Sunday, July 30, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

It's so great, I'm giddy!

Over the past 10 days, Central has been building a house with Habitat for a single mom and her 3 kids. It is awesome. The people most involved are so exhausted they can barely function. But they are so moved and so motivated it is inspiring. I have had the fabulous job of acting like "decorator wannabe." If truth be told, no one asked me to do it, I just kinda' decided on my own and everyone else is to busy with essential things that no one has had time to tell me no. It has been like living a dream. But before you begin imagining Extreme Makeover Home Edition, let me get realistic. I have been able to "dress" 2 bathrooms from scratch and do a little decorating in the kitchen. How much fun is this. I am smiling as I type. There was no budget for this because it was not in the plan, so the fun has been seeing how much we could do with a couple of hundred bucks. Did I say already how much fun this is. Anyway tomorrow is the official "handing over the keys ceremony" and the last few little things will be finished next week.
Yes, this has been fun for me, but most importantly, I think we get to witness a family gain some dignity as they begin a new life in a place they can proudly call home.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Connecting Church - Part 2

I think I am actually formulating some more logical thoughts about the book and so here goes post 2.
I believe the major thrusts of the book are two fold. The first thrust being the barriers to living in authentic Christian community. Namely the implications and consequences of Individualism, Isolation and Consumerism. And the second thrust being the rediscovery of what it takes to initiate and enable authentic community. Namely, commonality in purpose, place and possessions.

This is not my first experience with this book and I am still not completely convinced that I fully embrace the model in its entirety. There is undisputable truth revealed in the discussion, as well as examples that appear to be somewhat common in all North American contexts currently. However, I think the real strength in the work will be the ability to contextualize the essence and not try to mimic the model.

While there is an overarching need in North America for real community experiences it seems we would oversimplify the issue by saying the need is the same no matter the context. Frazee writes this book out of the context of Arlington, Texas. Metroplex city sprawl has people crying out for community because their lives have been reduced to work, travel, home and non relaxing entertainment. However, there are boroughs in our largest cities that still have a powerful sense of community. People who live in the Bronx and Queens who have shopped at the same family owned deli and grocery for years, who still live in row housing, who walk to work or bus stop do not have the same level of community need simply because of their setting. They have roots with history and meaning. Here in Amarillo, the culture is such that generations of family units live close and work in family businesses and attend the same churches. They still have need for authentic biblical community simply because that is how God created us to be, but the needs are different once again. It would be an oversight not to realize that people are moving into both neighborhoods in the Bronx as well as Amarillo, Texas and thus their needs for community will be greater than those whose history has rooted them in natural community.

If community in any form was the goal, I could see the book not applying in certain settings, but the goal is authentic Christian community. And for most church going believers in North America in 2006 they can not escape the consequences of Individualism, Isolation and Consumerism on their faith. Thus, the barriers he delineates are pertinent to the conversation if we are to take seriously the living out of church and discipleship on a daily basis. We may even be able to ignore them if our position is merely to “go to church” but we certainly can’t ignore them if we want to “be the church.”

The implications of Individualism are too extensive to discuss exhaustively in a blog post but in essence I believe we have been left incomplete because of it. Our language, our experiences, our faith and our families are functioning at a sub-par level because we do not look like the one who we were created to reflect. God in essence is community. Three in one from the beginning. Jesus’ model for church life, church planting, mentorship, teaching and sharing life included community groups of differing sizes. In the darkest times, he was away but not alone. He communed with the Father.
As we recognize the impact of America’s history and the “rugged individualism” that emerged because of it, the idea of becoming a communally-dependant society is a Kingdom value and not a typical American one. Frazee suggests commonality of purpose as the key to overcoming this barrier to community. The idea is that when we come together around shared beliefs, values and practices we begin the sacred work of transformation. People begin to look like Christ and that is the central mission that draws together a community of Christians. The focus of the spiritual life is to not to satisfy our own needs and desires but to love God completely and out of that source we love each other. I am very impressed with the 30 core beliefs and the small group covenant that Pantego use to shape their people for community. I value the idea of a developed, intentional and articulated statement of belief. It is no surprise that people are able to identify with it and feel connected to something larger than themselves. It is also important to note that this is not merely a cognitive exercise for these believers but rather it is one that intends to saturate their life so that the way they live and see life is changed. I also believe in the model of multi-layer groups. Belonging in larger settings like corporate worship experiences, mid-size settings of Bible Classes and small intimate home groups all fulfill a specific role and need.

However, I have questions and struggles thinking about the practical implementation of this model for church plants in post-modern America. I do not believe for one minute that Frazee was intending to map out a system for church planting, but I am reading this material in relation to application for church planting. Understanding that this has worked well at Pantego and that I have never planted a church, I am hesitant to present myself as a critic, but rather a learner with question. And so, I wonder about taking post-modern thinkers and trying to unite around common beliefs as step one. Generally this audience is quite skeptical about organized church and how it is presented. Uniting around core beliefs would seem to be several steps along in the process. I also wonder about where theological teaching happens. Pantego’s answer was in the midsize groups and I think this is probably best. However, in church plants do we have the luxury of this type of system, or do our home groups become both intimate community and learning laboratory? I embrace the ideas as concepts but wonder how they look fleshed out in church plants.

My mind is pondering this so much that I will stop here and leave the next 2 barriers (Isolation and Consumerism) to rattle around in my head and not on my blog.

The Connecting Church

I have just finished reading this book for a class and I have so many reactions to it that I am struggling to sort them out. I need to write a paper on it and so I am sure during that incubation period my brain will move from a "spaghetti" state to a more logical state over the book. Perhaps I should sort out my thoughts before trying to blog about some of them. Oh, well - this may help sort things out.

I am not sure that the model of small group community presented in this book is attractive to me (can I say that without being labelled consumeristic?). I understand that missional living and true community can happen best when lived out authentically in one's place of business, school, work and neighborhood. I get that. I am not sure though that I can fully embrace the intensity of it. Bottom line, I get bored too quicky. If I feel like I have to be with the same people, all the time, I tend to flee. It is a very strange trait, and I know that already. I have a circle of friends that I share great intimacy and community with. I love that, but it seems so spontaneous and creative still, compared to the "mandated" manner in which this small group system of Frazee's appears. Bottom line, I think I tend to lose interest and get bored with something (even as necessary as communtiy) when I am backed into a corner and have no option for change or reinvention.

Having said that, I understand the point of the system laid out in the book, is to make community "all of life" and not a system or a program. It is a way of being in the world, the church and in life. I know that in my head, I can't get my heart to go there completely.

But here is one thing I have loved from this book. Frazee talks about community forming around common belief. It is a rare thing to truly share common beliefs on theological issues. He sees this as a barrier to community. I have never thought of this and sometimes even pride myself on "being different" to the group. So, I have explored this idea and pulled the "30 core beliefs" from the Pantego church website. The reason it is making me excited, is that I think I have a core of things I want to teach my kids. Not that they have to flesh out the same way, but so that we can hold up these things and say, "this is what I believe." I love this. It is perhaps the start of them developing a true theology & ecclesiology.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

coming soon....

I have the ramblings of a post brewing based on Randy Frazee's Connecting Church. Hopefully will post by tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2006


2 things:

Last night while watching Anderson Cooper 360 (I just love saying that phrase) I heard an Israeli tour guide, who is also a Christian, commenting on a well visited tourist site which recreates a village from the time of Jesus. He was noting the obvious drop in tour groups coming to the area given the current situation but then made a profound statement..."for me, peace is in my heart and it does not matter about Jew or Arab. It is Jesus that gives peace."

Wow - I struggle to say that on a daily basis living in a time of peace. Or is it that I am living in a time of peace, and that is why I struggle to say it?

And secondly. I hear that in reference to stem cell research the President does not want to use tax dollars to destroy life. Hmm, and Iraq would be... and the cuts in health, housing and welfare budgets for the most marginal in this country would be...
(just my opinion - no one send me hate mail).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To TV or not to TV, that is the question?

Okay, I need some of you to weigh in here. We have lived without cable for most of our lives and then in December we got Dish network. I love HGTV so it has been awesome for me.
Here is the dilemma. I am not sure I love seeing the impact of Disney channel on my 10 year old. Her whole life has begun to revolve around the characters of these ubiquitous tween shows. Some of this is normal "girl-of-her-age" behaviour but it seems a little extreme. We have limits about how much can be watched etc...but all of her friends are also watching these shows and so their conversations revolve around episodes etc also.

So, we are asking these questions:

1.Do we get rid of dish and go back to the standard 5 channels - which essentially leaves nothing for Michaela to watch because she is too old for PBS kids and too young for most anything else on evening TV.

2.Do we ditch the TV completely and go TV-free. (Both David and I could do this fairly easily)

And here is the bind...

1. We do not want to appear "holier than thou" and out of touch with reality to our kids and make them resent our lives based on something like TV.....(okay, so now are we Amish..)

2. We do not want to be so far removed from our culture that we do not have connecting points with people.

3. Is Michaela showing regular behaviour that we do not recognize because of cultural differences in how we grew up in South Africa and how kids grow up here. Is it normal to have several lines from several episodes memorized and be able to quote them at any given moment. Is it normal for her and her friends to spend hours talking about these shows, their characters etc etc.....

Our primary concern is not making our kids happy or having them like us. We will do what it takes to make the best life choice for them. It's hard to know which choice that is...

Help me people...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cleaning Out

I get a little focused when I am on a run of cleaning projects. The projects tend to run together and then before I know it I have gone through every drawer, closet, cabinet in the house and it has been cleaned out, purged and put back together. I have such a huge sense of joy from doing this. Some may call me crazy, others have even hinted at OCD. Those are the nice names.

I'm in the middle of one of these phases right now. And it has me thinking. When Jesus does His business in us a similar thing happens. He cleans us all out, reshapes, reorganizes and puts us back together and we start new. I love that. What's better is that His Spirit protects what He reshapes and maintains us.

I can keep cabinets straight. I am so thankful that it is God's powerful work that keeps me straight.

Going to hear Rob Bell speak excited!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Headers to the Heart

This is the second sports-analogy post in a month, I have broken my own blog rules twice.

World Cup soccer is probably a bigger deal to us immigrant types who now reside in the US than the average American population. Notably the rest of the world has literally come to a grinding halt while the games were played. Soccer truly has a power far beyond the ball.
If you happened to catch the final yesterday you had to see the foul that will remain the talk of the soccer world for years. A French player, literally head butt one of the Italian players in the mid torso for no apparent reason besides perhaps reaction to some sport trash talk. The jury is still out on the reasons behind the behavior and some interesting factoid may arise, but nothing that would warrant such a thing. This was not just any player either, it was a legend. A hero to millions of kids. One of the all time greats. His retirement is marked with a game ejection and the world looking on in disbelief.

It got me thinking about how I treat people. How I handle their hearts. While my actions are appropriate, are my words headers to the heart? When I walk off the field for the day, have I left chaos in my wake or have I been able to pour soothing oil over the broken? Have my judgments disguised as concern ripped into already hurt souls. Have my intentions and motives been checked so that what I say and do reflect the one to whom I direct my praise?

Here is the main difference between what I saw yesterday on TV and my life in Christ. Even when I do not conduct myself in the way He desires, God does not eject me from the game, ever, no matter what the situation. I am never out of chances and I can not foul out the game. That's already covered by the gift of blood that He gave. And the best part is so counter cultural that its hard to explain. Because of the blood, I don't really want to foul anymore. I want to play hard but well. I want to live up to His reputation. I want to represent the team well. I want to ache when I think that my words or actions were headers to the heart of another.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Who Am I?

The threat of this post surviving death by cliche or predictability is not good. Don't you love it when people begin a thought with the "I don't know who I am" or "I am trying to find myself" phrases. Sorry, but this may well be the first of several posts like this. Don't say I didn't warn you....

I am not sure if my current self reflection posture is due to the following things or just a phase.

1. I came through a really hard set of surgeries earlier this year that have taken a toll on my emotional state.
2. I see my 40th birthday looming early next year and I can not fathom that I am going to be 40. I know that is not old, but it seems like I would feel like an adult by now.
3. My baby goes to Kindergarten in the Fall.
4. My firstborn has a body that is developing and looking way more like a 14 year old than a 10 year old.
5. I am in a place where I am not comfortable with my shell - I am heavier and just frumpier than ever. That is in the process of changing because I have begun to take charge of that department!
6. I have come through some Spiritual growth and change this last few months.

Well there - I feel better already :-)!

Because Spencer will begin Kindergarten in the Fall I am having to decide what the next phase of my life will look like. I need to find a part time job to begin stashing away more college $ for these "chickens" and for us to save to go home every couple of years. That would be the responsible thing to do, hey. Well, not what I've chosen. I am going back to school. I am going to pursue my MA in Ministry from ACU as an off campus student. I came to this after almost 18 months of toying with the idea. If I am entering the phase of life when I am realistically going to rejoin the work force till College bills are paid I need to be doing what I am passionate about. I am passionate about Ministry. My Undergraduate degree in Bible was fabulous but I just doubt it is going to get me the kind of ministry job I am gifted for. So, I will hit the books again and probably be 100 by the time I finally graduate.

This decision has led me down the road of asking a set of questions about myself. What am I good at? Where do my gifts lie? What inspires me? What drains me? All of these answers intending to lead me to make a good choice in the next chapter of life. The jury is still out on some of the stuff. But here is what I think today. I think my gifts lie in the area of "shepherding." I love people and have a heart that is inspired by people, their story and their struggle. I am energized by deep and intimate times with people. When I look at my history and how I am currently functioning I think the evidence supports this claim. I have some other marketable skills but when I look at how I hope to function in full time ministry one day, I think I have found my sweet spot. Eldering or Shepherding may not be the role, but I can see myself as a "Minister of Congregational Care" or "Body life Minister."

Who knows what the future will bring. If I have learned anything I know that we don't know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. Who knows how much of this degree I will actually get done or if it will lead to full time ministry. All I know is that I am being thrust into a new phase of life that is requiring me to look at some things and make some choices.

Some of the ways I have previously defined myself:
1. Stay at home Mom of preschooler aswell as elementary school child
2. Thinking of myself as a peer to young adults who actually see me as their parents friend :-)
3. Non student
4. & more...

These definitions are changing..... All of which seem wrapped up in the question, "Who Am I."