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Celebrating God

God performed a miracle, so we responded by throwing Him a party.

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Today is a sad day. I hate days like today.

Today, a brother and sister who have been part of our church for years are leaving. In a sense, they had left some time ago (in terms of connection to us and attendance at meetings). But this weekend, they are moving. They are physically leaving us, and it's hard for me.

It's interesting how I define "leaving." It's really difficult to say when someone leaves and when someone becomes part of us. Obviously, we have no membership card or roster. Some people in our church have never and perhaps will never live in the same neighborhood that many of us do. So it's not just the fact that this couple is moving. Living close together is not a requirement to be part of God's people, although I do think it's a great benefit. But having already lived in the neighborhood, and knowing that they moved into the neighborhood for the express purpose of being in physical community with the rest of us, really does solidify this as leaving. They sacrificed a lot to be with us. They gave up a nice house and bought another house that made no sense from a rational, worldly perspective. And in the end, they determined the cost outweighed the benefit. They are moving just 10 minutes away. I hope and expect we will continue to stay connected, continue to be friends. It feels like they are moving to China.

Several thoughts run through my mind at random times:

  • We really failed them.
  • They shouldn't do this.
  • Life happens. People come and go. Life goes on.
  • We will be just fine without them.
  • We are losing irreplaceable expressions of the living God.
  • How could they do this?
  • Why would they not do this?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are we doing?

Are any of these thoughts true? Are all of them true? I don't know. Maybe I don't want to know. But I do want to take time to be sad...to mourn. I think it's right to mourn. I hope God blesses them through this, but I cannot pretend that it doesn't hurt. What are we doing? What is the meaning of life? Why...why...why?

We can't talk about how important each person is in the church and then turnaround and act like it's not a big deal when someone leaves. Even if God is the reason (and I have no idea if He is or not), it still hurts. It's still a loss. A loss that I feel in the depths of my soul.



A PAL meeting to remember

I cannot stop thinking about a PAL meeting we had last week. PAL stands for Prayer, Administration, Leadership meeting (if you are wondering who came up with that name, it's my spiritual gift so back off). We have been having them for a year and a half, meeting about every other week. The purpose is to come before the Lord as a church in an intentional way. It is also a meeting that gives both men and women equal opportunity to come to the Lord together about matters involving the church.

Most PAL meetings start with anywhere from 30-45 minutes of prayer. We try very hard to pray before we discuss anything or share something on our hearts. The point is to come to the Lord first...together...and receive from Him anything that should need to be discussed regarding administration or leadership in the church. Those who have any interest in the administration and leadership of the church are welcome, and those who do not have an interest do not come (and there is no pressure or guilt-trip to come).

Four things (or people) struck me about our last PAL meeting:

  1. Erin. This PAL meeting was initiated by a woman. Since late January, we have been having some teaching times on Wednesday nights. Since these teaching times have been weekly, we have not had a PAL meeting recently. But Erin, a sister in the church, expressed her desire for us to not forgo this meeting, so she emailed Patrick (who was graciously coordinating the teaching times) and said she thought we should take a break from teaching one week in order to pray together. And it happened. I think that's significant for both Erin and our church.
  2. Todd. Todd is a man who has been visiting recently. He came to us through Greg, who invited him to the teaching times. Visitors are not a common occurrence for us, and we probably are not the best at including them. But Todd has really made himself at home with us, and I have just loved it. During the meeting, as we were praying, Todd decided to pray out loud. In his prayer, he thanked the Lord for giving him a fellowship of believers that he has been praying for. As he prayed, tears filled his eyes. It was absolutely beautiful.
  3. Jeremy. Jeremy is Jeff's son, and he fellowships with us when he is in town (as opposed to when he is in Austin, Alaska, or some other place). Jeremy has a condition in which his skin does not properly adhere to his body. He is in his mid 20's, and he has already lived longer and lived better than doctors predicted. As part of this condition, Jeremy has not been able to use his vocal chords. Recently, he had surgery to repair his vocal chords that we pray is a permanent fix. But either way, for the time being, Jeremy can speak. He can use his vocal chords. At this meeting, it was the first time for many to hear Jeremy's actual voice. So what did he pray with this voice of his? He prayed, "I want to use my voice to bring glory to You." There was almost a holy gasp in the room. It was simply awesome. 
  4. Tonya. Tonya is a woman who has had a really hard time in life. We, as a church, are trying to help her get back on her feet and show her what it means to be part of a family of believers. Tonya was not at this meeting, but we prayed for her, and we sought the Lord together about how to love her, help her, and give Christ to her. Sometimes, we can get too caught up in our church community and miss opportunities for God to express Himself through us to those outside. Tonya has been a wonderful gift - both because of who she is, and because God is beginning to teach us how to love those who are not in the best of circumstances and who are not a part of this local church.

All that to say: it was a heck of a meeting. Jesus really showed up and led us. I saw and felt the unique expressions of God we all are. Don't let me give you the wrong idea: all of our meetings are not like this. Too few are. But I am so thankful for this one.



An unbelievably oversimplistic description of how we got here

Not knowing how to begin this blog, I decided to start at the beginning. I am going to give an unfairly short synopsis of my church's history before I just start giving random accounts of life together.

Once upon a time, a man in Waco named Jeff came to see that Christ is Life. That He is everything. That He not only came to forgive us of sins, but to live His life in us. He tried to share this new revelation with anyone who would listen. Some did. Some did not.

Jeff had an opportunity to teach a weekly college bible study on the Baylor University campus. He prayed that God would send him college students who were hungry to know the Lord in a deep and intimate way. Eventually, God answered that prayer.

It started with a few, but soon became a critical mass. Somewhere between 10-20 college students would come weekly, learning about what I like to call the other 2/3 of the gospel. The first third is that Jesus came, died, and forgave us of our sins. The second third is that God gives us the life of Jesus to do what we cannot do on our own. He is in us. The third third is that God has an Eternal Purpose, and that purpose is to have a people, a nation, the Bride, the House of God.

When this critical mass of people took hold of all the three parts of the gospel, lives began to be transformed. Connection was made with Gene Edwards and the ministry he has done in helping people discover an indwelling Lord and how to be His church outside of organized religion. Eventually, a retreat was held where Gene came and spoke along with people he was working with. Reactions to the retreat were mixed, and some felt Gene was too harsh toward the institutional church. Others empathized with the harshness toward organized religion and appreciated the Christ that was shared. But overall, ties with Gene Edwards and his work were very loose, at best.

After initial hope for transformation within the local organized church that some of us attended, it became apparent that this new revelation could potentially lead to division, rather than transformation.  

After much prayer and discussion, people decided to leave this particular local church and meet in homes, outside of the typical church organization common in America today. Not all were excited about this idea, but there was consensus that this was the way the Lord was leading.

That was June 2001. For the last 8 years, we have been experiencing churchilfe together as best as we know how. There have been ups and downs. People have come and gone. But overall, it has been one of the most beautiful and hardest things I have ever been a part of. We try to stay centered on Jesus Christ, love each other deeply, and be a functioning, local church that makes God known.

So that's my unbelievably, oversimplistic description of how got here. While I may talk about the last 8 years from time to time, I imagine most of my writing focusing on the present.

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