Tag: ministry

3 Crucial Questions Elizabeth May Have Asked

The sun is setting outside the sanctuary windows. I work hard to be present – to continue listening as a friend in the pew speaks to me before evening worship starts. I pray silently that she doesn’t see the tears that threaten to expose my emotional response to what she is saying. It’s stupid.

“I’m over this,” I scold myself. “I’ve been over this for years!”. The little stab of pain surprises me in the way a driver cutting you off in traffic catches you off guard.

My friend is rhapsodizing about another woman. A wonderful, talented, godly, beautiful woman who I too, cheer for. Over and over, my friend says, “She’s just SO GOOD! She’s just SO GIFTED!”

99% of the time I would just happily agree, but this evening, in this setting, where others are validated with titles and pay-checks, the Evil One translates “good” and “gifted” to “chosen where you’re not good enough”, “important where you’re not“. The words aren’t true, but they bump into a wound that makes them feel true. The wound has healed over with much prayer and attention, but there’s a scar, and in the right circumstances it can surprise me with a leftover ache.

I’m still trying to brush away the feelings of inadequacy as we sing the opening praise song. “Let the King of my heart be the shadow where I hide.”

Yes, Lord, help me to hide in You, in Your place for me, in Your words about me, in Your story.

Can any of you relate to this? Are there times when emotion – pain, fear, envy, resentment – knock you upside the head without warning?

This morning I was reading Luke 1… about Elizabeth, who, with a wound of infertility, accepted her supporting role for other characters who in turn pointed to Jesus as the main character. She was a cheerleader for Mary – the one who got pregnant with the Messiah without even trying. And mother to John the Baptist, odd desert-dweller, announcing the main event.

Maybe Satan whispered in Elizabeth’s ear,  You’re not important like her! Child-bearing came easy for her because she’s SPECIAL and you’re not! You’re just an ‘also ran’. Her kid will be perfect. Yours just a bug-eater”

And yet Elizabeth was humble and affirming of Mary.

You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true! Luke 1:42-45

Maybe there were times when Elizabeth’s scar ached in Mary’s presence. But I think it was because she knew it wasn’t about her OR about Mary that she had this godly perspective. It’s about Jesus. Always about Jesus.

It’s not about you. Or me.

But I wonder, did Elizabeth ever need to step back, be still, and ask:

  • Where is this pain coming from?
  • What is true? What does GOD say?
  • Who’s the hero of my story?

God’s provision is often different from what we envision. Sometimes we forget the most important thing – He’s the author and main character in the Grand Story of redemption.

Today, can we be thankful we get to be supporting characters?

How to Build a Sanctuary

“Any building is a temple if you make it so.” Phil Knight

I read this quote and it brought to mind this old post which was a good reminder for me, so I hope you don’t mind a redo!

People say I have the gift of hospitality, but I once put a cup of salt, instead of teaspoon of salt, into a batch of lasagna so clearly it can’t be about gourmet cooking.  I also once totally forgot that we had invited six people for dinner, so hospitality apparently doesn’t hinge on attention to details.  Instead, I would agree with someone I heard recently who said, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house”.

Actually I’d expand that to say, “Hospitality is inviting heaven into the house…the bus, the office…the hair salon…the airplane…the parking lot.”  And I know many people who do that much better than I do.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers, but felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming, walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets! Can you even??

Another friend moved to a new home last year and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote.

IMG_4805She and her husband were declaring their house a sanctuary.

Another friend, Daoud Nassar, has a farm outside Bethlehem that is surrounded by Israeli settlements.  The government has blocked the road to his farm with boulders so you have to walk in.  They have restricted him from building anything above ground, so he uses caves.  They have repeatedly bulldozed the olive trees he grows.  But his farm, called Tent of Nations, is a sanctuary.  This is the sign that greets everyone.

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Welcome, Jesus.  May each place we set our feet today be a sanctuary, a piece of heaven on earth.

Where is your sanctuary today?  Might you take a minute to dedicate your space to the work of God?

 

When the Church Leaves the Building

Yesterday I had the chance to climb to the top of this dome for the third time in my life. IMG_4659

St. Paul’s Cahedral has been standing in one form or another on this spot since 604. It was rebuilt after the great London fire in 1666. It was repaired after being bombed in WW2. It is magnificent.

I love seeing many churches in the U.K. that have remained empty for years, now being refurbished and reclaimed, slowly filling with people – like the plants of Holy Trinity Brompton, where Alpha was started.

We entered into vibrant worship Sunday at St. Luke’s Kentish town – one of these church plants in a reclaimed building.

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Nikki Gumbel (pastor at HTB) compares church revitalization to the story of Lazarus being brought back to life:

This passage indirectly provides a picture of hope for the church. There is a sickness in parts of the church and many are declaring its death. Some parts of the church seem to have ‘fallen asleep’ (John 11:11). And in some cases there seems to be a ‘bad odour’ (v.39).

This passage reminds us of Jesus’ power to bring even the dead to life. This resurrection power is still at work in the church today.

The church is not dependent on the building of St. Paul’s, or St. Luke’s or wherever.

Jesus said, “I will build this church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Mt. 16:18

The bottom line is that we are the church.

And something powerful happens when the church leaves the building.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald, were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers. The bus drivers were discouraged because they felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming (while still empty), walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets!

Another friend moved to a new home a couple years ago and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote:

IMG_4805

She and her husband are declaring their home to be a sanctuary where the Lord lives.

The church leaves the building anytime you create a sanctuary in your neighborhood, or office, or on your team, or in your home.

Is there an everyday space that you might pray over and be intentional about making it a sanctuary?

Soul Food for Those Who are Grieving

I wrote last week that one of my deepest desires for this space is that it would delight and refresh your soul. I want there to be laughter and fun and creativity mixed in with some of the more intense stuff of life. My hope is that “Soul Food” posts will provide some ideas and resources that you’ll look forward to like a kid looks forward to a day at the State Fair.

Recently I read a great business article  that brought to mind all the creative ways that people ministered to us around my brother’s death.

I’ve written about relational and practical stuff, and we have treasured every note that was written to us, but this is different.

Today I want to share some of the creative ways people used their spiritual gifts, talents, and resources to minister to us in the hopes it may inspire us as we minister to others.

  • In the midst of the emotional roller coaster ride with David towards eternal life, we had friends who one day said, “Are you free for dinner? Come out on our boat with us and let us care for you and you just breathe.”

They gave us hugs and listening ears and dinner and beauty. We cruised on Lake Minnetonka and ate and talked and relaxed, and it was a gift.

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  • One day I received an email from a friend who lives in Australia. She is a talented photographer and gardener. Her note said “Come, let’s take a virtual walk in my garden together and soak up God’s goodness.” She attached a power point with photos and thoughts as if we were walking through her garden together! You can take a look at part of it here: Winter pruned 1
  • Two friends made CD’s – mixes of songs they felt would be comforting during this hard season. For Susan and David there were many trips to and from the hospital in Chicago when these provided a strengthening sound track. This song, Nearness, on one of the CD’s was sung at David’s memorial service. If you’re having a hard day, this is for you.

There were also really meaningful gifts after David died in addition to people who blew us away by contributing in his honor. We were surprised by how moving these gifts were.

  • Like I said, there have been many kind gifts, but I want to mention one – a family sent us a delightful memorial wind chime with a quote on it. It is a beautiful, meaningful reminder whenever the wind blows.
  • While I was still in Chicago with family, a friend dropped off 5 dinners to our home in Minneapolis that she had made and frozen for us. Yes, of course I have time to make dinner (I don’t have kids at home and it wasn’t my husband that died), but what I’ve discovered is how exhausted you are after a crisis, or in a season of grief and how nice it is NOT TO HAVE TO THINK about dinner.
  • My small group, who had been part of an indefatigable prayer team for David, created one of the most meaningful gifts. They wrote verses that we had clung to during David’s cancer and notes of encouragement on a hurricane with a candle. We’ve talked often about how God’s light shines through the broken places in our lives and the gold lines represent those places of healing.

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  • I was moved to tears when I opened a card the other day and a friend in MN had laminated the newspaper obituary of my brother (which I helped write, but had not seen). She said she thought I might want to keep it in my Bible.

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All of these gifts were creative, thoughtful and personal. They communicated care and a desire to remember with us someone we loved.

Are there some additional ways people have ministered to you when you have been grieving?

 

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