Unlocking the Dream

Blog Post 1Focusing on dreams often seems unrealistic. Visions of clouds, a fantasy future, and unrealistic goals plague our imagination. Memories of dreams had and dreams unfulfilled make us timid to dream again.

Yet time and time again in the story of our faith we hear about dreams, dreamers, and dreams fulfilled. We are encouraged to hear and respond to God’s whispers for the life of the world.

This weekend we begin a journey towards unlocking the door to God’s dreams for our life together. There are three keys that could make it possible:

Presence – a commitment to worship attendance, small group formation, and missional service for both our congregation and our community. It is through presence that we hear God’s voice and discern God’s way.

Facility & Equipment – a commitment to appropriately maintain and update our facility and equipment including flexibility in space usage and constantly asking: How do we use and care for our facility? What kind of equipment is needed in order to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ, be a place of healing and transformation, and send people as missionaries to the city and beyond? Facilities and equipment make space for rootedness and outreach in a mobile and inward centered culture.

Financial Resources – a commitment to offer our financial resources as investment in our spiritual formation and in God’s work of renewing, restoring, and redeeming all of creation; this is God’s Mission.

Last weekend I invited you to consider our call to not just be Grace Community but to be a community of grace. In order for us to continue living our call we must come together, offer ourselves as servants, leaders, and investors in God’s Mission.

This week I invite you to allow God’s Spirit to guide you during this important time. Speaking about and considering how we are committing to God’s work through us can be difficult. Talking about giving of our financial resources can make us uncomfortable and “turn us off.”

Over a decade ago our founding pastor spoke to us about the challenges of being a growing congregation. He challenged us to not become self-centered but instead to focus our energy and excitement towards the transformation of our city into a more loving, just, and compassionate community. Towards the end he admitted to not knowing the next steps but asked us to trust God who would show us the way through a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Today we are once again being challenged. This time I challenge us to become a growing congregation again so that we can be partners in God’s work in our community and beyond. It will take our investment, our time, and a commitment to follow God’s lead.

A decade later I too find myself not knowing all of the next steps, but I too trust that God will indeed show us the way. God will help us find the keys to unlock the dream and use them not for our glory but for the glory of the one who has formed us into a community of Grace!

Cannot wait to see you this weekend! Invite a friend and let us dream dreams together!

The Well Played Life: Real Player

The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali

The Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali

It is difficult to speak about the spiritual needs of thirty to sixty years olds. The main reason for the difficulty is that I am in the age group (36) so the places of struggle are very real. To think about work as play, about the importance of repenting from workaholism, and remembering our call to die to self so that we can live is way too close to home.

Then I am reminded that is not a sermon if it has not convicted me first. This week has been filled with much convicting and a call to new life!

“But while in the First Age we are nurtured within a community of faith, in the Second Age, we become full members of that community as Truth makers, Beauty stakers, and Goodness sakers.”
Len Sweet in The Well Played Life: Why Pleasing God Doesn’t Have to Be Such Hard Work, 140-1.

Truth and truth-telling is a significant value in my life. From early childhood I remember my father reminding me of the importance of telling the truth, later becoming the importance of character, integrity, and a good reputation. These are virtues that are formed in us over time and I cannot think of a time when they are more severely tested than during these years of family, career, and social mobility. What strikes me from Len’s challenge is that we are not just to be truth-tellers but truth-makers. We are to be a people who are living in ways that help communicate through our actions the truth’s of our life; a life centered on the joy of Christ.

A few weeks ago I spoke about my own encounter with beauty. It was a reminder that God uses beauty to awaken us to the reality of God’s kingdom. To be a beauty staker we must develop a theological imagination, we must grieve for the ways that the world does not reflect God’s peace. Beauty sustains our hope for a better day, for the in-braking of God in the world once more. Awareness of beauty is difficult in the midst of life. I think this might be why Len tells us to be “stakers” in beauty. We must claim it, expect it, own it, in order to experience it.

Goodness is one of God’s attributes. Through the Spirit we too can model goodness in the world and behave for the sake of goodness. Yet even though we are capable through the Spirit to be about goodness in the world and in our lives it seems so difficult. Yet time and time again we are called back to it. The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, called the people called Methodist to be about “doing good.” This is not simple do-goodism, instead is an attitude of loving kindness in our actions everywhere and always.

I am calling my age group to a time of self-reflection this weekend. To consider what it means to live a joy-filled life in Christ. Remembering that what matters most in our lives and what brings the most joy is the relationships, the memories made, and the way that the Spirit shapes us through the journey called life.

Can’t wait to share a word with you this weekend!

A Well Played Life: Novice Player

photo (18)I will admit that I’ve had to learn to play. I was a serious child and teenager. As a college student folks would tell me that I had an “old soul.” I will give much of the credit for my transformation into a more playful self to my spouse Shannon, who helped me learn to relax, to laugh, and to be more spontaneous. I will give credit to my children who have allowed me to be silly and remind me when I am taking myself too seriously.

“We were created to have a sense of play imprinted on our souls . . . [b]ut somewhere along the path, our native sense of play and story gives way to an overlay of words and work.”
Leonard Sweet in The Well Played Life: Why pleasing God doesn’t have to be such hard work, 93.

Until I read Sweet’s book I did not think about the possibility that a sense of play has been “imprinted on our souls.” That somehow play and playfulness is part of God’s image and of the dynamics of God’s communal nature. This might explain the walks in the garden, pillars of cloud and fire, and the constant reminders of peace.

It is risky to play. We’ve been accustomed to production, to always being on the go. Playing puts at risk productivity which in turn puts at risk our sense of worth to the world and even to God. Yet it is play that opens up our imagination allowing us to see possibility and gives us the opportunity to try new things.

In trying new things through play we learn to deal with failure and disappointment. We learn to persevere! Like the toddler learning to walk or the teenager learning to drive it takes time and failure to accomplish great things.

The “novice player,” as Sweet calls ages 0-30, is ready to learn. This hunger gives us the opportunity to help young people learn to live a playful life and a prayerful life. We do this by modeling the joy of discipleship. Playfulness is contagious so as we tell the stories of faith in word, song, and gesture we pass on the meaning of a well played life to a new generation. Prayerfulness is taught by living a prayerful life with its rhythms of talking and listening, always with the goal of seeking God’s will.

Finally as people grow from learning to play to learning to pray they set the tone for seeing life as pilgrimage. Seeing life as pilgrimage recognizes that in the everyday of life there are markers that help us see and experience God. Pilgrimage requires letting go and being fully present at each step of the journey. Pilgrimage recognizes that no matter how many times we get lost our destination is secured in our home in God.

Play, prayer, and pilgrimage all help us see our lives as part of the tapestry called faith. In this tapestry we are able to be rooted in story and play not in words and work. A well played life indeed!

The Eyes that Have Cried

10371371_10152745197114050_343981751106196093_nI’ve been silent, maybe silent for too long. It is easier that way, at least it is easier for me, who is not close to the source of so much pain and aguish. As a religious leader I should know better, I should know that if I don’t speak then who will? If I do not lament and call God’s people to do the same then, who will?

Then I’ve thought of the times when I have felt in danger because of the color of my skin or my “funny” last name. The times when I’ve wondered if our “mixed children,” would find hospitality or would be rejected. The times when jokes were shared and glances exchanged that clearly indicated that I was not welcomed.

Now that I am often in a privileged position it is easier to stay quiet. I know that I should not, for me, for my kids, and for communities of color everywhere.

I watch in pain and a sense of hopelessness. I know that violence begets violence, but have I raised my voice as one who is convicted? No. Maybe because as I close in on a decade of pastoral ministry I am tired of seeing little change, in fact it seems that more than ever we are addicted to violence as a recourse.

I watch in pain and a sense of hopelessness. My stomach turns as we see another reminder of the deep seeded racism that plagues our society. In spite of all the so called advances people of color are still being targeted, labeled, profiled, and hunted.

I watch in pain and a sense of hopelessness. I read my Facebook feed and see news of a video with “proof.” Maybe I am not smart enough to figure out the connection. I thought that we were all innocent before proven guilty but when you are brown you should know better. Truth be told we are always guilty and we often do not have enough money to prove we are innocent. And if the latest struggles continues innocence or guilt will not matter because we are fighting for our lives!

I watch in pain and a sense of hopelessness. Quickly I recognize that a prayer comes to my lips:

“Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from those who work evil;
from the bloodthirsty save me.” Psalm 59: 1-2 (NRSV)

I pray for deliverance from the forces of wickedness that seek destruction. I pray that the cycle of violence finds an end, that justice will push its way through the brick walls of hatred and apathy. I pray that all of us examine our hearts, repent, and become agents of resurrection.

At times like this I am thankful for the saints, especially Archbishop Romero. There I find much hope, comfort, and call to action. In one of his sermons he reminds us that “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

May God’s people become the eyes to our communities. Eyes of justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and a call for repentance. Eyes that give sight to our collective grief and to the realities of privilege. Eyes that cry alongside those that for generations have been victims of dehumanization. Eyes that cast a vision of the New Jerusalem, where Christ promises to

“wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NRSV)

Till then we must bear the pain and rehearse hope. Till then we’ll stand alongside and give sight. Till then we’ll call for justice and for peace! Maranatha!

This post first appeared on August 18, 2014 in Day1.org Key Voices Blog