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.)

miraculous or just a coincidence?

Colossians 1:13 says, “The Father has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.”  The following is a glimpse at His great power and healing through a story from our Missional Community, Koinonia.

Miraculous. What exactly does that mean? I’ve been finding that my definition of miraculous continues to evolve. At one point, I would have told you that unexplainable healings, being raised from the dead, and turning water to wine were miracles (which they are), but this is an extraordinarily narrow view of the miraculous.

I recently had an opportunity to visit a friend in the hospital. For me, hospitals are a normal and comfortable environment because I’m a nurse. What was less comfortable was praying for my friend’s healing,  wisdom for the medical staff, and God’s peace to be evident in their home while standing next to him.

The next day my friend went home. Was this miraculous? Was it a coincidence? Does it even matter? As Christians we were promised that we would do everything Jesus did… and more. The last time I checked,  Jesus cared for the sick and asked for God’s kingdom to appear in their lives. Why shouldn’t we start there as well? What better way to do this than to put ourselves in an uncomfortable position and step out in faith.

-Nathaniel

focus on the family

Missional Communities go through seasons.  Seasons of focus on the Mission and seasons of focus on the Family.  Game On! MC is learning how important family is in a time when other regular rhythms are out of whack.

January has been an interesting month for Game On!.  Due to changes in nearly everyone’s work, either a new job or having to pick up extra shifts or even being shipped off to Michigan for a few weeks to help out a new office, our Missional Community nights have been sort of light.  We, of course, continued to gather, but it became very lax.  Teachings that were prepared for were put onto the back burner and were replaced with more intimate teachings and time together.

Last Friday was the first time in three weeks we were all able to get together again on Missional Community night.  It really felt like we never skipped a beat.  We spent dinner exchanging stories from our work places, upcoming games, and even about what we are going to do for our upcoming OUT that won’t be at our normal location.  After a teaching on vision, we set off for the living room to do what we do best, play games together.  It was wonderful to have the family back together again.  I know we all missed one another, and I know we can’t wait for this week’s Missional Community gathering.

Dustin - blog signature (black BG)

“i think that you should talk to satan, too.”

I’m always in awe of how God speaks to children and in turn, adults are stretched, taught, and changed.  Here’s a story from one of our Missional Communities, Koinonia.

I was tucking my niece and nephew into bed on an ordinary Tuesday night. After the songs, drink and bedtime prayers, I was about to leave the room when my nephew (4 years old) told me he couldn’t sleep because he heard God and Satan talking.
“What are they talking about?” I asked.
“Satan is saying he is stronger and God is saying that He is stronger”
I didn’t grow up having bedtime conversations about spiritual warfare, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I asked him who was stronger and he confidently replied that God was stronger. I told him that the Bible says that Satan tells lots of lies, and one of those lies is that he is stronger than God. I then prayed again, thanking God that He is stronger. When I finished, he simply said, “I think you should talk to Satan too.”
In a split second, I heard my mind say both, “We don’t talk to Satan!” and “Yes, we do.” With trepidation, I spoke to Satan out loud, using the words that I recalled from Scripture. I bound him in Jesus’ name and told him that my nephew was a child of God and he must stop talking to him so he could rest. Not knowing exactly when to stop, I heard my nephew say, “I’m ready to sleep now.”
Even as I began speaking, I marveled at the fact that I was praying with an authority that I don’t usually practice. It is amazing how my boldness grows when I feel someone so innocent and precious is endangered. I can almost picture God rising up to defend me even as I stood up to defend my nephew. I play the events back in my mind and I’m reminded that God breaks into our world at unexpected times and uses the promptings of a child to inspire acts of faith.
Lauren - blog signature (Black BG)

Rebecca’s heart

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Hey, it’s Natalie!  I’d like to share a poem that was written about SOKs.  It was inspired by our time together, which included sneakily delivering gifts to neighbors (who we’re hoping will, in turn, go deliver their own gifts), eating and playing together, and choosing gifts for loved ones (thanks to my Aunt Donna and Uncle Barry, who were so generous in blessing our family).  So, without further ado, here’s Rebecca’s take on the evening:

Finally, I see something that I’m sure is through His eyes.
At last, I feel that which I’m positive He felt in his heart.
Definitely, this is one of the many times I know God and our Lord Jesus Christ lives within me.
Seeing the beauty of young ones and children learn of our King and Father;
Witnessing the welcoming of our Christ;
It moves me.

The joy in my heart is unexplainable, but yet that’s the perfect way to describe it.
The peace of mind and soul is comforting;
I know now the messages sent to me have been secured, assured, and made clear.
My identity is announced to me.

My reflection,
My place,
My heart;

All these things have been shown to me through this one day of dropping off bags of God’s love.

I am Christian and that is enough.
A part of a family that goes beyond blood,
One with a body that can not be seen, but only felt.
Meant to be with others who shine, but to roam among others who have not yet been sparked.

I’m loved by many and beautiful because of my heart.
Learning because I want to know Him, but also because I want others to feel His love.
The battle is hard and the journey is great;
Regardless I’m learning that the reward that comes from it all is more than worth it.

This is what I tell the Lord in my heart.
Rebecca - blog signature (Black BG)

learning UP

The Holy Spirit has been moving in our missional community.  We had an “UP” focused MC night, where we spent some time teaching our new believers and unbelievers about prayer.  We asked some questions to get them thinking and talking openly to each other about what God was laying on their hearts.  We were amazed at how receptive they were to the questions and how open they were to praying together.  There was some amazing break through and we are excited to continue down the path God has placed us on:  to make a family of disciples.

Danielle - blog signature (black BG)

Snyders go a-gamin’

Hey Internet!, Nate here!  One of the exciting things we get to do at Soma is send people out to do what Jesus did, what the disciples did, and what many other disciples have been doing for roughly 2000 years:  be a part of bringing His Kingdom to creation.  One of the ways in which we do this is by making and multiplying Missional Communities.  I am blessed to be able to share today a bit of the story for one such couple as they were grown, cultivated, equipped, and then sent out to make new family for others to join them in.  This story comes from Dustin and Danielle Snyder:

What a journey we are on.  It’s been pretty amazing where God had us start and to where we are now.  As our Pilot Missional Community (the first MC at Soma) was coming to completion, and everyone was feeling called to go out and start their own MCs, I knew God was calling us to go out, too; but the mission was still a mystery to us.  The mission finally came to us when we were at our 3rd 3DM Learning Community in March 2013.  We were being led to begin a Missional Community based around games and those who love them.  Video games, board games, card games, any sort of game is what the mission would be.  That is what would bring us together and closer as an okios (Greek for extended family) and closer to God as a community.  God’s words were so clear to me that weekend.  What made it all come together all the more is that before I came to Christ, I participated in gaming type events, and went to a gaming store on a weekly occurrence.  The mission was given to us, and our OUTs were already thought of.  We excitingly explained the mission to our okios, and they were very excited for us.  But that was only the start of this journey.

We spent months starting to (re)build relationships with old friends and new ones, as we prepared for our new Missional Community.  In the meantime, the Pilot Missional Community ended, and two others formed and started meeting regularly, SOKs and Koinonia.  We were also blessed with our first child at this time.  As we prayed, God led us to hold off on starting our Missional Community, and so we joined the Shoemakers with their Missional Community, SOKs.  We spent a few months with them, being in community (which we find very important) and building relationships with our own POPs (Persons of Peace), and explaining and refining our mission.
In October, God told us it was time.  We had a group of people ready to start, and even more in the wing.  We were sent out by SOKs, and we officially began our Missional Community, Game On!  God has already blessed us with great people, and even more great opportunities for relationships on the horizon.  
Dustin - blog signature (black BG)