About 7 years ago I admitted to a dear, and brave, friend that the kind of church he wanted to plant in Santa Cruz might not resonate with that many people. My friend Rob Patterson had been given a heart and a vision by God to plant an Anglican Church in our city and the church he helped me start 5 years earlier was trying to help him get it planted. Don’t get me wrong – I wanted him to do what God was calling him to do but admitted to him that I didn’t as deeply connect with the rhythms of liturgy and this made me wonder how many other people would connect with it. I just honestly expressed my concerns for him and his family because I didn’t know how many other people would resonate with an Anglican expression of Christian faith.
It’s such a blessing to be proven so very wrong 7 years later! Yesterday I met up with Rob and heard one report after another of how God is blessing the work of Redeemer Anglican Church. New people are coming to know Jesus. People who’ve been hurt and/or not well-served by the church are finding rich community. I don’t talk about a lot of numbers (because really how useful is it?) but their church now has 50-60 people coming regularly, with even more coming on some weekends. Apparently God knows exactly what He is doing and I love being proven wrong. May God continue to bless Rob Patterson, his team, and the mission of Redeemer Anglican Church.
Our dog Ellie is getting older, which is requiring a whole lot more tender loving care from our entire family. For Christmas we got her a set of bones that she absolutely loves. She takes her bone, and goes outside and spends hours with it just happily gnawing away. It makes us happy to see her happy. But here’s the thing – her love of that bone has made us lose sleep. When we leave her bones outside, she ends up dreaming about her bone, waking up in the middle of the night, and letting us know that she needs to get outside to be with her bone at 2am. I’m not loving the sleep deprivation caused by her love for her bones. But I can say as I watch her gnaw on her latest bone this morning that I want to desire God in the way she desires her bone. King David wrote in the Psalm 77 “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned.” I want to be drawn to God today.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past few months and I’ve made a decision. In 2019 I’m going to make a change and I want my readers to know about it. The age of the blog is dwindling. There is a growing conversation on the internet that the age of blogging, that peaked around 2008, is shifting to other forms of social media. Also, in this last year I’ve felt more of a drain around writing this blog each week that I didn’t feel in the beginning. When I started this blog 7 years ago I did it because I found writing was a life-giving, creative outlet for me. As time has gone on I’ve felt this blog become more of a chore than an outlet. Finally, I’ve been feeling a strong tug from God, and strong encouragement from my wife, to sit down and write a book about health in the church. I know me, and I know I won’t be able to continue writing a blog and also try to wrap my heart and mind around a book that can help other churches. Nothing is going to change immediately. I will continue to post on this blog until the end of April, but when May dawns this blog will have run its course. I just wanted all of you to know in advance and to say thanks for reading Suspicion Of God through all of these years.
It seems like most people don’t like the morning. I love the morning. It’s probably the introvert in me that needs solitude in order to recharge my internal battery. There’s no better time than the morning to enjoy solitude and time with God. I love how the sun begins to come up and the trees seem to almost catch on fire as the day begins. Every morning reminds me of the newness of opportunity and the possibilities that lay before me as God goes before me in the new day. I know. If you’re not a morning person you’re just going to read this post and say “bah. humbug” but I just wanted to share with you a picture from the front of my house this morning to show you what I mean. Mornings with God are cool!
Today is usually the day when we look back at the year that was. I don’t know about you, but my normal method of operation is to look back on my year and think of ways I could have done better, and the ways things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I tend to look back with a view to some kind of new years resolution to do better or be better. Clearly I’m a recovering control freak who just tends to think I’m in way more control than I actually am. But as I’m getting ready to step into 2019 I want to invite you, my reader, to do something with me. Let’s not look back at the ways we failed, or the ways life didn’t go the way we preferred. Let’s look back at 2018 and see the ways God showed up, the ways God very much came to our rescue, brought surprising blessing, and was present when we needed Him. I want that to be my focus as I wrap up 2018 as my reminder that the same God who showed up in my past is the same God that goes with me into 2019. And that reality is far more significant than any new year’s resolution I can or can’t keep!
It’s not just beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s almost Christmas and I hope that you’ve been enjoying the ride toward the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I hope that maybe you’ve even enjoyed the messiness of Christmas. Of course our nostalgia about Christmas’s past erase all the messiness of the past, and leaves us hoping for some form of pristine goodness Christmas just can’t deliver. So I hope you can enjoy both the good things that come during this holiday right along with the messy things. Because it’s the goodness of God found in the messy that we really experience the presence of God’s greatness and goodness.
You know one of the things that has stood out to me as I’ve read through the story of Christ’s birth is this one line that the angel says to the shepherds in Luke 2. The angel tells the shepherds that the Messiah has been born, and then says “this shall be a sign to you. You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” The Jewish people, at the time of Christ’s birth, were looking for a big audacious sign from God that He was finally going to save the day for the whole world. For them, just like for us, a sign needed to be so overwhelming and convincing and spectacular that it would be indisputable to everyone. But God’s sign that He really was at work to save the day for the whole world was both marvelous and messy. A baby was born, wrapped in the kind of cloth that was normally wrapped around marvelous newborns in the 1st century. But that baby, who happened to be the marvelous king of the world, was lying in a messy donkey spittled manger. This was the sign that God had come into our messiness, and is still present in our messiness, to redeem us and the whole world. So instead of saying Merry Christmas, allow me to say Messy Christmas to you my readers.
I’m looking at the lovely aftermath of a children’s theatre showing of “The Muppet’s Christmas Carol” that our church hosted in the building where we worship. It was so fun to see what kids can do, how sweet they are, and how fun it is to bring families together to celebrate the stories and the joy found in the holidays. It’s also very real when you stare at tinsel on the floor, card board flats stacked up, and so many other things that need to be taken down. At the same time we have carpet cleaners sucking all of the nasty out of our carpets before Christmas. After that’s all done, our team is going to jump in to create a beautiful space for our Christmas eve by candlelight service. As I was doing the work I was processing the question, “Why am I doing this?” Am I doing this to feel good about myself? No – that would be a waste of time. Am I doing this to impress other people? I guess that answer would have been “yes” in my past, but not anymore. Am I doing this to be a good host to new guests? I guess kinda yes but also not really. As I thought about it more, I realized that even all the unseen, mundane, behind the scenes stuff related to Christmas is an act of worship for me and our team. Obviously this can be done for so many other reasons, but the reason I want to participate in the decorations, hosting, and welcoming of people into our faith community’s celebration of Jesus is because I want to express to God my adoration of Him for the sake of others. Who knows, maybe this thought might help you as you go through all of your decorating, hosting and welcoming of others throughout the next two weeks.