That OneThing

Last week over 30,000 people flocked to Kansas City for the Onething conference. That conference was the reason I first came to Kansas city back in 2006, but I haven’t been back to one since then. Living in Kansas City this year eliminated a lot of the details a trip to the conference required before – the hotels, food, transportation, etc. We could just hop on a bus and could come home between sessions. And so we joined the throng of people for a good portion of the conference.

Going into the conference this year, I reflected a lot on my first trip to Onething four years ago. That trip became a crucial point in my walk with God. It intensified the revelation (still fresh from my experience in the prayer room that fall) that nothing I could achieve for God was as important as simply spending time with Him and clarified God’s invitation to submit my entire life to Him, to surrender my plans and ambition and seek His will for my life (which resulted in me leaving college as soon as I came home from the conference, a somewhat radical move that shocked my family and friends and started rumors circulating that I’d been brainwashed by a cult). That eight day trip with a large group from ACT also set the foundations for some of my closest friendships in the following years.

Before we left for the conference on Tuesday, I read through some of my old journals from around that first trip. I was struck by how passionate and surrendered I was in that season of my life. The pages are filled with declarations of my love for God, His supreme worth above all else, and my desire to give myself completely to Him. It was convicting, to be honest, because though I’m still following God, even following in ways that some would still call radical, I still cling tighter than ever to my way of doing things, my own plans (though they may be different than the plans I surrendered four years ago).

At the same time, though, as I remembered how God pursued my heart in that season, how He wooed me through the music and the teachings of the conference, I recognize how He’s still wooing and pursuing me in this season, through the garden this summer, through Shelby and the kids in our house, through the quiet moments in the mornings, through the process of making things with my hands, and so many other simple everyday moments. There’s still that invitation to come near, to be awed by Him once again. So although I’m much less enamored with IHOP (International House of Prayer – not pancakes) now than I was four years ago, the call to prayer and meditating in the Lord’s presence hit afresh this time around.

And in some ways, the season we’re in right now is a direct continuation of what God started in my heart four years ago. Near the end of worship that first night of the conference this year, we were singing “I Put On Christ (The Battle is Raging)” by Laura Hackett. There’s a line in the song that says, “Blessed be the Lord my rock, Who trains my hands for battle, trains my hands for war” and as we sang those lines over and over, all I could think of was something Glen Shepherd shared with the Collaborative a couple months ago. He planned to teach us about the cost of revival, both the initial price for revival and the ongoing cost it requires. Though he ended up only speaking briefly (we spent most of the time sharing testimonies of what God was doing in the community instead), what he shared stuck with me. He said that when revival comes – and it will come – there will be thousands of young people looking for home, family, and acceptance with God’s people. Are we ready and willing to open our homes and lives to them, to expand our homes and families to this revival? Are we willing to sacrifice our time, money, respectability, perhaps even cleanliness and safety, to invite them into the kingdom of God? There will be a greater need for this in the church than ever before when revival comes. Perhaps right now, as we wrestle through the day-to-day challenges of living in community and opening our home to new believers, God is training our hands for that battle. Four years ago when I cried out to heaven so fervently for revival, I didn’t have a clue that this would be part of the cost of what I prayed for. Yet here we are. Perhaps God remembers my prayers of surrender to His will much more than I do.

The Onething conference, back in 2006 (because I'm still camera-less and so didn't take pictures this year)

 

And just for fun, here's our group shot from 2006 :-)

God’s Story

I know I’ve been pretty silent here lately.  Life has been pretty full, between work (oh work….), collective, collaborative, time with God, time with my husband, and just…life. There’s a lot going on, a lot I’m pondering, a lot I’m learning, a lot I’m wrestling with, and an increasing hunger for God, but putting it all into words feels daunting and takes more time than I’ve had recently. But I hope to write more of an update soon.

But in the meantime, I wanted to share a piece of what we’ve been learning in collaborative. This comes from the notes from one of our Tuesday night sessions with Ryan Gritters. I reread it this morning in my quiet time and loved the description of God’s interaction with us through stories. I feel like it’s giving me a new appreciation for how God speaks and shapes us through scripture and also a greater appreciation for the gift of storytelling.

God’s Story

To understand God, we must understand His story. In His wisdom, god decided to author a Book through human authors containing stories of Himself and His creation. As they sat around the evening fires, Hebrew children would listen to their parents and relatives telling and re-telling the stories of God’s interactions with their ancestors. The stories of Scripture were at one time an integral part of culture, cultivating hope in the hearts of people who knew great hardship and yearned for the rest God had promised. The beauty of using stories is that it informs our entire beings of truth on a perceptive level that factual information rarely touches. In a story, you have a setting, plot, and characters. Through its unfolding, we are not just filled with facts but images of life and relationships we can relate with and perceive. The situations in the story for a moment become our situations. The emotions of the characters become our emotions. god’s stories are meant to draw us into the lives of normal people so we can put ourselves in their places and ponder what it would be like to have God interact with us in the ways He does with them. In this place of visualizing and pondering the story, He begins the process of educating our entire being, not just our minds, about who He is and what it means to live and interact with Him. Had He intended for us to live by a set of rules, He could have saved a lot of paper by writing a list of requirements. Instead, He desires for us to enter His presence THROUGH Himself. He helped us get started in this interaction by offering countless stories of how He has done this in the past. (Ryan Gritters)

In Answer to the Why

We were asked to answer some questions about the Collaborative, particularly why we wanted to be a part of it and what project we had in mind. I thought the answers to those questions brought out a lot about our hearts and where we feel called, so I thought I’d share them here, too:

Why would you like to be a part of the Collaborative?  Why do you think it would be beneficial to you and what do you think you will bring to the group?

Yes, I would like to be a part of the Collaborative!

Why? I think it will challenge me (us) and help push us forward in walking out the things that God has put on our hearts. I’m looking forward to gathering with other dreamers and watching what God is doing in their lives and the ways He’s leading them (it encourages me and stirs me to dream more with God, to go further and deeper with Him). I think that being around such a variety of people will remind me of the variety of God’s kingdom and will help me keep that perspective, even while we hone in on our more specific kingdom assignments. I also hope that the teaching and group interaction with help us put more of a framework to the dreams and callings on our hearts. And the accountability of the group will hopefully help keep me balanced so that I’m don’t hold back and do too little but also don’t do too much and get burned out (something that I’ve struggled to balance in the past).

As for what I think I’ll bring to the group….it’s hard to know how to answer that. I’ll be bringing myself: my personality, my passions (for prayer, God’s word, children, the poor, hospitality, family, and community, among other things), my perspective, my strengths and weaknesses, but I don’t know exactly how those will fit into the group yet until I get to know the other people in the collaborative and explore what that looks like. My hope is that those things will help compliment and encourage the other people in the group.

What kingdom project are you thinking of choosing?  Why?  How do you see your project causing discipleship growth in yourself and others?

We want our project to be something with incarnational ministry to the urban poor. Our desire is to see lives and communities transformed by the love of God and, in particular, to see families restored. In some ways, we feel called to more of a lifestyle than just a project, so we need to develop more specifics of what that looks like right now, in this neighborhood and this season of our lives. We feel like a lot of it will be relationship based. We’d like to find ways to connect with people in our neighborhood and start building those relationships. There are things that I’ve been developing in my life – cooking, gardening, sewing, artwork – that may be able to become connection points. As we get to know the area better, hopefully we’ll discover what avenues might work for building relationships here (we’ve talked about doing a community garden next summer as part of that). I’d especially like to work with kids in our area (I’ll be working at Troost again this fall, so that will be part of it). We feel like hospitality is part of it, creating a space (both a physical space and space in our hearts/lives) to welcome people in and show them the love and family of God. We’ve also talked about wanting to have a prayer room that’s accessible for the neighborhood, with space to meet alone with God as well as space for praying with someone (and probably a pot of coffee for good measure).

So basically, something relational, fueled by prayer, with a strong thread of hospitality (welcoming people into our home and our life), all with the goal of showing the love of God. Basically :-).

And why this project? Because I know that God’s heart is moved towards the poor, towards the fatherless and the broken. To me, this is more than just head knowledge; it’s a reality that I can feel every time I’m with the poor. Passages like Isaiah 58 (particularly the call to true fasting so that we can become a “Restorer of ruined homesteads”) and Isaiah 61 burn in my heart every time I read or hear them and I can feel the tug of Christ’s invitation to join Him in His mission to the afflicted, the brokenhearted, the captives, those who mourn, those with listless spirits, the homeless, and the hungry. I know that all people need Jesus, regardless of social class, but when I’m with the poor and needy, the compassion of God comes to life in me and when I’m away from them for a while, my heart years to be with them.

I think this will cause discipleship growth in us because it’s answering a call to become more like Jesus, so we can’t possibly walk this out without seeking His character and Spirit and growing more like Him. And in the process hopefully we’ll learn how to disciple others, particularly in the neighborhood here.

(P.S. Here’s a glimpse of our glorious gold bedroom. More pictures to come once I finish unpacking….)

Time to Pencil in a New Address (and Other Changes)

I’ve tried to write this update several times over the past few weeks, but so much has been happening, both on the surface and internally, that it feels like my words are never going to catch up. But big changes are happening, so I’m going to throw this update out there anyways, incomplete as it is….

A house accustomed to community

“People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.”

More and more over the past few years, this line from “The Vision” by Pete Greig has felt like a tagline for my life. I’ve moved six times (including three states) in the past four years. And this weekend that number will be upped to seven times.

On Sunday (assuming we finish painting by then) we are moving in to the Tracy House, just a couple blocks east of Troost. We’ll be sharing an upper duplex with two other women, a baby (yes!), and a guy. Our bedroom will be on the third floor, with a small living room and a not-so-small bathroom that we’ll share with the guy, while the girls are on the second floor.

We started talking about the possibility of this the same weekend that both our jobs ended and it feels like a good fit in so many ways. Historically Troost has been Kansas City’s dividing line between the black and white neighborhoods, between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged. The neighborhoods east of Troost have a reputation of violence, crime, drugs, broken homes, and bad schools (we found some pretty sobering statistics). Which is exactly the kind of neighborhood we’ve been yearning to live in, exactly the kind of place we feel called to.

Not only that, but we’ll be living in community, praying together, ministering together, sharing meals, sharing life. Yes. It feels like a solid step towards a myriad of things we’ve had tucked away in our hearts for a while.

In some ways, the Tracy House already feels more like home than any place we’ve lived since we got married, maybe because it’s a house accustomed to community. We’re looking forward to adding some of our own touches to it, too, like painting upstairs (the living room, the bathroom, and our bedroom). I’ve never lived somewhere where I’ve been able to pick paint colors. It’s just a little thing, but it makes me excited (we have a collection of bright, cheerful paint swatches of blues and yellows sitting on our side table right now and I’ve been scouring the internet for paint deals).

Now we just need to pack (luckily, moving so often has encouraged me to simplify on a regular basis)….

Collaborating

Along with the move into the Tracy House, we’re also planning on joining a new “leadership collaborative” at the Boiler Room. The purpose of the collaborative is “developing and equipping leaders in the Boiler Room to extend the kingdom of God in Kansas City and beyond.” Each person in the collaborative will choose a “kingdom assignment,” some sort of project in prayer, mission, or justice, according to their specific gifting and calling (for Derek and I this will probably involve some combination of neighborhood ministry, community living, hospitality, prayer, and possibly a community garden), and explore the question: “Who am I called to love and how do I love them well?”. Together the group will walk through the process of starting and developing these projects. We’ll meet weekly for prayer, worship, friendship, encouragement, accountability, and strategic input. We’ll also be going through teaching on developing a right, kingdom-centered perspective on God, ourselves, and the world, as well as looking at our own personal callings, how God has interacted with us I our lives, and how He’s shaping us as ministers and leaders. It sounds like good stuff.

This will be their first time doing something like this so we’ll join 15-18 people in a sort of test run of the program. It’s just a part time commitment, so people have the option of still working and going to school at the same time (Derek will still be working at the Roasterie and I’m continuing to look for work).

When Derek first told me about the collaborative, I was a little hesitant about it. It sounded great, but it sounded like they were inviting pioneering type people who wanted to walk out a specific call. To be honest, I wasn’t sure we were the kind of people they were looking for. I mean, yes, we had all these dreams on our hearts for community and incarnational ministry among the urban poor….but we were living in Brookside, working our normal jobs and not walking in any of those things. We weren’t even making definite plans to walk in them any time soon. They were just ideas, just dreams for someday.

But we prayed about it. And our jobs ended. And things opened up with the move to the Tracy House. And then several weeks ago we met with Wendy Andrews and several other girls who might be joining the collaborative as well to go over the preliminary plan for it (which has changed already, but anyway…). As we listened, something deep inside me stirred with a resounding “YES!”

The building of a bridge of faith

So here we go, moving forward. A lot of the details are still fuzzy and I don’t know exactly what it will look like here to begin walking in the things we’re called to, but this move and this collaborative feel like steps in the right direction. I believe God will bring clarity as we continue to step forward.

I’m reminded of a reflection I read a couple weeks ago, so I’ll end with that:

“The Lord never builds a bridge of faith except under the feet of the faith-filled traveler. If he builds the bridge a rod ahead, it would not be a bridge of faith. That which is of sight is not faith.

There is a self-opening gate which his sometimes used in country roads. It stands fast and firm across the road as a traveler approaches it. If he stops before he gets to it, it will not open. But if he will drive right at it, his wagon wheels press the springs below the roadway, and the gate swings back to let him through. He must push right on at the closed gate or it will continue to be closed.

This illustrates the way to pas every barrier on the road to duty. Whether it is a river, a gate, or a mountain, all the child of Jesus has to do is to go for it. If it is a river, it will dry up when you are near enough to it, and are still pushing on. If it is a mountain, it will be lifted and cast into a sea when you come squarely up without flinching, to where you thought it was.

Is there a great barrier across your path of duty just now? Just go for it, in the name of the Lord, and it won’t be there.” (Henry Clay Trumbull, quoted in Streams in the Desert, p. 202)