Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Church Part 3.1

In the last post I talked about how each member of our group is involved individually in service throughout their daily lives. We feel very strongly that all you have to do is pay close attention to what’s going on around you and the people you encounter and you’ll have plenty of service opportunities – great and small.

If you get to know those that make your coffee at your favorite java joint, you might discover that one of the baristas has just recently been diagnosed with cancer.

If your neighbors have living room furniture in their front yard during the summer, it might be because they have no air conditioning.

Last Christmas a local church decided that, instead of spending money on a Christmas program, they would give each member $100 (a talent, if you will) and asked them use it in service to someone – to multiply it. The J family in our group is a member of this church and decided they would give the money to Heifer International. This organization hopes to end hunger and poverty by providing people with a source of food. Instead of simply providing a family with a limited supply of rations, they purchase the family a cow, goat, or pig that will provide for the long-term and contribute to the economy. (Go look at their unique gift catalog.)

Daddy-J was sharing with Son-J’s teacher at school how cool it was that they could buy a cow for a poor family. The teacher makes frequent trips to Nepal and is familiar with the poverty in countries like this and thought the idea was great. Together they have started Read to Feed, a fundraising program done by Heifer International, at Son-J’s school. Their original goal was to raise enough money to purchase one whole cow - $500. They have over 30% of the student population participating and they are challenging other local elementary schools to do the same.

I hope to share more of our everyday service opportunities. In the mean time, share some of your own.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Though Silent, They Speak

When I consider the heavens--the moon and the stars which You created,
What is man that you are mindful of him
Or the son of man that you visit him?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Church Part 3

Part 1, Part 2

Everyone Is Involved In Service

I had a distinct idea of what service would look like for our group. As we discussed our passions and explored the areas of service we'd been involved with in the past, a mystical, divine common element would arise. There would be a pentecostal moment when we all looked at each other and knew how to join forces for a common goal and move united to make an impact on the community.

Of course, this has never happened.

In fact I almost felt like the idea of service was being avoided. I was beginning to wonder if my group was not serious about putting soles to souls.

I don't know what changed during the last meeting. As individuals, were we suddenly in cosmic alignment? Or we were all just getting it?

Week after week, we share about the people we encounter, the worship experiences we have at unexpected moments, and our intense desire to make our faith count. Because we pursue our passions on a daily basis, I realized that we are serving wherever we are with whomever we met. Our “community of service” includes pre-school children and their parents, helping neighbors, making other people successful in their pursuits, the elderly, co-workers, being a great friend, and teaching. This is a beautiful way to serve community. 

I am overwhelmed at the capacity of love in my group. 

What day in and day out moments of service do you participate in?

Have you ever had such preconceived notions about the way things should look that you completely missed what was in front of you?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Tool of Process

Part of our mission at SoulPerSuit is to help unpack some of the creative process. While putting together a SoulPerSuit card is a highly individual act, there are a few tools one can keep on hand to make the process less intimidating.

One "tool" to bring with you is an understanding that just as much can be accomplished in the process of creating a SoulPerSuit card as is accomplished in the finished product of a SoulPerSuit card. If we get hung up on producing a museum quality piece of artwork, we'll become just that-- hung up. A person who is willing to embrace a mistake and either learn from it or incorporate it into their card design is going to sleep better at night and probably enjoy their SoulPerSuit experience more than one who can't let go.

Here's a personal example. For our recent SoulPerSuit group in Premium Roast with Ruth, I had an idea for a card that would represent the groaning and duress that is common to all of creation. Each of us endures our specific losses and our individual griefs, but decay and loss in general are something that this entire planet shares. We are all hurting in some way, all mourning the loss of something, disappointed by the decay of one thing or another. To communicate this idea I was going to make a picture of the Earth caught up in a giant tear.
Well, I was.

My daughter's finger paints proved that it is impossible to achieve a high level of detail with any artistic medium touting itself as, "Ideal for Preschoolers." All my carefully sketched continents and bodies of water became...
... greenish blue globs and smears.
(Certainly not the concept I'd started out with.)

At the point I realized finger paints were not the right medium for map making I was faced with the decision to either scrap this first attempt and start again, or to see what might become of these greenish blue globs of paint. I was also forced to re-examine the concept behind this particular SoulPerSuit card. Was a detailed image of the world vital to communicating my message? Were there any other elements in my card that might be able to communicate the message just as clearly?

Since I had several written portions to this SoulPerSuit card that said what I needed to say, with or without a recognizable globe, I decided to press on with my finger painted "mistake."

"The whole creation groans and suffers... even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for the redemption of our body." Romans 8: 22-23

Pushing the fingerpaint around, writing out the things I mourn, looking up a Scripture verse to capture the fallen state of creation, and taking a step back to deliberate on how to best use my "mistake" were, for me, all a part of the discovery process. They all worked into my conversation with God. And it's all a vital part of SoulPerSuit. My SoulPerSuit card doesn't have a pristine rendition of our planet, but it definitely gave voice to my feelings and thoughts. And in that respect this card is a success.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Creative Communication

I think sarcasm, irony, and parody are totally under-utilized in Christendom. We creative types need to use them more in our communications. Consider a few examples where it works:

Sarcasm. Recently I was translating in the book of John where the religious leaders interrogate the man born blind. They don't believe Jesus healed a blind guy, so they grill his parents. But Mom and Dad insist this now-sighted man is really their son who was blind from birth. So the leaders go back to the healed man and interrogate him again. This time they say they don't know where this Jesus guy is from, but that they are descendants of Abraham (the right pedigree, dontcha know). I had to stifle a laugh when I translated the man's reply: "Well, this is a marvel. Since the beginning of time it has never happened that a man blind from birth has been healed, yet you don't know where he's from?"

Irony. I'm thinking here about the part in "The Passion of the Christ" where the guy drafted to carry the cross for Jesus complains about his image, saying he's innocent but people will think he's guilty.

Parody. This one you have to see. View this short video, but look at the second-hand on your watch before you start it. Then tell me how many seconds passed before you were laughing. I want to know how long it took you. (It took me 15 to snicker, 40 to LOL.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

New Church Part 2

The first time I wrote to you about our new church was last year in May. I think it's time for a little update on what we've been up to.

From my perspective, it didn't seem like we were making any strides. I'd envisioned us doing some sort of service in the community but we've never come together in agreement on anything. I thought that we'd find a common passion that we could explore and claim as our own like prayer or Bible study. Our membership has also dropped. I claim that's not a sign that things are going wrong but that things are going exactly right. But you tend to see affirmation in what you're doing by seeing others clamoring to join you. No one's clamoring.

I was slightly disheartened by all this until last week's meeting.

It was like any other meeting. Currently we're discussing Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. This is sort of a biography of one guys spiritual journey and ruminations. It evaluates the idea of God, faith, and responsibility from various perspectives in spiritual growth. It asks all the hard questions that our group really relishes chewing on.

Last Friday we discussed chapters nine through twelve. A couple of days later, MyGeek asked me what I thought about the discussion. As we talked about it I realized we, as a group, had come to some solid observations in that meeting. Theories or suppositions, if you will. And it wasn't the result of the one meeting but of weeks and weeks of discussion - discussions that have included Velvet Elvis, Premium Roast with Ruth, Espresso with Esther, Mocha on the Mount, and countless on-line resources. As we've considered several view points, our lives, our culture, and the Word, we're forming our own observations about church in the postmodern culture.

It's sort of thrilling to think about, really. We've got our own little think tank going on. It's like discussions that might have gone on between C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the other members of the Inklings on pub night or the students in the mountain community, L’Abri, founded by Francis Schaeffer in the 70s.

Well, sort of.

In future "New Church" posts, I'll talk more about our observations, such as:

As a group
  • Everyone is involved in service.
  • We are doing what we're passionate about.

Think Tank Observations:
  • Church is not in one place.
  • Stories are not in one person
  • We are finding unusual, unexpected moments of worship
  • Everyone has a story
Are you involved in a discussion group or think tank? What have you observed?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Ant Food

Go to the ant, you sluggard!

*Movie poster c/o