mormons, PO-lice, and hot chocolate

“Are y’all Mormons?”
“Nope, we are just handing out hot chocolate because we love our neighborhood”
“Well, whenever there is a group of white people, it’s usually Mormons or the PO-lice”

Just one of the conversations we had while handing out hot chocolate!

This past Sunday, we headed out in two groups with eight gallons of delicious, homemade hot chocolate and a couple bags of marshmallows between us. We split up in different directions and set to work setting up the stands. As usual, the kids out-numbered the adults, but we worked together and got ready to start passing out the yummy drinks. People weren’t lining up, but we were all so encouraged by the people God did send our way; the kids loved giving the hot chocolate, and everyone who stopped received it openly. One kind lady, in particular, was very excited.  She saw us from across the street, dropped her broom, and headed over. When she asked why we were giving out free hot chocolate (Yes, it’s free, and no we don’t want money!), we answered simply with, “We just want to show that we love our neighborhood.” After about thirty minutes of everyone singing (sometimes screaming), “Free hot chocolate” and getting a most excellent sugar rush, we all headed back indoors for pizza and conversation. All in all, it was a heart warming experience to serve and watch the kids as they were serving.

reverse take 2!

Halloween Night, a night where most kids go out door to door, dressed up, yelling “trick or treat” to get some free candy, but we’re Soma, so we do things a bit differently.  This year, just like last (I feel a tradition starting), we did Reverse Trick or Treating in the rain and cold weather (of course, most of us love cold weather as opposed to warm, so this worked out well for us).

For those of you who have no idea what that entails: we took tons of candy, put them in little bags, and we went out door to door to GIVE these bags to the people in our neighborhood. 

It was nice to see all the kids dressed up and excited to give these bags of candy away.  Instead of traditional trick or treating where the kids are focused on getting candy, our kids all hovered around the doors, hoping they were the ones to give the candy at that house.

We had a few people who remembered us from last year, others who remembered us from other events we’ve done in the neighborhood and, of course, new faces, which for me was the most exciting part. 

One man opened his door, ready to give out candy, but when we stopped him and explained what we were doing, I saw a light in his eye.  The light was mostly confusion, as if it was crazy to do this in our neighborhood (well it probably is, but it’s never stopped us before, and won’t stop us in the future), but also a little light of hope for the area.  He happily accepted our bag of candy, wished us a wonderful and safe night, and we were off to the next house; and I felt energized.

We stuffed 180 bags of candy and came home with only three.  It was a good feeling knowing we were able to see people, show them we’re in the neighborhood, and show them we care about them.  These are the times I see the path we’ve taken as a family, and that I have taken personally,  is the path we are meant to be on.

And as a family…it worked!

If I told you that we were going to help a neighboring missional community with childcare while they had a visioning meeting, you might think, “Aww, that’s nice”. If I told you that we were going to show up with 20 of our own kids, you might think, “That will add an interesting dynamic”. If I told you that we were also going to transport bags of Halloween candy and ask the children to pack goodie bags, you might start to think, “That’s a little crazy”. In black and white, it looks a little crazy. In living color, it felt a little chaotic, but when all was said and done, it brought to light the beauty of functioning as a family. Around piles of candy, you saw adults and kids working side by side; you saw the older kids taking the younger kids under their wings, counting out five pieces of candy and putting them in bags. Same thing happened on the playground: adults were pushing swings, taking on “bathroom duty”, helping with the teeter totter, guarding the entrances and in turn the older kids were pitching in to help with the younger kids. No job was too small for an adult and no job was too big for a child. We embraced each moment together. At the end of the night, kids didn’t want to leave and we all gained appreciation for individual giftings/quirks and the value of doing even this small piece of life together. As a family, it was not only nice, interesting and crazy…it worked!

beautiful grace

On Sunday afternoon, we loaded up food, blankets, and kids and headed to Alum Creek Beach for a celebration of new life.  Some of our girls had made the decision to show the world who they were in Christ, through baptism.  As we drove, we chatted about eternity, restoration, and Scripture.  They were giddy and anxious, excited and pensive; and once we arrived, all those emotions were heightened.  The chilly breeze and not-so-warm water only added to the anxiety, but these girls had the support of an extended family to spur them on.  They boldly proclaimed their identity in Jesus before I immersed them; and they came up out of the water with a sense that God had made them into new creations.  Smiling faces and proud hearts greeted them on the shore.  We ended our time by singing Beautiful Things by Gungor (a great selection by another one of our girls):

“All around, hope is springing up from this old ground; out of chaos, life is being found in You.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.”

I never would have guessed God would use some small town girl, like me, to show these young city girls who Jesus is, but He did.  He has put His deep love for them into me, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to be Light to them.  These girls found life in our Father and are beautiful examples of His grace.

 

learning to play

Last weekend our Missional Community met at a bowling alley with our crazy socks on, ready to knock over some pins.  We had two hours of nonstop fun and three lanes to bowl on. We decided to put the kids in the middle lane and adults on either side. As we started to pick out bowling balls, you could tell the excitement was building. We picked teams and started in on our first outing of play. As we ended the first round of bowling and started into our second, I stopped to think what our group must look like to the other bowlers around us:

On the floor lies a pile of mixed adult and children shoes; forgotten diaper bags and cell phones sitting idley on the tables; children and adults laughing, smiling, and  jumping at the sight of their family bowling.; babies being passed around and little ones receiving help to bowl, each time a different adult; and a mix of kids and adults eating pizza and others bowling.

As we work on becoming an extended family on mission, we have realized we have been doing great at working together, but not as well at playing together.  We need to learn how to play together, so play we did.  I am so thankful for our family fun and can’t wait to play together again.

“why don’t you look like ‘church’?”

Which OS?

Which OS?

So, we get the question semi-regularly (or something like it), “Why do you have a whole different language and method for doing church?  Can’t you just do things the ‘normal’ way?”  Usually this question is preceded by an expression that they understand how and why the vision and mission are ‘reset’ around discipleship; but they just can’t quite get why we aren’t doing ‘small groups’ and ‘regular ol Bible studies’, and why we keep saying things like ‘kairos’ and ‘missional community’ and ‘huddle’. Sometimes these people seem skeptical, others curious, and some even seem almost angry or at least frustrated; but I LOVE the questions. I sincerely enjoy when people are willing and vulnerable enough to engage the conversation!

Before I get to the answer I want to mention, if you’re reading this and thinking, “Hey! I’m one of those people! That jerk is writing about me!” You can rest easy, you’re not the only one who has asked me, let alone the countless who I’m sure have asked Mike Breen and others at 3DM. In fact, it’s asked often enough that it’s worth writing about.

The answer for us is this: When your goal changes, often your method must change, too. In this case, churches across western civilization have long let their goal slip from discipleship to myriad other churchy or church related things, and over time their methods and language have moved to match. Discipleship, you know that great thing Jesus commissioned us to do, was left to be a byproduct of the works intended to be support. So, as we seek to bring His Kingdom to light in people, as we shed ourselves for life in His Family we need tools and methods and language that lends itself to that end. A simpler way of thinking about it is this: If you want to win the Tour de France, training along side Michael Phelps won’t help you. He will have LOADS of tips for your health, and you will be fit, and you will eat 12,000 calories a day, but when it’s all said and done you will (most likely) not reach your goal. Swimming your way to a biking championship just doesn’t work. Just like Bible studying your way into discipleship just doesn’t work.

So why do we do things differently? Why can’t we use the old programming language and operating system? Because we’re meant for a different environment, we want to win the Tour, we want to disciple.

backpacks and lepers

In yesterday’s Moravian Texts, I was reminded again that we are to always give God the praise for what He does in our lives.

Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Our Missional Community has been planning a school supply giveaway, and Sunday was the day!  Everyone gave according to what God had called them to, and we had enough supplies to fill 50 backpacks.  We sent out postcards to the kids who attended VBS and invited them to come to dinner and pack a backpack full of supplies for the school year.

We were ready.  Tables were set up.  Folders were sorted by color.  Erasers were lined up.  Boxes of crayons were stacked.  Kleenex boxes were tossed, picked up, tossed, and picked up again (the 18 month old boys ended up at that station).  All the kids and adults from our Missional Community stood ready for an onslaught of kids.

Instead of an onslaught, we ended up with a steady trickle of kids coming and going for an hour.  We gave away over half of the supplies we had gathered and kept the rest in case children come by the house this week.  God provided ample time and opportunity for us to engage and relate to each child that came into the yard.  We were able to start conversations, play, and finally pray and share a meal with all of them.

I am continuously surprised at the attitudes of the kids who come into our house.  They are kind, respectful, obedient, and helpful.  They want to talk with us.  They want to serve us.  They want to just be with us.  It’s not about the tangible items we are giving them (food and school supplies); it’s about the Father’s love we are showing them.

Thank you, Father, for showing us love so that we know how to show it to others.  Help us to always return to give You praise like the one leper instead of forgetting like the other nine.  Amen

fire hydrants, cupcakes, and Jesus

On the days when it’s too hot to move, I can almost guarantee you’ll see our street flooding due to an opened fire hydrant and children of all ages being blasted with the refreshing water.  On one such occasion, I headed out to chat with the monkey-wrench masters and was greeted with the following conversation:

“Do you have any more brownies?”

“Nope.”

“What about rice?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“Um, cause this is my house and I didn’t make any today.”

“Why don’t you do any activities on Sundays?”

“‘Cause we’re a church and we don’t always do the same things each week.”

“I wanna come to your house.”

“Alright, next time you’re not soaking wet, you come knock on my door and we’ll hang out.”

Ten minutes later, you guessed it, there was a knock at my door.  Four, dry young ladies stood on my front porch with a box of cupcake mix in hand.  Now they’re beginning to get it!  It’s not always about what they can get from us, but instead, about ways they can contribute.  I quickly called our personal Baker (a.k.a Danielle, who’s part of our oikos and lives five blocks away), who I knew would have the ingredients and recipe for frosting.  Not only did she bring those things, but she brought sprinkles, dye, and piping tips and bags.  These girls were in heaven!  What started as a fairly humorous conversation about our house and missional community, turned into a relationship-building, cupcaking-decorating, modeling-Jesus’s-love afternoon.

 

feeding the 5000 (or 50ish)

This Sunday, our missional community of seven families gathered for our weekly family dinner and “service.” We’re used to a good sized group of people; we have 13 adults and 12 children when we all get together. Planning enough food and space for that many people every week sounds like a task in itself. However, after Vacation Bible School was such a hit, there have been some neighborhood kids that just keep coming back. Our normal group of 25 turned into a group of almost 40. Now, in our own minds, space and food just had to stretch. This Sunday, though, was different.

When I arrived at the Shoemaker’s house, there were only about 20 of us there. I thought tonight was going to be as “normal” as any other Sunday. I was so wrong. The turns, the chaos, the panic, the revelations, and the blessings were about to hit us with an overwhelming force.

At first, a few people showed up at the front door: maybe 5, or 6 people. That was normal enough, and somewhat expected. After all, our Sunday nights just seemed to get a little bigger each time. But this time shocked us all. Children poured in through the front door. At first, we recognized them. Some were neighborhood kids that we’ve all interacted with at some point, whether on a Sunday or during VBS. Then the faces became more unfamiliar. Children and teens who we had never met, kids whose names were never known to us, came through the door and jumped in the line for food. By the time kids stopped showing up, there were probably 30 kids (not including our own children) all piled into two small rooms. And there were 13 adults. Let the chaos begin!

As for the food, we were all thinking the same thing: “There won’t be enough.” There couldn’t possibly be enough food to go around and feed all of these children! It simply wasn’t planned for, and couldn’t possibly have been anticipated. We fed the children first, just in case we ran out. I’m sure, like myself, some of the adults wondered if they would get to eat at all. Once the children were all fed, we could go assess the damage, and grab what was left over. I was one of the last adults to grab my plate of food. I expected there to be NOTHING left. And oh my goodness was I in for a shock. There was not only enough food for the remaining adults, but there was MORE THAN ENOUGH. We were able to eat our fill, and at the end of the night, there was even a bit of leftovers. The Lord provided. He took what little we had, and stretched it to feed the many. Now maybe this wasn’t seven loaves of bread, two fish, and over 5,000 people, but the Lord revealed something to us that day: HE will provide. I really felt my faith had been challenged for ever having a shadow of a doubt.

After everyone was finished eating, we began our lesson. We split up all the kids into groups. Each group had about eight kids, and the two adults per group were to talk about prayer with the kids, and pray with them individually and as a group. For me, this took me out of my comfort zone. I love kids and love to play with kids, but to pray with them, especially kids I didn’t know? Any other day I would have wanted to crawl into my shell and disappear. But this day was different. I had a confidence, I knew what to say, and I knew what kids hungered the most for the Lord. The feelings of uneasiness vanished, and the courageous response resonated throughout our missional community. Everyone stepped forward, and never took a second guess as to whether or not they could handle it. Our courage came from the Lord, and my, oh my, is He good at challenging us when we least expect it.

After everyone went home, the members of our missional community gathered to discuss the afternoon and end in prayer. A few things people talked about resonate in my mind today, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them for the past couple days.

Stretching: The Lord showed us this day that we need to have faith in His provisions, and that He will stretch whatever needs to be stretched for His glory. In this instance, food and space. I don’t remember ever feeling cramped or like there were too many people. I don’t know how we fit that many people in one area, or how we fed them all. I can honestly say, the Lord truly “stretched” what needed to be stretched.

Flexibility: We thought, as a whole, that we were flexible. We made it through VBS with 50 kids and 7-10 adults each day, right? We were challenged on our flexibility, and by His grace, and ONLY by His grace (I can assure you), we made it out alive.

And the stories. Some of the stories that the adults shared about the children were astonishing. One girl, who was anxious about the amount of people present STILL said that we just needed to invite more. Without ever considering her OWN feelings of stress or uncomfortability, she wanted to step forward, and step out on faith, for Jesus Christ.

This last Sunday may not have gone as planned. It may not have gone as smoothly as anticipated. It went better. We reached more children for Christ, and learned a few things along the way. As adults who have claimed to have faith and who want to serve the Lord, we were taught valuable lessons in faith, courage, and flexibility. I believe the blessings we received that day, amidst all the chaos, have inspired and impacted us in ways we didn’t anticipate when we showed up for our “normal” missional community that afternoon.

be still

Here’s the set up:  we’ve been resting and abiding in our Father, learning how to be family for several months; VBS took place a month ago; Lemonade stand has been running every Friday since; over 30 kids walked through our front door on Sunday afternoon (half of them we knew, the other half we didn’t).  I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, we’re on the upswing of growth and work.  Despite our feeling overwhelmed, and even a bit panicked at moments, Oddie describes the night so well:

Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

What happens when God answers prayer? It seems like we are more prepared for the answer to be “No.”, “Not right now.”, or unnerving silence, but When God takes confidence in you, puts HIS plan in you and knows it will come to fruition, How do we respond? For me it’s almost an “Oh Sh*t!” moment. Sometimes it’s a struggle to know how to take it all in, accept the love, success, or dream come true. Maybe we’re afraid of success, or Jesus is wooing us out of our comfort zone, or the “Be careful what you wish for” syndrome, or maybe we just aren’t ready for a “yes”.

I know Sunday I was anxious, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, apprehensive, fearful, and then I heard a “shhhhh…” followed by “Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)”. Be still. Be comforted. And be THANKFUL.  Thankfulness brings joy, not fear or feelings of being overwhelmed. I should be full of praise for Him in all things and remember I have asked and received. There are people who live a lifetime and never experience God’s answer to prayer, never witness God’s handiwork, and will never know God’s sense of humor.

Sunday, we saw God at work in the community and it WAS overwhelming, uncomfortable, scary, But God will give us strength, we won’t get tired, we wont become weary. I trust in God who can move mountains. I was once like those kids, God made a difference in my life; HE will make a difference in those kids lives!

HIS answer was yes. Are YOU ready?”