Sunday, February 27, 2011


No situation is ever as cut and dry as I try to make it. I like to categorize and classify. I like to know what to call things, people and places. I want to know how to think about them - that place is a dump, they are close-minded, this situation is hopeless. It seems so much easier to live in the black and white than to experience the gray, and to make room for a new perspective.

As some excitement is building about our first community gathering on March 6th, I received an email from a friend this week. She had visited the diner where we plan to host our Sunday gatherings, and enjoyed a good conversation with the waitress. In her email to me she wrote:
"God is good, and I am seeing things that have been happening for almost the past two years for me, seem to have a purpose."

Open encounters with others do that to us. Insights like these seldom happen in isolation. Our faith calls for connections, for collisions you might even call them. Faith in God and God's Spirit calls for openness and attnetiveness to how God might stir us to see and experience life differently - through relationships, circumstances, scripture, successses, failures, nature, etc. As we come together as a faith community and listen to one another and really see each other, our old definitions and classifications are broken down. We learn things about others, about ourselves, and about our Creator.

A faith community is a place where deep connections are made, but those relationships are more than just friendships; they are intentional encounters where we are vulnerable to having our story intersect with another's story - - and where we find our place in God's story.

Our "connecting" place will be Carl's Main Street Restaurant. My hunch is that rich relationships will be made there as we eat, share, reflect and explore scripture. My prayer is that as we connect, we will not only be shaped by one another's stories, but that we will be shaped into the image of Christ - One who lived in a way that valued relationships and who allowed them to be avenues for knowing and sharing the life-giving love of God.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking back and forward

Last night, a group of new and old friends shared a meal together in our home. This was more than a meal though, it was the beginnings of a new community. There were introductions, conversations, ideas shared, connections made, and imaginations sparked about the whats, whens and hows of this new faith community. There was energy and excitement as we sensed the emergence of something meaningful and necessary.

As I sat back for a moment and looked around, there was an awareness of something stirring in my spirit, a reminder perhaps. When I was ordained 3 years ago at Peachtree Baptist Church, I was blessed by a congregation of friends and family who affirmed my call to ministry. Those gathered blessed me by their presence, their participation and their tender words spoken during the laying on of hands. Truly, it was a gift I will cherish forever. At the close of the service, this benediction was read from the 3rd chapter of Ephesians:
"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Last night as I looked around the room, I heard these words again, this time resounding in my spirit. I was profoundly aware of something greater at work, something capable of drawing a group of strangers together to imagine a new faith community. While I too often obsess about the details and the decisions of each step, I was reminded of God's power at work to do something far greater than what I could even ask or imagine.

I cannot predict what this new church will look like; yet, I am reassured that no matter where the journey takes us, it will not be me that gets us there. It will be the God who gives us the ability to dream and works with and through us to bring about God's kingdom on earth. I am thankful that it is not me, but God's Spirit at work, that will ultimately shape the life of this newly forming church. Thanks be to God for what has already begun, and for what will be!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A community of misfits

Perhaps some of the most positive and powerful experiences of love are those in which love does not come easily. In our culture, it is so common to speak of love that feels good, that is comfortable, and that comes quite naturally. That love certainly has its place, but there is another kind of love, one that if we are fortunate, we experience in a community of those that we at first glance feel are nothing like us.

I have often talked about my hope for this new faith community to be identified by its diversity. This word is used so often today and sometimes it is over-used and under-appreciated. Truthfully, when we are gathered together in any form, we are a diverse group in terms of life experiences, gender, occupation, and personality. Yet, when we add in race, economic status, sexual orientation, cultural differences, and other identifiers, we find a whole other layer of difference. We find that our common ground is no longer that which is comfortable and natural and we are forced to look for something deeper. I also believe that we are forced to go to deeper places. The small talk is more difficult to come by and we are forced to look the other in the eye, to acknowledge their uniqueness, to confront our differences and wrong stereotypes, and to ask the deeper questions.

When I speak of my hopes for diversity in our emerging faith community, it is for many reasons. Yes, it reflects the changing world we live in and yes, it is a way to continue bridging our socio-economic-racial gaps, but there is more. I cherish the richness of a diverse faith community because we experience deeper love when we are cast into a community of those who seem to have little in common with us. In this community of misfits, we find that while it does not come easily, the way is opened for us to experience the kind of love that can bring hope, change and new life.

As our family watched Because of Winn-Dixie this weekend, I witnessed a powerful image of this type of community (i'm pretty sure my children rolled their eyes when i felt the need to point this out). In her desperation to make friends in a new hometown, a preacher's daughter raised by her divorced father invites her new acquaintances to a party. As the celebration finally takes place, gathered together are the the ex-con, the widow, the blind outcast, the grumpy landlord, the depressed preacher, and the mischievous school boys. It seemed the only thing they had in common was the invitation they each received to attend this gathering. When they finally come together, there is a transformation that takes place. The outcast is restored to community, the ex-con receives affirmation of his gifts, the landlord softens his harsh tone, the depressed preacher and his daughter find renewed relationship and the two boys put their energy to positive use. There is no false impression that they have reached some final utopia, but rather that in this community they have found what they did not even know they were looking for.

No, love does not come easily in a community of misfits, but the challenges are worth the undeniable sense that love can cross boundaries and find us where and when we least expect it.