death of self.

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 “Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture. The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our desires, jobs, and goals is radically countercultural. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely.”

-Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgove | Common Prayer: Pocket Edition

This past Fall, I read this write-up (above) for the month of November from Common Prayer: Pocket Edition. It was undoubtedly a providentially perfect timing reading for where we were at in life. If you are anything like me, “ouch” was the first word that came out of my mouth when reading this statement. Those of us who live in the places dominated by Western society live in a world that consumes itself with exactly that: self. And unfortunately, it has become so instinctively natural it often goes unrecognized in our lives. The other day I was in conversation with a person I had just met. About half way through our dialogue I realized it much more resembled a monologue—he talked and I listened. I eventually became internally irked at the fact that this person could be so consumed with talking about his own life and his own experiences and not care to ask even one thing about my life. What nerve he had to be so selfishly enthralled to tell of himself and never even take one single opportunity to ask about me.

 The more I reflected on the “conversation” that evening and even in this very moment, the more I must ask myself, “Who really was the selfish one?” As much as I would like to convince myself that my frustration and annoyance was fueled out of this man’s (seemingly) lack of selflessness, I realize it had little to do with his condition and much to do with my condition. The reason I was irritated was that I was being deprived. I was not getting the attention deserved. Surely I had just as important things to say as he did. How selfish of…me? Ouch.

So when I read a statement like the one quoted to begin this post, rarely am I able to respond with anything but “ouch.” And as hard as it often is to recognize my own selfish sin, I know the process cannot just end there. By His grace, I have to be moved to a prayer of forgiveness and plead for realignment with the way of Christ. The Way that is far too concerned with the present life and eternal destiny of this God-created being to consider something as trivial as the possibility that this individual is selfishly dominating the conversation. We live in a world and society dominated by self; no doubt about it. But as followers of Christ we live in a world and society where our Savior, Creator and King of heaven and earth is constantly calling us to pray and orient our lives in ways that invite the coming of His Kingdom and the doing of His will on earth as it is in heaven [Mt. 6:10]. No, not perfectly (at least not yet [Rev. 21]) but surely glimpses and imperfect reflections of what it will be when all is made new. The call and direction to pray and live in a manner that invites the Kingdom life into the present world is not an abstract ideal to passively consider but the concrete reality of God’s redemptive purpose that requires full participation of His followers.

We would be crazy to think that what will be in the new heaven and new earth is a utopian representation of current western society: individuals having exactly what we want and think we need. But at the core of each and every human being—human beings created in the very image of God—none of us want, truly want, what our world is offering as the substitute for fulfillment in Christ and His Body. The fulfillment Jesus promised and continues to promise until the end of time takes the American dream’s promise to the “right of life, liberty and happiness” (a dream described by dictionary.com as, “a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.”) and puts into its rightful perspective: that this very perspective has no place in the kingdom of Christ. The fraudulent guarantee to the right of one’s own life, liberty and happiness are three very things that Christ is sure to remind us that we have no right to whatsoever. It is in the surrendering of any and all counterfeit belief that we have some sort of right to our own life, liberty and happiness when Christ can then begin His work in our own lives and—in His great compassion—through us, also in the lives of others [Lk. 9:23; Jn. 12:24; Rm. 12:1-2; Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 6:19-20]. It is in dying that we find life.

So here is how the excerpt I began with continues:

“But God invites us into a common life with others. Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we build our lives around God’s vision for community. We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of row homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other…”

And then:

“Shaping a life together sometimes begins simple by creating a space for community.”

It was in the very moment of reading these words for the first time back in November, where God’s redemptive work here in Lawrence (that He has so generously allowed us to take part in) took on a clarity we had been praying and longing for. What might it look like if God’s kingdom came here on earth to this building, this property and in this neighborhood and its community? How might we use this space as just another way to join God in His mission of creating community where “folks are committed to God and to each other?”

Whoa, this changed everything. The only question that mattered now was, “How do we most effectively use this property to love others in Christ’s name?” Among many dreams and visions that we believe the Lord has laid upon our hearts for how He might use this property for the advancing of His Kingdom here on earth, one specific dream quickly (and entirely unexpectedly) became a no-brainer. We were to live in this space. 

Yes, you read that right…live there. While meeting a neighbor of the building, just a few days after moving to Lawrence, we were standing outside of the building and he was asked what would come of it or how it would be used moving forward. I did one of my terrible explanations and somewhere in the midst of my fumbling and stumbling, he said something that has always stuck in my mind since. He said, “Well, a building’s no good if there aren’t any people in it.” I certainly agreed with him then and certainly agree with him now, I just didn’t ever foresee us living there as the way this would initially take place. What once seemed like a crazy idea is now a happening reality that we have absolutely zero doubt about. There is so much more backstory of God’s providence and direction to how we got from point A (never considering the idea of living there) to point B (absolutely convinced we are to live there), but probably too much for this post. 

It you have read any of the posts preceding this one and including this one, surely it could go without being said that we have a burning desire to live and share life together with others in the most authentic of ways, prayerfully and intentionally aiming to draw one another towards a deeper commitment to life in Christ. We are convinced that living in this space—which we pray will be one of many spaces for community in Christ to take place—is a critical initial step in the journey. Not only is it critical, but it is taking and is going to continue to take a lot of work…and a lot of help! There are a near infinite amount of ways to partner with us in this journey if you feel Christ drawing you towards it, and we humbly are confessing our inability to do it alone. So I have a question for you. Will you consider helping us?

I recently sent out a letter that the EFC-MAYM helped to spread around. It describes our desire to partner with other individuals, communities, church bodies, etc. and how we can begin to take practical steps towards this happening. I am going to attach a link to the letter in this post so you can read. In this letter, you will find our contact information so we can get in touch and hopefully see one another very soon.

Here is the letter: Letter of Introduction (Friends of Lawrence)

I am going to include another link to a document that I think could be a beneficial read. The path the Lord is taking us down often resembles more than anything that of Christian monasticism, specifically what is referred to as “New Monasticism.” The document I am including a link to is titled “Twelve Marks of New Monasticism.” Not only does it do a wonderful job effectively summarizing what New Monasticism is, but it also describes much of what our hearts long to see happen here in Lawrence.

Here it is:  Twelve Marks of New Monasticism

That is all for now. More to come soon. Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

– Jeremiah

life together.

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Andrei Rublev’s “Holy Trinity”

“Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate…the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone.”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Life Together

Soon before his trial and crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us…that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one” [Jn. 17:21a;22b-23a]. It would appear that this prayer of Jesus is at the very heart of Bonhoeffer’s explanation of community, or as he beautifully refers to it: brotherhood. And as we look past the seemingly gender exclusive language, I am confident that in writing brotherhood, Bonhoeffer intends to encompass the entire familymale and female included—let’s go ahead and just call it familyhood. This familyhood (which, believe it or not according to oxforddictionaries.com is actually a word) is what I aim to progressively give testimony to as it comes to reality. My prayer would be that this post continues in the professing of God’s faithfulness in the developing reality of the community He is leading us in.

As I prepare to tell more of the story unfolding here in our context, there is one specific detail I am earnestly hoping I have been clear about thus far. I cannot emphasize enough the continually intensifying conviction that just as each individual human being has been uniquely created, I must believe that each community (one’s local Christian community, body or church that contributes to the greater Christian Community, Body of Christ, Church Universal) is uniquely created, and therefore must contain characteristics, features, and functionality unique to its context [1 Cor. 12:12-27]. BUT surely a uniqueness in alignment with the early Christian community’s foundational ethics found in Acts 2:42 (as reflected upon in the previous post) and surely in alignment with the Holy Scriptures in their entirety by way of the Spirit’s continual revelation of Jesus Christ, the Living Word made flesh. Yet in each of our individual and local community’s uniqueness, it would seem that something is not quite right if we do not resemble one another in at least some aspect. Being from “one Spirit” and “one body” [1 Cor. 12:13], perhaps the key aspect of resemblance would be the capability of others to recognize us as disciples of Christ by way of our love for others [Jn. 13:35]. It is likely that some or much of what makes sense in our context may not be identically related or directly applicable to yours and vice versa. What I desperately pray is that the heart behind all of our undertakings in life—both yours and ours—would be towards the single cause of loving others in the name of Jesus that they might personally come to know and embrace the relentless transforming love of Christ [Jn 15:12; Mt. 28:18-20].

If you are familiar with or looked up the scripture verses I referenced to begin this post, drawn from chapter 17 in the gospel account of John, you may have noticed that a few portions of the passage were left out. The portion of the passage I did include, could be considered or identified as the “what” of the prayerthis being the significance of Christ’s echoing plead for “oneness” in Christian community by way of Christ’s oneness with the Father. Until now, I left out a few portions of the scripture that encompass the “why” of the prayer. In Christ’s supplication found in John 17:20-23, we not only see what Jesus is asking for in the Father’s name but we also see, and by God’s grace are guided in understanding, why this would be meaningful. As Jesus twice repeats the prayer, “that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us,” He also twice repeats why this should be: “so that the world may believe you have sent me…and loved them even as you loved me” [Jn. 21b;23b].

Without the why, the community and its (distorted) ambition for oneness loses its entire meaning and purpose. In other words, community without mission is a community that now exists only for the sake of self. And if we base the meaning of community solely off the principles set forth by our Creator, it may be accurate to say that a community functioning as just mentioned—with no mission…with no why—is really no community at all. God continually sets forth the perfect example of living and functioning in community, the community of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. A community that since creation has been and relentlessly will be on the mission of redeeming His creation; a mission of redemption that He not only invites us into, but as professing Christ followers, He unmistakably expects of us [Lk. 9:23; Jn. 15:12-14; Mt. 28:18-20]. Oswald Chambers writes:

“…the Holy Spirit unites us with God so that His love is manifested in us. When the soul is united with God, that is not the end the end is that we may be one with the Father as Jesus was. What kind of oneness had Jesus Christ with the Father? Such a oneness that the Father sent Him down here to be spent for us, and He says—’As the Father hath sent Me, even so I send you.”

God has never been the type that hides Himself or advocates the hiding of ourselves in the counterfeit safety of a community purely fixated on self preservation, concerned only in protecting (or perhaps dominated by the fear of losing) the false security of what it already has. God actually went as far as to deny Himself the direct and perfect community of the Holy Trinity for the purpose of entirely spending Himself for us in His son, Jesus Christ, that we might then spend ourselves for others [Php. 2:1-11; ]. He is a God who is always going, always seeking, always loving, and ultimately always on a mission and He calls us to the same. The growing fear I have (and am firsthand experiencing and battling) is that each and every one of us, as individuals and communities, are far more susceptible to the perils of a lukewarm and lifeless community than we often like to admit. It seems to me that what we are often most afraid of is what we so often need the most. The apostles and early followers of Christ feared more than anything the losing of Jesus Christ to death on the cross, yet in this very death is where the resurrection of life in God was put on greatest display. Whether admitted or not, we often fear more than anything the death of ourself. Dietrich Bonhoeffer states in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Life in Christ is indeed the very death of self, not just according to Bonhoeffer but to Jesus [Lk. 9:23]. I think we also often fear, perhaps with good but generally adrift intentions, the diminishing and dying of our Christian communities; a diminishing and dying that doesn’t line up with our desires or ideals. It could be possible that it will take the manifestation of what we are most afraid of to welcome the resurrection of new and authentic life in Christ.

Would you continually pray for and with us that any human desires, ideals, or false motives for Christian community would continually be put to death so that living, breathing, God-created human beings would find, receive and choose to live in the love of Christ? Would you pray for and with us that God would grant us desire and grace to continually be seeking where He is at work and join with Him on mission there? We would sincerely like to pray the same for and with you in your setting also, so please let us know how we can do so.

I had intended to dig into more of the specifics of the community God has been putting in our hearts for the city of Lawrence but feel like this may be enough for now. It’s been a far more personally convicting writing process than I initially envisioned when starting, and the more I have written the more (for better or for worse) it evolved into something I hadn’t quite set out to write. So maybe it is in God’s providence that I pause here for now. Maybe there is a bit of dying and refining to be done before I share more of the specifics…or perhaps I just know a good rabbit trail when I see one. And to be honest, I do not know that I have ever seen a bad one—writes the A.D.D. guy currently tapping his foot rapidly and vigorously enough to cause those around me to notice the earthquake like tremors in their cups of coffee, only now to assume there is a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the near distance (1993 Jurassic Park movie reference).

There is more to come very soon. Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

– Jeremiah

concluding somewhere: an explanation.

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The words you are reading were in the making nearly a month ago but thanks to a freshly filled glass of water, a clumsy arm and an extremely soggy  laptop—and perhaps the providence of God—what I began weeks ago, I now intend to finish. My heart is certainly full and my head craves to put its many thoughts into written words, but my prayer is that what follows comes by way of the Spirit rather than the flesh…(on a side note: because it has been a while, this might be a bit lengthier than usual. Please do read though and please do not despise me for it.)

As revealed in the title of this post, I certainly do want to conclude the few introductory posts that have aimed to unpack a glimpse of the significance in sharing with the greater community how one is actively seeing and participating in God’s mission unfolding here on earth—and as mentioned before, therefore extending an ongoing invitation to join in whatever capacity the Lord may lead. I also want to explain in greater detail the specific call to community we believe the Lord is leading us to here in Lawrence. So as much as this post will work to conclude one topic, I very much hope it will also be the groundwork for much more to come, both in life and in writing. Maybe it would be helpful to consider all that has been said thus far as the “preface” for a book in which (by the grace of God) the narrative has the majority of its chapters still yet to be written and recorded.

I am guessing that many of those who have read anything I have written so far could still be trying to somewhat pinpoint what it is we are really doing here in Lawrence. In the sincerest of confessions, I do admit that sometimes we ask ourselves the very same question, and sometimes find ourselves a bit dazed by the complexity (and history) of what we walked into it. But those moments are becoming fewer and further between, and generally things are far simpler than we make them out to be. As I often stumble through the explanation piece of why we have found ourselves in Lawrence, KS when talking with others, in many conversations I have been asked things like: “So, are you starting a church?” I respond with something like, “uh, yeah sort-of.” I then go on to describe things a bit and quite possibly get a question like, “Oh, you are re-starting a church?” Again, I respond with a hesitant and vague, “sort-of/kind-of” type of answer. Then maybe the question of whether I am a pastor or not comes up…I slowly and methodically start backpedaling, then quickly and carelessly backpedaling, and now I am doing the zig-zag sprint you’re advised to do when being fired upon and I am headed anywhere but where the term, “pastor,” is being associated with the person of Jeremiah Williams (most of that was dumb and imaginative humor…most of it). And so the clownish tap-dance ensues of me trying to explain what we believe to be a God-breathed vision and mission, yet attempting to explain without allowing any of it be trapped or contained by pre-existing molds, conceptions and narratives that I am entirely assuming the other person would almost certainly have. Are you confused yet?

Here is another way to put it: As a child I seem to always remember hearing that a common penny could de-rail a train from its track. Now, who actually told me that is a mystery in itself but if this is the case, I leave most conversations being fairly certain that whatever destination the train was once headed towards, I promptly interrupted and proceeded not just to place a penny on the track but hurl handfuls of silver dollars (along with myself) onto the track so as to leave no doubt of its de-railing…and chances are I probably dragged the innocent other with me. If none of that made sense, I believe you just may understand what I am getting at more than you realize.

And so I want to take a plunge at putting some flesh on the bones; explaining how God’s redemptive mission might practically reveal itself here, or: what it is we are “really doing” in Lawrence. If I have not already previously stated this in the entries prior to this one, it is so important to remind ourselves (myself) that God’s redemptive mission is undoubtedly already at work here in Lawrence as it is throughout all creation. It would be foolish for us to think otherwise. Jesus tells us this in John 5:17, “The Father is always at His work and I too am working.” Building upon this truth, in his book, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Henry Blackaby does so well in continually stressing the significance to being attentive in finding where God is at work and “joining Him there.” This is our desire, and we earnestly pray for the discernment to do so and forgiveness if the Lord finds us doing otherwise. Let me try to do some answering now—if not your sake, then for mine.

i.) are we starting a church?

I am convinced the answer to this question completely hinges on how one defines church. I believe the majority of Christ followers would agree (at least in thought) that the Church—the body of Christ (1. Cor. 12:27)—is not something that only exists for a few hours, on a specific day or two a week, in a specific building. I would also hope and believe that the majority of Christ followers would agree (again, at least in thought) what makes a church  (now speaking of a smaller body of Christ followers that contributes to the Church Universal) is not contingent upon whether there is a paid pastor, a weekly passing of the offering plate, or a bona fide worship band (please know that in no way am I criticizing any of the things mentioned. These are just three examples of existing structures within many churches today that came to mind). Although I think most of us could and would agree on this, what is it then truly defines the the body of Christ, its meaning and its purpose? For a Christ follower, it would seem to be quite important to know the answer to this. I don’t think that simply “knowing” is enough though. What makes this knowledge complete is allowing God’s grace to move it from head to heart and heart to obedience.

I cannot think of a better place to learn and be reminded of what the Church was set forth to be than frequently reflecting upon the character of the first Christian community formed after Christ’s ascension and recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The community was formed, in every respect (although, surely not without fault), around the first-hand experience of knowing, living with and being molded by Jesus Christ, the “founder and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). There are 28 chapters in the book of Acts and every chapter, verse and word is unquestionably worth reading and meditating upon. But when attempting to find Christ’s true intent for His Church, there is one verse, and chances are a very familiar verse to most, which repeatedly comes to mind:

 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42

Certainly this verse cannot be understood in its fullness without viewing it in context with the surrounding verses, the rest of the events recorded in the book of Acts, the preceding gospel accounts of Jesus, and the remaining New and Old Testaments of Holy Scripture. But when examined through this entire context, I am hard pressed to find a more succinct and effective single verse in scripture that works to explain who the early apostolic Church was—and how it functioned—in its best attempt to be obedient to the instruction of the recently departed Jesus Christ in flesh by way of counsel from the newly imparted gift of Jesus Christ in Spirit.

For the early Christian community, church consisted of these four things.

1.) It consisted of the apostles’ teachingsa teaching that (in its simplest form) was nothing more than the result of a group of disciples living three extremely close years of life under the apprenticeship of Jesus Christ, and then working to devote every moment there forward to living and communicating to others, under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, all that Jesus had taught them (Mt. 28:16-20). These apostolic teachings were recorded under inspiration of the Holy Spirit and exist today in form of Holy Scripture. They make up the basis of our Christian teaching, learning, and living, guiding us in the same way they did the early Church. And surely they work as the deepest of anchors in holding us firm in place as the continuous waves of life that are counter to the kingdom of God, struggle relentlessly to thrust us away from true life in Christ (2 Tim 3:12-16).

2.) It consisted of a deep fellowship that existed not only between mutual Christian brothers and sisters, but between Christians and all God-created human beings. Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), an early Christ-follower and Christian apologist, describes this fellowship as follows:

“…we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and communicate to every one in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavour to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.” – The First Apology, ch. 14

A fellowship that was not restricted by race, social and/or economic status, political preference or religious denomination, but a common-life that was driven by unconditional love for others, a love that was wholly founded in Christ’s unconditional love, sacrifice and salvation for His creation (1 Jn. 4:10). A compassionate love that longed to see people released from both physical and spiritual poverty. A compassionate love that sought justice for those being served injustice and spoke for those who had no voice. A compassionate love that was far too deep and wide to see a brother or sister continue in a way of life that was destructing not only him or her but also those around them. A compassionate love that could then accept and appreciate a brother and sister, in love, doing the same in return. It was not a perfect love. It was not without error. But it was clearly inspired by the one and only perfect Love of God the Father, through Christ the Son, by guidance of the Holy Spirit. A love founded in the relationship between the Holy Trinity and His beloved creation. This type of love, in turn, forged a fellowship that not only drew individuals closer to Christ but also to one another.

3.) It consisted of the breaking of bread. A breaking of bread, that when carried out by way of Christ’s instruction to “eat this bread” and “drink this cup” in “remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:26), it now held and continues to hold, an irreplaceable substance and life altering essence that no sharing of a meal could ever hold unless the sacrifice of His body being broken and His blood poured out for creation was made. Through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, the common–and often taken for granted—act of eating and drinking finds deeper meaning in recognizing that Christ truly is the center of all life. And in the very necessity of eating and drinking for the purpose of sustaining life, we are pointed back to the Sustainer of life Himself. The one who gave His own body and blood for us, now invites us to take part in His death that we might also take part in His resurrection (Rom. 6:5; Php. 3:10). In this Holy Communion, we not only find communion with God but with one another, and this communion—a unity with one another established through the life, death and resurrection of Christ—is a communion stronger than any other to be found in this world (Jn. 17:21-23; 1 Jn. 1:7).

4.) It consisted of prayer. Without combing through verse by verse, off the top of my head I do not know that you will find any pivotal moment recorded in the Acts of the Apostles where there is not first a recorded mention of prayer (e.g. Acts 1:12-14; 3:1-3; 12:5, 12-17; 16:25-26). While it is important in recognizing this, to assume that it was only in the moments of crisis or need that prayer within the early Church existed would be fairly naive. Paul’s counsel to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) was one to be taken seriously and practiced seriously as a Christ-follower. Prayer was for the early Church—and should be for us—much less of a physical location or appointed time (though these certainly have their place) but more the perpetual positioning of one’s being in a state that allows our very own heart to become one with His. In this “room” or “secret” place (Mt. 6:6), the kingdom of God can be seen, experienced, and taken forth into the world. 20th Century priest, professor and theologian, Henri Nouwen, summarizes prayer so clearly, concisely and convincingly when he wrote:

“To love and work for the glory of God cannot remain an idea which we think about once in a while. It must become an interior, unceasing doxology.” – The Way of the Heart

This type of unceasing prayer is what I believe enkindled the early Church, and as they gathered together in the fellowship of common-life, each individual’s heart of unceasing prayer was now joined with the other’s, causing a igniting burst of flames that through the power of the Holy Spirit fearlessly proclaimed the good news of Christ, healed the lame and broke open the prison doors.

So…to answer the looming question that has worked as the foundation for this exploring of the Christian community found in Acts: “Are we starting a church?” If this is how Church is defined, by these four marks of the early Christian community and all they encompassed, then I do hope and pray with my entire being that we could be part of a community that resembles—even in the least of ways—what has just been briefly examined. We cannot promise that you will soon find us sitting in pews at 10:30 a.m., on a Sunday morning, at 1601 New Hampshire in Lawrence, KS, taking part in a well-structured order of worship…but then again, I cannot guarantee you won’t find us there. Honestly, time will tell. I do hope and pray though, that where you would find us on a Sunday morning, or at any other time and day for that matter, is in a place of obedience to Christ and loving relationships with our neighbors. The best part about hoping and praying for something like this is the fact that when Church is viewed in its truest form and simplicity, there is no restriction to our Maker’s imaginative and creative nature.

Maybe it is enough then, to simply pray, “Lord, as You will, and as You know, have mercy.”

More to come soon. Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

 

 

continuing somewhere: a declaration.

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Something happens when one communicates a strong conviction to another—particularly, a conviction believed to have been revealed by God. By God’s grace and leading, hopefully those listening (or in this case reading) can find a number of things, e.g., encouragement, inspiration, hope, or possibly even a beckon to somehow join hands with the other in this now shared conviction. This mode of communication, in its simplest form, could be considered as merely telling a story. But I think each and every one of us could attest to the fact that even “mere” stories can hold significant power. They often times evoke emotion, ignite a newfound passion or work as a forceful reminder.

No doubt, all of our lives are stories in progress. Since the inception of God’s creation, the greatest narrative known to humanity is unfolding. Whether a person chooses to recognize it or not is his or her decision, but it will continue to unfold nonetheless. Just as God uses humanity to take part in the countless supporting “imperfect missions” that contribute to His ultimate mission (if not entirely sure what I mean, the previous entry post deals more with this), so I must believe each of our stories is made up of and contributes to the ultimate story, the redemption story: God redeeming, restoring and reviving all creation (Rm. 8:19-25). Even in this very season, the season of advent, we wrap our story with His as we intentionally celebrate the Person of Jesus Christ in whom God’s narrative reaches its culminating turning point. Over and again we read in scripture the instruction and responsibility to tell the story; both God’s overarching narrative and our personal narratives that He graciously uses to help complete His (Ex. 12:26-27; Deut. 6:20-25; Joel 1:3; Lk. 8:39). And as much as it does for the listener, I am convinced that it may even do more for the one telling it. At least this has been my experience, specifically in the last six months or so.

I genuinely do hope and pray through the ongoing communicating of how God allows and uses our story to intertwine with the story of others here in Lawrence, that you are truly able to read it as an endless invitation. But as much as it is invitation for others, I find that it is also an extremely important step in the process for us. While we are a bit further removed, I think we can all still imagine what it was like for later generations to hear from parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents who were witnesses to all that God did in the days of the Exodus. As incredible and reassuring as it must have been for the listener, for the person who experienced firsthand these miraculous acts of the Lord, I would have to imagine that in recalling and retelling God’s faithfulness of the past, it was forever an opportunity for the individual to deepen his or her own belief in God’s continual faithfulness for the present and future. Because, if the same God that was alive then is alive today, and this God’s abiding faithfulness never ceased to provide in those moments, then why would it cease to provide today? Perhaps not identically, but without question, in all sufficiency.

If you are anything like me, the reminder of what God has already done is often one of the few consolations in sustaining belief in what He is doing and will do—especially during those “dark nights of the soul” (See St. John of the Cross for more on this topic). Since even the very first conceptual thought of moving to Lawrence, it has been incredible to me that when telling others of God’s direction and providence, both in the preparation stages and since being here, the recounting of these moments drives home their true significance in deeper ways than I knew were possible. Each telling draws us back to the particular occasion that took place and reminds us once more that the God who was faithful before, is being and will be faithful again. As much as I read the roller-coaster story of the Israelites and ask, “How could they not believe…again?”, I repeatedly am awakened to the reality that I have failed to believe…again.

In the communal story telling of what God has done and continues to do, the stories really become declarations, or at the very minimum hold the potential to do so. This word, declaration, can be defined as an “assertion of belief.” The declaration—or asserting/affirming of a belief—is a crucial step (at least for us—actually I should say at least for me. Wendy is far more steadfast than I. And our dog, Cysco, may be the most steadfast of us all—AND the most lovingly annoying. Although, in reality, Wendy, Abigail and Cysco would all undeniably agree I am the most annoying. I’m just not as skilled at doing it quite as “lovingly” as Cysco does)…continuing on: I believe the declaration piece assists in maturing the generally half-hearted, always questioning belief in what God has revealed or done, into an actualization. It aids in moving us from the place of lacklusterly (that’s not a word) hoping God’s word will come to reality, to hungrily expecting it to come to reality…His reality (Is. 55:11).

I am slowly realizing how Christ is using the telling of stories to transform my own heart, mind and soul. If the Lord uses anything that is written on this website to somehow encourage, inspire, or in anyway move to action on His behalf a person other than myself, praise be to Him. And as much as I feel led to tell, I still would much rather prefer to listen. So let’s get together so you can tell me yours. All individual narratives have value when viewed through the lens of the Larger Narrative at work. The community deeply needs them to be told and listened to…and we all deeply need the community—and that could be considered a conclusion to this entry and a feeble attempt towards a lead-in to the coming entry.

More to come soon. Thanks for reading, mom.

Until next time,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

– Jeremiah

starting somewhere: an invitation.

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For quite some time I have been struggling to decide when and how to keep others who are (or at least at some point were) interested in staying informed on our family’s journey in discerning the call of God and His many purposes in leading us to live in Lawrence, KS. You could consider this to be the first real crack at it. Lord, have mercy.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be naturally gifted in communicating the overwhelming amount of thoughts, dreams, and visions that are continually stirring in heart, mind and soul. And honestly, in one sense, it may very well be a good thing that I don’t communicate much of this. Wendy would agree, I’m sure. So while it may not always be appropriate or helpful to share any and every stirring with any and everyone, I am convinced there are leadings in life that are worth sharing with others (specifically the greater community at large—those outside of one’s spouse, dearest friend or handful of closest companions). I cannot give a definitive or systematic process in discerning all that is and is not worth sharing, but I do believe for us, in the current circumstances of aspiring to hear God’s voice and obey accordingly while living life here in Lawrence, the stirrings that continue to rise to the surface could fall under the “is” worth sharing category. And when this is the case, I very much believe there is considerable significance in confessing and communicating this to the greater community. I hope to spend the first couple of writing entries unpacking some of the reasoning behind this believed significance.

i.) an invitation.

First, and perhaps foremost, my hope would be that in reading this you would without a doubt know that we invite you into this journey and we truly need you in this journey. God’s mission of reconciliation, the very mission He invites us into by way of Christ’s act of reconciliation on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:17-20), is a mission that has and continues to take form in unbelievably diverse ways in unbelievably diverse people. Read through God’s narrative beginning in Genesis and continuing through Revelation and one will quickly be reminded of this. And as the narrative progressed forward from the accounts found in scripture and continues to progress in this very moment, so continues the infinite amount of means He uses to accomplish His purpose.

In God’s infinite love and mercy, He somehow saw fit to include the very creation His ultimate mission longs to reconcile to be an active and participating piece in the actual work of reconciliation. A bit mind blowing. So then, within God’s encompassing mission exists countless imperfect (imperfect not on God’s account but on account of the involvement of our human frailty)—often, seemingly insignificant—missions that He has chosen us to inadequately take part in (Eph. 1). The specific mission we feel called to here in Lawrence is but one of these countless “imperfect missions”and in case you were wondering, it often does feel insignificant. Undoubtedly, none of us can commit to take direct part and action in all that God is doing here on earth. But to frequently ask God to reveal the portion He is calling us to would seem appropriate. Therefore, I know that not all are called to commit in partnering with us as we follow God on this journey in Lawrence, but I do have to believe that some are.

In any person that chooses to accept the reconciliation made possible by Christ and the opportunity to participate with God in His reconciling mission, I would imagine one of the most compelling fragments of hope rests in the possibility of seeing, even in the smallest of ways, “His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This is our hope. Our hope would also be that as we tell of some of the glimpses of God’s kingdom unfolding on earth that we are seeing and experiencing here in Lawrence, He would then draw others to catch the vision and fervor He continues to provide us and that they too would respond accordingly. Maybe that means partnering with us in some fashion or maybe that even means following God into a whole new unknown. That I cannot say, but for those who do feel led to support and join with us, I do hope to give practical opportunities to do so along the way.

Consider this an official invitation to something we are not entirely sure as to what it will look like…not much of an invitation I guess. As for now, please pray for and with us as we continue in discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit.

More to come soon. Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

Jeremiah, Wendy and Abigail.