Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Blessings

One of my favorite songs is Rachel Lampa's Blessed. When I want to reflect about how blessed I am, or when I'm discouraged and I need to find a way to pull myself out of that hole, her gentle song of blessing brings joy to my heart.

Tonight, my heart is full once again.

The Village Church has been a dream, that God has been working on in my heart for several years now. The journey to become the "church planter" of The Village was arduous at times. I understand, now, why the apostle Paul would sometimes give thanks for the physical pains and the tribulations of his life. You see, the obstacles I faced, as I tried to make a way to plant The Village Church, just helped deepen my sense of call. The perseverance made the project all the more holy to me.

Tonight, my heart is full, because yesterday we celebrated Easter joy as The Village Church. We gathered in the shelterhouse at Walbridge Park in South Toledo; through the windows we could see the beauty of God's creation, including the Maumee River. During the months that God was showing me the vision for The Village, I took many prayer walks in Walbridge Park. The place became one of those holy places where I felt the presence of God, as I struggled and listened and discovered the call God was making upon my life.

Yesterday our celebration included amazing music from a six piece band that was playing together for the first time. A visual artist, with a passion for helping others express joy and creativity, painted her expression of joy while we were watching and celebrating. We shared a meal of delightful food; then we shared the common meal of Holy Communion, and experienced a bond with followers of Jesus all over the world. We read the Easter story from John's Gospel and celebrated the amazing grace of God's love revealed in Jesus. We remembered that when Jesus returned to see his friends, (we wondered why he was not angry with them), that Jesus just kept loving them, encourging them to cast their nets again, and then he fixed breakfast for them. Jesus never failed to love them; and he never fails to love us.

Yesterday as the pastor of The Village Church, I was blessed to see faces of those who have been with me since we first gathered in my living room in October of 2007, to dream about what The Village Church might look like. Yesterday I was also blessed to see faces of those whom I had never met before.

We were blessed to be a group of 62 persons gathering for this worship celebration, young and old, black and white, financially wealthy and those who are struggling to pay the bills. Our common bond was our willingness to be open to the mystery of God, and the desire to come together with other people to celebrate the gift of God's love in Jesus.

I feel so blessed tonight. I am blessed to be a follower of Jesus with the privilege of being a pastor. I am blessed to have the wonderful challenge of working with a group of people to create a new faith community for a new day. I am blessed to have a husband and two children who are as excited about The Village as I am (well, at least Kurt and Becca are -- Jamie is only six so he comes along for the ride.) I am blessed to have two young staff partners to work with: Jessica Lucero, our Children's Leader and Joe Woods, our new Band Leader. I am blessed to have friends and colleagues all across the country and beyond who are praying for me and for The Village Church, who encourage me when I get discouraged, and who kick me in the butt when I need that too. I am blessed to be doing the work that I believe God put me on this earth to do.

I pray that with The Village we can be God's instruments -- and that all of us who follow the way of Jesus might have the gift of living out God's desire for our lives. Tonight, I am simply thankful for my many blessings. If you want to hear a good song, go find Rachel Lampa's Blessed, and give thanks to God for your blessings too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Time of My Life

I am truly in the “Time of My Life”, for the David Cook generation or “Your Life is Now” for the John Cougar generation. For those who are close to me, I didn't just lose my mind. Yes, I remember what I've got going bad in my life.

Personally things are crazy. My mother's health is sinking slowly but surely and her financial future is like everyone else who was trying to retire. I have had a series of potentially serious, but thankfully fluke, health things myself that have included an otherwise healthy forty-something having had two multi day admissions to hospitals in the last five years. Cheri suffered a serious head injury almost two months ago and is not yet completely well. Thanks to the break up of my past business, I have been sued three times in the last decade. My Mother In Law is in remission, but has battled cancer in the last few years. We have had to say good bye to a church family we loved for almost a decade. And, all of that has had all kinds of effects on the kids.

Professionally things are equally rocky. I'm a small business owner trying to keep two single mom's, a pregnant mother with a new house & two other kids, and a soon to retire man with jobs. All of this, with no ability to get credit, and a shrinking, often unstable cash flow. Meanwhile my clients, who are the bottom rung of the economic ladder, are being crushed by this collapsing economy. They are the “canaries in the coal mine” and this started happening to them a few years ago and will continue to do so for awhile after the rest of us are back on our feet as we value their CEO’s bottom lines more than them.

But as I drove to my Mom's house a few weeks ago with nothing in the tank, mine or the cars, I came to a realization. This is the “time of my life” or “my time is now”. This is what all of the wonderful things in my life have been leading to. This is the time where the talents, the gifts, the blessings, the advantages all come together and I am supposed to fulfill that promise.

It’s not just a line from a superhero movie (actually movies Spiderman 1 & 2), it’s scripture. With great power comes great responsibility, with greater power greater responsibility. God has blessed me in so many ways. Again, yes, I get the list above. But, I have been given so many talents, so many friends, a loving family, more than enough (not by our culture’s standards) money, and the ability to make a difference in some many lives.

There was a time where I thought that meant I needed to hold a title like Mayor or Governor or President to do that. Bringing all the trappings of power, of part of or the whole of the most powerful nation on Earth, to bear on a problem. But, now, I get it. We all have that power. We can all change the world. But Right Now (and I’m feeling very musical today, that’s from a Van Halen song that is very on point too), is when we have to do this.

The Village Church is how I am going to help change the world. By creating a place where other followers of Jesus, those who have been turned off of church by other “Christians”, can find that they too are God’s beloved child; That God has given them all that they need to change the world for good; That there is a need or needs out there they can help fix; That there are others who will stand up with them and guide, comfort and support them while they change the world.

Come, join us this Easter Sunday at 9:45 in Walbridge Park’s Shelter House as we celebrate God’s love overcoming the darkness, the fear the hopelessness of two thousand years ago. Maybe you’ll find out that your time (life) is now too and help us change the world one person at a time. If not then, come join us Monday Night or Friday night this week as we share a little food and a little love with the homeless families of Family Promise (Interfaith Hospitality Network). Call me at 419-215-9550 if you want to know more.