Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Cry for Community

“So are you from around here?” That’s how the conversations usually start. Working behind a bar automatically puts you on peoples’ “safe” list, and you become the equivalent of a pastor, psychiatrist, and friend. They just talk to you, and assume you want to talk to them. It’s pretty cool, actually. There are people I’ve known since high school that don’t trust me as much as some of these people do. It’s at this point that the conversation spirals into my sharing an overview of my journey and usually ends with the other person asking, “Isn’t that a little bit contradicting—you graduating from IWU, working in Ministry, and working here?” I’ve had some really great conversations that have started out that way.

In many ways this bar/coffee shop parallels the church. It’s amazing to observe people, unchurched people, and it becomes obvious that all humans, Christian or not, have many of the same basic needs and desires. For example, deep with in each human heart is a desire for community. I work here week after week, and the same people keep coming back. There are plenty of bars around the Marion area, and yet they keep returning, knowing that they will see friends and familiar faces when they walk in the door. People have begun to have nicknames, and I could tell you what most of them will order before they speak. I know their names (is the Cheers theme song running through your head too??), and have even begun to build real friendships with a few of them. It’s funny how we have taken the idea of community and made it a Christian thing. We talk about it in our churches and at school, and often we achieve it. But it’s not a Christian thing; it’s a human thing woven deep into the hearts of every human being crafted in the image of the Creator—who was, of course, the first to desire communion with us.

The early church spent time together eating and drinking. They called these “agape feasts” or “love feasts,” and it was a time for community and making sure the needs of the people were met. Now, I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, but something similar happens in this bar each week as well. There’s just something special that can happen when people share food and drink together. People learn to laugh and love. They find common ground and share life stories. They relax and think. They have fun, and when the night is over, the shared experience is a memory to look back on that helps lay a foundation for friendship and relationship that will continue to build into the future.

I believe that something spiritual and real happens when Christians share communion. I don’t want to minimize what God does when His people come together in remembrance of Christ. But in a way, the parallels reveal my point: humans are a lot alike, whether they realize it or not—whether we like it or not. We are wired in a way that drives us, and we will meet those needs in one way or another. So whether we fulfill the need for relationship and community in a bar, in a church, or in some other venue, our hearts will cry for it because it is a part of us. We were created in the image of a God who, from day one, has pursued us relentlessly, giving grace and His Son so that He could reestablish a real and whole relationship with His people. He wants us to know Him, and thus, we long to be known. We spend our lives aching for someone to love us and know the deepest intimate parts of us, and in the end, we hurt those closest to us because we want them to do what only God can do.

Maybe that’s why Jesus hung out with people the religious saw as sinners. Maybe He recognized that they would pursue the fulfillment of that need, and He wanted to be there to redirect them to a community and a God that was healing and redeeming and ultimately transforming. Maybe that’s the call on our lives as well. Maybe that’s the heart of the Great Commission. Maybe it's the fulfillment of the Great Commandment.

"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practices of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age" (Matt 28:19-20--The Message)
"The first [commandment] in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one, so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.' And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these" (Mark 12:30-31--The Message)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Have I Ever Told You How Much I Love Mark?

He's definitely the most amazing man I know, and I am so excited, that in less than 5 months, I will be his wife. Not only is he a man who truly seeks God's heart, but He is someone who has challenged me and loved me like no other person in my life. He has a passionate heart for adventure and is willing to act on that passion (check out what he's up to right now at He is a man of integrity, a man of wisdom and discernment, and a man who is willing to admit when he is wrong. He is someone who walks always in humility and of the most positive people I have ever met! It's contagious, really. He is an amazing leader, who is also willing to follow those in authority over him. He loves to laugh and is willing to cry. He listens to people and speaks life into people. He loves all people, regardless of who they are or where they've come from. He's all this and much, much more! He's not perfect, but no one is...I'm sure not...but he's perfect for me, and I am more than thrilled to call him my best friend and companion in life. I love you, Mark!
Mark and I in Israel at Megiddo... Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Have I Ever Told You How Much I Love Words?

“To say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”
--C.S. Lewis--
Till We Have Faces

I confess: I love words. I love grammar. I love morphology (the evolution of words over time within a language). I love foreign language. I love sentence structure. I even subscribe to Webster’s Word of the Day via email. I think of life like a story, and as situations happen, I think of life as a book being read by someone else: what emotions would be evoked? What do they anticipate happening next? How do they respond? How would this experience sound written out? I have even considered Bible Translation as a career enough to drag Julie Collins to a seven hour seminar at Wycliff in Chicago (she sat through all seven hours of that seminar too, because there were only thirteen people there. She had planned to hide in a book while I participated in the seminar—props to Julie!). There’s just something beautiful and moving about being able to convey emotion and paint a picture using words. Words are incredible! Really! I mean, think about it: there exist these little symbols, which have become common enough that they are recognized by many, and a sound is associated with that symbol; and that’s not the end of it! Did you know that by putting them in the write sequence, we can form longer, more complex sounds, and those sounds, for some odd reason, mean something to the one who hears them? We call them words. It’s beyond me, but I think it’s a very cool concept.

Words are something that we too often take for granted and they are often misused and abused. We say things so flippantly and carelessly, and without thinking (or sadly enough, with too much thought) we send a dagger into someone’s heart that can’t be removed. Words can be harsh and condemning. James says, “By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell” (The Message). Unfortunately, we too often choose words that bring death and destruction instead of life, restoration, wholeness, and healing. I believe that our words are a gift, and should be handled as such. God has given us the unique ability to communicate on a level that no other created species on earth can, and because of that, we hold a huge responsibility: to God and to others. The spoken and written word is powerful, and should be used to build up and encourage those around us. This doesn’t mean flattery. Scripture has plenty to say about that, and I can’t think of one place where He’s pleased with it. But when we use our words to speak life into people, the Kingdom is built, and God is glorified. People’s gifts are encouraged, and their eyes are opened to the beauty of God in their lives. I can’t think of a single instance in which this can be a bad thing. Why would we see good things in people, and choose not to spur them on? We don’t have to quote the Bible to speak Truth. All Truth is God’s, no matter how it’s worded. To some, these words may be truly life-transforming; to others, a simple reminder. But either way, they bring glory to God because God is Life. God is Love. God is the Living Word.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Confessions of a Perfectionist

I know that I’ve done a horrible job at keeping this thing updated. It’s been one crazy moment after another, from switching jobs to traveling to Wisconsin or Rome or Israel or Indy. It’s been a whirlwind of thought, emotion, and action, full of new people, new insights, and deepening desires. I sit here and write, for once, not having a clue what will come. I think that is the main reason I haven’t written anything for a long time. My mind felt blank amidst tons of thoughts. I’m continually amazed at how I can think so deeply and have such amazing conversations—conversations that drain me because I think so much—and still feel like things don’t come together when I sit down and try to write. People continually tell me that I don’t have to write a paper to put it in a blog, but for some reason, my perfectionism wants my writing to have purpose and to be “good.” It’s ultimately a fear of rejection and a fear of what people with think that keeps me from simply putting my everyday thoughts out there for all to see. Bearing my soul is a scary thing with the people I am closest to, and risking criticism doesn’t sound like a good time, and I want to put forth a pretense of having it all together, of not caring at all what my peers think of me. But that doesn’t put words on paper, and the desire to write is still there, only now it’s stronger than ever because there hasn’t been an outlet. So, for those of you that have faithfully checked for updates (thanks Kristin!) and for those of you who wait for the email that says so, here is my offering. Sorry it’s not much, but it’s what I have to give right now. Thanks for stopping by!