What Kind Of Church Are We?

Just today I read an article in a leadership journal from a Pastor of a thriving “normal sized” church – the kind of church that’s been called “small.” In the article Karl Vaters correctly observes: “Different churches contribute to the growth of the kingdom of God in different ways. Some are senders. Some are builders. Some are multipliers. Some are spiritual hospitals. And some are spiritual boot camps.”

Here’s my question to you, the readers of this blog: What kind of church do you think God has wired Faith Community Church to be? Are we sender, builder, multiplier, spiritual hospital or spiritual boot camp?

I have some thoughts but I’m curious what you might think.

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Thanks For Your Service

Yesterday was the official celebration of Veteran’s Day, and today is the national holiday. War is indeed a brutal thing I’ve heard described to me in vivid detail by Veterans. The violence that war enacts not only ends far too many young lives, but war leaves a dark mark on any person who happens to endure its horrors. So today I want to say thank you to all the Vets who did their best to serve our country. At the same time I long for the day the prophet Isaiah described so long ago:

He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:4

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Election Aftermath

I’m not here to cheer or cry the morning after the elections. I’m here to look back upon old, and yet fresh, wisdom. May the closing words of Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address inform all of our hearts in the aftermath of yesterday’s election.

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds . . . to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. – Abraham Lincoln

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You Gotta Vote

It’s time to stop spewing our opinions in our favorite social media locations, opinions that probably don’t accomplish much more than calcify our categories. It’s time for all Americans to do something that actually leads our nation forward as we all choose who will be our leaders and what will be the law in our future. Tomorrow we vote – or will we?

Only 6 out 10 eligible voters cast their vote in 2016. This is not only sad, but unacceptable – especially if we are followers of Christ. Our country affords us the freedom to use our minds to prayerfully make our way through a ballot and choose, from our own Spirit formed conscience, how our country will be led. Please make sure that you perform the civic duty your freedom provides to you. Vote!

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Grief

It’s been an interesting week for me when it comes to facing mortality and grief in life. Last Wednesday I took the time to blast out of Santa Cruz at 5am to run up to my childhood hometown to check on my dad. I made such great time (who knew how fast you can actually get around the Bay Area when there isn’t any traffic?) and so I decided to head out to the graveside of my mom. In the dark of the morning, as the sun rose, I stood on the edge of the grass where my mom was laid to rest and spent a few moments thanking God, and thanking my mom, for all the love and memories we shared in life. It was a mix of both grief and gratitude.

In the last few days I’ve spent time with two people processing very new, and very raw, grief. One of them is the pastor of the church that our church rents from. His 94-year-old mother faded away from congestive heart failure and went home to be with Jesus last Friday. As we talked he expressed the odd mix of both grief and relief and gratitude. He smiled with misty eyes. Then he told stories of how his 96-year-old father was singing his wife’s favorite hymns and Christmas carols in the background as she made her way into the arms of Jesus. Then just yesterday I walked two doors down to my neighbor. One week ago, his wife who’d been given 4 months to live, passed away at home under hospice care and surrounded by family. My neighbor is a man’s man, but I just went in and gave him a bear hug and told him we loved him and if he needed anything we’d be happy to help. We just stood there looking at his Harley, as he prepared to hit the road and experience some solitude, and we talked about her passing and about love. My neighbor is not a believer, and even admits to being ticked at God for not letting his wife live, but I shared with him the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes where he says, “Love is stronger than death.” He smiled with misty eyes. My heart feels deeply the reality of loss.

I’ll end with this great line from a new worship song by Rend Collective. In their song “Weep with Me” they sing this line – “Turn my lament into love song.” The great hope we all have is that God is actually capable of turning lament into a love song.

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Failing At Love Is Better Than Succeeding At Pride

A dear prayer warrior in my church recently shared this quote with me. It describes the lean of my heart and I hope it resonates with you. It comes from Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”

I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride. –Eugene Peterson

I’m going to try to love today even if I do it clumsily.

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Leaving What We’ve Outgrown

Our hearts are wired for the eternal, the lasting and the beautiful. It isn’t often that we taste all of these things, on this side of eternity, but there is that longing deep within all of us. Allow me to share with you this poem a friend recently shared with me. I think it’s beautiful and thought you might like it.

 

In out-of-the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

 

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown

 

It watched you play with the seduction of safety,

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

 

Then the delight when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

 

Though your destination is not yet clear,

You can rust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning,

That is at one with your life’s desire.

 

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

John O’Donohue – To Bless the Space Between Us

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