li’l’ PoP

“The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.  These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.  Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.  Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.  “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’  If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you.”  Luke 10:1-6

The concept of a Person of Peace (PoP) that Luke writes about here is something fairly new to me, but it has rocked my world.  The idea that the Holy Spirit has gone ahead of me to prepare someone’s heart in a way that they will like me, serve me, and be willing to listen to what God might be saying through me is huge.  After studying this, God graciously gave me the opportunity to experience it firsthand.

Meet Dee (name intentionally changed).

We first met Dee when she and her cousin stopped by our house advertising their newly opening dog-walking business (we just so happen to be their only customers).  We gladly let the two tweens take our active dog, Linus, on walks at least once a week.  I’m not sure who walks who, but they all come back happy and thirsty each time.

The next natural step was to invite Dee and her friends to VBS, and they came.  Not only did she come, but she brought along six of her cousins.  After the week of VBS, Dee stopped by regularly to just spend time with me, cuddle Judah, and hang out in our backyard.  Recently, she has begun coming early to Missional Community each week to help me cook and set-up.

In the midst of all these simple opportunities to show Christ’s love to Dee, she brought over her Bible to our house to read with me last week.  After reading the first 15 verses of John, Dee decided to begin following Jesus.  It was obvious, though, by our conversation that this was not her first encounter with God, Scripture, or faith.  Someone has been planting seeds, turning the soil, and encouraging her for quite some time.  This just so happened to be harvest time!  It was also obvious to me that the words coming out of my mouth were not my own.  Evangelism is not my base gifting, but it’s certainly becoming an area of growth and stretching right now.

I love this girl; she has a sweet spirit, an intelligent mind, and a servant’s heart.  God reminded me through her that He’s always been using young people to advance His Kingdom (think David or Mary!).  I can’t wait to see how He uses Dee as she grows in Him.

Truth delivered

 

There was once a bright sunny day.

The clouds had to stay away.

For a Community made their way

To a wonderful place to stay.

 

They set up their tasty food,

And then explained what to do.

Why you could only guess,

Passing out Bibles, Yes!

 

God set up a donation,

From a wonderful location,

Of the books they so loved,

To share with the young!

 

With a prayer to start the journey,

Of the Holy Spirit’s urging.

They knew hearts were ready;

 

So they split in to groups

And went out giving Truth

In the form of a book.

 

They were all able to find

The right houses. It was divine!

 

With a ring or a knock

They had the chance to talk

Of the fun exciting week.

That made the devil weak!

 

And of the life changing decision,

The young kids did mention!

They gave away Bibles,

One of God’s many inventions.

 

They remembered to share

Of the tasty food prepared.

And hoped they showed care

For the youngest ones there.

 

With a skip in their step,

They walked back with a pep.

For Courben did pray

Over the food on that day.

 

So now you know,

What God has sowed

Why you can only guess,

We have been so blessed!



backyard vbs

Our Father, who provides everything we need, certainly provided for us this week!

We prayed He would provide enough food for each night since we were feeding dinner to all the kids and some of their parents; and He did.  One morning, I opened the door to find three garbage bags full of bread and goodies donated to us by Panera Bread.

We prayed He would provide enough adult hands to help each night; and He did.  The night we had upwards of 50 children in our backyard, we had nearly all the adults from Southern Orchards Missional Community plus a few other friends and neighbors there to lend a hand.

We prayed there would be peace and kindness throughout the week; and there was.  The older kids helped the younger kids, attitudes were great, and there were several instances of children having servants’ hearts.

We prayed the children would clearly hear God’s voice and do what He says; and they did.  Several kids made the decision to put away their old ways and to choose to love God with all their hearts and lives forever.

We prayed the neighborhood would be responsive; and they were.  We had several parents join us on the last day for our celebration that included Little Caesar’s Pizza and the lemonade stand.  They had nothing but great things to say about the week, and many were proud of the decisions their kids had made.  We even had lemonade customers comment on how the Lord would bless us for what we’re doing for the neighborhood.

We prayed God would open doors to relationships; and he did.  Most nights ended with hose-soaking fun with the neighborhood kids after all our Missional Community kids were gone or in bed.

What an incredible week!

Now, our prayer is that the Lord would begin to mesh the families who have committed to this Missional Community in the Southern Orchards neighborhood with the families who live here.

plans

In our huddles (discipleship groups), we are always talking about “what God is saying to us” and “what we’re going to do about it.”  In this, we’re constantly making plans to change and act on what God is saying.  On a larger scale, we took one other couple with us to 3DM‘s Learning Community in Cincinnati, Ohio for a four day intensive workshop on huddles, discipleship, and missional communities.  On the final evening, the four of us sat down together to develop a six month plan for our Missional Community based on what we were hearing God say.  We have worked hard at creating an oikos (extended family) with the families who have committed to being apart of this first MC, but we knew God was calling us to extend that oikos into our neighborhood.  So, part of our plan for the next six months is to be intentional about this.  What better way to build a family than by throwing a block social (block party + ice cream social) for our neighbors.  We hung up flyers, invited anyone we talked to, and got to work.  We even had one young girl volunteer to come early and set up.  The afternoon was a success!  We had families come because they wanted to get to know their neighbors (and probably because we were sharing food), so we exchanged stories and addresses.  We’re definitely looking forward to intertwining our lives with these families, and we will continue to seek out those who are open to us because of the Holy Spirit’s work on their lives.

spring clean!


Coincidentally, today is Earth Day and also South Orchard Missional Community’s Spring Clean.  We invited our neighbors, armed ourselves with gloves, trash bags, and smiles, and cleaned up one square block around our house.  It went so well that five households have committed to setting aside another evening to clean up more streets nearby.  Since the weather turned a bit chilly, we invited everyone into our house to share dinner afterwards instead of grilling and spending time in the backyard.  I’d say our toys are getting some pretty good use these days, and our kids are making lots of new friends.  One of the young boys from next door said he’d be back next week; someone must have made a good impression on him!

organic or organized?

“This would be even better if we had mouth guards,” were the words from one of the neighborhood boys.  Did we plan, advertise, and market Backyard Boxing?  Nope, not a bit.  We simply spent time outside with members of our oikos.  Our kiddos were battling it out and ended up with an audience.  Sure enough, the next logical step was to let our neighbors in on the fun.  There were no major injuries, just a scratch from one of our rosebushes, but let’s hope we don’t get a knock on our door from their mothers.

We hold organized gatherings throughout our week (huddles and Missional Community), but just organically spending time together (going for ice cream, letting our kids pretend to be Mike Tyson, and everything in between) is highly encouraged.  We are striving to be a family on mission (and that family isn’t just our own nuclear family).  Mike Breen wrote an incredible post about this very thing, check it out here.

egg hunt (by Hayley Yates)

Who knew our neighbors loved chili as much as we do! We went through 35 quarts after our five minute egg hunt. We didn’t know how many kids to expect, but next year, 2,000 eggs may be a better number than the 500 we hid this year. My favorite quote from the day: “Are you the ones who passed out cookies at Christmas time?” Yes, we are; people are beginning to recognize us! At this point in our Missional Community, the goal is to build relationships with our neighbors. This takes time and energy, but it’s neat that we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labor.

“What do you do with all those kids?!?”

As we dedicated four more children to the Lord, I’m reminded of the story from Scripture that talks about Jesus scolding the disciples for complaining about children. Jesus loves the little children–all the squirmy, sassy, boisterous, rowdy, shy, sweet children of the world. One of the questions we get a lot is, “what do you do with the kids in your group?” The short of it is this: they do what we do. We involve them in every part of our Missional Community gatherings because in our group, we have the same number of adults as children. Here are some practical things we have begun doing that may be helpful to you:

1) Timing: 93% of the kids in our MC are six and under, so timing is huge. When we’re doing a teaching, prayer, or other UP focused MC, we try to keep our time to 30 minutes. This is enough time for the adults to spend time with each other and the Father, but not too much time that the kiddos get too antsy.

2) Barriers & Drawings: Other than timing, we also have the adults form a physical barrier so all the kids are enclosed in our group. While in the middle, they have crayons and paper so they are able to reflect on the teaching/prayer at their level and pace.

3) Lots of Mommies: Because Missional Community size is largely based on the idea of oikos, we also put into practice the art of disciplining and caring for each others’ children. Obviously, we can’t be in all places at all times, but chances are there are always a few adults near a few kids at any given time. If Junior acts up and his mother is not around, another mom or dad takes care of the situation. This helps the kids learn to respect all the adults in the group, and it also helps other adults learn to observe and imitate good parenting.

4) Kids Say the Darndest Things: Lastly, we love to hear what the kids say in our MC. They are encouraged to pray aloud, speak about what God is saying to them, and sing/dance/play instruments in worship to their Daddy. I have enjoyed seeing God’s giftings on even the smallest in our groups. We have some tiny evangelists, pastors, teachers, prophets, and apostles blossoming.

So, “what do we do with all those kids?”
Jesus loves the little children, and so do we.

He first loved us

He first loved us

Sometimes it’s easy to expect a return on investment for almost everything we do.  We buy a car, and we know they lose value instantly, but we research resale values because even though we’ve just purchased the car we’re already concerned about what return we can get on it later.  We do the same with houses, cell phones, sometimes clothes, and even sometimes our children.  All of this concern with ROI isn’t all that bad, in fact the Bible tells a story where 3 men are given a large sum of money, then the giver leaves and later comes back and checks to see what the 3 men did with their cash.  The one who gave expected the men to DO something with it, and he was concerned about how responsible they were with what they were given.  In other words, concern for return represents a posture of responsibility.

This week as we went OUT into the Wilson Ave neighborhood to give people Valentine cards and chocolates, this all was kind of in the back of my mind; this idea that we’re doing things, but we may not see movement for a long time, that the return on our investment may not be quickly realized or recognized.  But then, of course, God shows his grace.  It wasn’t that I was discouraged by these thoughts, but God is the perfect encourager.  People were glad to see us!  This isn’t different than the other times we’ve been out in the neighborhood, but different people were in their homes this time around and it was amazing to see their surprise.  There was something so wonderful on their faces as we went door to door.  Sure it was surprise, but more than that it looked like relief.  They seemed genuinely hopeful that we were there.  And it hit me, this is certainly a return on investment.  Now we’re definitely planning for long-term as well, but sometimes it sure it nice to receive in the short-term too!

The cool thing about this, I think, is that it must work similarly for Jesus, too.  I mean, look at 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”  See that there?  He FIRST loved us.  He made the initial investment, and He’s still investing in us.  I’m sure sometimes He’s please with us and that we bring Him joy.  I’m sure sometimes he feels a short-term return.  But I am also confident He’s planned for a long-term investment and a long-term return.  The difference for Christ though, is that He is planning for so much more; He’s planning for us to be fully returned and restored to Him.

It is truly a blessing to have the privilege of going out in the cold to share that He loved us first.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

love God, love family, love others

It’s never too early to start teaching our little ones about right relationships.  We see in scripture how Jesus spent time in three relationships (to learn more, check out “Building a Discipling Culture”  by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram):

UP:  he drew away and spent time with his Father

IN:  he spent time in intimate relationships with his disciples and the Body

OUT:  he loved those who did not know the Father and the “least of these”

For our Missional Community, we too are trying to keep those three relationships in a good rhythm.  For our UP, we meet every other week in huddles where we seek to hear what God is saying and plan what we’ll do about it and we also spend time in prayer, scripture reading, and communion at our MCs throughout the month.  For IN, we share meals each week at MC, along with lots of spur of the moment ice cream runs and play dates.  For OUT, we are loving on our neighborhood while we learn what the specific needs are, which is lots of relationship building, cookie delivering, and prayer walks.

The teaching of UP/IN/OUT is simple enough to teach to a child, but can also be complex and challenging as we, as adults, try to harmonize these relationships within our lives.