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Surprised By Hope

10 Apr

Over the last few months, sparked by N.T. Wright’s workbook Surprised by Hope, our community has been re-discovering, re-imagining, and stumbling towards re-living God’s hope for our neighborhood of Golden Hill. It’s come time again, for God’s people to experience the hope of Jesus, maybe even be surprised by it – and share it- with the rest of the world. Wright eloquently describes how this hope has world transforming power, and yet, is more than just anticipation for what God will do in the future. But the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth…today.

The reality is that God has divinely appointed Holly and I in our little yellow apartment on A street because He wants to bring His hope through us to the places we dine, shop, work, play, and live. As a fellow sojourners and apprentices of Jesus, our community reflected on the needs of our neighborhood and the pain people are facing on our streets.  We decided to prayer walk our neighborhood with the hope that God would bless our eyes to see the unseen – the untold stories of our parish. And enter into the deeper pain, loss, and hopelessness that can saturate our own backyards. As I walked with one of my community mates, we imagined God’s dreams for our place- what He wants to happen would actually happen. It is quite sobering and apparent the places where God’s Kingdom has not come yet in the 7×10 block radius of Golden Hill. The further I practice prayer walking (and I’m a baby!) the more I discover that Jesus is upping the ante. He’s no longer content with my personal safe prayers, typically muddled under my breath for my neighbors, divorced from any cost or relationship. No, actually He continues to call me to something higher and enter into that pain and suffering – maybe even participate with Jesus in becoming the answer to some of them. And He did it to me this particular evening.

As we strolled one of the main corridors of B street there was a lady sitting on her front porch smoking a cigarette. Immediately after walking past her I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for her. I ignored it for a couple minutes, eventually feeling compelled to go back.  Nervous and afraid (she probably heard the cracking 8 year old David voice come out of me) I said, “God highlighted your presence as I walked past you. I think He wants us to pray for you, would it be ok If we blessed you this evening through prayer?” Her strong suspicious face began to melt into surprise, a little bewilderment, and wonder when she said, “ It’s crazy that you ask me that- I just experienced my first miscarriage and lost my baby.” Through tears “Sarah” shared her story with us and invited us to pray with her, for her, and alongside of her. God’s Spirit was richly abundant that evening bringing peace, hope, healing, and comfort. 

Moments like these give me hope because it reveals the hope of the Church – that is, it is so much more than just what lies ahead some day when Jesus returns. As Wright puts it, “It is our experience of God’s kingdom breaking into our everyday journey of faith as we do justice, extend mercy, express love, offer compassion, and celebrate beauty….all in the name of Jesus.” For me in my place, it’s a suffering woman on the street smoking a cigarette to ease her pain or an elderly lady who roams around in a wheelchair longing for friendship. There are 100’s of wounded Sarah’s around us, and these are the people we are called to live alongside of and love. In the place God has planted you, who is need of being surprised by hope once again? 

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Coffee Shop Joe

29 Aug
The night he shared his heart with all of us.

The night he shared his heart with all of us.

“You believe in God and read the Bible right?” The piercing question rang heavy, spoken by my old co-worker and friend Joe Burns on the other end of the phone. “Yes” I hesitantly muttered, my mind swirling trying to discover the possible motivation behind this question. “Well, I’d like to discover what Scripture says and explore that more with you if that’s ok??” I think I dropped my phone. I was stunned. I was grateful. Mixed thoughts and feelings coursed through my body, I had no idea what to do and yet I knew exactly what was next. And so our journey began.

With the poised wisdom and aid of my community mate, dear friend, and brother Derek Rice, we, along with the rest of our greater community, have been walking with Joe this last year. We have read Scripture together. We have prayed. Confessed. Laughed. Cried. Broke bread. And found Jesus.

Joe is discovering how he wants to live. The kind of man he was born to become.  He recently joined us for our annual Life Compass process- a powerful tool for that offers us a framework for navigating our lives. We create post it note timelines of our past, giving us meaning and clarity for today with hope and direction for tomorrow. We dive into our personalities and love languages, clarifying our unique wiring and gifting’s.  But Life Compass really culminates with this icing on the cake- cherry on top experience, the vision statement.

Joe’s vision came from wrestling with some essential questions. What does my heart yearn to accomplish?? What so grips me that I can barely talk about it without affecting me? Vision is bigger than yourself, it engages your passion and it’s tangible.

As I reflect on Joe’s journey, it is an honor to participate in God’s beautiful story for him. I am reminded that the gospel is profoundly experienced and expressed in the context of community. That we were born for moments and stories like these. To help leaders move from where they are to where they need to be. To find, activate, and launch leaders into their unique calling so the Church can be all she was made to be.

Joe bravely breathed his vision into life with all of us last week. May you be blessed with this special gift as we all were…

“I believe that the love of God can be experienced through quality food, honorable business practices, profit generosity and welcoming cafe experiences. Using my God given gifts of hospitality and teaching, and my learned ability of the pastry arts I will give my life to stimulating healthy, positive changes in the lives of my family, friends, co-workers and patrons, especially in the context of opening and running multiple cheesecake cafes around the nation. I desire to change the injustice of the food service industry by creating a place of equality, from dishwasher to chef.  Places where all will have a sense of ownership and buy-in with opportunities to share in the profits of the business. As a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, I want to take a portion the profits and feed it back into the community, creating a better place to live.  I envision cafes of comfort and serenity;  places filled with the love and peace of Jesus.  I desire that others will experience my life and business and see a difference in me, to see Jesus in me. I want to inspire and motivate others to change the way they engage life and stimulate a new way of doing business.

Then How Shall We Live (pt 2)

21 Aug

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If our first challenge in the journey of moving from grief to hope is the embracing and mourning of loss, then the second is this: connecting my story, our story, with the greater narrative of God.

It says in the ancient texts,

 Jesus, the Messiah, is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The same yesterday:

I often marvel at the great heroes of old, biblical and historical.  Abraham’s great faith to sacrifice his son, Joshua’s strength and courage as He filled Moses shoes in taking the promised land, C.S. Lewis resilience in the grief and anguish of his wife’s early death, etc… Not one has the absence of suffering. But they all responded the same.  They saw suffering as an invitation. They took their pain from a place of isolation and chose to view it in communion with all of humanity. They became participants of something much greater than themselves, something much larger and universal. They connected their story to God’s story. 

The same today:

Unforeseen events that alter our trajectory are often sobering. Abraham, Joshua, C.S. Lewis were not immuned to it. And neither are we. These moments tend to unveil our expectations, often ignorant I must confess, of signing up for an “elective course.” Following God 101. I’m afraid this is not the case. This is our required course, this our path to better follow our King. This is our invitation. And we accept.  We can guarantee you this: our experience will (and already has) taken Holly and I into deeper places of intimacy and faith then we have known before. We undergo great faith challenges, once again not alone, but in the context of community. A place where we share not only our cups of joy, but our cups of sorrow.

The same forever:

If you don’t care about any of my other blabbering’s care about this one: human suffering and God’s suffering are connected. We can choose to hide and face our pain alone, or we can live them together. As we live the pain of our losses  we open ourselves to a wider world of suffering.  A world where darkness surrenders to light. A world of compassion. After all, the Latin meaning of the word compassion is to “co-suffer” or to suffer together with. This breaks through and beyond simple empathy. We become co-laborers when compassion awakes in us. It is like the rising of the morning sun, actively soothing one another with its rays of healing light. When we see our suffering with the story of God we can live as reconcilers of a new Kingdom. We become peacemakers. We become good news.

Because….

God is in the business of leadership development. He has Shepherded heroes of old, he shepherds us now, and he will shepherd the people of his pasture long after we are gone. He closes the gap between who we are and who he wants us to become. And hear’s the reality: suffering and pain is one of His main vehicles for refining us into the people of God. I remember one of my college professor’s saying, “God is more concerned with our character than our comfort.”

And we are learning to say, Amen.

Then how shall we live…pt 1

3 Jul

Shameless promotion in the San Diego Reader 2010. Yes, those are dreadlocks.

Last week I lost my part time restaurant job.  Discharged. Ouch.

Surprise, shock, pain, and betrayal welled up inside me (to name a few emotions.) I couldn’t believe it. Thoughts of: “I have never been fired before. I did nothing wrong! Why is this happening? I’m disposable.” all swirled like a tornado in my head.

This experience has led me down a path of meditating on loss.  Loss is actually all around us. The more we age it can seem that life is increasingly about losing. When we get our first job, we lose the freedom of our youth. If you marry, you lose the joy of many options. When you grow old you lose your devilish good looks, your body begins to shut down, your friends pass away, and your fame disappears.  I am not trying to be pessimistic here, but that begs the question, “If loss is all arounds us, if we can’t avoid it, what do we do with it?” Is there really a way for that which is lost to be found?

The question moves from not whether we have experienced loss, but rather how we live our losses? Do we hide them? Blame others? Refuse to share them?

My spiritual hero and literary mentor Henri Nouwen says,

 True healing begins at the moment that we can face the reality of our losses and let go of the illusions of control. 

 Often I have found the vehicle of “facing” begins with mourning.

I can never get to the joy if I dare not cry.

 I can never feel the warmth of gladness if I lack the courage to weep.

I can never discover healing if I don’t seize the opportunity to experience the pain.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, there’s a “time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  I’m learning that these times are actually connected.

Mourning and dancing are all one beautiful choreography movement of grace. Somehow, through the dark night, light surfaces.  Through the tears, a gift is given, and in the midst of sorrow, a smile breaks through. It’s in this place that character is revealed. Faith is tested. It’s a place where our spirit has the opportunity to say “thank you.”

There are defining moments, even destiny moments in our lives as followers of Jesus. We have a choice- to participate with God in His shaping of us… or miss it. Even refuse it. How will we respond? How will we live our losses? I dont know about you but I’m gonna dance my socks off….

This is part 1 of a 2 piece article. The 2nd half will explore connecting our losses to the greater story of God.  

 

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