third space

IMGP1505There is a pink cherub skip-jumping a merry jig down Tkalciceva Ulica. She is anchored to her mum by one chubby hand while the other bounces a fall bouquet. The bounty is no doubt intended for a luncheon with friends but sans anchor, both cherub and flowers would be quickly lost in Zagreb’s sea this Saturday morning.

Buzzing voices marinate with the tinkle of spoons on coffee cups. The smell of expresso is in the street. It all pulls you toward a paradoxical space of intimacy amidst the crowd, if you can find a spot to sit and sip.

And, it seems like Jesus can’t find a seat.

IMGP1498 - Version 2IMGP1507IMGP1556This is not a crowd of tourists having a weekend go in Zagreb. They are locals who have rolled out of their Saturday bed, made an effort to look nice, and trekked to the centre from wherever they live. It’s like a Sunday morning scene that makes a church pastor salivate.

Come and get your Jesus fix here.

IMGP1413 Get rest for your merry souls. Forgiveness for your dirty deeds. Relief for your addictions, and your depression and your loneliness.

But, they don’t.

And the Church can’t figure out why we are empty. In Europe. In North America.

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They don’t come. Get fixed. We are empty.

I wonder if it has anything to do with our people projects?

Because fixing people for heaven is a task that you designate and delegate and execute.

I don’t think people want to be executed.

They want to be wanted.

They want to open the door and be greeted with a kiss on both cheeks as the cherub passes the bouquet and linger over coffee because they are important to you. If you want a picture of the quintessential Europe, that’s it, right there.

Simple like that.

Honest.

Authentic. 

PoznanBut sometimes I get the feeling that we, as the Church, lick our lips like a lioness set free to cruise through humanity while they sit and sip their coffee in the kiss of the Adriatic sun.

Maybe they sense the danger, you know?

Because it is one kind of frightening to be swept away in a sea of people and another kind of scary to be counted as a number for an organization.

And that is what church feels like to this generation; an organization counting their number.

IMGP1552 - Version 2Nobody wants to be a number.

Or a project.

As if, with some measured time and the right ‘how to’ manual, I could renovate you and put you on the right track to Jesus.

Ironically, there are churchy articles and books that tell us how to connect with people. And, the problem isn’t that they exist. But, maybe why they exist should cause us to be concerned? Because, it implies that we don’t remember how to connect with people. Have we forgotten how to see someone as more than a countable commodity in our pews?

IMG_2992Three years ago, missionaries made Zagreb their home. 

We don’t have a mega-church.

To be brutally honest, I don’t imagine that we have the kind of church growth strategy that makes it into those ‘how to’ manuals. 

We have a Nazarene family becoming fluent in language and culture, putting their kids into Croatian school, practicing hospitality, carrying flowers into homes and finding seats in cafes.

Just like the Croats on the street below Dolac Market, in the third space, where it is public and intimate and anchored to the sea of humanity.

I like that – the intercourse of our lives birthing a relationship that cares for the other instead of using her. 

It isn’t my space. It isn’t your space. It is our space. Neutral. SharedAnd, we are hosted by the Holy Spirit in the Third Space.

He is that Third Space:

The Holy Spirit filling us, inviting us, to HIs table, and there is no Us and Them, because we are all  lost and lonely and desperate and in need of an anchor.

It sounds like, well, it sounds like what we all always imagined church should be, before Church became about the best outreach strategies.

Back when we saw people as people; not projects, not numbers, not potential Christians, not target audiences, not even people going to Hell if we don’t intervene.

It seems like there might be a table opening up in my life with a friend motioning for me to join her there. There is a place for you too, for all of us; a Third Space, where grace speaks and the coffee flows, and the pink cherub jigs her way down Tkalciceva Ulica.

Could you bring some flowers, if you come?

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fish stories

IMGP9293 The Naz had a storyteller once upon a time. Harmon Schmelzenbach had his Swazi fish and he wove them deep down into the centers of our bellies and tugged. Somehow, Mr. Schmelzenbach helped ears to get beyond our heads and our troubled lives and our pressing needs and to remember that the soul and the stomach rumble in a painful unison.

He who has ears, let him hear.

I love it that Jesus said that because, who doesn’t, really? Have ears, that is. It is the paradoxical Jesus speaking. The one grinning while sea water drips from his beard like tears drip from the soul of humanity. Continue reading

balkan beauty

IMGP1234Amidst the goodnight chatter of JJ and Emma preparing for bed, the teeth brushing and the hugs, and the last minutes of coloring a picture crayon red, I post a photo of Sara and I smiling in the Zagreb sunshine.  Jay writes ‘Balkan beauties’ in the tag line and my heart swells likes the bread dough that rises through the night and spills onto the counter by morning.

Balkan.I know what that feels like.

It feels like walking through the colors of Europe’s oldest continuously operating open air market.

It feels like picking out your vegetables and watching the woman measure her income in a dizzying dance of weights that have known more years than you can count.

It sounds like the toothless grin of an apple vendor who calls to you, ‘Хей Българка’, (Hey Bulgarian woman) because he heard the Bulgarian nudge its way into your conversation about how to cook the Japaneese pumpkins.

It smells like the fresh meat hanging from hooks and the meaty butchers smiling as they sharpen their knives.

Balkan. It is the real, the authentic  sway and swell of home spilling into the cobblestone streets of centuries of life.

Ahhh. Balkan beauty.

chestnut fire

IMGP1238Chestnuts roasting.

It means that Autumn is here and winter is coming.

Today, JJ found a precious treasure of chestnuts on the ground as we strolled the sunshine-filled, Zagreb streets. Like a golden treasure chest, unlocked and spilling over, he drew me to a park rich in chestnut fare.

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Who knew that sometimes chestnuts crack open on the ground?

Who knew that sometimes the white meat can grow green mold as it ferments in the wet leaves?

Who knew that chestnuts come in a sweet array of brown tones and shades?

I learned so much from a golden haired, adventure filled, warrior of 8 today. He introduced me to the treasure found in sunshine’s castaways, the thrill of digging through the leaves, the rush of dirt and color and chestnut glow.

If the world could remember the wisdom of an 8-year old. the places where we cry loudest would know peace.

IMGP1266Dear Jesus. Right here from the edge of the Balkan Peninsula, teach us to search for you in the broken places. Let us thrill at your presence, seek your touch, and treasure your wisdom revealed through the eyes of a child.

unscripted

autumn

like a 3-year old who refuses to go to bed

The last rays of summer have snuck into our autumn room, like a 3-year old who refuses to go to bed. We know that she should not be here, it is past her bedtime, but who can resist the temptation to laugh at her antics?

I sit on our morning balcony, raise my face to her playful touch and drink deeply of the moment.

They say that the winter will be a cold one.

They say that Russia might turn off the gas.

They say … and I look around me and see people digging in the trash. I believe. Continue reading

let’s ROAR

a moment on the street

a moment on the street

The tummy-tug rush of the sky scraper escalators whirls and twirls as I descend into the stomach of the Kalvin Ter metro in Budapest. I always breathe in and wait for the sensual recognition that free surfing the underground brings. I learned it first in Moscow and my mind returns to those turbulent days. For me, the metro is a scent, a feel, a quality of air married to subterranean travel that takes me back.

Lost in my reverie,  I almost missed her when she tried to abort her approach.

When you have lived your years and your feet are unfaithful, those stairs threaten to snatch the earth from its firm foundation. I watched her step and hesitate too late. She was on but she was unsteady and then she was summersaulting. A little grandma taking a tumble like Humpty-Dumpty and my mind grasped for words that played a macabre game of Hungarian hide and seek. Screams of ‘help’ but they were silent screams that could only flirt with the trauma unfolding.

A woman behind me ROARED an emergency call in decibels that ricocheted off of the storied ceilings. The young man in front of me stretched his body across the chasm and punched the red emergency STOP button. And we all rushed off of our escalator and ran to help. In the midst of blood, and  topsy-turvy bags and fine gray hair, she was okay. Shaken. Bleeding. But, okay. Continue reading