not-so-random acts of kindness

20140119_180506

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.

20140119_192618

– 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.)

there’s always a “but”

I’m often reminded how God cares lots about the relationships we care about.  This theme shows through in this brief glimpse into the SOKs Missional Community through the eyes of one of our young leaders:

photo

Today, we delivered hot chocolate. Not many people wanted hot chocolate, but then my brother came!

Berhane - blog signature (Black BG)

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)

always thankful

photo (2)SOKs (Southern Orchards Kids) was writing all the things we are thankful to God for doing on the sidewalks.  Before we went to go write, I taught the kids the prayer my dad taught me when I was little!  Some people wrote, “I’m thankful for a family,” “I’m thankful for my haters and enemies,” and so on.  While we were writing, it started to rain and get dark.  The whole purpose of doing it was to meet different people and to be kind.  After we were done, we came in and the little kids watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, and we waited for the pizza to come.

Izyah - blog signature (Black BG)

Today, God blessed us to write things we are thankful for on the sidewalk, and afterwards we were going to have pizza.  Unfortunately, it rained and we did all that hard work for nothing, but it was fun!  God blessed us to have in between a lot of people and a little bit of people, so it was medium sized.  After writing with chalk, we went in because it started to rain.  Then, we watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving until the pizza arrived.  Once the pizza arrived, we served the little kids and then the big kids.  Everybody prayed together and dug in and ate while we watched the movie.  More people came to eat and then left.  Once everybody was finished eating, we helped clean up and talked about what went well for the night.

Ruby - blog signature (Black BG)

“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.

leftover cupcakes

We had our first official Soma “team meeting” on Sunday.  I put that in quotes because truly it was more about spending time together and beginning our oikos rather than having an agenda.  We did nail down some dates and events for the upcoming months.  More importantly though, the adults polished off some amazing food while the kids (eight of them ages five and under) got out every possible toy inside and out; our new house felt like Home.  We’re so thankful to be on this journey with such amazing friends who are becoming family.

Before the day was finished, a couple of us headed across the street to meet some of our neighbors.  We weren’t quite able to finish all the desserts since we began with so many, including two dozen cupcakes!  We thought delivering some homemade goodness might be a great way to make a good impression on this nearby family; and we were right.  We chatted a bit and got a glimpse into their life and this street.  They offered two services to us:  they’ll keep an eye on our house when we’re not around; and the eldest daughter makes jewelry (quite beautiful and unique) if we need gift ideas.  I’m thinking we’ll take full advantage of both of those offers!

We’re anxious to see what God has in store for us as we meet more people in our neighborhood and continue building relationships with those who have committed to this adventure.

greek yogurt

This word, oikos, has sent me on a hunt to find out its meaning.  When I first heard the word, it was explained to mean family, not family as we now know it as mom, dad, 2.1 kids and a dog, but extended family.  Think:  family reunion, 20 to 50 people.  So why on earth did a yogurt company choose this Greek word as its name?  Here’s the answer:  “Oikos is the Greek word for house. It’s also the root word for ecology. We think it’s a great name for our Greek yogurt because it reminds us of a time when people’s homes were intimately connected with nature and most foods came from household gardens and family herds.”

What if we tweaked their statement to say “it reminds us of a time when people’s homes were intimately connected with each other and their Creator.”  This idea, this concept of oikos is something Soma will strive to recreate when we begin our first Missional Community.  There are glimpses of this already being played out in our culture; here are two examples I have recently experienced:

Daily (if not multiple times a day), our two year old thanks our Father for three families in our small group.  To him, they are family, and he loves them like siblings, parents, cousins.  He doesn’t know that as Americans we’re supposed to stick to our immediate, nuclear family.  He’s been shown love by these people and he truly loves them in return.  That’s oikos.

Today, I took our boys out to the playground at our apartment complex.  When we arrived, a set of twins were playing with their grandmother.  Broken English prohibited us from carrying on a true conversation, but somehow I got the gist.  She was heading back to her apartment, but wondered if I would look over her grandchildren while they played a bit longer.  She left her door open as she vacuumed, but we were still a quarter of a football field away.  Why did she trust me?  We’re taught to trust no one.  Why did the little girl call me “Mami”?  She already has a mother, I assume.  Why did these children listen and follow my instructions?  Aren’t children trained to stay away from strangers?  Maybe this family understands oikos better than I do.

As Soma embarks on this journey, we’re anxious to see who enters into our oikos.  Who is you intimately connected to as you seek a deeper connection with our Creator?

our Provider

Soma had its second organized meeting over the weekend.  It’s neat to hear and see God at work in the lives of those He’s called to this adventure.  Here are just a few snippets of stories where His hand is evident.

Nate and I are praising our Provider for the house we’re about to receive.  Papers were signed today and closing is set for the end of September.  The house is just right for our family (with three and a half bedrooms, a finished basement and attic, and a nice backyard), and also just right for a Missional Community meeting place (with two large meeting rooms, ample parking due to the corner lot, and plenty of space).  It’s exciting, surreal, and a bit intimidating all at the same time.

“Once you find your house, just let us know and we’ll buy the one across the street,”  and so the house-hunt begins.  This young couple is eager and committed to the vision God has placed on Soma.  Pray for them as they search for a home.  There are many, many vacant and for-sale houses in the area.  They will need to find one that is near ours, livable, and just the right price.

“I couldn’t believe it; a church planter spoke at the church we were visiting this morning!” was the beginning of the story of another family.  They have been praying for a clear answer as to whether to make the big decision to move with us.  God certainly showed up.  We’re praying now that the path will be clear on how to begin this process.

When we begin taking steps, God honors them.  Some steps have been small and easy, and others have been huge and difficult.  But in all of them, God has been faithful to reveal Himself.  My prayer is that we will keep our eyes fixed on the One who began this good work, so we can see and acknowledge when He is faithful to complete it.