Simply a great song…from Ireland and Stuart Townend

We sang the song "Across the Lands" during our worship gathering on Sunday @ Peace.  I'm enjoying this new music…at least it is new to me.  I've noticed that it was composed a few years back…but I've been so enamored with other artists and other expressions of song that I've missed Stuart's work.  I like the music because it is simple, singable, and a good "bridge" between that which is more contemporary and hymnody from historical expressions of faith.  In addition, it's Irish!  One of my pals here in Monroe thought I was talking about Pete Townsend…of course, I had to correct them and assure a few folks that we weren't doing WHO songs at our worship gathering…although I thought of a few of them that would be fun to sing!  Anyway, here's the song…check out some of Stuart's others on Itunes!


 

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Creation of Places where Communities overlap – or, that relational step into community from a faith foundation

Jesus egg Ok – warning – this is a bit on the "academic" side of posts today – but worth some consideration!

This post began in conversation with some pals about what’s been going on at our faith community in Monroe.  A few of us were reflecting on a recent event where our “preschool” community and “worship community” overlapped in activity… 

Sidebar here – let me say clearly here and now that I don’t see two “separate” communities when I view the overall sphere of mission/Kingdom influence of Peace in Monroe…we have one community…one aspect that gathers and worships on Sunday and is involved in “doing life” with each other throughout the week in a variety of manners and we have another aspect of our community that has invested young hearts and lives into our preschool “family” and, as a result, is part of our lives during the work week. 

Back to what I was reflecting on above before I rudely interrupted myself – that activity was truly a sight to behold because there were no boundaries that day between the two aspects of our faith community.  Relationships were buzzing and there was an electricity or sense of aliveness in the air that was definitely Spirit inspired.  In the course of the conversation, my friend Tim blurted out or better yet shared a perspective…he was saying something about how easy it would be to ask one of his friends (someone whom Tim knows and cares about outside of our faith community) to join in a rich relational time like we were having on that one Sunday afternoon.  He said it was fun, relational, and a great time to be sharing life as well as some of the values and deeply held commitments that we experience in loving and following Jesus.  Those aspects of life as we “share our lives and live our faith” come more naturally and powerfully in an environment as such…but then he made a powerful comment.  Tim was reflecting out loud how that sense of ease would dramatically change if he were to invite a friend to “church” (i.e. a worship experience) and how he would need “my help” in coming up with a strategy for how that might occur. 

Now, that one comment touched off one of those “light bulb” moments in our little group that night…because Tim’s story was the point, otherwise known as the main reason we were gathering for our conversation that night.  You see, as followers of Jesus we have to ask ourselves, if we are going to attempt to live incarnationally with others (in other words, to live as one who reveals the Lord Jesus in and through our lives) when there comes a time to ask a friend to jump into a potential relational blending of “communities” (our “friendship communities” and our “faith” communities, in other words, those we share time with outside of the walls and ministry boundaries of traditional church and those we share life with in our neighborhoods, workplaces, etc.), which is the best place to which we should ask?  Here’s my thinking on this…instead of asking a friend to jump right to a worship experience with songs and rituals they might not appreciate or understand, reading from a book (the bible) that they might not (or definitely don’t) believe in or see as authoritative, passively sitting and not being able to engage in conversation of any sort until “we” have dumped our religious load on them, not even including the issue of Communion or sermons (or as one of my friends said a while ago, “every time I go to a church service I feel like I’m in a time-share presentation), why not intentionally make it our “mission” to create “third places” where we can see a deliberate overlapping of our life communities (faith and other relational communities) for the sake of the Kingdom of God and trust the Holy Spirit with the results?  It would seem to me that incarnating the presence of Jesus, asking the Kingdom of God to be present in the love and care and fun we have in relationships during those times, and trusting that it is the relational God we trust and serve who manifests Himself clearly in the midst of those community moments would be something that should be embracing with passion.

I don’t know when we got the impression that being in the pew is the end goal of ministry…being in a transformative relationship with Christ as His follower, participating in the life of HIS Body through relationships, exercising the gifts that He gives us in our life in Jesus and joining God in His mission to “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10) THAT is the end goal I came to understand as I read the bible and get the mentoring that I get from people in the Body of Christ that I trust. 

There has been a lot of buzz over the past years within some Christ-following circles about “third places”.  A definition of “Third Places” really emerges from sociology and was prominently displayed in the book, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam a few years back. Essentially (by definition):

“Third places” are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true "third place": free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.”

So the question becomes, “where do we have an opportunity to build relationships with redemptive potentiality?”  AND, where best do we build a “place” where relationships can be developed with integrity but also where these relationships have an opportunity to experience the grace, love and power of God’s Kingdom? Don’t get me wrong…worship experiences could be and might become part of the equation…but if people are going to see, experience and embrace transformation we are going to see them take a step toward that in “third places”…places we “design” or strategize to “build” so that our relational communities can overlap in Spirit-inspired and transformative manners.  By the way, that’s what we are attempting to do in our faith community here in Monroe, Washington.  I think it would be an understatement to say that we have this whole, “mission of God” thing figured out…but this is simply one step we are taking in attempting to be faithful to the call of Jesus to “go and make disciples”…we can’t depend on the fact that there are going to be more people “looking” for places to worship….that isn’t occurring anymore.  I found out long ago that there are no more “Lutherans” moving into our community and searching for a “church home”.  This is a post-Christendom world and culture and what was true long ago (during the earliest of recordings of ministry activities and mission-oriented movement of the early gatherings of followers of Christ) is true now…we must not sit back and wait for people to show up in our buildings…rather we must be a “sent” people…going where the Lord leads…tracking where the Spirit moves…looking for the activity of the Father and joining HIM there…if anything, building relationships with those who need to see a picture and revelation of Jesus in their lives more than they need to see the inside of a church building. 

As usual, these thoughts are in process…so, I sign off where I usually  do – more to come…

This isn’t amazingly profound…but that’s the point

I’ve been thinking over the last few days since I’ve been back from Colorado why I haven’t taken the opportunity to post something on my blog.  Well, first of all, I have this article that I’m working on that isn’t quite finished.  Then, I tell myself that the rest of my little ideas don’t mean enough to take the time to post or bore my friends with…so I haven’t done anything of late.  Today I ran into a quick video that was encouraging…you know how it is – you think something and come up with an idea only to squelch it, forget about it and move on.  This little video encourages the obvious…every idea is a part of a bigger movement of truth, power, insight and creativity in our lives (just as obvious is that it is part of a bigger picture of “where our creativity comes from in the first place”).  So, enjoy the video and if you have an idea, share it!

A quick “post-birthday party” post…freedom of simplicity

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I was just sitting a few moments ago at my granddaughter Lily’s 5th birthday party.  It was at a local park with some of the moms and kids from her and our daughter’s family’s faith community here in Ft. Collins.  Something amazing to see over the last few minutes…kids bringing handmade birthday gifts to the party for Lily…yep, there were a few bottles of bubbles and the obligatory princess figurine for the birthday girl but most of the stuff (including cards) were handmade by the children and personally presented to Lily.  A value that they have in their community that stood out to me was that of simplicity…they celebrated Lily…each card had a bible verse and an expression of love.  Each “gift” had to be proudly “explained” by the children who made them…that was a laugh just listening to that!  It was cool to be able to see birthday values being expressed that are a bit “unique” from that which I see culturally exhibited on a consistent basis.  Many of you know that we lived in Orange Country, California for about ten years.  While we were there, we saw a phenomenon with birthdays where parents actually got in some competition with each other to “best” or “top” other families in birthday extravangzas.  Serious money was being spent…oodles of gifts were being presented…kids were blowing through stacks of things that cost some serious bank.  Now, I’m not bagging on those families…that’s not my point although I have seen a child or two grow to have no sense of meaning in gifts and toys because they have been inundated with material possessions throughout their lives…they grow to a place where there is no sense of value in what they received.  It is all just a wash of overload.  It was cool to see some much simpler and to see the more humble and measured reaction from Lily.  Yes, there will be some family gifts later on…that’s all part of the celebration.  But there was NOT a stack of gifts that filled up the gazebo where we shared some cupcakes and some relational time.  It was simple…very meaningful and celebratory.  When people talk about “consumerism” and narcissism in kids these days it is easy to see where it originates.  Parents need to be the champion of values…parents need to be the ones who inculcate a sense of worth to gifts that are received…parents need to be the ones who prepare their children for a future where they will NOT receive piles of gifts on every personal celebratory moment.  I don’t know, it just spoke to me today…

Multi-tasking article..thanks Mark!

Multitasking-productivity I just arrived in Denver for a few days with my family…Vicky had to stay home to recover from hand surgery (she assures me, as well as our friends assure me, that she is in good hands…).  So, my dad's birthday and my youngest granddaughter's birthday and my two neices are graduating…busy week.  So, I'm hanging out in Ft. Collins today with my daughter and son-in-law and while I'm doing so, Mark shares with me this article on "multi-tasking".  It was hilarious and true…thought you might enjoy it (while you are doing something else, most likely):

Should Multi-tasking Be Encouraged, Or Taken to Task? (you can read the entire article by clicking on the title)

"…Ruth Pennebaker’s fun piece, “The Mediocre Multitasker,” (New York Times) floated a reason or two for giving good old “uni-tasking” more love. As she reported, a Stanford University study found that multi-taskers are “just lousy at everything.” One of the study’s investigators, Clifford I. Nass, found this to be shocking, since the research had hoped to identify the traits in multi-taskers that made them so successful.  Just as Pennebaker responded to this “shock” with a wink and a nudge, are we supposed to be surprised about this?

As Clifford Nass, again, so succinctly put it in Pennebaker’s piece:

“I was sure they had some secret ability.  But it turns out that high multi-taskers are suckers for irrelevancy.”

 

If you have not subscribed to John Fischer’s “The Catch”, here’s the reason you should…

Res I would humbly say that John Fischer and I are "old" friends…there are stories I could tell but I'll skip them at this juncture in life.  Suffice to say that I have all of John's books…most of his recordings…I've hosted him a couple of times in the past at conferences and churches as well as had the honor of doing some music ministry with him "back in the day".  I've always admired John's wisdom, forthrightness and perspective into the truth.  He was saying things years ago that are now generally accepted by those who are being prophetic about the Christ-following movement.  He's been a teacher, master musician, creative thinker and prophet in many lives including mine. 

John has a website and a daily email "blast" that is part devotional, part theological treatise, part societal/cultural critique….always provocative and encouraging.  I would encourage you to go to the site and sign up to get the daily Catch!  Here's a sample of what John has been writing…it just so happens to be on a topic that is near and dear to my heart – what it means to follow Jesus as a person embedded in culture as a ambassador of the Kingdom of God – enjoy!

Coming alongside by John Fischer

I am normally not a fan of ten steps to this or five ways to do that. But for one of my recent talks I came up with these six things to remember about being around those who may not yet be Christians, and thought some of you might find it useful.
 
1) Assume everyone is searching for God. Why? Because everyone is. We were created this way. God has purposely frustrated humanity by creating us with eternity in our hearts, yet with an inability to fathom what that is or what it means (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11). He has done this so that we might reach out for him and find him though He is not far from any of us for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:27-28).
 
2) Come alongside. This is really the crux of it all. Just walk alongside people and enter into their lives. Listen. Talk. Laugh. Cry. Find out where you can contribute and what you can learn. There's something to give and something to receive in every relationship.
 
3) Point. You don't tell someone what the truth is; you point to it. "There it is over there," or "Here it is in my life." This is why we need to learn to identify truth in the context of the world around us. Truth isn't religious. You don't have to get into a certain posture to see it. It's not something that hasn't been there all along.
 
4) Find out what people already know before you set out to tell them anything. Don't ever think you have to clear the table and start over. This is why it's so important to listen first. Find out what's already on the table that you can use.
 
5) You don't have to tell everything you know. Just the next thing.
 
6) You don't have to correct everything someone says that is wrong. You are not the protector and defender of truth. You don't have to decide where to draw the line. You don't even have to be concerned if someone may be walking away with the wrong idea. You are not that smart anyway because you don't know what's in someone's head. As long as they have something to think about, that's a good thing.
 
And now here's the one final thing that makes all this possible. It is the most important of all. (This is the one thing that makes all six of these make sense.) We don't save anybody, convince anybody, "win" anybody to Christ or close the deal. All that is God's business. The Holy Spirit is doing this all on His own terms and timetable. We are not salesmen, marketing reps, counselors or prosecutors. We are just friends who come alongside.

John Fischer
The Catch Online