Monday, November 23, 2009

Ham with a side of hope

Cool story from Thanksgiving Outreach...

Saturday morning we're buzzing around the Baton Rouge Dream Center resembling bumble bees on meth. There are volunteers everywhere: some holding signs on street corners, some waving traffic through the parking lot like air traffic controllers and some moving (literally) hundreds of pounds of smoked meat onto the sidewalk. The infamous Thanksgiving Outreach is underway.

I got there late and I missed the instructions so I have basically no idea what's going on. The cool thing is, it doesn't matter. We have such an amazing team of volunteers that I just wander through the lot and enjoy the excitement. It's raining, the wind is biting and hundreds of HPCers are there to serve.

Cars are lined up waiting to deliver Thanksgiving groceries to families they've never met. SUV's packed tight with kids, friends piled into sports cars, pick-up trucks with life group buddies...all of them eager to feed the poor and pray for the hurting. This is what church is all about.

One family, in particular, got to serve in a whole other capacity. When they knocked on the door to deliver the Thanksgiving ham, a young woman came outside and got into their vehicle. She told them she was working with a counselor from HPC and needed to leave with them. Almost without explanation, she threw her belongings into the trunk and asked them to drive her to the Dream Center. Without hesitation, the family packed her in and drove off.

As the volunteers were driving off, they called the Dream Center for instructions. I was dispatched from our side to go and meet up with them. I grabbed two of our faithful volunteers and we headed out.

The details are irrelevant but here's the bottom line. Within an hour, the young woman found herself in a safe place, with safe people around her, for the first time in many years. Saturday morning she woke up in an abusive, violent situation where she was forced to trade herself daily. Saturday night she went to sleep in clean bed, in a safe house, without fear.

The family that helped save her did not get up Saturday morning hoping to rescue a victim of human trafficking; they simply wanted to be a healing place for a hurting world. They showed up intending to deliver groceries; instead they delivered hope. Ordinary people taking part in extraordinary life change; that's what the Kingdom of God is all about.

All glory to Him!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the silence

We are building a new worship space at my church and it's been in the works for a few years now. Minor things like category five hurricanes and global recessions have slowed the progress, yet we forge on. We will open the doors in a few months and everyone is getting really excited about it. This past weekend we did something that totally impressed me. Any of you who know me personally will know that I'm not easily impressed, as my internal cynic sometimes gets the best of me. But this past weekend, I was utterly impressed.

Pastor Dino decided that before we open the doors of our new facility, he wanted the Word spoken over the facility in its entirety. We signed up for 15 minute time slots and read the Bible from cover to cover. It took several days (and all-nighters) but we made it from Genesis to Revelation. It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever been a part of.

The section I read was out of Matthew and had lots of 'Woe to you, brood of vipers' stuff. As I was reading it I began to wonder if God was speaking to me specifically. Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for being white-washed tombs; clean on the outside but full of deceit and corruption on the inside. I began to wonder if I should just lay down the bible and repent.

I am a sinner, saved by grace. I don't live the life of overt sin that I once did, but I still struggle with being more like Jesus and less like my self-serving, me-focussed, center of the universe self. I want my life to glorify God and bring the saving knowledge of Christ to the lost. I want to be, as Pastor Dino puts it, "a paper plate to serve up Jesus".

What is it in us that demands that we be heard? What broken part of us cries out for our rights, even in the midst of our sin?

I don't want to be a white washed tomb. I don't want to be a Pharisee that loves to be noticed and needs the approval of others. I spend lots of hours every day in silence. I used to want God to speak to me and tell me what to do. Now I want to get to the place where I'm content to sit in the silence, just knowing He's here with me.

Have you gotten to a place where God's presence is all you seek? Not His voice, not His direction, not His hand: simply His silent presence. If you have, lemmino how you arrived there. I'm eager to learn.

Be blessed and be free, in Jesus' name. All glory to God!

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Monday, November 09, 2009

What's your story?

I've been back from Chicago for a week and a half but I'm still trying to process everything that I heard. The Story 09 conference was incredible; great leadership, innovative and more creativity than I can even describe. It would take 50 posts to convey everything that I learned, but I'm going to focus on one thing.

Donald Miller recently released his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you're content with your life, please don't read it. It jacked me up entirely. I bought it several weeks ago but I didn't read it until I was flying to Chicago. If reading the book wasn't enough, Donald spoke at the conference as well. By Wednesday night I was wrecked.

The premise of the book is this: you are telling a story with your life. It might be a great story or a horrible story, but either way you're telling it. You are the leading character, for better or for worse. The whole story line revolves around the choices you make.

I'm a writer, so I think a lot about characters, plot lines and settings. I have a whole collection of people who live in my imagination, just waiting for an opportunity to leap onto the page and start living their stories. What I've realized in the past ten days is, I spend more time thinking about their stories than I do living mine. My fictional characters have all kinds of adventure, romance and suspense. I spend nine hours a day at my laptop. I'm not living an adventure, there is a most definite absence of romance, and the only suspense I have is whether my pay check will cover my bills. That's not a good story.

I've realized that some part of me believed that once I write the bestseller, my life (my story) will really begin. Here's the scary part though; Donald Miller had already written the bestseller and moved into the new condo and he still had a story he didn't like. The condo didn't make the story any better and neither did the bestseller. Those things may have changed the setting, but they didn't do anything for character development. He had to make choices to change the story he was living; not just the stories he was writing.

I want to live a better story...and I have no excuse not to. I belong to (arguably) the greatest church on the planet, I have great friends, a supportive family and enough sense not to play in traffic. I should be living a great story!!!

I've decided that my problem is based primarily in selfishness and fear of the unknown. I say I want adventure, but I don't like talking to people I don't already know. I say I want suspense, but I sit on my couch instead of taking a risk. We don't even have time to enter the romance debate, but suffice it to say that I have some hang-ups there too. And the downside to all of this: writing a bestseller won't change any of it.

So here I am, again, at the foot of the cross asking God to heal me some more. I want to live a great story...a story that makes Jesus famous and brings glory to God. That's probably not going to happen sitting on my couch.

What's your story? Are living life to the full or do you have a remote in one hand and cheetos in the other? I don't want to have another conversation about somebody else's adventure; I want to be living my own. Any thoughts on how I can get started?

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