Monday, 30 August 2010

Father answering my questions about "worship time"

A couple days ago, I wrote in my journal:

I need to worship You more with the family.  I am kind of  missing the singing "worship time" like we used to have in the "go to church" days.  Please, Father, Your will be done.  Please provide what You know I need.  Please help me to serve You, worship You, love You "aright."  Thank You.  I love You.
And today, when I was checking the Blog Reader  posts I subscribe to, Father sent me a really helpful answer:

Worship can be done in the context of music, but not all music represents true worship.  True worship should be an extension of a life that is lived continuously in worship of Him.... and...

"If your worship is not built into the greater context of God’s eternal purpose it lacks the ability to impact the earth.”  In other words, if we are not continually seeking to know His purposes on the earth, both seasonal and eternal, our worship will just be music sung in unison.  If we want to see our worship become truly powerful and life-changing, we must worship, again, in the context of His purposes.

So, in short form, we need to see our worship as a life-changing and world-changing interaction, between God and man, and between man and man.
There is a lot more really helpful insight into worship at this post.  Check it out at "Worship Conference Day 2" at Mark's blog, "Called out In Kansas."

some things get less neatly defined and comfortable as I walk this journey

"Church" and "prayer" and "devotions" and "right doctrine" used to be, in some ways, a lot simpler when I had fairly neat, clearly defined (narrowly defined!) ideas of what they were and how to "do them."  Even what "relationship with God" really means.

And I used to think that as I became a "mature Christian," I'd probably become pretty wise, and stop making so many mistakes.  I guess I expected I'd become my picture of a "Godly older woman," like in Titus 2.  And that maybe it would be a reasonably comfortable, relaxing, rocking-chair kind of experience.

But instead, the farther along I get in this journey, the less neatly defined things become, and the less comfortable I become about "myself."

Though, joyfully, I have become absolutely confident about a couple things (that have to do with God, rather than me - and maybe that's a sign of Christian maturity, after all):

  • God loves me!
  • God will never stop loving me, or reject me
  • I know I can totally trust my Father to do the very best for me (and my family) according to His wonderful and amazing eternal purposes!
I love You!  Thank You!

worrying about getting old, and losing my mind, and not being useful anymore...

The other night I had a bad dream, in which I had a tiny new-born baby, and I was having trouble focusing on taking care of the baby.  I was laying on the bed with the baby when someone phoned and asked if I wanted to go for a drive.  I said, "Sure," and jumped up, ran out, got in their car with them, and we drove away.  After awhile, I suddenly remembered about the baby, and asked to be taken home.  I rushed into the house, and the baby wasn't on the bed.  But my mom was there, crying really hard, and immediately I thought something bad must have happened to the baby....  and then I woke from the dream.

After I woke up, I was picturing my mom when she had dementia.  She used to pack this doll around, loving it and cuddling it.  But then she'd suddenly lay it down anywhere, or even just drop it and walk away, totally forgetting about it.

And when I was recently at my daughter's place, carrying her new-born baby, there were a couple different times when I had a "flash" (a dream-like picture in my head) of myself just suddenly being distracted by something.  And in this moment I'd see myself "forgetting" that I was carrying the baby in my arms.  In the picture (but not at all in reality) I'd loosen my grip, and the baby would start to fall from my arms.  It was really frightening.  In reality, I would hold the baby extra-carefully.  But I found myself beginning to doubt my ability to take care of the baby.

Maybe these incidents have to do with the fact that, lately, I find myself worrying about, or at least doubting, myself.  In the past few years, as I've aged, I've caught myself occasionally forgetting (temporarily) specific words or names, but usually they surface in my mind within a few seconds, or I can quickly come up with a suitable synonym, or just explain the missing word with a short description.  I know this is common as people age (I'm in my mid-fifties), but it honestly scares me.

I also have a harder time learning new things.  I don't easily "catch onto" new ideas like I used to, and I don't memorize as easily as in the past.  (On the other hand, I do seem to sometimes be able to personally come up with new-to-me ideas, as, I suppose, I have years of experience and ideas to pull together). 

And I find sometimes that I seem to have more difficulty thinking things through as simply or as deeply as I used to; for example, when listening to people arguing a point, I have a harder time deciding whose viewpoint is likely more logical.  I tell myself that it's just because I can see more "logic" or "rightness" in a variety of viewpoints than in the past (because over the years I've gathered a greater amount of knowledge - and hopefully, wisdom - than I once had.  But at the same time I worry that maybe it's really a sign that I am "losing it."

Even my writing ability seems to me to be declining.  I have to think things through more clearly, and edit my work more.    (I'm hoping, of course, that actually I've just grown more humble, and that I now realize my writing is far from perfect and needs more effort than I used to believe).

What concerns me most of all, I think, is that I used to be able (it seems to me), to clearly hear God's voice and write down amazing thoughts I heard from Him, as well as quickly write down flowing poems, and creative articles and stories.  But right now, I feel as though I still have a lot of thoughts, many of them from Father (I no longer am so confident about that. I perhaps see more clearly how "my ideas" get mixed in; at least, that's what I tell myself).  But I can't seem to express them, orally or written, as easily and confidently as I once did.

I am really doubting myself.  I am frequently worried that I am getting some kind of early-onset dementia.  I do realize that this extra level of worry really started to set in when my aunt began to develop the same symptoms of dementia as my mom had.  When mom had dementia, I didn't know of anyone else in my family background who had suffered from dementia, though I have had many long-lived forebearers.  So, although I decided, watching mom, that I would rather have my body disintegrate, rather than "lose my mind," I wasn't really worried about dementia happening to me.  Furthermore, my mom suffered from an advanced, rare form of cirhosis, and the doctors thought that mom's brain problems may have been related to that illness.  So I convinced myself that mom's demntia was an abberation, not a family trait.  But now that her younger sister (though not her older sister, or her brother) has developed dementia, I'm thinking maybe it is hereditary after all - and maybe I'm "catching" it. 

When my mom was in her mid-fifties, my younger sister was only in her mid-teens, and mom was bright and active and energetic.  But lately I've been feeling dull, and I seem to have lost energy and enthusiasm.  My "get-up-and-go" seems to have "got-up-and-went."  I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything.  Of course it doesn't help that I've always been self-conscious about my body image, and lately I seem to be sagging in certain spots, and have developed a little "jelly-belly"!

I've thought of some possible reasons for my dullness:  I've been too house-bound and lacking social interaction as I've tried to get this "writing business" going.  I've been kept from focusing and disciplining myself to get things done, while I've been waiting the past 3 or 4 months for three new grandchildren to put in their appearances (babies aren't great at keeping "due dates!").  Even though I actually have done a lot of things toward my home-based writing business, I haven't "made money" (though amazingly, thanks to Father, I haven't worried about it).  And I feel that I'm not reaching any goals (Father has been teaching me to walk with Him, in the present moment, instead, but that old goal-oriented way of life doesn't easily let go).

Father!  Am I really "losing it?"  What's the matter with me?  What do You want from me?  How can You let Your children "lose it?"  (And will they really "get it back" in heaven?  Are those evil questions to ask? 

Can You please calm my spirit?  Can You forgive me for my recent scatterbrained ways?

Can You still use me?  Am I still useful - of value - to You?

(Sometimes I don't feel useful or of value to almost anyone.  I don't have a "real job" where I see people every day, and they pat me on the back for my little successes.  And my five kids are grown and have kids of their own and I'm not "needed" like I used to be.  And I don't even feel "useful" in "the church" anymore;  in the "institutional" church it seemed I was always busy, teaching Bible studies, leading childrens' and womens' ministries, playing piano, working in the office, making food for potlucks, even doing janitorial stuff.  Now it seems to me like all I'm "good for" is hospitality - which is a "gift" I'm sure, but this new "relational" vs "institutional" focus sometimes makes me feel a bit useless!)

Father?  Can You please help me relax?  And just trust You to know what's best?  Help me walk with You moment by moment and stop worrying?

(And oh, Father.  Here is one more thing:  I am terrified of becoming a burden to my kids.  (And I think I am still feeling guilty of too often resenting and/or dreading to go and visit my mom in the nursing home day after day, for years, before she died).  Father, I don't want my kids to have to look after me.  And maybe I'm afraid they'll remember my big failures as a mother, and won't want me around.  And it will be all my fault.  It seems I am still feeling a failure from back then.  And maybe I'm transferring that past sense of failure to my current circumstances.  And blaming myself for everything.  And fearing I'll be resented if I need help some day.)

(I just now had a flash-memory of myself walking to Red Bridge that grey, cold winter day, standing on the end of the diving board above the fast-flowing, icy river, and wanting to jump off because I felt I was such a failure as a mother).

Father, how can I forgive myself?  I'm pretty sure You've forgiven me.  And rationally, based on what I see, I'm pretty sure my kids have (mostly, at least) forgiven me.  And that they love me.

Oh dear.  Please help me, Papa.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Is there something wrong with my prayers?

I've been missing You so much, Father.

I read a couple days ago that in France in Medieval times people had 2 sleeps each night.  They would go to bed when it got dark out, then wake in the wee hours of the morning, at which time they would pray or meditate or otherwise spend some focused time in Your Presence (by candlelight, if they could afford candles; many couldn't).  Then they  would go back to sleep until the sun rose.  The question wasn't "Di you sleep well last night?"  But rather, "Which of your sleeps were better?"  I'm thinking it was likely the one after time spent with You.  I'm even thinking of giving it a try myself....

Father, my prayers seem to have been pretty unbalanced lately.  I seem to pray for my kids (in a bedtime-now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep kind of way, quite often) pretty regularly.  And pray right away when people ask me to.  And when various things "strike me" (maybe that's hearing You...?).  And I find myself quite frequently carrying on conversations with You, or just thinking about things and sensing Your Presence along with me.  (And I think that is prayer, too, our minds and spirits united).

But a lot of the time, hours pass when I'm not formally "focused on You"  (though I'm in varying degrees aware of You in different ways:  a "sense" of You; thoughts that I'm sure come from You; hearing You quite often in things I read - some actually "about You," others more "secular" - and in things I hear (songs, people talking, music) and in things I see and smell (like nature), and in people I meet, and so on.

And I am realizing that I haven't been doing hardly any "focused" prayer on things that I used to think were important:  list-things like "our church" and "missionaries" and "poor people in countries far away."  (I don't remember a lot of prayer for poor people locally, in my prayers of the past, except maybe for someone I personally knew who needed a new job or something).  Or even things like our own finances (which I used to pray about a LOT, quite desperately ... but I just don't seem to have many "panic" prayers anymore.  Does that mean my life is just simpler, or am I just maybe finally trusting You more?)  (Actually, I don't even seem to pray much asking for help to "trust You" ... Father?)

I do seem to do quite a bit of unplanned and casual "chatting" and "talking things over" with You.  But it's so casual a lot of the time that I don't really think of it as "prayer."  Just like casual, ongoing, natural conversations with my own family members at home.  But does that "count" as prayer?  Do we need to count or keep track of or add up the minutes of our "prayers?" 

I don't think so.  And yet.  Jesus took lots of times off to spend focused time with Father.  (At night... all night sometimes).  (I've heard preachers say that He just did that when He had something important coming up, like choosing His twelve apostles, or in the garden before He went to the cross.  But I wonder about that.)  I know He was constantly in tune with You, Father.

When we are walking with You, living in Your love, following You...  is there need (and/or requirement) for regular, scheduled, focused "daily devotion" time with You ... or are all our moments You-time ... or some combination thereof?  Father?  Please show me what You purpose for my walk with You.

(Oh yes... and what about "corporate prayer" times?  How much?  When?  Where?  How "focused"?  How participatory?  Lots of questions.  I want Your will and ways, Father.)

lonely, not focused, wondering where I belong in Your body?

I've been feeling lonely lately.  Maybe because it's been a kind of unscheduled summer, what with waiting for phone calls that new grandchildren have arrived (all doing so without much regard for their supposed "due dates"), and then dashing off for a week or two to admire them and help out their moms for a week or two, as nanniis (grandmas) are privileged to do.  So I have missed out on a number of planned gatherings, as well as the everyday relational opportunities Father sends along day by day.  (Sadly, I failed to realize until just very recently, that visiting my children and grandchildren, passing conversations with other passengers on Greyhound and BC Ferries, visits to churches in other communities, and so on, are also relational opportunities sent by Father.  His kingdom doesn't take vacations - and in that sense, neither do his children.)

Anyway, after I got home from visiting my newest grandchild, I spent two or three days catching up on housework and bills and things that oddly didn't seem to get done while hubby and son were doing the "bachelor" thing while I was gone (lol).  But once I got that caught up, I started feeling kind of depressed.  I had even reached the point where I seriously considered giving up my writing and try to get a "real job" again (you can read about that here!).

A few days ago, I wrote in my journal, talking to Father.  I told Him:

Father, I'm so lonely.  Or alone.  Or something.

I long for church gathering.  The Sunday street church breakfast is nice but it's just once a week.  And it seems like we haven't even been really focusing on You that much, Father.

Do we NEED to "focus?"  I've been starting to think so.  Why don't we seem to be having the good discussion times, lately, with lots of people, like we used to?  Why can't we maybe have some kind of weekday gatherings, maybe in someone's house downtown, or even in the park?

And Father, I've not been regularly meeting (focused) with You myself, either. Especially since going to the island, I've not even been reading your word regularly, except for a couple "catch-ups."  I'm so behind in my read-through-the-year plan now.  And doing "catch-up" just doesn't seem to cut it;  when I try, I feel like I'm just rushing through, and I get more tired and discouraged, and there seems to be so little depth, and - well, I feel GUILTY, and like I'm not obeying or even loving You.

You know I've been sitting out on my front porch to try and meet my neighbors.  And I smile and say hello to people I pass on the streets.  And I try to be friendly and caring at Sunday street church.  And you know my chat with L yesterday when she came by because she was hungry and she felt safe to come here and ask for a sandwich (well, that was cool!).  And I read other people's blogs, and make comments, and write on my blogs.

But Father, these days I so often don't feel like I am really being part of Your church.  I've even wondered if your church on the streets is where You want me to be.

I listened to my MP3 player (for the first time in ages) on the way to street breakfast on Sunday, and there was two songs that I'd always kind of ignored before when I listened to them.  But this time I really did sense You using them to tell me You still want me with Your street family.

(Oh Father - where is everyone?  I mean, there are lots of people, but it seems like people I really had developed relationships with have stopped coming.  I guess that's the nature of a gathering of people who live "on the edge;" their lives are pretty unpredictable and transient and just trying to survive a lot of the time, and it's hard to track down people who often don't have a settled address or phone number.  And of course some of them have come to You, and have been healed of their addictions and things, and gotten jobs, and returned to families - which is awesome.  But still - I miss them!

Where are the two D's?  The guy with the big grocery cart?  The young man from Cuba (is he even still alive?  Last time I saw him he was so ill was his brain tumor)?   But oh! GJ was there this Sunday - I was delighted to see him, as he's been gone from our community for almost a year.  He was such an encouragement to me last summer, just loving Jesus every moment.  But this time he was high on mushrooms which was kind of sad.  And Father, T and D were both reeking alcohol, which I've never seen them be like at Sunday gatherings before (though D really wanted to help with the food serving: maybe she's just lonely too?).  And __ and her little boy who live in a room over the liquor store, and don't even have a fridge, and always were so happy to get the rest of the milk in the jug at the end of Sunday gatherings - they've not been around much lately.  Nor have M nor J nor most of "the crew."  Of course there are always new people.  New relationships to build.  New people to share Jesus with.  But...

While I've been writing this, I've been trying to find those songs You brought to my attention the other day, but my MP3 player is being glitchy and just keeps playing the same song, over and over.  Are You trying to tell me something else?  What does this song say?

Everyday Lord, I'll learn to stand upon Your word/ And I pray that I might come to know You more / That You would guide me in every step I take / That everyday I can be Your light  unto the world ... Everyday it's You I live for / Everyday I follow after You / Everyday I walk with You my Lord...
What to say, Lord? It's You who gave me life... I give all that I am to You / That everyday I could be a light that shares Your name.  (Hillsong United)

Oh!  Thank You!  That's right!  It's not about me after all.  It's about You - and the places You take me every day, the places and people You choose for me to share Your name and light and life with.  And if I'm focusing on YOU, centering on YOU, I won't be lonely, either!

And Oh!  I remember what those songs were that You pointed out to me last Sunday, telling me that Your street family is where You do want me still:

" Which Jesus do you follow? ....  my Jesus bled and died / He spent his time with thieves and liars / He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant ....  Blessed are the poor in spirit...  blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness...  my Jesus bled and died for my sins / He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars / He loved the poor and accosted the rich ...  Who is this that you follow... If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side...  the word says He was battered and scarred / Or did you miss that part? ... He spent His time with thieves and the least of these .... He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud ... And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud ...  I want to be like my Jesus / not a poster child for American prosperity / but like my Jesus ... You said to live like You, love like You / but then You died for me / Can I be like You, Jesus?"  (My Jesus, by Todd Agnew)
And the other song:
"There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary, Love for the broken heart.  There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, He'll meet You wherever you are.  Cry out to Jesus ...  For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains, You try to give up, but you come back again, Just remember that you're not alone in your shame and your suffering.  When you're lonely, and it feels like the whole world is falling on you, You just reach out, your just cry out to Jesus..."  (Cry out to Jesus, by Third Day)
 Yes! thank You!


blank slate following Jesus

Confession time.  If you've followed this blog at all, you know that I've struggled with following Jesus day-by-day, moment-by-moment.  I'm impatient.  And self-centered.  I want to be able to see the future, not so much so I'll be emotionally prepared for what's coming, or so my life will be more secure or comfortable, or anything like that. But I  do want to know what's coming, so I can make plans.  So I can introduce my brilliant ideas.  So I can make exciting things happen sooner.  So when it happens, people will see how much I did to make it happen, and will be proud of me.

Keith Giles, in his posting, The Secret Formula of the Kingdom, talks about how,
In the Kingdom of God, there are no short answers. Sound bites are inadequate. Formulas do not exist. Your comfort zone is irrelevant. Tension is the new status quo for a citizen of the Kingdom of God, not resolution.
He says God is unpredictable, and we need to come before Him every day with a blank slate. Ask Him what He's doing right now.  Then listen.  And wait.  Trust Him.  And then only do what He's doing.

In the kingdom life, we have to let go our control.  Forget the formulas and live in Christ by the power of the Spirit.

(Check out Keith's posting.  Right on.).

the Jesus I want to be like

When I'm with my street family, this is the Jesus I want to be like:

I think if Jesus came to the gathering lakeside, he would probably walk quietly over to where the land meets the water.
He’d look around and figure out which guy in there was at his wits end, the guy who’d taken all he could, the guy who was suffering to the point of exhaustion.
The guy that had no place to lay his head.
I guess I don’t know how Jesus would choose.  He’d just know where His Father wanted him.  I think he’d sit down next to the guy, he’d put his arm around him, lean in close, and say, “I love you, brother.  Dad loves you, too.  You ready to get something to eat?” Then he’d get in line for dinner, sit down with the least of these, say a blessing and dig in, delighting in those he loves most.
 I want to love like Jesus.  I want to hear Father's voice like He did, too.

(Thanks to Brother Frankie for this posting at The Gathering Lakeside)

Spooning sin

I suppose because I have a degree in geography, the title of Jonathan Acuff's blog post, "Forgetting 1 Geography Lesson" caught my eye, and I just had to take a look (thanks to Jason Petermann for posting the link).

Well, it turned out to be a great post, just as Jason promised.  Here's a clip:

Come on, sin doesn’t parachute into our lives like that. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. Sin is typically a death by a thousand cuts. It’s not a catapult moment. Not for us, and not all throughout the Bible.

That’s how life works sometimes. We tend to turn “near” into “in.” We spoon sin for a time. We flirt with it. But eventually, we give in. Emotional affairs tend to turn into physical affairs. Small pockets of gossip turn into gallons of malice. Cheating mutates into stealing. The little things give birth to the big.
Like Jason said, it's important. You want to read it.  (here)

Friday, 27 August 2010

Another Chance Street Church - new pages

I'm continuing to try and sort out my blog to make it easier to navigate the various topics I've been covering.  So I'm trying the "pages" option that blogspot has available.

So far I've created two new pages (which you'll also find links to at the top of this blog):

street church - Father's call
street church - stories

Recently, there has been discussion among a number of blogs about the church reaching out to the poor.  On this "Church Journey" blog, Mark at Called Out in Kansas,  co-heir at On the Journey, brother frankie at The Gathering Lakeside, Keith Giles at Subversive1, and Dan Allen at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine all weighed in on my discussion on this topic, and some of them also kindly gave me pointers on how to change my blog.

As readers of this blog will know, I am involved in a street ministry called Another Chance.  On the two pages listed above, I have gathered together key clips from my blog postings over the years related to street church and my related thoughts about reaching out to the poor - as well as "church" in that context.  So if you're interested in my thoughts about this topics, and stories straight from the street, have a look at these pages!

living into thinking vs thinking into living

Today, I read the following quote on a blog post, and copied it to my facebook status:

 “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking."

Then, along with a couple almost-instantaneous "likes,"  a good friend posted this observation:

I dunno if I agree with that! I have always found I have to really believe something before I can truly live it... and the believing comes in the form of a new understanding. Someone told me you dont behave your way into good thinking, you believe your way into new behaviors. At least that is how it is working with me. 
And I had to stop for a moment and think about that.  Because sometimes I tend to read a quote, and think, "Oh yeah, that's right on!" and then quote it to others, without really thinking it through.  So when I read C's comment, I had to stop and work that out.  Which isn't always a normal kind of thing to do on facebook, where most thoughts tend to come in "sound-bites" (of varying quality...).

Anyway, I did an abnormal facebook thing, and actually thought something through in a response comment.  Here's what I wrote.

Actually, I'd agree with you Cassie... because when I hear "think your way into a new kind of living" to me that's the whole "behavior" thing: like, if I make up a list of "good person" qualities, and everyday I look in the mirror and say.../affirm to myself, "Today I am going to become a better person by doing a random act of kindness/ never swear/ read my Bible/ whatever..." to me that is ME trying to think MY way into a new kind of living, and for the most part it's an outside behavioral change but not an essential change for me.

BUT if I encounter a truly new understanding that I experience, ("know", in the deeper meaning of that word), as true reality (and in my experience that would include bumping into the astonishing reality that God really does love me, and wants a relationship with me, which He has made possible through Jesus) - and thus I really do believe it, more than just as an idea to enjoy "thinking about" ... then that becomes a starting point from which my living changes, from which I have been changed inwardly, and because of that not only does my outward behavior begin to change in line with that inward change, but my whole "thinking" is changed, I have a whole new view of reality, of the world, of my relationship with God, and my relationship with people around me... So in my living ("living loved" in this case) my whole way of thinking is informed and changed.

So yes, I would agree that to truly live something, there has to be that initial experience of belief and understanding. And that changes my thinking (from the inside out), and that informs my outward behaviors. (And it keeps growing and developing, its a way of living and thinking that comprehensively affects every aspect of my life... behaviors, thoughts, actions and reactions... and, big-time, relationships - with my Creator and with every other human being (and ultimately with all aspects of creation, because of those changed relationships)
Hmmm.... well that's a clear as mud!  Which just goes to show that I need to think before I talk.

What do YOU think? Or live? Or both?

(And just out of curiosity... do you think our facebook-twitter-texting-soundbite-lives can sometimes have rather dangerous consequences to our thinking... and living...?)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

How Father led me to Another Chance street church

Well, I'm finally back from all my adventures with new grandchildren, and I am actually doing what I promised - redesigning this blog to make it easier for readers to explore "my church journey."  To begin with, I've gathered clips from my past blog postings that explain how Father reached into my heart, and led me where He wants me to be at this time in my life.  And I've posted those clips on the page called:

street church - Father's call
To get to this page, just click on the "street church - Father's call" page link at the top of this page.  In your reading, walk along  with me the adventure on which He's taking me.  And rejoice with me that we have an amazing God: our Father who really does love us, unconditionally; our Saviour, Jesus, who walks with us, and guides us into His purposes; and His Spirit who unites us with our Creator God and His family, His church.


Sunday, 22 August 2010

women in the church?

Wondering about women in the church?  Check out this article:

"Are the sisters free to function?" by John Zens


french toast at street church

So I was just checking out a blog post, "25 things you can do on Sunday instead of going to church."  It was a great post, and I left this comment:

Great list! Sometimes (after a year and a half or so) I still hear that little voice nagging, “It’s Sunday! You should go to church!” (lol… I actually did go to church last Sunday with the people I was visiting when I was away on holidays… and was reminded again, rather sadly, why I don’t often “go to church” these days).

sooo.... What have I done “instead of church” today?

Talked with Father as I walked across town, and then prayed with (and talked and laughed with, and made french toast for) the folks at the street family breakfast there, shared a bit of cash with some street folks;

 [Yep, that's me at the back table whipping up french toast!]

......on the way home smiled and greeted everyone I passed; and back home, made comments on some blogs about not going to church, and chatted with a friend on facebook who I’ve been praying for, and made a date to get together with a friend for coffee later this week, and another date to get together for prayer with another friend… and it’s only noon so far…

But I didn’t go to church… But oh! maybe all that IS church! Yes! :-)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Pastor Pete of the street church on You Tube

If you've been following my posts on the Another Chance street church, I think you'll want to take a listen to Pastor Pete here on YouTube 

Thursday, 19 August 2010

"The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission" (John Dickson) : a review

Hello again!  I am back from visiting my brand new grandson, and am joyfully catching up on reading postings from my favorite blogs.  A couple of bloggers have been talking about "cold call evangelism" and getting a variety of interesting responses.  (You can check these postings out at Called Out in Kansas and The Assembling of the Church).

I am particularly interested in this topic because I grew up in a tradition that pushed evangelism (especially the cold call variety) very enthusiastically.  I learned and put into practice the 4 spiritual laws, napkin evangelism, and numerous other supposedly fail-safe systems (which too often included a lot of theological concepts and vocabulary that I never felt I understood well enough myself).  But not being naturally blessed with the gifting of those who excel in this method of supposedly fulfilling the great commission, I even thought that perhaps trying to sell door-to-door products might give me some ideas and the courage to improve my evangelism-gospel-sales techniques.  Unfortunately, other than being able to claim some income tax deductions for business expenses, my direct-sale experiences were not much more successful than my gospel-sales attempts.

So for many years I suffered from guilt for apparently not doing my part in leading folks to Jesus.   Fortunately, I have discovered that Father graciously considers my non-salesperson personality (which He created, by the way) to also be worthy of participation in His kingdom-building work.  It seems that hospitality and mothering and facilitative-teaching forms of relationship-building (in my case) are also useful, if less direct and speedy, ways of sharing my love of Jesus.  Evangelism, after all, does not have to be a scary or hopeless activity.

Still, the old guilt feelings sometimes resurface, and I know that I am not alone in this struggle.  So I have been pleased to read John Dickson's new book, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, and come away assured that not only does Father allow - and delight in - His children sharing the gospel in a variety of real-life ways, but also that such sharing is not a burden and heavy personal responsibility of being a Christian, but is a joyful proclamation of the reality and glory of the one God of the universe who loves us!

The author begins by recognizing how even those who are "enthusiastic, natural promoters of Christ" can be "transformed into a nervous and unnerving 'Bible-thumper'" by the pressure to get out there and convert the masses by the various evangelism "methods."  He also points to the pressure to blurt out everything you know about Christianity right then and there, and the frequent condensation of the gospel into a couple "doctrines with little attempt to connect these ideas to the flesh-and-blood story of Jesus." 

The thesis of John Dickson's book is that evangelism starts with the Bible's most basic doctrine, there is only one Creator and Lord, who is establishing His kingship and Kingdom. This one God keenly loves every person, desires to have fellowship with them, and has made it possible through the life of His Son, Jesus. As believers who have experienced His love and fellowship, we will naturally desire to promote God's glory and salvation (just watch brand new believers!).  Rather than particular evangelistic methods, it is our lives that most clearly "illustrate the fellowship with sinners that God so keenly desires."  As we are in fellowship with Christ, and at the same time are compassionate friends to others, do good, and speak of Christ when the opportunity occurs, the right "system" for our own context will flow.

However, we are not meant to be lone wolf evangelists.  We are not individually responsible to fill some personal quota. Evangelism, like all other aspects of our relationship with Christ and His church, is very much fellowship-oriented.  There are those who have the gift of evangelism, and are particularly sent out as evangelistic workers.  The author goes into some detail about these workers, and how they can be recognized and sent out (though some of his suggestions are more traditional-church-system oriented than I feel comfortable with).  But all believers can joyfully participate in evangelism.  Our lives, of course, are to be lived in such a way that the world sees Jesus in us, and we can take opportunities that flow out of our lives in our relationships with others.  What else?

- all believers pray together persistently for those who are sent out
- recognize that ultimately the mission is God's (not ours)
- provide provision and support (in a variety of ways) for those who are sent out
- love and pray for our enemies, give to the needy, live humbly, be merciful and forgiving, be honest and trustworthy in our daily affairs, be non-retalitory - live godly lives that are an "apologetic to the gospel"
- be prepared to graciously answer questions about our faith
- God-talk: casual, relaxed, natural references to our faith in everyday conversation

And when we do have the opportunity to speak of Christ?  What then?  The author points to "Paul's gospel" as outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6:

- Jesus' identity as the Christ (God's Messiah and Son)
- Jesus' saving deeds
- Jesus' burial
- Jesus' resurrection
- Jesus' appearance to witnesses

Surprise!  It's not a listing of complicated doctrines and theology.  The gospel is the great news of actual events: telling the gospel "involves recounting the deeds of the Messiah Jesus."  Stories are easy to remember and tell.  Stories are easy to understand.  (Oh yes, the kingdom of heaven is wide open to those who are like little children, isn't it?).  And every step in the story points to those deeper understandings - which we can point out simply in our gospel presentation, and then build upon as we disciple new believers who have met their Creator and Savior in hearing His story.

I don't have to feel guilty after all.  I really can share the good news of my Savior and God.

John Dickson sums up: "The point is simple: we are to live lives worth questioning and then offer answers worth hearing."

Sunday, 8 August 2010

lack of posting? Good reasons!

Hello all!

My apologies for lack of posting recently.  I've been very busy with family visiting us, and now my daughter has just given birth, so I'm off to her home to help out!

Friday, 6 August 2010

growing community through connections

Today I read an awesome article, "We are all interwoven," at Diana Holvik's blog, Under the Linden Tree. 

In this article, Diana powerfully weaves in stories to describe community and connections.  As I commented, we often feel that we are surrounded by strangers, and feel so alone. And yet if we are willing to smile, say a friendly hello, and strike up a conversation rich in story, we so often find that the one who a moment ago was a stranger has suddenly turned out to be family and/or friend, by simple connection.

There is much conversation in blogs about church as community, in which people wonder aloud how we find those who, like us, are looking for church as relationship and community.  If you've been wondering that, read Diana's blog posting

What do you think about what she describes?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

to help the poor, leave your money belt at home?

 I have wondered why it seems like God has mostly called "poor people" to reach out to the poor(er!) people in our community.  Maybe it has something to do with this:

"So, what can you bring if you leave your money belt at home? If you have a wallet full of money to give away you'll be tempted to meet physical needs without paying attention to the spiritual poverty. If your focus is on what you can do, or give, or bring, you might just miss what God wants to do."
 You can read the rest of this quote from Keith in his article, "Silver and Gold."

what about pastors?

Wondering about the role of pastors?  Wondering about how you can truly show love for your pastor (if you have one!)?

Check out this excellent article:For Love of Your Pastor by Keith Giles at "Subversive 1"