These Things I Tell You

imageI’m up to my eyeballs in preparations for IF:Rocky Mount and I’m just about as happy as a clam. If I’ve not told you yet, leading women to use their gifts to make much of Jesus while loving our city well is one of my most favorite things on earth. So I love the minutes and hours leading up to our city wide gathering. It’s like watching Jesus show off.

Today at 1pm though, as the winds began to pick up and the sky began to turn gray, I answered that niggling feeling in my soul that said I needed a long drive. Long drives to the next city over to get a Starbucks is the way my soul breathes and processes all that is going on in my small world. It’s the way I make space to meditate on scripture while keeping three babies contained and quiet with Sonic Slushes. It’s the way I get far enough above my life to see how I think God may see it. And it’s the way I take all the words that have been spoken to me and order them in a way that I can receive them.

You may not know this, but in any given week, I receive more words than I actually give away.

Sometimes, I fail to respond to the words I receive because I’m rendered speechless. Other times, I fail to respond because a response simply fails to come in a timely manner.

But there are times I take the words I’ve been given and roll them over and over again in my head before giving them to Jesus to sift. When Jesus sifts things, the truth always finds its way into the bottom of the barrel.

And if we could have coffee and look one another dead in the eye, these are the {truth} things I’d share with you from the bottom of the barrel of things I’ve let Jesus sift.

imageWhen I write about public school, I am not writing against homeschooling or private schooling. I am simply writing to tell you the realest deal from our vantage point. I am writing not to advocate for public schooling, but to tell the story of our experience so that some of you who are praying through God’s best for your family may feel the sweet nudge of the Holy Spirit to join Jesus in our public schools.

When I tell you the plight of the students who attend inner city public schools, I don’t tell you to condemn you for your choices of other schooling. I tell you because to not would deny that injustice exists. I also tell you because most of you follow Jesus and if you say you follow Jesus, I am under the assumption that you would want to know how to alleviate any burden your brothers and sisters carry.

When I tell you about my neighborhood and the poverty that exists here, I am not writing to call you out for living in the suburbs. I am writing to give you the fullest picture I can. I am writing to frame up the way I see Jesus’s kingdom coming. I am writing to stir the Spirit in those of you who are riding the white picket fence. And I am writing to compel you to stand in the lowly places with the marginalized because this is where I believe Jesus would live.

When I tell you that legalism cripples a city and that shame sends us hiding, I tell you not to give you a license to sin. I am simply telling you that GRACE gives you a reason to live.

When I tell you that hunger is rampant, I am not waging a war on food stamps or WIC or area food banks. I am telling you that it is the responsibility of the Church to feed the hungry, not the government.

When I tell you that para-church organizations cannot meet every need in every community, I am not calling these organizations across the carpet. I am telling you that unless the Church moves into the neighborhood, our cities will crumble.

When I tell you that our city is divided by race and one railroad track, I am not telling you that all black people are mistreated and that all white people are never discriminated against. I am telling you that as followers of Jesus, we must posture ourselves as learners, as forgivers and as neighbors. We must choose love no matter the sins against.

When I tell you that I am not affiliated with any denomination, I am not telling you that I am against Baptists or Methodists or Presbyterians or Episcopalians or Lutherans or Catholics or Happy Clappy Jesus Followers. I am telling you that I follow Jesus more than I follow a denomination.

When I do something different from the way you would choose to do it, I am not living in opposition to you. I am obeying Jesus the best way I know how and my obedience has no bearing or opinion on how you do x,y or z.

When I tell you I am tired or confused or frustrated or angry, I am not telling you that I am on the verge of jumping ship. I am telling you the state of my very human heart so that you can catch a glimpse of a broken person picking up her cross and following Jesus. And I am telling you so that you may be encouraged to pick up your own cross while you are still a sinner.

When I tell you I think a particular way, I am not telling you that you believe wrongly. I am just opening up and sharing the ways that Jesus is shaping my thinking so that I run my race the best that I can.

When I beg you to move in next door, I am not negating God’s placement of you where you are. I am simply praying for Jesus to send laborers into Rocky Mount and my asking you to move in, is just me throwing up a fleece.

Y’all, when I write anything in this place, my intent is never to call you out or bring condemnation upon you for the choices you have made.

I am simply writing God’s story in my life and giving the Holy Spirit room to invite you to join Him in a way that you may never have considered.

And I’m always hoping that one of you will move in next door.

When You Can’t Fix It

DSC_0826On Tuesday morning, when my knife was in mid-smear, I heard Ainsley call from the middle room.

Mom! Someone is at the door and I recognize her. Do you want me open the door?

I should tell you that because we live a life of welcome, the blinds were open and the drapes drawn completely back. The woman on the porch could see straight through our house from the front door all the way to the mud room. Part of being present in my community means being visibly present, even when I’m in the house.

I’m coming, I called to her. I was two PB&J’s into the lunch routine.

By the time I had arrived at the door, my neighbor had already moved herself down two steps and was waiting for me. All my neighbors but two, do this and it makes my heart seize up every time. Generations of being put in your place does something to you that you never quite overcome and so you move down two or more steps out of cultural habit.

You remember me, don’t you? I’m the boys’ grandmother and that house they staying at got all the windows busted out. It’s cold and they can’t stay there. And my house is full with my other daughter and her kids. Can my oldest grandson get off the bus here at your house this afternoon until I get off of work? I put his mama up in a hotel until they can figure out where to go.

Because I cannot say no, I said yes.

I’m sorry about their house. And he can absolutely stay here until you get off. What time can we expect you?

Eight o’clock if the school isn’t so bad. I clean at the middle school and middle schoolers are messy.

We chatted for a few more minutes- me trying to get the rest of the story and her trying to unload a year’s worth of burden- before the reality of what I had just committed to began to sink in.

This was not a one time, five hour block of time. This was going to be an ongoing need. This family needed a gap-filler from 3-8, every day.

And I had said yes.

DSC_0657Here I sit on a normal Friday morning, planning out dinner and afternoon snacks for a house full of kids due to arrive in five hours. Tonight we’ll have homemade pizza and everyone will make their own and I’ll force the minions to watch The Minions because I’m just plain tired and out of fun ideas.

Our friend will go home sometime after 8pm and my first born son will hide out in a book to revive his introverted soul and I’ll pick the house up feeling quite like I could do more to fix it.

But you and I both know that’s a lie. There are times we just can’t fix the wrong things in our broken world.

Some times, we’re simply invited to make space for the Holy Spirit to do the fixing.

And some times our greatest contribution to the kingdom is our open door.

Your turn. What’s the One Thing you are doing Right Now to love your people and your place? How are you inviting the kingdom close? Share your post in 500 words or less on your blog and link it up here. Or share on Instagram using the hashtag #onethingrightnow. And love your neighbor. Link closes Wednesday at 9am.

I’ll share my favorite post next Wednesday in the sidebar. Woot!

 Loading InLinkz ...

My Half-Baked Truth

imageimageFriends, I need to slip in here and get naked in front of y’all for just a minute.

For those of you who are squirrely when it comes to seeing middle-aged mamas naked, you might want to excuse yourself right now. Go ahead. It’s okay. No hard feelings.

When I wrote this post yesterday, after spending 87 hours staring at the screen and another 6 hours banging out a 1000 words, I immediately hit the trash button and sent every daggum word my fingers bled out onto the screen somewhere into the cyberspace trash heap. I trashed it for fear of what you may think but woke up this morning, thinking, Who cares?  {In full disclosure, I do actually care. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I’m a first born.}

I had entitled the post The Conundrum because I felt {feel} conflicted and internally pulled tighter than the snare drum I keep beating. Because I really do feel conflicted. And pulled in a hundred different directions that seem beyond my scope of control. I feel the weight of my words bound up in the weight of relationships bound up in the larger weight of Jesus’ kingdom- all of it culminating in this thing I call my life on Avent.

Am I making any sense? I know I’m not.

imageimageIf you could see me now, you’d be so distracted by the state of my eyebrows that you’d seriously doubt that the biggest conflict I have going on is internally. You’d be straight up bearing witness to the conflict happening on my face. But I digress.

I am living this great life filled with more people than I can count. My front door slings open so many times in a day that this morning, when I went out to shake the rug, I realized that the mechanism in the latch on the door is broken. We’ve officially broken the front door by all the opening. I cart mamas to interviews and cart their babies around town at the drop of a hat. I fill gaps and fill cups and fill plates. I makes beds and clean toilets and lead women to do stuff. The kids’ schools need things that I can give so I give it. Our church is reaching our neighborhood which is fabulously circling up every aspect of my life and making me feel beautifully suffocated. I love my life and I am plum tuckered out. I want to write every word of it and I cannot write one word.

Am I making any sense? No?

imageimageThe house is never, ever quiet because when you say YES to Jesus, you say yes to being interrupted. People trump plans, even the best laid ones. Immediate needs trump immediate wants. Crying kids at the front door trump soul care over the kitchen sink. When wrong things can get righted today, you do it today, not tomorrow at 2pm. My day’s greatest blessings and curses come by way of interruption.

Am I making any sense, now?image

imageI live in the thick tension of wanting to live in the fullness of community while longing to slip away and write down the bones. I want to put my body where my mouth is and serve more at my kids’ schools. I want to host my church family and teach the women to lead. I want to help women to fulfill their God-given purposes so that they spend their one life well. I want to help the mama around the corner get out of her pit. I want to help the kids from down the street get off the street. I want to be a good neighbor and I want to be a good steward of my gifts.

I want to use my unique best to build up the kingdom while knowing full well the time it takes to wield words takes me right out of the life I’ve been given.

And friends, I am straight up telling you I don’t want to write about loving my neighbors and seeking the welfare of my city if in the writing, I have no time to live what I’m preaching.

Make sense?

Probably not.

But it is the truth that is making its home in my heart and because it’s in my heart, I feel the need to tell you.

We’re in this loving our neighbor thing together and together means that you get my truth, no matter how half-baked it is.

So tell me, what is going on in your heart right this minute?

Tomorrow, we’ll share our #onethingrightnow posts in a link-up. We never decided how often we’ll link up, but hey, I have 500 words to share and maybe you do, too. If not, I’ll sing with the chirping crickets. Don’t forget that if you use the #onethingrightnow hashtag on Instagram, you might wanna make your account public or tag me in your post. I’d love to learn what you’re up to!

What’s Your One Thing?

DSC_0636Today’s the day to launch  our weekly link-up called One Thing, Right Now.

If you’re a blogger, this one is for you. Each Friday, you’re invited to share your own 500 words or less post about the one thing you’re doing right now to love your people and serve your place. 

Are you volunteering in your local school? Did you have a conversation with your next door neighbor? Do you have an awesome cookie recipe that you like to bake and give away? Have you learned something about yourself in the process of trying to love your neighbors? Are you convicted about your heart towards a certain group of people? What are you afraid of doing but making the decision to trust Jesus in the doing anyway?

Make sense? Write your post, link it up and then take 10 minutes to read 2 other bloggers’ posts and give a word of encouragement. We’ll glean so much from one another while spurring one another on. Sound fun? I can’t wait! Also, I’ll choose my favorite post of the week and share a link to it in my sidebar next week. Woot!

If you don’t blog, but use Instagram, snap a pic, write a blurb about your One Thing, Right Now and use the hashtag #onethingrightnow and I’ll do like Emily Freeman and create a collage of our pics. Fun, right? And if you’re an avid Facebook user, share your story and tag me in the post. I’ll share it!

Link ends on Wednesday, January 27 at 9am. My favorite post will be posted in the sidebar on Friday.

Link UP

Love on the Outside

DSC_0081DSC_0150As per his usual routine, Thad walked the kitchen, talking my ears off, while I fried the bacon and stirred the grits and flipped the sausage for dinner last night. The waffles were in the waffle iron and the blueberry crisp was in the oven and my head was everywhere but in the kitchen with Thad.

I just don’t know exactly what we’re supposed to do, but Lori, we have to do something. Kathy’s in there doing her thing every week and then you’ve got the other people from the church showing up and doing their thing. The women are opening up. And they trust Kathy. They just have nowhere to go when they get out.

He followed me around the few square feet with his hands in his pockets and his face turned towards the floor. Nothing is easy. No fix is without cost. We cannot open a half-way house, but nor can we afford to put them up in pay-by-night hotel rooms for days and nights on end.

Because I can no longer count the number of conversations we’ve had over the last four years that began with I don’t know what we’re supposed to do. and ended with But we have to do something. I kept stirring the grits and said nothing. I know those two sentences are like bookends holding together all the things we do not understand and cannot fix and all of it is like one conversation that never gets resolved.

Sometimes, I feel like we’ve morphed into two people who see the same needs from two different angles and then spend our evenings standing round the kitchen kicking the can.

Kicking the can is all fun and games until you remember that what you’re kicking around is hanging around the necks of people who desperately need more than just one more conversation about their very present reality.

What do you think we should do? I ask. You work full time and I work full time and we both serve over at Parker and then there’s the church to plant and the pastoral care that has to happen. And we have six kids to raise up and send out. What about Isaac playing basketball and Elli’s tennis in the spring? How about the discipling of the neighborhood kids on Sunday nights? We have no margin to do one more thing and definitely not one more dollar.

We have that bed upstairs in the corner. he said. You’ve already set up the space for someone to use if they need it. I mean, what if we gave that corner away for a woman who just needs some space to figure things out? We’d have rules, you know? It wouldn’t be a permanent thing. Just a temporary place and others would help us fill in the gaps until our housemate could get on her feet.

I flipped the waffles and opened the oven to check the crisp and I let his words settle in a bit. I could do temporary and I could house a woman. At least for a little while.

I looked at Thad and he looked at me and I could see the conflict playing out on his face.

Obedience always creates a war within. The spirit rises up. The flesh rears its ugly head. And the battle to do the right thing in the eyes of Jesus while living in a world that calls right things wrong thing takes its toll emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

We’d not yet opened our front door to a single woman and the war between our flesh and our spirit was already flaring up.

DSC_0146DSC_0157A little less than a year ago, Jesus saw fit to send the county jail chaplain to join our church plant. She’s a feisty woman who spends her days in the trenches of in-the-jail ministry and out-of-jail ministry and right-back-in-the-jail ministry.

When Jesus sent her to Fellowship, He was essentially inviting us to become a bridge church. A bridge church is a church of people who are willing {ahem…obedient to Jesus} to take on the care of inmates while in prison and then love them back into the world when they get out.

Loving them while in prison is pretty straightforward. You show up. Take books. Show them mercy. Give them grace. Provide counsel at appointed times. Write letters. Teach them about Jesus. Pray with them.

But loving them when they get out is tricky business. Love looks and feels and plays itself out in a totally different way when your neighbor gets out of jail. Needs become more tangible and immediate. There is a sense of urgency to find a way to survive that isn’t present inside the jail. Food is scarce. Housing even scarcer. And employment? Almost out of the question. There are pending court dates, child custody issues, family ties are that are broken. There may be no car, no license to drive, or money for bus fair or taxi. People with no family are released to no one. They walk out of jail into a vast world set up in systems that expect an explanation for the jail time and with a cloud of suspicion hanging over their heads.

Life outside of the jail is where the rubber meets the road- for both the one now living on the outside and the people who have cared for her while she was on the inside.  I guess you could liken it to ensuring that an unborn baby has a chance at life and then continuing to ensure that mom and baby thrive after the baby is born.

Loving someone fresh out of jail is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. With hurdles every fifty yards.

But it’s a marathon we’re all commanded to run. It’s not a calling for a few.

So when Thad mentioned the twin bed upstairs, I knew there was really no question about whether or not we’d offer the space to someone on the outside.

The only question now is who?

Tomorrow, you’re invited to link-up one thing you’re doing right now to love your neighbors or serve your place. We learn best in community and this is a beautiful community. Keep your one thing post at 500 words or less and make sure you take a few minutes to read your neighbors’ posts. The link-up will go live at 9am. I anticipate a small crowd tomorrow, but I’m committed to give it time to grow if you are! Love you guys. I’ll choose my fave post to share in the sidebar next week.

When You Think That Maybe You’re Exempt

imageI’ve been meaning to write this post out for weeks now, but honestly, it’s just the kind of post I don’t want to write because of the comments it may generate.

Like this one I got right before Christmas:

Nobody wants anything from someone with a heart that isn’t pure. Maybe you should quit serving until you can do things with a heart like Jesus. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your good deeds will do any good. You might just be a train wreck doing nice things.

When I read it, I got all shaky and red-faced and filled with shame because

1) The person had called my bluff- my heart is absolutely crappy.

and

2) I thought maybe they were right. Maybe I should quit the crazy train because I am inflicting harm on my neighbors and every person in my vicinity.

I rolled that message around in my head and in my heart for days and days before I told anyone about it. It’s an awkward thing to tell someone about the crappy thing that someone has said about you- particularly if you think the person is right. But it’s a necessary thing to tell, you know?

So, you tell Jesus and your person and then you let the words do what they’re going to do.

 

On Friday, while I ran the block as slow as molasses, I thought more about her words and the hard truth in them. The truth that my heart really is crappy. The truth that I do some things impatiently or with inner anger or frustration or with exhaustion or with judgment or without giving things that I should so freely give.

I do all of those things and more with a heart in need of more grace than I can ever dish out.

But here’s the thing.

The state of my heart does not exempt me from serving my neighbors. 

I don’t get to not answer my front door because I’m in a bad mood.

I don’t get to not give my neighbor a ride to a job interview because it jacks my whole day.

I don’t get to not feed my neighbor because I want to selfishly pretend that the food in my pantry is really mine.

I don’t get to not parent the kids in the yard because I might say the wrong thing at the wrong time and without perfect love.

I don’t get to not listen to my neighbor in the middle of a breakdown because I’m short on compassion.

I don’t get to not serve our failing public schools because I’m angry.

I don’t get to not welcome those set free from prison to my table because I just don’t know if I trust them.

I don’t get to ignore the groaning of my neighbors because my heart falls short of being just like Jesus’.

imageOn Sunday, while I watched the snow fall through the hundred year old windows at our church, I listened to Thad walk through the passage in Luke where John the Baptist is preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins.

John is turning the world on its head because he’s proclaiming the coming Christ- the One who will bring forgiveness of sin to the common people- and the crowds are questioning him. Upon seeing the crowd and the wretchedness of the sin that has ensnared them, John calls them out as a gnarly bunch of people who desire salvation with no works, no good deeds. The crowd, being riled up at his accusations, press him for truth. 

What then shall we do to inherit eternal life? they ask.

Repent!, John says. And share with those who have nothing.

Repent! John says. And do not take advantage of those whom you collect taxes.

Repent! John says. And do not take money from anyone or falsely accuse anyone and be content.

As the crowd listened and began to question in their hearts about who this John really was, John, being rich in humility, responds to them by elevating the Jesus who is coming- the One who is mightier than he.

And in the margin of my bible, right next to this part of the story, I jotted down these words:

Repent. Do justice. And trust Jesus, the One who is mightier than you, to change your heart.

 

As I’ve mulled over the one thing I want to give you in all my processing and praying, it would be exactly the one thing I jotted down in the margin of my bible.

Repent. Do justice. And trust Jesus to change your heart.

We don’t get to skip the part of the Great Commandment about loving our neighbors because we don’t or can’t or just don’t want to.

We don’t get to sit the bench because Jesus ain’t done with us yet.

We don’t get to hole up and hide out until we’re altogether lovely and gracious and Mother Teresa-y. {which btw, I’ve read Mother Teresa was no sweet, precious thing. but the lady could get stuff done for the good of others and the glory of Jesus and that’s good enough for me.}

Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbors. Period.

So in the morning when your feet hit the floor and you hear your whole world groan,

Repent of whatever is keeping you from engaging your world,

Do one thing to make something wrong, right,

And then rest in the truth that Jesus is taking all your small offerings and making something beautiful in you.

A repentant heart turns a broken world to Jesus.

Start with that.

Love and Good Deeds

imageI’m a well-meaning soul who loves the idea of sharing all the best things with you.

But life happens every day and well, when it does, I often find myself parked outside of Outback Steakhouse with a car full of crying babies waiting on a mama to interview for a job.

Yesterday, when life happened outside the Outback Steakhouse, I let the kids crawl to the back of the petri dish on wheels and pull out all the church toys to entertain themselves while I caught up on some reading.  {And yes, for those of you who don’t know, we cart our entire church in the back of our Suburban…that is, until tomorrow… when we pick up a U-Haul trailer!!!!!!!!!!! YIPPEE!}

It was a glorious hour, minus the play-doh incident and the pee-pee in the pants, of course. I sat in the sun, read four bloggers that are my read- every-post-sort-of bloggers and decided right then and there that to keep their God-given work to myself would be a sin.

So here’s me not sinning. 

{Insert a drum roll please}

A mash-up of Love and Good Deeds!

 

For those of you in a season of growth, read this. Not everyone will like your growth. Grow anyway.

A pastor, at the end of his life, rethinks what it means to be Christian.

Four hundred thousand children in America are displaced. What is the Church going to do about it?

How should cities combat homelessness? This city is making great strides.

When this lady writes about reconciliation, I read every word.

This gal just wrote her first book. Celebrate with the whole world and go pre-order Falling Free !

This.

Michelle Higgins – Urbana 15 from InterVarsity twentyonehundred on Vimeo.

Because I have a brother with the same story, I get this.

Wanna feed the poor? Watch this.

And for fun.  Pictures of daddies and their babies. Trust me. You’ll come back to these again.

Because I’m a people watcher, I’ve created this.  All the swoony eyes.

My most favorite new blogger. I just plain like her.

 

That’s my Love and Good Deeds story for this week, y’all and I’m sticking to it.

Unless you have something to add and then I’m all ears.

xoxo

One Thing, Right Now

DSC_0805Of all the amazing things to come from blogging, I have to say that you guys are the best gift. I love the community that has come from our common brokenness, our common Savior and our common desire to live out the Gospel in small, intentional ways so that our individual places see redemption come to life. You guys are quiet agents of change in your own places, steadily pursuing justice, faithfully serving your local communities and selflessly loving the Church.

And the fact that you people choose to spend your precious minutes here is beyond me. I am laid low at the thought.

One thing that came from the survey, and has been reiterated in several emails and messages, is this:

I need practical ways to love my neighbors and entry level ideas on how to pursue justice in my community. I’m scared to do it alone. 

Because we’re in this together, I’ve come up with three ways for us to learn from one another. You may choose to join in on one of these or you may be an overachiever like me and decide to plunge into participating in all three. And some of you will be overwhelmed with the thought of social media banter and quietly bow out. No matter where you are, please know that my desire is for us to mirror truth to one another and remind one another that with Jesus, we can make our world better for all our neighbors.

For those of you who are preparing to plant a church among a marginalized people and you’re  afraid, I encourage you to jump on in and soak up all that you can. This community has been an encouragement to me when the encouragement in my own world was void. God has used these people to spur me on and my prayer is that you would feel encouraged and sent out into your world to plant the Gospel in a weary world.

You ready?! {remember, no guilt here. only grace for your race.}

LinkupcollageOne Thing, Right Now

Beginning on Friday, January 22, I will hosting a weekly link-up called One Thing, Right Now. If you’re a blogger, this one is for you. Each Friday, I will share a short 500 words or less post about the one thing I am doing right now to love my people and my place. You are invited to share your own 500 words or less post about how you’re doing likewise. Are you volunteering in your local school? Did you have a conversation with your next door neighbor? Do you have an awesome cookie recipe that you like to bake and give away? Have you learned something about yourself in the process of trying to love your neighbors? Are you convicted about your heart towards a certain group of people? What are you afraid of doing but making the decision to trust Jesus in the doing anyway?

Make sense? Write your post, link it up and then take 10 minutes to read 2 other bloggers’ posts and give a word of encouragement. We’ll glean so much from one another while spurring one another on. Sound fun? I can’t wait! Also, I’ll choose my favorite post of the week and share a link to it in my sidebar. Woot!

If you don’t blog, but use Instagram, snap a pic, write a blurb about your One Thing, Right Now and use the hashtag #onethingrightnow and I’ll do like Emily Freeman and create a collage of our pics. Fun, right?

Monthly Guest Post/ Interview

Some of you are rock stars in your places, but do not have a blog. I would love to share your stories in the form of guest posts/interviews. If you are currently living on mission where you are, run a non-profit, volunteer, feed your neighbors, teach drama to inner city kids, love on the homeless, etc, I want to hear from you! 

And y’all, I really WANT to hear from you. So stop apologizing for your email or your message. It is my greatest delight to hear your hearts and encourage you to run your race. Seriously. Also, nothing is too small in God’s economy. Shine some light on what God is doing in and through your life. You never know how God will use your small thing to light a fire in someone else. You can email me or message me on FB. I also use Voxer which is my favorite thing ever. My user name is lharri6442. Yippee!

Book Club

Before you freak out and run to the hills, this is going to be an online book club with the entire discussion taking place in a closed FB group. Our first book club will begin on February 15 and we’ll be reading Educating All God’s Children. This book is written by Nicole Baker Fulghan and she is a gracious soul. This book is for every believer, no matter their school preferences. This book tells the story of how our public schools have evolved into what they are, why this has happened and what the average American Christian can do to fight for the 16 million children growing up in poverty who have no choice in where they receive an education. Gracious, compelling read that has challenged me in my thinking towards my God-given responsibility to do something.

Our book club will last 5 weeks and we’ll cover 2 chapters a week. Each Monday, I’ll post questions throughout the day and if you’d like to respond, please do. No pressure. I hope there is lively conversation where we sharpen one another with more grace than defense. The goal is not to make a case for how we should school our children. The goal is to recognize that we have a responsibility to love our neighbors and loving our neighbors means that we must care about our public schools.

If you’d be interested in helping me host the book club, let me know. I’d love the help!

Hope this post makes you a little giddy about the prospect of doing something new and not the least bit overwhelmed with feelings of having to do something you don’t want to do. Think of these 3 things as tools in your toolbox that you have access to when you need them. And if you never feel the need to pick them up, that is more than okay. You still belong around here.

xoxo

On Some Things, There Is No Choice

imageI made an observation on Sunday about our church that I thought I wouldn’t share with anyone lest someone think less than about us, but after a few days of thinking on it, I’ve decided that I don’t care what anyone thinks and that in fact, we’re exactly the sort of church Jesus would build.  {take that, shame.}

Fellowship Rocky Mount is a church full of single women and children. {which I love, by the way}

Except for five couples, we have a church filled with random teens, single moms, women fresh out of jail, empty-nester moms, small children who walk over and one homeless lady who makes an appearance every now and then. Even our visitors are women who come alone.

Thad and I stood in the parking lot after the last car had pulled away and we sorta chuckled about it. Maybe we should change our name to Fellowship Women’s Church of Rocky Mount, he said.

I laughed before I answered him, But these are the most vulnerable people in the world and exactly who Jesus would send to a church He is building on the margins. It’s funny, though. Maybe you should stop anointing your beard with citrus oil. I winked when I said that last part, but he didn’t even crack a smile. 

We were both thinking the same thing:

Hot dang. Jesus is building His church. And He’s using the least of us all. How upside-down kingdom is that?

imageSince November, my mind has been an endless mashup of all sorts of thoughts that run the gambit from community development to creating space in our church for more discipleship to how we can really serve our neighbors fresh out of prison. 

I’m longing for more hands-on time in my local schools while simultaneously longing for deep relationships with the ones who call Fellowship their home.

I feel the pressure of launching well my own children into the world while feeling the burden of a dozen or so teens who have no one preparing them for their own launch.

Time spent at home keeps my wheels turning for how we can put down deeper roots in our neighborhood and how we can best love our neighbors and yet, when I’m home, I feel conflicted about what I’m doing to actively love my own children well.

I am burdened by our failing public schools and the kids who fall through the cracks and the absence of men in our churches because it’s simply reflective of the absence of men in our community and in our schools and in our homes.

I’m turned all around in this upside-down kingdom church planting business in a world full of right side-up churches. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. Upside-down kingdom churches aren’t the hippest or the coolest, you know? It’s hard to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly when what you really want to do is carry a big stick and a megaphone and call your right side-up brothers and sisters in Christ to care about the things you care about. {Things Jesus cares about, too, but still, no one hears a darn thing coming from a megaphone. Forgive me, y’all.}

DSC_0168This morning as I was walking our city, I told Jesus that either I could plant a church or work to change a community but I couldn’t do both. Ain’t nobody got time to do both, y’all.

I aired out all my inner conflict and the desires of my heart before Jesus called my bluff.

They go together, He said.  You keep doing the next thing that rights the next wrong and I’ll build the Church. And from the Church, I’ll change the community.

I whipped around the block at a snail’s pace three more times before hitting the shower to let it all sink in.

I knew He was right.

Sunday’s revelation was evidence of that.

Still, no matter how I look at it, trying to make everything make sense in a world that has everything out of order, wears me thin and threatens to wear me out if I let it.

And I think that’s the enemy’s greatest ploy.

If he can overwhelm us with all the wrongs in the world, convince us that everything is hopeless and scary and then sell us the lie that no one cares anyway or that we’re working alone, he can turn our upside-down kingdom thinking, right side up.

If he can wear us down by splicing up our lives into neat little boxes with separate to-do lists, he can steal the seamless story of redemption that knows only one common thread.

If he can immobilize us and alienate us and con us into believing that the Church and the world are two separate entities that should never share space, then he has trampled on the very Christ who came to dwell among us- in the world– and then die to set it free.

And if he can convince us that we get to choose between doing justice or serving the local church, then he’s won the war on the welfare of our city and the souls of her people.

This morning, I’ve learned that the struggle within me is not about a choice I have to make.

There is no choice.

My struggle is simply tied to my wobbly faith that is afraid to believe that what God requires, I must give.

 

Maybe this is where you find yourself, too. Actually, I know it is. You guys have really opened up about how you’re trying to navigate serving your local churches and being involved in setting things right in the world. Because we’re better in community, I’m going to make space for us to walk together. Come back tomorrow. I’ll have all the details here on the blog. But until then, begin to pray that God would move in your hearts to be obedient. And pray for humility of spirit. These are my prayers for myself.

 

My Drawl, LIVE!

imageA few days after Christmas, I had the opportunity to chat with Holly Barrett over on her Living the Redeemed Life podcast. I first met Holly at Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday years ago!  I’ve quietly watched her make her way into this podcasting business and y’all, she’s a hoot!! We had so much fun chatting about nearly everything because apparently, I don’t know how not to get passionate about stuff.

I hope you’ll find time to tune in and tell me how Holly used her mad editing skills to make my rambling concise.

Disclaimer: This is my first podcast, evah and I will nevah, evah go back and listen to it because my drawl kills me dead. It’s also sorta weird to listen to yourself talk about yourself and I have no interest in spending my day wishing I hadn’t said so and so or lamenting over what I failed to say or cringing at the kids in the background.

So click on over and take a listen. I’m sure Holly would love to hear what you gleaned from our chat. And just ignore the children.

And y’all,  stayed tune to podcast #2 coming in the spring…different host, different message, same drawl.