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community, love, racism

Don’t Let Love Be Silent

August 13, 2017

Stand with me against racism.Let grace find you, and please, let it move you.

Tell me that you care more than a head-nod about people who live lives, not like yours. If you call yourself a Christian, tell me you get it – that the cross Jesus was crucified on, binds your faith and stands at the intersection of pain and people, justice and partiality, faith and fear. Tell me you understand systemic racism, broken educational systems, social and economic polarization is your responsibility to not remain silent. Tell me you’re listening; tell me you’re speaking up.

Tell me you’ll stop the apathy, and you’ll love louder than the roar of hatred right now.

Please. Stand with me against racism.

community, love, transformation

The Heart of Disunity is found in two words: Us and Them

February 15, 2017

Us and Them: the heart of disunity

In the squarish mile-and-a-half suburb of NYC where I grew up, right near the western approach to the George Washington Bridge, its proximity to the city afforded me glimpses into very ordinary lives of the children of “chosen” artists, writers, university professors, movie, television and Broadway actors, musicians, white collar workers and laborers drawn to its small footprint, culture and location. Everyone seemed to know each other. There was a strong sense of belonging, plenty of ethnic blends and flavors, and what felt like ten mamas who had their eyes on you at all times.

In my childish mind it was very much a “we” community. Mrs. Pilkington, the British crossing guard, ushered all of us from one curb to another with her accent, and we’d giggle and repeat her like we were all queens of England that came in a myriad of pigmentation, tones and ethnic backgrounds. Color, race, nor class never seemed to be a primary issue, but culture clearly was an assimilation process. I actually didn’t consider my hometown to be discriminatory, until I reflected on the discovery that my grandma was born in a house on Spring Street. “How could that be?”, I wondered with all the practicality of an eight-year-old who lacked judgement. My grandma was a white woman and Spring Street was the one street where only African Americans resided. I questioned, how did she manage to be born into the exclusive (excluded) neighborhood of Spring Street on the edge of our small town?

Many years later I look back without youthful naivety, and with deep sadness. We all learned together, played together in the neighborhood parks, swam together, shared pizzas together, laughed and cried together. But none of us questioned why “we” went one way and “they” went another to get home to Spring Street.

My lead pastor, Brian Bennett recently made a statement that triggered my memories of the unspoken segregation on Spring Street. “Jesus frees us to identify with others inclusively.

Deeper than class, culture, color, ethnicity, gender, religion, or political affiliation, the term “they” seems to be the fundamental problem to anything that masks to divide us. The heart of disunity lies in the polarizing pairs of these words: we/us and they/them. Playgrounds, sports fields, workplaces, nations, and yes, churches have become battlegrounds over the words “us” and “them” at humanity’s expense with devastating consequences.

Yet God chose us, not to be exclusive, but inclusive.

Look into the clashing cultures of the Jews and Gentiles in the book of Ephesians; is the church in Ephesus even separated by one degree from whom we are today, as we learn to live out our multicultural calling? Paul wrote to the six-year old church as a reminder that Jesus chose us (inclusive) before the foundation of the world, and we have obtained an inheritance. The law-abiding, Jews emerged from a legalistic background, and worshiped whom they thought was their exclusive God. They suddenly had to learn to shift to “us” and “we” alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who had recently walked away from occult activity, promiscuity, superstition and pagan worship. But if they hadn’t figured out a way to love one another and work together, the church in Ephesus couldn’t stand. Unity was only obtained through God’s enabling power and a shift in their minds from ‘they/them’ to ‘us/we– one church’.

And today, unity can and will again be obtained through God’s power, Christ’s peace and an important shift in our language and understanding of personal identity. We can actually be known by our love, not going separate ways, but opening up our neighborhoods, homes, and lives to learn, embrace and celebrate the differences in all of us, in Christ.

community, strength, trust

I’m Not Like You, But I Need You

October 31, 2016
We're disconnected lives with little in common but the gossamer fiber of Jesus and a willingness to become a braided cord of community, and Jesus shows up

When the battle’s the hardest

…it’s love that fights the strongest. Don’t go it alone.

As I clicked the latch on the front door near the noon hour on Saturday, the quiet of the room echoed the holy hush of God’s presence. He dwelt with us. We went well over the time we committed to run back into the busyness of errands, celebrations, sports and activities of our weekends. But we barely noticed, as the viral threads of love stitched hearts and souls, and hemmed us in at the edges to keep each one from unraveling. I sat and wept over the sheer witness of transformed lives in the midst of battle. How does God do this?

I later asked my friend, “How do you duplicate this?

What I was asking myself was, how do you share this experience–Jesus in the midst in big ways–and hearts so wide and so pliable that it exposes triumph and tragedy…

and we all win?

How do we transfer what happens between my kitchen and living room as ten to sixteen weary warriors trudge in, choosing to re-create an Acts 2 community over hot coffee instead of the warmth of a comforter on a dark morning, because the great Comforter offers so much more in the context of community?

How do I convey to the church that it’s missing so much by making community elective when we choose to be so selective with our time and our choice of people outside of Sunday mornings? This is so much more than Connect Groups. It’s disconnected lives with little in common but the gossamer fiber of Jesus and a willingness to become a braided cord of community, who make room for Immanuel to step in and break down walls of independent, self-sustained cocoons…and make them stronger. The bravado of stepping out into community returns more than just discipleship numbers. It rewards the one who says I’m not like you, your age nor your color, I don’t understand you, but I understand why I’m here; I’m an adopted heir of Jesus, and that makes me your sister or your brother.

And the reward is an encounter with the living Christ.

All we do on Saturday mornings is come with transparency in our souls and a longing for more than what we walk in with. But we come to connect; then God shows up. Some carry cumbersome burdens, some hidden insecurities, some secret sins, some silly stories and all we seek is to know and be known. Yes God shows up in, through and around each other.

How do I convey to the church that it’s okay to let down your guard… that it’s okay to need each other? …That yes, it’s important to gather as a large Sunday body and collectively honor and worship the risen King, but you pour out your heart in a large, darkened room, with an empty seat positioned between one another…and that’s not Christ’s best for you? Your Sunday check-in and polite smile is not going to pick up your self-contained, self-maintained brokenness when life kicks your butt and no one’s there to take your hand but maybe a spouse or parent if you have one.

Sweet church, it’s okay to need each other.

community, equipping, love, trust

To my sisters: Lady lessons on the battlefield

August 28, 2016
She's not the competition but the contributor to your victory.

Peaking through the needles and scant branches of the pine, my heart pounded a little faster. The sting of the last hit to the neck accelerated my adrenaline enough to acknowledge I was determined to apprehend our flag, but I needed help. As one sister took offense, snapped the band on her sling and catapulted her ammo, the other took to defending me. I lunged ahead for the flag, grabbed it and ran. My sisters had me covered. It wasn’t a typical day of ministry for the three of us: a women’s ministry leader and two female pastors; yet our strategy as women should be.

Our leadership team gathered this weekend for its annual “Advance”, a time set apart for deacons, directors and pastoral team to reflect on the past year, celebrate God’s hand on it, and seek His direction and guidance for what’s ahead. Worship, prayer, praise, laughter, a few tears, coffee, and the words “I love you” weaved through our days and evenings. A bit of planned down-time did too, and that’s when I found myself bouncing on the back of a pickup truck riding across a field to our destination: a battlefield, for a few friendly games of wrist rocket paintball. Three men against three women: prepped and ready to fiercely protect, encourage, and cheer one another…as if our lives depended on it.

Because our lives should.

But women, we see each other as competition and we fight against each other instead of with each other. Why is that? Do we believe deep down there’s only one open chair at the table? We measure and mark, compare and contrast each other as if another woman is going to pull back the sling and snap us in the neck, instead of seeing her as a contributor and cheerleader towards our victories. Ephesians 2:6 says, God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places…”

There’s room for every woman to sit at the table, so Jesus can share His riches with us together. Instead of jealousy and judgment, self-doubt and scarcity, we need to celebrate the successes of each other, defend one another and appreciate all the seats in the heavenly places. Yes, historically there’s been less room in business, and far fewer doors open or chairs available in ministry for women, but we have to link arms with each other and confidently get out there and play strategically, with love.

Pull up your seat my friends and please, join me at this great table.

 

And by the way? The women lost a few battles on the paintball field, but we ended up winning the war.

community, strength

We can do this together.

July 26, 2016
We can do this together. Pray.

We think this is hard,

and we’re alone
and we’re walking a road that humanity has never seen.

Cutting edge. Yeah, we think we’re cutting edge…
Forging new paths.
Trending.

#multiculturalchurch

We are.
But we’re not. This is nothing new.

Hey guys, we’ve even been given a manual, the how-to book, a what-now guide.

But North American church…did we overlook it? Yes, we cry out to God when the tension is high and lament over fear of stories we don’t know…
or pridefully,
maybe ignorantly,
gloss over to say that’s the past. Get on. Relax, and would you please…

stay in your own lane
or…
I’ll go back to my own pew.

#multiculturalchurch This is hard.

We have different ways to worship and my way is right and your way is right and I like my way and you like your way so we worship in our ways but we missed grace and peace.

#multiculturalchurch How did we miss grace and peace?
Let’s not cover up our pride with assurance and affirm our mirrors we have grace. And let’s not settle with a sliver of rested souls and say we have peace…

if we dare not to embrace grace and peace, #multiculturalchurch, grace and peace together.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, greeted the saints with
GRACE and PEACE.

Grace, the Greek greeting.
Peace, the Hebrew greeting. Together.

Paul greeted the six-year old #multiculturalchurch with not grace alone, not peace alone. He knew the two cultures needed to hear the other guys’ greeting: “grace and peace”.

Ephesus was a port city in Asia with a thriving international trade, tourism, and attracted people of many ethnic backgrounds from all over the Roman Empire. Diversity was rich. The Jews and Gentiles, two divergent cultures…they didn’t mix. Sin was abundant. Strongholds bound the city.

When Paul planted the church in Ephesus he knew he was walking on the enemy’s turf.

Grace and peace.
In that order. He knew that bringing two cultures, Jews and Greeks together to be called church as one body, would require lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering…bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit. He knew it required Greek grace and Hebrew peace…two worlds colliding.

Grace first, then peace…because only after grace has dealt with the sin issues, then peace can be known.
The very first #multiculturalchurch needed grace and peace. God knows, so do we.

Hey #multiculturalchurch, we’ve got the manual, the how-to, the what-now. It’s the book of Ephesians. It’s pretty simple too. The first three chapters teach us who we are in Christ. We’re not Greeks, not Jews, not African American, not white. In Jesus, we’re
chosen (Eph 1:4-5, 11)
rich (Eph 1: 6)
redeemed (Eph 1:7)
forgiven (Eph 1:7-8)
blessed forever knowing our future (Eph 1:9-10)
and have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that yes, we are all of these (Eph 1:13-14).

Those chapters form our beliefs. The next three in the book of Ephesians focus on our walk…how we live…together. Let’s focus on our walk from a posture of who we are.

We have to quit the ground wars, the black and white wars, the worship style wars, the pride wars, the offense wars, the narcissistic wars, the color-of-the-walls wars, and you know we’ve fought them. But Paul’s manual says no, no…you’ve got it all wrong. Stop bloodying one another in the battle on the ground. Stop! Change the battlefield.

The ground war is won when we lift it up in the air. Look, it’s right there in the handbook, chapter 6. We fail on the ground if we’re indifferent to prayer. So pray church.

Gather. Pray. Be strong #multiculturalchurch, in the power of God’s might. Switch the battlefield and put on your armor. Your efforts aren’t trending. You’re not forging new paths, but you’re bringing grace and peace. Hear the call of heaven…together, togather, and pray.

community, hospitality

How easy is it to open up your life?

July 14, 2016

 

To build a multicultural life, we have to open the doors to our homes and our lives to hospitality, and hospitality isn’t just opening up your home… it’s ANTICIPATING THAT others, like Jesus did, WILL open up their homes too. Open up your life.

Why is it…we beg God to multiply us, expand our diversity, increase our nets, and then…sometimes even a few goldfish take up too much space in our lives? What are our true sacrifices about?

What part of following Jesus makes it okay to run and do and fix and plan and teach and preach and meet with others in His name while we fix a smile on them, with our eyes on our smart phones? Really. What makes that okay?

Loving people doesn’t happen just because you’re present…loving people happens when your heart is open and your attention shows up.

What’s easier?

To open up your home? Or to open up your life? And what does Jesus honor most?

“…and a woman welcomed Jesus into her house.” Luke 10:38

 

Throughout Jesus’ walk on earth, He went to people’s homes…Peter’s, Matthew’s, Simon the Pharisee, Zacchaeus, Mary and Martha…to name a handful. As Jesus entered people’s homes, they opened up their lives. Opening your home, practicing hospitality, and opening up your life to others is important to Jesus. Hospitality, no matter where you are, is the sacrifice of opening your life…listening and creating space in the presence of being…to the people Jesus puts in your path.

Look at Martha in Luke 10:38-41. For Martha, hospitality was about making things just right, good and comfortable…or maybe she was making herself comfortable in looking right, good and perfect? Martha opened her home to Jesus, but not her attention. Her sister Mary showed true hospitality– she chose to be present.

Who are you letting in to your home and your life? To build a multicultural life, it’s important to open the doors to your home and your life to hospitality, and hospitality isn’t just opening up your home…it’s expecting others, like Jesus did, to open up their homes to you too. In that, we open up our lives to each other in mutual reciprocity and friendship.

I shifted my car into park, looking for the apartment number. My chest pounded a little harder, faster than usual as I looked past the ones identified as pimps. I was outside of my sadly privileged comfort zone. “Don’t you pay no attention, Miss Kathy, you walk right past them. My door is right after them people standing there,” her text encouraged when she sent me her address. It was the first time I visited my friend in her home. Signs on the door warned go away. I knocked. I was ushered in to the living room through one of the most loving hugs and biggest grins I had ever received. That was the first day I really got to know my friend, as she trusted me in her space. 

Living relationally has nothing to do with where you live, but has everything with how you love.

Practice hospitality.

Be present.

Share your story.

Be vulnerable to your messes and imperfection.

Practice reciprocity, make it mutual. Open your home. Open your life.
And maybe? Put your phone away.