His Kingdom is alive

Within a few days of getting back from our Community of Practice retreat, we are already seeing fruit.  It is so refreshing to know we did hear correctly what God was saying.

The summer of 2013 I would regularly walk about five blocks to Nate and Natalie’s house.  Along the way I would smile and wave at anyone who would make eye contact with me.  I met quite a few people this way.  And just this past week, one of the ladies I still wave at came to my house.  She was crying and embraced me with a hug for awhile.  I was confused and shocked.  I had one or two quick talks with her in the past, maybe, and every other time I would wave and just ask how she was doing.  As we were hugging I remembered the people came to Jesus for help.  They would just show up in front of him.  I prayed before I said anything, asking God to help me help her.

While we were hugging I began to ask her questions as to why she was crying.  Asking if she was hurt, or if she was not safe.  She whispered to me, “I’m in pain, I’m in pain.”  She was so sad, this is the only thing she could get out in between crying.  She picked her head up off my shoulder and looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m in pain Danielle, you don’t even know.”  My heart broke.  This was not physical pain she was feeling, but emotional pain.  Knowing she could not speak of the pain, I asked her if we could pray and she said yes.

So we stood together and I prayer to our Father.  I sent her along with some food and another hug.  I told her thank you for coming and that if she needs anything to come back, that we will be here for her.

I can replay her voice and facial expressions in my mind.  Over and over.  It is a reminder for me that people need to hear the Good News here.  They need to be loved in this broken world, in this hard place in Columbus.  And I am so happy God is using us here in Southern Orchards.  We don’t know all the pain and suffering people are in, but we know God does.  We are here to be part of Him restoring and making all things new, and to show His Kingdom is alive.

 

-Danielle

tis the season…

…for cleaning.

…for yard word.

…for walks in the rain.

…and for forgiveness.

With Easter approaching, most of us who believe in Jesus have our hearts fixed on the cross and the empty tomb.  We’re consumed with the thoughts of forgiveness and grace and mercy.  Sometimes, though, those concepts are so abstract and hard to wrap our brains around.  Thankfully, our Father gives us real-life examples of true forgiveness and tangible grace-gifts.

Last week during our MC time, I got to participate in such forgiveness.

Over the last year, two of the beautiful girls in our MC have been knock-down, drag-out fighting with each other.  They live on the same block, tried to go to the same school and failed, and couldn’t both be at SOKs at the same time…two girls who are baptized Christ-followers.  How these two could have such “beef” with each other was beyond me; they are both sweet, loving, respectful girls.

Sunday was different.  Sunday brought words of grace and not of hate.  Sunday brought life and not death.  Sunday brought forgiveness instead of bitterness.

Both girls offered vulnerable apologies to each other and I got to be the onlooker.  They initiated, or should I say the Holy Spirit must have.  Not only was there forgiveness; there was over-the-top restoration.  An olive branch of candy, hugs, and an invitation to hang were offered and accepted.  Truthfully, I had always hoped for them to be civil to one another, but to actually be friends could only have been from Jesus because I never even expected it.

So, as you’re cleaning your house and planting your garden and jumping in puddles and thinking about the cross, give thanks for this relationship that has been rescued, just like our lives.

-Natalie

 

 

thanksgiving on the porch

Because our home is open often for family to gather, there are lots of days we get to spend playing and talking with kids from the neighborhood.  Some days, I wonder why they want to spend time with our family…one with two little boys, little boy things and toys around the house, and no special events.  I suppose it’s as simple as family.  We don’t provide an endless supply of entertainment or even food when kiddos pop in throughout the week.  But we do provide family anytime they step foot through our door.  This must be the draw…a Kingdom Family.

There are other times I know exactly what the motivation is…pizza.  About once a month, we do some sort of neighborhood activity (delivering cookies to neighbors, setting up a lemonade stand, picking up trash, etc), and we always return to our house for pizza.  If you read back over some of the blogs written by kids, pizza is never forgotten in the stories!  Kids love pizza!

This last Sunday was no different, kids came out of the woodwork and ended up in our living room for pizza.  In fact, after our time together was finished, we still had kids knocking on our front door; some were kids we have a relationship with and others were brand new.  I quickly thought, how can giving pizza away at my front porch be a moment for these five boys to pause and possibly hear from God?  So, I told them how at our house, we always pray and thank God before we eat.  After a brief conversation about what prayer is and who we pray to, I asked if they would be willing to pray with me.  They agreed, but not without knowing what they were getting themselves into.  If you’ve spent any meal with us, you know our boys love to sing a prayer my family sang when I was little.  It’s a simple, repetitive song that I thought the boys would be able to join in on.  Sure enough, right on our front porch, five young boys sang a prayer of thanksgiving to God our Father.  What a sweet moment for me.  I’m certain it was also music to our Father’s ears as He heard little voices offering acknowledgment and thanks to Him.

-Natalie

i’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart!

Children can bring out the absolute best and worst in us. Of course, by “us” I mean parents. But how often do we pause from the daily grind to consider what we bring out of them?

Children are sponges. They soak up everything they see and hear whether we like it or not. So…. what are we providing them in the way of character development, demeanor and attitude?

Arguably joy is lacking in adulthood. Why? Many reasons, but that isn’t the point. More importantly we struggle to share joy with our children and so fail to help them develop joy as a regular and good experience in life.

Stick with me on this.

The “Fruit of the Spirit” includes joy. This means that the lives of those living “The Life [of Christ]” should be full of joy. I don’t know about you, but this seems a bit like a “Sunday School” answer to the problem. Joy becomes difficult as a “Fruit” and discipline when it comes to living mundane, everyday life. There. I said it. It’s hard to live out joy. Ouch!

If I am not living out a joyful life, or at least trying, what am I developing in my children? Whatever it is, it’s not joy. Double ouch! I’m not sure about you, but I want my kids to know and experience joy, the true joy given by God, on a daily basis.

This requires intentionality [read: daily discipline]. I’m far from a perfect example, but I hope to become a better example of living a life of joy and developing joy in the lives of my children.

I’m starting by identifying and experiencing joy to the best I can on a daily basis and helping my kids do the same. I hope you will join me.

First Fruits: Here are a few ways we’ve seen and identified joy in our home since I started writing this blog post.

  • My daughter and wife helped cheer a friend up when she was sad (helping a friend find joy) and found creative ways to encourage her
  • My two sons found joy while playing on indoor playgrounds at Recreation Unlimited
  • I found joy in coming home to my family, nightly bath time routine with the kids and reading a book to them before bedtime. I also find joy in “Mommy-Daddy dinner” on Monday nights and making time to just be present in my marriage.

I’m already being reminded that joy isn’t limited to the big events of life (weddings, births, promotions, etc). Joy is about perspective and making the most of every opportunity to be present in the life God has given you. This removes the limitations of needing a reason for joy and sets the expectation for daily joy in any capacity.

-Nathaniel

gifts of love

The winter months can be a bit tricky to find ways to be in our neighborhood; people stay inside often, sidewalks are not shoveled, and kids aren’t always dressed for the weather.  Despite these obstacles, one of our leaders suggested we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors on the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  So, we sent cookie dough home with all the kids with a note giving directions on how and when to make cookies together (note: most of the kids who are part of our missional community do not come with their parents, and we’re often looking for opportunities for them to show God’s love at their own homes).

When the time came for us to deliver the cookies, we bundled up and slipped down the snow-covered sidewalks together.  We chose to go to homes that were very near to our own houses; one of our leaders suggested one of his neighbors who is elderly and might be lonely.  She recognized us right away and smiled ear to ear when we offered her cookies.  As we were walking, we also ran into a woman we met when we first moved to the neighborhood.  She asked right away if we would pray with her; we prayed for peace among her family and a new sense of trust in God with her own life.  Once all the cookies were gone, we headed back to our house to find Nate and another young boy; they, too, had a story of love.  The pizza delivery man (who happens to be our neighbor) got his car stuck as he was leaving our house, and the guys were able to help push him out of the snow.

As we were faithful in finding ways to be out in our neighborhood, God gave us lots of opportunities in one afternoon to show His love in practical ways.

-Natalie

not-so-random acts of kindness

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All hands on deck to make cookies and share coffee and creamer for Lauren’s office mates. We’ve been learning that small gestures can lead to big kingdom impact.

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– Nathaniel

(Nathaniel and his wife Kaleigh lead Koinonia, which has several young professionals who are always on the look-out for ways to connect with co-workers and share Christ’s love in a practical way.)