In Memoriam VII

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Dear Garrett,

A few days ago I was at a cemetery. This time I was not there to commit someone to the ground but to record a message about resurrection. As I went up a hill I was reminded of that faithful day when I accompanied you on your trip to join your ancestors in the ground.

It still seems like a dream from start to finish . . .

From phone call to the final amen . . .

From celebration to desolation . . .

Now it’s been seven years and I still cannot believe it! You would be a teenager now but instead of celebrating we are facing another remembrance of your leaving. Another remembrance of how much time we have lived without you in this life, another remembrance of how much time we have lived in the hope of our meeting at the great feast.

Recently I’ve had many opportunities to tell your story. In my new congregation folks are taken by the ink which marks our shared journey. It all seems in the past until I begin telling the story, and all of a sudden the heart begins to race, tears come to my eyes, and I can still see your eyes opening one last time. I am surprised at the half-life of grief and that in the midst of it we find joy inexplicable.

Once again this year I thought that it might be time to stop writing. How long would I keep these epistles coming? But once again I’ve been called back, my spirit stirred to remember and to proclaim.

Yesterday I preached on Jacob’s Ladder. I told my new congregation Grace Community of the importance of making altars to the Lord as a way to mark our journey so that we never forget. As I sit here remembering the day you joined the communion of saints I realize that this space is one of those markers. A marker of faithfulness, a marker of remembrance, a marker of promise.

A few days ago I was at a cemetery and as I walked up the hill I was reminded. Reminded that one day I will join you and all the others that I have companioned on their journey to the ground, on their journey to God. Reminded of the beauty of our faith and its insistence that death has been defeated and that we’ll gather again!

So although still sad I am so grateful. I am grateful for you, your brothers, your parents, and for our shared life. I am grateful for my calling for I’m the one that gets the great honor to be a troubadour of resurrection. I am grateful to be marked by our shared life, grateful for the way your story still inspires me to be present to God’s presence.

Another year, soon another July will end, we got through another one, we continue counting them and re-membering . . . I’ll see you at the great feast!

Peace & Love, Juan+

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Be a hero, Donate Life! If you want to know G’s story click here.

Here are the previous yearly notes: In Memoriam, II, III, IV, V, VI.

All Humanity Will See God’s Salvation

Salvation is an important word in the story of our faith. It’s origins are in words like healing, wholeness, deliverance (from that which gets in the way of our well being), rescue, and restoration. In the larger narrative of our faith salvation is directly connected to the Israelite deliverance from slavery, it’s journey in the wilderness, and its entrance into the promise land. In our Wesleyan tradition this idea is placed in the context of the restoration of God’s image in all of humanity and a call to becoming and being instruments of a new creation.

“As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek through the power of the Holy Spirit to do what he says to do, go where he leads, welcome those whom he loves and for whom he died, participate in the community he forms, and anticipate his final reign over all creation.” Kenneth Carder & Laceye Warner in Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition (p. 10)

10467024_730619216980499_6497238894628825255_oAs we continue telling our story again we must keep the reality of salvation at the forefront. In other words, this story exist because it is a salvation story. We tell it again in order for a new generation to hear it, claim it, and live it.

So we are indeed the V.O.I.C.E that cries out. For we are a people who know what is like to be in bondage, slaves to our own desires, drowning in our self delusions, broken in our relationships with God, others, and creation. We cry out not as victors (Jesus is the one and only victor) but as humble servants, not as ones who have the answers but as those who acknowledge that we indeed do not have the answers, not as ones who judge others but as those who engage others in loving and restorative relationships.

I am often reminded of the power of love to transform lives. Love is the heart of sanctification as we become set apart as a body that comes together to discern, interpret, and proclaim. This requires real engagement so that we are able to weave the story with our story and the story of others. It also requires constant attention to the movements and voice of the Spirit for it “blows all around us as if it has a will of its own; we feel and hear it, but we do not understand where it has come from or where it will end up.” John 3:8 (The Voice)

So let’s continue praying for that God will give us a courageous and loving voice so that all those that hear us will experience God’s salvation!

What are we creating?

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One of my practices when I begin anew appointment is to read as much about the history of that congregation as possible. I’ve climbed on attics, dug through old file cabinets, and called previous pastors, all in an effort to get a sense of the DNA of that community of faith.

What I have found has been a treasure throve of energy, inspiration, and dreams. It is obvious that from the beginning we have talked about making a place, about loving those who might normally feel unloved, and to become a healing community.

“We are a church who is about creating a generation of missionaries who will be able to reach out and touch a world that is broken and hurting.”
Rob Weber, Founding Pastor
from “Challenges and Opportunities: State of the Church Address 2003″

This past weekend we rehearsed the story of creation. We were reminded that God is still at the work of creating and recreating. We also said that an important part of our work is to tell our story again and again for in telling it we are able to get a clearer picture of God’s vision for our future.

As we get closer to this weekend I want us to begin thinking about what it means for us to be missionaries who “touch a world that is broken and hurting?” I believe that the vision that our founding pastor voiced over a decade ago is still at the center of our calling.

Living into that vision can at times be put to the test and seem lost. The story of faith reminds us to hold steady, to remember our identity, and to trust God. Only when we let go of our ideas, preferences, and plans can we be open to what God has for us.

V.O.I.C.E. Stories

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I am thankful for our gathering this past weekend. It was a spirit filled and healing time. We began to recognize the power of story and to recognize the weaving of our story with God’s larger story.

Part of the challenge for us is to allow our story telling to become a healing agent in our lives. Careful listening, engagement, and a non-anxious presence helps us to be fully present to one another, to see ourselves in the other, and to begin building bridges of trust.

An important part of our continued work is to remember who we are to “tell our story again.”Part of that story is the core values that have shaped us into who we are and that will be pivotal in our future:

V – Vision

O – Openness

I – Incarnation

C – Community

E – Evangelism

It is my prayer that you share with me the ways that God has called you to be part of this community called GRACE through these core values/guiding principles. This is part of my effort to get to know your story, but also a way to begin weaving our stories into the future.

Let me know your VOICE Story here.

I also encourage you to begin reading Genesis today. This amazing book of the bible is as relevant today as it has always been for it still speaks to who we are, who God is, and the promise of redemption through the gift of grace. Click here for the reading guide.

To Guide Our Future

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As we unpack boxes the kids ask: are we going to stay here a long time? We hope so . . . but we really don’t know.

It turns out that no matter where we are in our lives the future is always scary! Just like the past might need to be forgotten the future can easily terrify us. Does anyone like uncertainty?

Our spiritual fathers and mothers remind us often that transformation can only take place through difficulty. This is why it is important to tell the story again, so that we can remind ourselves of the difficulty, struggle, and trials that are part of the human condition. So that we can remind ourselves that we are in constant battle with a tendency to want to create a future of our own, our own power, our own will, our own preference becoming our god.

In telling the story again we are also reminding ourselves that a better future is possible if we remember that we are God’s people. Someone else is in charge and if we are willing to let go of our addiction to control and make things happen we’ll be able to live into the promised future. New beginnings are always an opportunity to change course, to develop healthier habits, and create a better future.

As we embark on this journey through the early stories that guide our faith I wonder what we can learn that will help us build a future? How are we being called to listen to God’s whispering our own story to us? A story of making room, creating a space, and welcoming those who are seeking. . . a story of holy hospitality!

Imagine our future if we return to the basic ethos that has paved the way to where we are today? God guiding us into a future, paved by the past, lived in the present, turned toward God’s call for us to restore lives and turn seekers into servants of the kingdom of God, made possible by Christ through Grace!

Can’t wait to begin telling the story again. See you tomorrow!