Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shut Up and Listen...

I have said on more than one occasion that this is, without a doubt, the most terrifying passage ever spoken in scripture.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” ~Job 1:8
Thanks, God… appreciate the ‘atta-boy’… thanks so much for noticing…

God is having what almost looks like morning coffee with Satan and somewhere between “pass the sugar” and “did you see last night’s game” he sort of dares Satan to mess with Job. God touts Job’s goodness and his great character and Satan reminds God that it is pretty easy to be one of the good guys when you are healthy, wealthy, and have never suffered for even a day. God strokes his beard and considers Satan’s point and finally says, “Ok. Do what you want… bring it on. You got full access to screw up Job’s life… just don’t do anything to Job, personally”. Satan chugs the last of his coffee and says, “You’re on!” and likely mumbles to himself as he walks away, “this should be fun…”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


It is a pretty common practice to re-pot a plant because the current pot is too small and the plant is in danger of becoming root bound. But… what if the pot is too big… or simply the wrong kind of pot?

6 months ago, we sold our old church building and moved out. Many churches outgrow their facilities and need to move to a larger, more accommodating space. This was not our story. Instead, we found ourselves in a facility far too large with tons of wasted space and a mortgage that had begun to define us more than our stated mission.  In short, our space had begun to require virtually all of our resources and left little or nothing for the mission we claimed to value.
Most folks know, even those with nothing resembling a green thumb, that you sometimes need to move a plant to a larger pot in order for the plant to remain healthy. Roots without room to spread become bound and tangled; choking growth. Fewer are aware that too much space can be equally unhealthy. Planting in a pot too large often allows too much soil to hold too much water. The result is root rot and disease.  The roots decay and become diseased and the plant may even die.

Our pot was too large. We were losing the strength of our roots and watching them weaken and wither. And so… we decided to re-plant. We sold the old building and moved into a smaller, borrowed space. Our community did not so much grow larger but the roots strengthened and we have begun to show signs of health and life.  We have turned our resources from the maintenance of a pot that was not right for us and have, instead, poured them into things that matter to us. Things we hope matter to Jesus. We have replaced the transmission in a local van that carries supplies to the homeless. We have built a covered patio on a transitional home for formerly incarcerated women.  We have built gardens and sorted clothes. We have sent support to missions in Africa and India. We have handed out fresh packs of cigarettes to our homeless friends. And… we have removed ourselves from an oversized pot and we have seen our community begin to bloom and bear fruit. We are becoming the plant that the seed packaged promised.

We are learning to be church re-planters.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

so... we do not lose heart (r street ~ 06.10.2012)

2 Corinthians 4:13-18

The Voice

13 We share the same spirit of faith as the one who wrote the psalm, “I believed; therefore I spoke.” We also believe, and that belief leads us to acknowledge 14 that the same God who resurrected the Lord Jesus will raise us with Jesus and will usher us all together into His presence. 15All of this is happening for your good. As grace is spread to the multitudes, there is a growing sound of thanks being uttered by those relishing in the glory of God. 16So we have no reason to despair (we do not lose heart). Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. 17You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18So we do not set our sights on things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on.
So… we do not lose heart.

Here we are… half a year, 6 months into this new r street experiment. In so many ways we have already exceeded our hopes and dreams for this community. We have become more than we believed. And yet… there is maybe some disappointment; some regret for the faces we hoped we’d see along the way; over those we had hoped would walk with us out of the old reality and into the new. Maybe we even see faces we thought might join us; new faces – new voices to join us in this new journey. Wherever we find ourselves, almost half way through 2012; perspective is always helpful and we cannot hope to evaluate where we are without remembering where we started.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

i am not Tenzing Norgay... yet.

Who are you looking for? 

Miles Massey: 
Tenzing Norgay. 

Tenzing Norgay? That's someone she slept with? 

Miles Massey: 
I doubt it. Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa that helped Edmund Hillary climb Mt. Everest. 

And Marilyn knows him? 

Miles Massey: 
No, you idiot. Not the Tenzing Norgay. Her Tenzing Norgay. 

I'm not sure that I actually follow that. 

Miles Massey: 
Few great accomplishments are achieved single-handedly, Wrigley. Most have their Norgays. Marilyn Rexroth is even now climbing her Everest. I wanna find her Norgay. 

But how do you determine which of the people on here are... 

Miles Massey: 
How do you spot a Norgay? 


Miles Massey: 
You start with the people with the funny names. 

~Intolerable Cruelty 

Last January, as folks talked of resolutions, weight to lose, bookshelves to organize; books to read; I thought of two words: Confidence and Humility. Six months in; I am still working toward that goal. I am still climbing toward that peak. I have determined that, at least for me, these are the two most needed attributes of healthy, effective leadership. And oddly… they are the two attributes that have seemed most elusive for most of my life.

It might seem strange that a human could so completely lack confidence and yet walk with so little humility. But, in fact, it is really not that unusual. You need little more than to have watched a single “Dr. Phil” show to know that most arrogance and braggadocio tends to mask deep insecurity and low self-esteem. And it is equally predictable that the folks who suffer this self-worth bi-polarity seem to often end up in positions that feed one or both of these extremes. Artists, musicians, writers, pastors, etc. seem to feed on the adulation of others and are equally starved when the adulation is withheld.

But not the Sherpa. The Sherpa, I am finding, is perhaps the most complete embodiment of Confidence and Humility. Most have heard of Sir Edmund Hillary but only the most rabid Everest enthusiasts are familiar with Tenzing Norgay. The Sherpa is typically the most skilled and the most competent climber on any Everest expedition and few, if any, climbers reach the summit without the leadership of a good Sherpa. And yet… they are invisible. Sherpa do not become famous. Sherpa do not sit down for television interviews or appear on late-night talk shows. Sherpa lead others to the summit and then let those they lead bask in the glory of the summit.

Confidence and Humility. I don’t expect to get there in the single turn of a calendar year but it is still the summit on which I have set my sights. Maybe a funny name would help…

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Pushing Back – and Coming Out

I pastor a small community in the heart of the Bible-Belt. The following email conversation occurred a few weeks ago between a friend and me.  Given the conversation and the much deserved push-back from my friend, I decided to read the following to the community I pastor a few Sundays ago…

I got this e-mail from a friend that I work with today. I know the friend that she is talking about. Read this and let me know what you think. I'd like to give her your e-mail address if you say it is okay. Peace!

“…do any of you guys know of a gay-friendly church in the central Arkansas area? A friend of mine wants to be baptized and she stepped out on faith, to ask my extremely Pentecostal father-in-law if he would do it, but he’s not comfortable with that. So, I’m trying to find somewhere she might feel valued and included. Would you let me know if you know of someplace that might be a good fit?”

sure... have her contact me.
our "church position" is somewhat nuanced - will explain when i have a little more time but, bottom line, everyone is welcome.

I've thought about this. I can't do "church position" is somewhat nuanced." I have done that. Love ya'll. Always will. Can't do hidden agendas anymore. Why doesn't God love us all with no "nuance"? 

what i mean is that all of our community are not in lockstep on this issue (or any other) one of our values is that we do not have to agree on theologies or doctrines in order to love one another. so, by nuanced, i simply mean that i can't promise that everyone in our community has the same opinion or view on homosexuality - we are too small and organic to have an official "church position" on anything.

that said... MY position is that we are affirming of anyone seeking god; gay, straight, black, white, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican. Also, i have emphatically stated that inclusion is one of our core values and have explained that position like this:

when you hear the word inclusion, when I say "everyone", if you are asking yourself "do you think he means ______..." whatever you put in the blank - the answer is yes! That is exactly who i mean.

so... as a tiny little community with very little official structure, we have no written policy on the issue of homosexuality but the PASTOR's position is that he will baptize, serve communion to, and happily follow jesus with anyone who shows up at r street.

so, again... i would love to meet her and talk with her... and would love to have her be a part of our community if it felt (to her) like a fit. regardless of theology, i can promise you that she will be loved and treasured by all in our community because that is how we roll... family is family and we do not exclude or segregate anyone from our family.

so... my initial response was inadequate but the best i could do with limited time. i hope this clarifies a bit. thanks for pushing back and making me think through my response. it helps me and i hope it helps you as well. families are messy and we have embraced the mess. "church positions" are tidy and we don't do tidy very well. what we DO do well is love god, love each other, and love our neighbor. everything else is secondary.  peace...

 “there are some who see it as their job to stalwartly guard the boundaries of the tent to keep it from crashing, and some who think it our job to be bravely inclusive and stretch the tent.
Either way, it’s misguided because …it’s not our tent.  It’s God’s tent. The wideness of the tent be it the church or society, should only concern me insofar as it points to the great mercy and love of a God who welcomes us all as friends. And of Jesus who welcomes all to his table.
You think I like that?  You think I want to sit at the heavenly banquet next to Ann Coulter?  Not so much.
But that’s what I’m stuck with because I’m in the Jesus business.  And in the Jesus business there is not male or female, jew or greek, slave or free, gay or straight, there is only one category of people: children of God. Which means nobody gets to be special and everybody gets to be loved.”  ~nadia bolz-weber

Most in our community received this well… some did not… but we are all continuing to love one another and trust one another to let love lead and overcome our doctrine. It is a journey well begun.

his kingdom come...