Tag Archives: missional

something we all need

IMG_0084The unheard melody of honesty dies like the last breath between now and eternity. I open my mouth, but the words will not dance, they will not perform their pretty pirouettes. They are ill-behaved, ill-timed, irreverent. Because nobody likes to admit their need.

I am sitting in a neutral coffee zone and meeting with a woman who directs a Hungarian ministry to prostituted girls. ‘We ask all of our volunteers to go through vulnerability counseling. You open up and share your weaknesses – in front of everyone. You go through the course with the girls who have left the life of trafficking. Almost every one has an addiction that they must beat.’

She pauses as if to gauge my reaction. She has done this before – met for coffee with a pseudo-interested do-gooder and watched them exit at this very point.

Admit my vulnerability? Talk about my addictions? Lay my shadow in the peering, probing, bright sunshine of observation? No thank you. I just came to offer my time. Volunteer. Do my part for the social fabric, you know? I’m here to rescue and rehabilitate girls who have been abused, sold, beaten, raped – administer the medicine of healing.

Because, that is what the Church does.  We are the hospital where the lives get patched and the wounds are soothed. We give. They receive. That’s the system. The hierarchy is happy.

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But sometimes, the world beyond our walls is relatively untouched, unimpressed, or un-impacted by what we have to offer. It is a head-scratching puzzle.

Why don’t they fill our pews on Sunday morning?

Why don’t they drink our small-group coffee in our cozy homes?

Why do public officials, and school administrators, and teachers seem ultra-wary when we offer our help?

There is a sweet group of faithful women in my community who meet every Thursday to pray over the items that needy folk post on the Facebook page. Normally, I don’t share prayer concerns, mostly because I have my act together – at least, that is what I tell myself. The truth is, I do not want to air my proverbial dirty laundry. Nobody does.

But, my stress levels were so high on Wednesday, I threw my prayer request into cyber-service before my sweet friend, Katy Beth, had even opened up the prayer chain.

I worded it nicely, acceptably, like Christians should do. But what I really could have said, if I were being vulnerably honest:

Help! Today kicked my but and if something doesn’t change, tomorrow will do the same. I am hanging onto a ledge by a little finger. I’m cracking up here.

Have you been there too? Ever feel like,

My ‘to do’ list is out of control.

My house is a trash heap.

My refrigerator is empty and the bank account is flirting with zero.

My kids are sick with 6 different maladies.

My dog ripped open the trash and it is all over the yard.

I forgot an important meeting and let someone down.

No matter what decision I make, it will be wrong.

I am the worst mom, the worst wife, the worst friend, the worst preacher, the worst student, the worst husband, the worst son, the worst missionary, the worst Christian that ever walked the planet.

And, I have a nasty headache.

And the company arrives in 36 minutes.

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Or, to be even more vulnerable …any one of us could be honest and say:

I do not like to lose control so I uber-organize every day and obsess about details.

Or,

I struggle with jealousy and it manifests itself in materialism.

Or,

I am afraid of growing old and irrelevant.

Or,

I am afraid of getting cancer, ebola, or a thousand other diseases that might change my comfortable existence.

Or,

And the list just keeps going because all of us struggle with baggage. But, we in the church rarely talk about the true vulnerability that builds a stage in our hearts and directs the production that the world sees.

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…

said our dear Mr. Shakespeare.

IMGP1268So, I am sitting here, backstage, wondering if the most powerful, world-changing, soul-purifying, healing, response to a world on the brink of war, and societies that are cracking up, and neighborhoods that are imploding, and marriages that are gasping, and teenagers that are using, and sexing, and pimping, is for the Church to be like this,

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross

A vulnerable Jesus, who wept, and bled, and felt pain for us, so that we might see God.

We know how to entertain, and tell stories, and dialogue, and welcome, and host, and play, and forgive, and preach, but do we remember how to lament?

To mourn.

To cry.

To weep.

To suffer with.

To raise our puny fists of fury to the doors of heaven and pummel it with ‘why?’

To flood the feet that brought us Good News with the tears of ‘when?’

To own our own vulnerability with one honest expression of, ‘This is how I prostitute my soul to the world, so that I can wear the mask that gets me through today’s performance.’

My best guess?

If We, the Church, the Body, were able to admit our vulnerability in a world that knows the dirty side of the night, they would join us on our journey to a Savior.

#flattenthehierarchy

#bevulnerable

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humans and their necks

“For some, war leaves no choice; for others it makes choosing a must. A small gesture can yield irreversible consequences. It can either save a life or ruin it. (A quote from the Schindler museum)

Barbed wire fence from Schindler's factory

‘saying you don’t come back from the cemetery’

I am angry in Krakow. Always. Angrier than a Christian should be. Angry like I could punch someone. Ball up my weak little fist and throw it into somebody’s gut. Is that righteous anger? I don’t know. But I peer through a grimy little window in a wall somewhere in Schindler’s Factory at photos of men hanging by their necks. Continue reading

reporter

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story

I have a reporter’s journal. I take it with me wherever I go with this crazy idea that I am somehow recording and reporting our history in Eastern Europe. Sometimes, a day in the life of a missionary is about recording and reporting and hoping and praying. I will need a new notebook soon because my pages are full of glimpses: past sermon quotes and conversations and Skype calls with our team, and lectures: a chronicled truth that God works in miraculous ways in impossible situations. And I can flip those reporter pages all the way back to last February when I sat with Maria in Germany.  Continue reading

‘traffik is graffic’

How do we change a perspective that sees a person as a commodity?

Thank you, Stopthetraffikglobal for the reminder, ‘People shouldn’t be bought and sold’ and for this video, ‘that’s us. that’s we.’ Some of us live as consumers. Some of us live as the consumed. The great irony: in the end, all of us suffer.

*traffik is graffic‘ – quote from that’s us. that’s we. video

from the heart of sighisoara

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The clock tower in the center of the Citadel, Sighisoara

Sighisoara is full of tourists this time of year. Dark haired, Italian beauties leaning against ancient Draculesque walls in paparazzi poses. Germans out for a brisk walk.  The Brits snapping photos. It seems that you can find all of Europe snuggled into the arms of this very old, very quaint, quite unassuming Saxon citadel on the cusp of the new year. And, yes, we took a touristy New Year’s stroll after watching the midnight fireworks display in the shadow of the clock tower. #touristy

But our friend, Oanna, points out that for those who live here, Sighisoara is just ‘home’. That sounds so obvious and yet, her words are simply insightful. You never really know a place by visiting its iconic stops.

And that makes me think about God in this new year.

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On the ancient streets of Sighisoara

Our Book is full of iconic stops in the history of our Christianity. From a garden in Eden to a garden in Gethsemene to a garden in a new, redeemed Earth; these are points where we glimpse the very heart of God. In our creation, in our salvation, and in our redemption; we come to appreciate our worth to the creator and sustainer of all of history. But stopping by to take a photo of these important places is much different than nestling in and making a home.

Do you think that we Christians get lost in the tourism of our journey? What I mean is, reading this amazing narrative of God’s relationship with mankind, from beginning to end, it is just that, a relationship. And regardless of how you read the first three chapters of our Beginning or the last book of our New Understanding, all of us must agree that the pivotal point is relationship. God’s relentless, eternal, uncompromising endeavor to gather us into the safety of his heartbeat. So, if relationship is that important to the one who designed our DNA, it would seem logical to suppose that we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him. Relationship with each other. Not tourism. Incarnation; which is God becoming present with and dwelling with us. The creation of mankind was not simply an iconic stop for God. He came. He dwelt. He lived amongst us. Do we endeavor to live, truly live, to nestle, to build our home in Him?

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Looking over the city of Sighisoara.

Nestled into the quietly pleasant goodness of Oanna and Relu’s home last night, it is easy to see that there is something that surpasses culture and language. With 6 girls snuggled onto a couch watching a princess and singing along, over warm bowls of Romanian Chorba (traditional Romanian meatball soup), the heart of a pastor, the ache of parenting, the challenges of ministry, the grind of daily living, the relentlessness of cold winters and hot summers are common denominators in our human sojourn. And, the Eastern European understanding of relationship brings me so much closer to the heart of God.

To talk of God, to delve deeper than tourism in Sighisoara is to understand that relationship with God always means missioning. By that, I mean that we cannot fully understand the iconic stops in our Book without recognizing that our Creator and our Sustainer is always relational and always missional. He is always coming to us. He is always pursuing us. He is always moving toward us. He is always making a way for us. There is always, within the heart and the being of God, a constant motion toward us, His creation. And, if I could be bold for a moment, I would propose that He inserted that same DNA into us. He calls us to Himself and he sends us to others. Constantly. If we are to understand this dynamic properly, it means that we live our lives poured out for others. Relationally. Missionally. In God’s perfect plan, there are no iconic stops. There is no tourism. There is life. Abundant. Warm. Rich. Peaceful. Honest. Welcoming. Just like Roberta’s kitchen in Sighisoara on a cold January morning.

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Fireworks in the heart of the citadel. 2014

It is one of the reasons we like to come to the Citadel in the winter. Chances are good that sometime tucked in between the cornbread and the clanging of the church bell, we can get Roberta talking. We will hear her stories about outer space and science, and astronauts, and moon dust in Arkansas accents. It is a great conversation to have with Roberta, if you ever get a chance to taste her cornbread. But above all else, one has the feeling that God is honored here, not as a guest but as the host.

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A view from the ruins

The morning sun is spreading its warmth across the terra-cotta roofs and the city, residents and tourists alike, are waking up. Funny thing, it seems that here on the Citadel, everybody knows Dorothy and Roberta, two women, one from Arkansas and one from Edinburgh, who made their home here in the heart of the Citadel in order to serve the people of Sighisoara.

Thank you, ladies, for your living example of incarnation.