church" (being the church rather than doing church or going to church, for example). And commenting on other people's postings. One of the outcomes of commenting, is that my blog link is left at the end of my comments, and other readers follow the link to see what I've been thinking about here. Others comment on my comments on other blogs, and then I comment on their comments, and that gets me thinking, so I post about the topic on this blog, and I link back to the original posts on other blogs... and quite suddenly I find myself in the middle of some pretty amazing conversations... and my own blog is getting more hits and comments...

And I suddenly realize that I have 590 posts here, which cover several years of posting (during which I was mostly just trying to think things through myself, and not very concerned about on-line coversation) ... and other than a "search" box, and the title of the blog, "My Church Journey," and the titles of past half dozen or so posts, there really isn't any way for folks to explore my explorations. I haven't even set up pages with specific topics, and there aren't any "tags" or "categories" like on Wordpress blogs.

So now I'm really trying to decide what to do. Set up separate pages for different topics within the big topic? Set up separate blogs? Switch from blogger to Wordpress?

I have a Wordpress blog and I like that it gives me a lot of flexibility, though I certainly haven't used much of its potential yet. It's a self-hosted blog, but I'm also considering the Wordpress-hosted ones.

Oh, right, I have one of those too, don't I? Again, I really haven't used much of its potential either.

I have a website, too hosted by Yahoo (used to be GeoCities) - and I'm wondering if I should link my blogs and website together, or turn my blogs into a combined blog and website (which I can certainly do with my self-hosted blog at least).

And I really want to start newsletters from my blogs.

And then there's the whole question of monetization, and SEO optimization, and possible creation of e-books and maybe traditional books...

Whatever I do, I need to do it quickly, I'm thinking!

Listen, if you've been checking out this blog (and maybe some of my other ones), what do you think I should be doing?

my amazing simple life, Father!

July 20, 2010

I am amazed and blown away by how simple my life seems to be these days!

And yet I can't help but also think that not worrying, but instead trusting in You (oh thank You, Lord, for teaching me to trust!) has truly made things so much easier for me.

I just don't get in a flap or worry about so many things that even a few short years ago would have put me into a major panic, that would have made me feel like my life was complicated and full of problems, that would have had me worrying and feeling sick and complaining.

Thank You, Papa!

(Of course it was the truly hard times, the times when there was nothing I could do to fix things, myself, that You used to turn my eyes from myself and my own "responsibility" to having to trust in You - and discovering that You really are there and really do care and are working all things out for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose! So why would I even want to go back to not trusting? You are amazing, God!)

Wow! Thank You! (and "whew!" lol)

writing long emails - foolish or wise?

July 19, 2010

I was writing emails again today - and despite the advice of the world to keep emails short and sweet, so that I can have time to network with more people, I still find myself writing long emails, just like I used to write long snail-mail letters when I was young.

Even though they take a long time, I can't help thinking that personal relationships are so important. I can't help thinking that maybe we have more real impact in the long term, if we focus on a limited number of personal relationships, loving, caring, mentoring, sharing - rather than trying to spread out influence thin over a whole bunch of shallow relationships.

The small tribe, village, community where You place us. Rather than the whole celebrity, social marketing, Twitter-depth thing.

You think?

I want Your will, Father, not mine

July 19, 2010

Oh dear Heavenly Father,

I need to talk with You, and hear from You. I see You doing amazing things in the street church with Pastor Peter.

And I see and hear You doing amazing things with all the conversations around my blogs and other blogs. And I'm full of ideas of how to change and improve my blogs and "reach out" with them. But I don't want "my way" or the "world's way." Oh Father, I want Your will, not mine.

Oh Father, what now? Your will be done. Please keep my heart, my spirit, open to and obedient to and in unity with Your Spirit. Please. Thank You.

Father, You know I long for more face-to-face interaction with Your children, Your church, than is happening these days. Please show me how, when, where, what, who (and yes, why).

I want to hear You, Father.


Norma, My child,

I love you.

I am your Father and I love you and I want to answer your prayers. But please let Me do it in My time and place and ways and purposes, for your very best.

Please be patient with your husband, too. I am doing My work in his heart. Be patient. All things will work together for good - just love Me. And love him. I have called you - and him, too - both of you - according to My purposes.

(Thank You).

ask in Jesus' name

July 16, 2010

John 16:24 "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive so that your joy may be full"

In the name of Jesus, I pray to You, Father:

- that I will become a real participant in Your church day by day, moment by moment. Please help me to see and cooperate with what You are doing.
- that my husband, children and their spouses, grandchildren, extended family, will all come to know You more and more (yes, and me too!)
- that I will be in You and will bear fruit!

Please! Thank You.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Another Chance - expanded story

Awhile back I posted a (true!) story about the street church that I am part of (You can read that original story here. I also asked some writers at The Word Guild for editing. While they did offer good advice about grammar and such, mostly they asked a lot of questions! So I have rewritten the story, incorporating the information they asked about. I was wondering what to do with it, if anything, and then I received a comment from Mark at Called Out in Kansas. This rewrite is for you Mark - and anyone else who is interested in the street church we call "Another Chance."

If folks want to know more, you can write "Another Chance" or "street church" in the search bar at the top of this blog, and find lots of things I've written about it. You can also check out the Another Chance website

This rewrite, though, will help you understand how this street gathering started - and, I want to emphasize, it is because one man and his wife (and children!) listened to Father... even though it has been a great sacrifice for them in some ways (ie financially) the joy they have in the Lord is truly abundant!


"Check it out! Steve laughed, as he dumped half a dozen tattered plastic grocery bags onto the ground, and plopped himself cheerfully into one of the ragged black lawn chairs scattered about the dirt parking lot.

The rag-tag street family, chilly hands curled around styrofoam cups full of steaming coffee, turned to look in Steve's direction. Gord remarked, "Looks like you've been busy already this morning, buddy."

Steve dug into the bag closest to him, and agreed, "Real back-alley treasures this morning." He held up a pet dish with an attached water container, and handed it to Marie. "Your kitty is going to love this."

Digging into another bag, he pulled out a couple pairs of slightly scuffed leather shoes, one pair white, the other black. "Check these out. They're hardly used." He held them out to the shortest guy in the group. "Maybe they'll fit you?"

Dave laughed and replied, "Just because I'm short doesn't mean my feet are that small. I'd have to take a sledge-hammer to my feet to squeeze them into those. But yeah, they are in good shape. Look like nurse shoes to me. Maybe they'd be good for one of the girls?"

Bill wandered over to the table and held his cup under the spout of one of the old pump pot thermoses. He pressed down on the pump button with the palm of his hand. Unfortunately, his aim was off-center, and the thermos tipped. Steaming coffee splashed over his hand, missing the cup. "%*@#%@*!" Bill hollered.

"Hey, no swearing around here," Vicky called out, and everyone chuckled, for this was rule number one of the five street breakfast rules.

The other rules, as everyone knew, were no drugs or alcohol, no gang colors, no fighting - and rule number five, no yawning. Nobody was sure where number five had come from, but it was somehow appropriate for these early-morning parking lot gatherings around the battered old plastic breakfast table.

Of course the yawns soon disappeared as the food and coffee on the table provided energy and warmth to cold, tired bodies. The street folks knew they could depend on Pastor Pete to bring coffee and juice, as he had been doing for years. Nowadays, he had been joined by Kevin, who pitched in cereal and milk, while Lorna brought boiled eggs and baked goodies such as pigs-in-blankets and cow-patty cookies. Ruth brought bread for toast, and Lex often dropped off fresh fruit. Sunday mornings featured cooked breakfasts: hotdogs or hamburgers, or french toast, pancakes, or eggs and ham. Whatever God provided, through His people. And of course, when they could, the street family members themselves added to the spread.

As the street folks enjoyed their breakfast, a couple on their way to work, he in suit and tie, she in dress and heels, walked by on the sidewalk.

"Hello there!" Pastor Pete hailed them.

The couple looked sideways at the dozen or so guys and gals gathered in the parking lot. They started walking a bit faster, the woman's heels tap-tapping a faster beat on the paved sidewalk.

Pete offered, "Come on and join us for coffee."

The couple shook their heads, "No thanks," with embarrassed smiles, and kept going.

"Well, God bless," the street pastor called after them.

The door at a construction office across the way opened, and a young woman stepped out, coffee mug in hand, and walked across to the group.

"Hi. My name's Joanne." She walked around, shaking hands with everyone. "I work over there, and I see you out here every morning. The boss is out just at the moment and I'm alone in the office, so I thought I'd sneak over and meet you all."

Everyone laughed and said hello, and Kevin offered, "Want some breakfast?"

"Oh, no thanks, I've already eaten," she replied. "But if it's okay, I'd like to hang out for a bit, as there's nothing happening at the office right now." Within moments, Kevin and Joanne were deep in conversation about construction work, and others in the group who'd done construction in the past joined them.

By now the sun had risen higher and the air was warming. Some of the early arrivals headed out to appointments or to check out the day-job work boards. They were quickly replaced by other street people, who, with the warmer temperatures, had unwrapped themselves from their sleeping bags in alleys and under bridges. They hid their bags away for the day in inconspicuous spots, and now headed to the parking lot breakfast. Over a two to three hour period, anywhere from thirty to eighty people might come and go. Sunday breakfasts could attract up to a hundred, and double that in the summer when transients moved into the resort community.

Steve finished his breakfast and coffee, and dug into another of his tattered bags. He brought out a handful of keys and locks. "Can you believe this?" he asked Lorna. "I actually found some keys and locks that match."

She laughed. "That's a rare find, for sure."

"Yeah," Steve added, "though as usual I also found some keys that don't have matching locks."

Lorna looked at the two keys he held out in his palm. "Wow, those look just like the key I lost for my bike lock. I was thinking I'd have to get the lock cut off."

Steve handed the keys to her. "Here, take them and see if they'll fit. I'll have to throw them out otherwise."

Just then Mike ran across the street to join the group, a big grin on his face. Pastor Pete commented, "You look warmer this morning than usual."

Mike answered, "Yeah, I actually slept well last night, even though it was raining and close to freezing. Say thanks to whoever donated that awesome insulated sleeping bag, eh? Can't remember the last time I was warm enough to sleep through the night. At least not since the downtown businesses barred off all the ventilation shafts."

Three or four of the guys nodded sympathetically. "Know how you feel," Allen commiserated. A former street person himself, Al had experienced the love of Jesus shared by Pastor Pete and the other brothers and sisters. Now he was off the street, back with his family, and working. He was also part of a local church, as were many others who had encountered Jesus here on the streets. Still, whenever he got the chance, Al would come by, bringing some treat like real cream for the coffee. And he would encourage those who were presently walking the path on which he had once been.

A pickup truck pulled up in front of the construction office across the street, and Joanne laughed, "The boss is back. I gotta go."

As she ran across to her job, she nearly bumped into Fred, who was stumbling toward the group. Even though he wore a jacket and warm gloves, Fred shivered with cold. "Hey, Kev, buddy, do you think you could do me a favor?"

He pulled off a glove and painfully held out a hand with fingers stiff and white from the cold. "I got terrible circulation. Do you think you could pour me a coffee? If I try to do it myself I'll probably spill."

"Sure," Kevin responded, and poured him a cup of steaming hot coffee. Fred removed his other glove, and carefully wrapped his fingers around the cup. As the warmth from the cup moved into his fingers, and the heat of the coffee into his body, Fred relaxed and gradually stopped shivering.

Dana sidled up to Pastor Pete. "I'm kinda having a rough time," she confided.

Pastor Pete took her by the elbow and they walked a few steps away from the rest of the group. The others noticed, but kept their distance, as pretty near every one of them, at one time or another, had themselves confided in their street pastor.

For over five years, Pastor Pete had walked the streets of the community five or six days a week, listening, counseling, sharing Jesus. Peter had been involved in the street life from the age of 15, as a drug dealer, bartender, biker. He had gone through multiple marriages and relationships. But then at age forty, he had met Jesus. And it was not long until his Lord called him back to the streets to walk with Him there, and to share God's love with those he understood so well. God also gave Pastor Pete a new wife, Tineka,who became a truly suitable partner for him. Together, she and Peter now cared for their blended family of five teenagers, and Tineka also worked full time to support the family, freeing and encouraging Peter to follow God's call to the streets.

As the street family watched Dana and Pastor Pete talking, they knew from experience that Dana would find help - a listening ear, a prayer, a gentle direction to relationship with God. Jesus' love would reach her through Peter in practical ways, too. A toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, clean socks. And connections to others who could provide warm clothes, a place to sleep, professional care. Pastor Pete didn't have an established mission building or programs or anything fancy like that, but he did have the love of Jesus. And so she would be treated with dignity and care, and that was what mattered. She, like hundreds of others, would be given another chance.

Some members of this family had been on the streets for many years. Others were new arrivals. All, with Pastor Peter's love, were being presented with the opportunity to come to know Jesus. Some would reject the offer, but many had accepted. Some of these had quickly moved on to new lives. Others continued to struggle with addictions, life-long abuse, mental illness. Yet in the midst of these difficulties, there could be seen true peace and assurance in those who had accepted Jesus. As a family, those who now knew Him were caring for, encouraging and supporting their brothers and sisters however they could, often giving away their own sleeping bags or jackets, or even endangering themselves by protecting them from violent young punks. And they were also looking out for and caring for those who had not yet encountered Jesus.

In fact, the streets of the community were changing. The police agreed that far less people were homeless, the number of hookers had decreased, and violence and addiction-related problems among street-level people were now way down. The officers were now able to focus more attention on other components of the community among whom crime continued to escalate.

The sun was getting high in the sky, and the early morning chill had lifted. The thermoses of coffee had run dry, and the baked goodies had nearly all disappeared. Everyone pitched in to pack up the remaining cereal and milk to be saved for tomorrow's street breakfast. The last few boiled eggs were tucked into pockets for lunch snacks. The table and lawn chairs were folded up and packed away into the trunk of Kevin's old beater car, and into Pastor Pete's tired van. Lorna placed her plastic containers and the empty egg cartons in her granny cart. She started to head off down the sidewalk, looking out for anyone with whom she could share the last of the baked goodies.

Steve, too, was packing up his bags. He was almost ready to leave when he stopped and pulled out the leather shoes once more. "Here," he called after Lorna, "I don't know who can use these. But you probably know someone. Can you pass them on?"

Lorna stopped and came back. "Totally," she responded. "I bet Cheryl could use them. I need to drop by and see if she's okay, anyway." She laid the shoes in the top of the cart and headed out again.

Steve lifted his tattered bags of back-alley treasures together. Pastor Pete and Kevin were climbing into their vehicles.

"Thanks for the coffee and goodies. See you all tomorrow," Steve called to them. And laughing, he headed down the alley to check out another dumpster's treasure chest.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

whole-body participation in our gatherings

I was just reading a post, "Everyone," at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine blog, and Father used it to show me something that I've been really struggling with: how to get whole-body participation happening in our gatherings...

I just realized - maybe it is part of our old traditions, maybe it is part of our society's rationalistic approach to things... but...

On the one hand we talk glowingly about how whenever even 2 or 3 believers are gathered together, with Jesus among them, that is a gathering of the church. And it can happen in all kinds of places and situations.

On the other hand, when we talk about people participating at a gathering of the church, we assume it is an intentional sit-down kind of gathering, whether in a traditional church building setting or a home or even (as the group I gather with most often, who are mostly street-level people) in a park or other outdoor location.

The thing that just struck me is that, even though we do have a more intentional sit-down-together and read scripture, pray, teach, etc time as part of our gatherings, we also eat together, talk one-to-one or in small groups, counsel individuals, pray with individuals, play with the children, take care of each other like giving a haircut or hand out clean dry socks and underwear, and all kinds of other things (these kinds of things might be different depending on your group, of course, but you get the idea).

Yet coming out of a "traditional church" background, I have found myself worrying that that there isn't enough of "everyone participating" in our "gathering," because I am thinking of that sit-down-together part of it. And yet, when I was reading this posting and the comments, I realized that during our full gathering time, all kinds of people who don't necessarily "speak up" very often (though most do at least on occasion) in the sit-down-together time, are regularly sharing their gifts in the rest of our gathering (not to mention also when we meet each other on the streets etc). There are gifts of hospitality (serving food, inviting people passing by to join us), gifts of helps (hair cutting, cleaning and bandaging wounds, bringing clothes to share), gifts of teaching (lots of this in conversation, counseling), praise (people bring their guitars etc and will sit around in small groups or even just in a corner, singing and playing), prayer with individuals or small groups, and so on.

On a Sunday morning, for example, we will gather about 6 am, with breakfast starting about 7 (folks can drop in any time) and usually are there until the soup kitchen opens at noon and folks leave for lunch. We do have that sit-down-together time in the middle, but when I think about it, the whole time is the gathering, and in that time, everyone participates! (Not everyone is able to stay the whole time, but over the time period there is opportunity for all).

One other interesting thing - when "off-kilter" comments come up outside the sit-down-together time, it is easier to gently offer correction when only a small group are directly involved, as the person in question doesn't feel like everyone is staring at him/her. Then later, in the sit-down-together time, we usually have a Q & A time (because so many of our people are really new to the whole Jesus thing, and come from so many different backgrounds) - and we will bring up those questions, without having the person feeling singled out so much - and everyone learns.

Wow, this is something I have really been kind of struggling with - and Father has used your post and everyone's comments to open my eyes to this! Thank You!

Praise the Lord!

And then I added in another comment:

I would add that in the exercise of non-teaching gifts, there is relationship building, and that leads to conversation, which leads naturally to teaching. And as people have opportunity to share/teach (one-to-one) in the other activities of the group, it will give them courage to open up in the gathering together time – if of course the opportunity and encouragement is provided. And perhaps in that relationship-building activity time, the “teacher” folks will have their eyes opened (or ears? lol) to see that Jesus uses all kinds of people to teach.

It does come back, again, to relationship, doesn’t it? Family gathering. Around the family dinner table….. I’m not sure if we should be aiming to make it “look like” anything. Maybe “look to” Jesus at the head of the table for our cues (as our children do at home when they are little ones keeping an eye on what mommy and daddy do and say and think … and then happily be part of it).

Do you think that the “priesthood of believers” metaphor is sometimes a problem for us who maybe still picture priests as especially “holy men” … when we so often don’t see ourselves as “holy enough” (or, in the case of half of us, “men” either!)? Maybe it keeps us looking for more formal patterns to follow.

Of course, if Jesus is truly the core, the focus, the head, the rest will fall into place as we look to him. That’s the hard part…

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

raising our children in community? - a conversation

I love how blogs can become amazing conversations between God's children. Recently, Eric at A Pilgrim's Progress wrote a post, "It Doesn't Take a Village... It Takes a Family." Although I didn't post a comment at the time, I couldn't get his posting out of my mind, and finally, I wrote about it here at my own blog, under the title, it takes a family to raise a child? or a church? or a village? or?.

Then I got a comment from Dan, and I responded, and he responded ... and we agreed that I would post the exchange as he would like to be able to share the link with some other people. So here we are: (You may want to read my initial posting first - the link listed just above - and even Eric's post - linked at the top of this post - which started the whole conversation!)....

Dan, at The Ekklesida in Southern Maine wrote in response:

My wife and I have very young children (all 3 are under 3 years old) and we have started asking ourselves these questions, since they will be exposed to outside influences very soon we want to deal with that as best we can. This is why we want to start really pursuing and becoming a part of the community of believers. We also wonder, as you talk about in your post, what we do about those we disagree with. Do we try to hide their ideas from our kids? don't let them listen to certain music? don't let them learn about evolution in school? don't let them watch that program or read that book? we want to raise them to be smart critically-thinking people who can deal with problems when we aren't there to protect them. We don't really know what to do exactly and are very open to hearing how others have done it.

Thanks for sharing this post!


And I answered:

Tough questions. Our 5 children spent a lot of their growing-up years in a community where often we were very alone as believers. We had many close relatives there who weren't believers, as well. It really was impossible to hide our kids from the world around them. So we really did try to "raise them to be smart critically-thinking people..." I ended up homeschooling our last 3 years there - and we spent a lot of that time honestly delving into those issues.

We finally moved when our kids got into their teens. We went to a "better" community - and I suppose I wish I could say that everything went perfectly after that. It didn't (you can read about it at my blog A Mother's Journey), though it certainly became an amazing adventure with Father.

Our kids are grown now (all in their twenties) and we have 7 grandchildren. One of our daughters and her family are very joyfully involved in a Baptist church (she being the one who struggled most in her teens). The others don't "go to church" but I know they all believe. We still are "critically-thinking" - and praying - together, though we are scattered far and wide.

When they were young, I hoped they would all grow up and be Christians and go to church. When we went through those teen years, I really came to know Father, and my prayers changed - that they too would come to know Father, and would come to joyfully be part of His family, in His plan and purpose for each of them. I see that happening, day by day, step by step. It's a long process, a convoluted journey, definitely an adventure with many unexpected twists and turns - it's surely not a tidy package.

But always God is in the center of it. I have had to let Him take over "responsibility" for my kids. And I have peace.

My own de-traditional-church-ing in my own journey with Father has been a part of it. It has seemed that the more I myself have been able to let go of "going to church," the more open my children have become to Father ("church" became a real problem for them - some very bad experiences along the way... as it has been for my husband also, who is First Nations and was sent by the Canadian government to a church-run residential school).

I am delighted to see my chldren and my Heavenly Father growing in relationship together. (It's improved my relationship with them too).

I AM looking for a "community of believers" here... but I guess I am kind of skittish, terrified of being dragged back into "churchianity" ... and my many "church friends" are pretty much avoiding me - I guess maybe I am seen as apostate or something. My closest brothers and sisters now are local street people who have come to know Jesus! We eat and visit together, and talk about Jesus. That's church, isn't it!

But then I find myself struggling with thinking that church should be more! I guess the old ways are still clutching to me.

Wow! This is way more than a "comment in return." Maybe I should re-post it as a post. Would you mind if I do that, starting with your comment, and then following with mine?

I would love to see this become a conversation among many.


And Dan then said:


Thanks for sharing your insights!

I like that you seem to emphasize that a relationship with God is the most important element in the Spiritual growth of our children... I hope to foster that within my family.

I had always understood that the amount I was involved in institutional church reflected my relationship with God. It is still hard to shake those ideas. I catch myself making judgments about others based on this false notion!

I grew up knowing all about close knit community, it was not necessarily a community of believers, but it was a community that cared for each others' families. These people played a huge role in my development and understanding of the world. I pray that I can be part of a Christ centered community that will influence my kids as much as the community I grew up in influenced me!

I would love for you to share our conversation as a post. I was hoping you would as I read through your comment so I could share a link with some other people I think would be interested.



Won't you join in? Looking forward to your comments!

How to find community (Part 2)

In my last post (How to find community) I passed on some questions posed by Alan Knox at his blog The Assembling of the Church", regarding finding church community.

I summarized the responses in the comments given to that blog post... and now I am going to (with trepidation) post some of the comments I wrote - and then deleted, without posting - because they seemed too long (and maybe too off-track or too personal)for "comments." Anyway, here they are, in no particular order...

Some things I've been struggling with:
- I came out of a church that fell apart, and the members are all scattered - and there seems to be so much hurt and fear and avoidance. When I try to reach out to one, another becomes hurt and angry... it seems like I'm not allowed to love anyone because that would be taking sides...
- in this town (and elsewhere, too, in my experience) gatherings outside traditional church structures are viewed with suspicion - and even casual gathering with people from "other churches" is so often seen as traitorous

I guess, also, that I am still in a "de-churchianity" process. To be honest, sometimes I am terrified of being drawn back into "churchianity" ... and at the same time, the people I gather with, who have become the most church community in my life, are mostly street people who've come to know Jesus ... and curiously enough, even though I'm terrified of "churchianity" I find myself "missing" to some degree the "security" (I suppose) of regular times and places to gather, and the "culture" (oh dear) I was used to.

We do meet outdoors every Sunday morning (6 to whenever, breakfast, sharing ... no set pattern really), and during the week when we bump into each other on the street or in the parks or wherever, and sometimes people will drop in at my place. They love the home baked goodies I bring with me, and I love the sense of family and the acceptance "just as I am" that they give, and we're getting to know each other more and more, in our own relationships and in relationship with God. But it's strange... I feel like all the things I used to do (in traditional "church") to "serve the Lord" and "serve the church" really don't have any usefulness any more! I used to feel, ummm, useful... It's a strange thing to me to just be accepted, period... I keep thinking I should be "doing" something - something "spiritual" or "ministry" I suppose - something beyond just sharing food and being a friend and giving haircuts from time to time and sharing about Jesus along the way...

Well, I am learning more and more to depend on relationship with Father, first. And that's good. But I'm lonely for family. I mean, lonely in terms of being "needed" or at least "useful" maybe. And not having a guaranteed kind of time to be together. Is that silly?

I know we're to get out and love others. And I'm do, as often as I can. But what do you do when you love to do that but significant other(s) in your life aren't on board?

I am beginning to feel as though maybe I'm just hard to get along with. Maybe I should just do as I'm told. Maybe I'm just self-centered. I just want to be part of family. Ha! Maybe I'm just suffering from empty nest syndrome since my 5 kids all grew up and moved away at the same time as my church family blew up and scattered.

If you've glanced through this blog, you'll see that I've been struggling with "church" for a long long time... I keep wondering when I'll really "be part of the church" ... Or if I'm just trying too hard, and should just go to some "good evangelical church" or whatever and "go with the flow"? (No. Father, the only flow I want to go with is Yours. Please).

Oh. If you are curious about the street church family, you can just type "street church" or "church in the park" or "Another Chance" in the search box at the top of this blog, and you'll find lots of postings. And you can check out the website at Another Chance.

How to find community (Part 1)

Not long ago, in a post ("Blogging I Love") at The Assembling of the Church, Alan Knox asked, "What topics would you like to see several bloggers write about and discuss?" And I answered, "Finding like-minded people locally who want to experience that “church as family/ village” ?? The potential loneliness of wanting to move beyond programmed/institutional church …" And it seemed like other people were interested in those kinds of questions too.

Then a few days later, in a post called Finding Community, Alan talked about the community of believers that he is part of, and then asked, "What would you say to someone who is moving to a new location (or perhaps is in a location with few – or no – close friends)? What encouragement would you give them for building close relationships with other believers? How would you help them find community?"

Well, he has already (within 2 days) received 28 comments! I have been watching the comments eagerly, because obviously the question of "finding community" is something I am really involved in currently in my life.

I am first going to list the main responses to Alan's questions (I hope he doesn't mind - I'd ask but he is off to Ethiopia for a couple weeks, and no email access, so I'm going to chance that he'll be okay with this.

Then I am going to write another post with some "comments" I started writing - and couldn't bring myself to post there, because they're too long for comments, I think - and maybe I'm just embarrassed and feeling kind of hopeless about all this.

Anyway, here are the answers people gave:

Trust in and fellowship with God Himself (my own relationship with Father, first), time and patience, centering around Jesus, prayer, helpful books, hard work, wait, move, google, websites of groups in our community, stop looking and start creating (love sacrificially, share lives, invite others into your life, listen, speak edifying words, be honest), leave the church you're at and seek a more community-minded one OR stay where you are and work for transformation there, look carefully to see the "spark" of God's Spirit where you are, look to see how a group helps us to serve God and others, seek to find where God wants me rather than what/where I want to be, seek people within your current group with whom you can share community, don't let your problems with the institution or your selfishness stand in the way of your contribution to building the body, invest the time required in unstructured communication for community to develop, relax into community instead of striving for it, if you feel isolated you have to invest yourself to build it rather than find it.

And some questions: Where do we find people to build relationships with? What if they don't want to participate? What if you aren't currently part of anything - what direction to go in? Where can I plug in where I will be able to make the most strategic and helpful contribution toward the building up of the Body of Christ in the locality in which I live, and around the world? Is this more about me, or about how God can use me to build up others?


If you're interested in my own responses, see my next post!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

quote re giving it all away?

10 July 2010

This is an awesome quote (from Keith Giles in his subversive1 blog):

"The cost of the Kingdom is everything, but in comparison to the treasure we receive in return, all that we have in this life is worthless and empty.

Have you seen the Kingdom like this? Do you see the difference between the things of the world and the things of God? Are you eager to run and sell it all, give it away, pay whatever the price may be, in order to be part of that Kingdom?"


extending grace to pedophiles?

July 10, 2010

Warning: you, gentle reader, may find this offensive. But please bear with me and read - and consider - before you respond. And understand that I have struggled with these questions myself, before asking for your input. Thanks!

The police in our community have been posting information in the newspaper and posting flyers on light poles, notifing people about the arrival of a "pedophile, high risk to re-offend" in our town. The man is question is young, still in his teens, and is in residence at the psychiatric ward at the local hospital, with permission to go out in the community during the day. He has a long list of conditions, including no contact with young people under 16 years old, and not being allowed at parks, pools, schools and other places children gather.

Many people are talking about it, and there is a lot of anger being expressed. Comments include things similar to: "Give him cement boots, you have a big lake!" .... "this creep is costing us all a lot of money, " ... "he is a human with no brain" ..." they do not change!!!" .... "it's a criminal act against all us good people!".... and so on.

I have talked with a couple folks who have actually met this young man, and while they are very concerned that he is allowed out into the community unattended (as I am also), yet having met him, they have wondered what might have led him at such a young age to get into this situation, and how best his situation should be handled.

I too, have wondered the same thing. I have also wondered about the angry and sometimes very cruel responses of people - some of whom are Christians.

I've been reading Philip Yancey's book What's So Amazing About Grace?, and in it he tackles the question of how we, as believers, and as the church, approach these situations.

It leaves me asking, "What's the grace approach in a situation like this? Surely, we can pray for him. Should we not also be careful about what we say about him? I find myself wondering what brought him into this situation? Was he perhaps a victim of abuse himself? Does that make any difference to how we treat him? Or should we even have to have a reason to react with grace? What about his family, those who love him? How do our reactions affect them?

What about the fact that we believe that Jesus loves this person as much as He loves you or me or anyone else? That we say we believe that every one of us, even the "good people," are sinners, and equally sinful in God's eyes? Do we really believe that? And are we really good people ourselves, after all?

What about the "amazing grace" that God has extended to us? And are we as believers not also called to pass on God's grace in our actions and words (and attitudes!)? Even to the "greatest sinners" (remember, the Apostle Paul himself was one of those...) (And so am I...) (Who else?...)

How do we extend God's grace in a situation like this? While people need to be aware of the situation, to protect their own children and the children in the community, does it help when people go beyond passing on the warning, to making hysterical comments?

No doubt there are better ways to deal with this young man's situation that just letting him loose in the community during the day. Society provides attendants to go out in the community with people who have all kinds of disabilities. They also provide facilities and activity locations where they can hang out safely - their own safety as well as the safety of others. What should society do in this case?

And if society won't step in and help, maybe this is an amazing opportunity for the Christian community to spend time with him and be Jesus to him. I think it would need to be mature Christian men, especially. Godly men? I wonder, are there not godly men out there who would not be afraid or repulsed to walk with Jesus in this way?

In our society we do need to somehow regain the sense of community where adults are watching out for each other's kids, and neighbors know each other and help each other. It's difficult when families are spread all over, and people move so often, and there's so much fear out there. But then that just gives the church (God's family) a wonderful chance to set the example. To be a community within the community that others can see in action (which means getting out of our cozy buildings and into the streets - and psych wards, too). To actively and purposefully interact in the community. Even when the community is frightening and dangerous.

So what more can we as believers do? Just leave it up to Father? What if Father calls us to be like Jesus? What would Jesus have done if he encountered this young man?

What if some Christians took the young man out for coffee or a meal, maybe spent some time with him, building a relationship, showing Jesus' love and grace - maybe simple things like watching a movie together or going to the gym or playing pool? If he was with mature Christians, maybe he would experience the love of Jesus in practice. Maybe not only the children would be safer because the young man is accompanied by mature Christians (men, especially), but he himself would be kept safer from the temptations that are pretty much drowning him. What if, those kinds of relationship things happening, he could then be told about the love of Jesus, prayed with, maybe come to Jesus himself and become part of a Christian community - of the church. Maybe end up being healed by the Great Physician Himself.

Do you think I am wrong about this? Or do you wonder, along with me, where is our grace as believers? How are we "being Jesus" to others - as He was to prostitutes, thieves, traitors... As He is to us?

Is it possible for even this "greatest of sinners" to be welcomed by God as a child of His? Does God call us to be agents of grace? To show unconditional love? To care as He cares? How can that happen? How can you and I be part of it?


I just read a blog post at subversive1 called, "Who exactly is my neighbour?" I think it offers some worthwhile perspectives to my questions!

Friday, 9 July 2010

longing to really gather with Your family

7 July 2010

Father, when I was reading the subscription emails and blog posts this morning, yet again, over and over, they spoke of local gatherings of Your people, following Jesus, and united in You, being Your family together, day by day.

O Father - I long for this! Please! In Jesus' name. Amen.

"Ask and you shall receive." "Seek and you shall find."

I am asking.

Seek where, Father? Guide me, please.


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

it takes a family to raise a child? or a church? or a village? or?

July 6, 2010


A few days ago I was reading a blog post (which I cannot get out of my mind) in which the writer argued that, contrary to the popular saying, or at least contrary to some popular interpretations of the saying, it does not "take a village to raise a child." The writer, Eric, pointed out that the "village" that the majority of our children grow up in offers a mix of values (or lack thereof) that we may really not want our children being raised with. He suggested that it really only takes a mother and father to raise a child, but that they may be backed up or supported by close friends of like values, in a Christian family's case, their local church - if that church is really living together in love and unity, rather than just as a program-run organization. (He also raised some related issues; You can check out the whole post at A Pilgrim's Progress), and see what he thinks).

Now I don't have a problem with the backed-up-by-the church part, if the church is really a part of Christ's family: a close-knit village within the Kingdom of God, if you like. In fact, I think it is ideal, and essential. But....


But I do wonder about the parents-only part. That whole "nuclear family" concept is pretty recent, and pretty western/North American.

Historically, and certainly biblically, family was (and still is, in vast parts of the world), extended. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins ... and biblically, servants (and slaves). And sojourners and people traveling through. The "household."

Living in a single large home, or in a compound - or in a village.

It wasn't that long ago, even in North America, that neighborhoods in cities were often villages in their own way.


When I was young (mid twentieth century), almost all our neighbors within a block or so in both directions from our house - and those over the back fence, too - knew each other well. The adults all watched out for each other's children. Grandparents often lived with families, and even those who didn't were generally accepted as honorary grandparents, and children were expected to respect them.

We played in each other's yards, and in the street, and in the empty lot in the middle of the block - usually without our parents directly present, but we knew they were keeping an eye on us from the houses or yards. Sometimes the adults would come out and play softball with us, or help us fix our go-carts or build our tree forts. No one much worried, because we all knew each other. When someone new moved into the neighborhood, everyone brought them pies or cookies, and invited them over for meals. We celebrated birthdays and weddings and other events together.

We were a village within the city, an extended family by common geographic location, and also, as I look back on it by generally shared values and beliefs. Most of us were at least nominally Christian, at least by Census statistics, though we represented many streams: Catholic, Orthodox, mainline and evangelical Protestants, Easter-and-Christmas-church-goers, even a Jehovah's Witness family. We didn't agree on all theological points, but we were neighbors, and so we didn't fight about them either.

Oh yes, and most of us were of European descent, some recently, some several generations removed. Most of us were hyphenated-Canadians, and it was always a delight, for example, to have real home-made spagetti with the Italian-Canadians, or listen to the Scottish-Canadians play their pipes, or whatever. We were proud of our backgrounds, but we really weren't that different.

In terms of our present-day multi-cultural society, our neighborhood (our entire town for that matter) was remarkably homogeneous. In our high school of 1200 students, there was, as I recall, one black family, one Chinese family, two or three Japanese families, and a small clan of East Indians who (very intriguingly to us) all lived together in one big house.


I find myself almost shaking my head in disbelief when I think about it. That homogeneous "village" world seems very long ago and far away to me now. Is that why we find ourselves withdrawing into our private little "castles" and putting up the gates? Do we develop a fortress menality? To shut out those who threaten our apparently safe, homogeneous little family? Are we really better off to protect our children from those who are "different" from us, in culture, religion, values, and so on? (And if so, can we then really trust even those of our extended physical family whose lives aren't exactly like ours? Or even the "church family," made up as it likely is these days, of people from widely varying backgrounds? How far do we take this? What is driving us? Just protectiveness? or fear? prejudice? Can we really trust ourselves? Do we trust God?)

I've know parents who have withdrawn their children from the village. The children play with their own siblings, and on very special occasions with children from hand-picked families whom the parents cautiously associate with. The mothers sit with the children as they play together, watching their every move. Oddly enough, some, after protecting their children so carefully at home, send them off to public school every day. (Odd indeed. Another story...).


I really do think it does take a village, to some degree, to raise a child. I have yet to meet a set of parents who, themselves, have all it takes to truly raise children by themselves. At any rate, can we even effectively stop the village from raising our children? Media, schools, just observing the world around us as we drive down the streets. Shopping! Even at the corner grocery the global village is with us - not to mention at supermarkets and malls. Then there are public parks, community events, schools. Oh, and of course theme parks. Disney World, here we come!

Maybe it can be argued that "it doesn't take a village to raise a child." But it does seem to me that it is going to happen anyway, no matter how hard we might try to block it out.

I agree, we do need real churches, real, close-knit families of God. We need true, Godly, loving relationships with our God (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit) and with His family. We need those relationships individually, we need them within our own physical/nuclear family, and we need them corporately in the true family of the church.

We need that because we can never totally stop the "village" (the global one, as well as the neighborhood one), from raising or at least influencing our children. And not only for that reason.

We also need, as God's children, God's family, to together reach out to the village around us, the village to which we are called to be light and life and salt. To which we are called to live out the love of Jesus. We cannot barricade ourselves in some fortress, and at the same time honor that call. Can we?


And do we, while trying to "protect" our own children from being raised by the village, at the same time expect them to let us help raise their children? Is that not what many of our Sunday Schools and Youth Groups and other programs try to accomplish? Do we even have the right to try and "raise" those other children when we refuse to become, to some degree, relationally, part of their village? Will those programs even succeed without us truly reaching out, building relationships, loving our neighbors, caring for them,being part of the village?

What do you think about all this?