Sunday Observation

I believe in the Holy universal church.

“I live a much more Christian lifestyle than those supposed Christians who meet at that church down the road.”

This sentence has been rolling around in my brain all weekend. I can’t seem to shake it. It was the beginning of a listening session that I was able to be on the receiving end of. The hurting woman told me about the horrible bitterness she had encountered at the church she was talking about (luckily it wasn’t the church I am pastoring), she told me that she didn’t have much respect for Christians, or for church politicking (me either).  She rounded off by telling me that she would never understand why people would waste the time going to church. And finally she looked at me and asked what I was doing in New Zealand. I kind of chuckled and told her I had come over for work, and I half hoped she wouldn’t ask what sort of work I was doing.

She did ask, and I then got to tell her about how I was so serious about being a Christian I had become a professional one. Just kidding. But really I told her that I was working at a church in the area. I told her that we believe that things like shame and guilt and hatred and pain don’t have to stick with you for your whole life and that we believe there is healing from that. But at this point in the conversation I could have told her she had won the lottery and she wouldn’t have heard me. She had checked out of the conversation.

So I find myself wondering about church today as I preached the sermon, and as we prayed the prayers, and as I listened to my wife lead us in singing on her ukulele, and as we recited the creeds, and as our small congregation gathered for tea and bickies afterward.

It is of course trendy right now to say that the church is not the building, but rather it is the people inside who make up the church. I can’t help but wonder if this sentence has lost its meaning to many people. What does it mean to be the church anyway? What does the church do? Why the church? The church has always been, and I believe always will be known for her habitus; our embodied disposition. Those things that we do. When we love our God and our neighbor in actuality it is love that we become known for. Maybe try giving a listening ear or a hug if it is welcome.  However if we simply meet together as a social club that is sometimes full of bitterness and church politics each week then chances are good we will become known for that disposition. If we gather and talk about all the things that Christians don’t do, then we will become known for that. If we gather and don’t talk, or don’t listen, or don’t celebrate, then I think you get the idea.

Maybe you’ve asked the same: “Why church?” It is a legitimate question. One that doesn’t always have an easy answer but I think novelist Flannery O’Connor speaks to it,

“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed”

Sometimes, when a person in my congregation will come to me and tell me they are frustrated and tired and about ready to give up on God, I won’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say a lot of the time, and I don’t know why frustrating, and horrible and hurtful things happen. I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know how to hug, and I try my best to listen, and I try to be the body of Christ.

Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need the church, and maybe you’re right. But I think its only because the church you’ve encountered isn’t the church that God has envisioned for God’s people. 

Maybe you are hurting today, and frustrated, and ready to give up. If this is you, please know you’re not alone. Please let me (or someone near you) listen to you and hurt with you and be the body of Christ.

Sunday Confessional Oct. 25

I confess that I’m not slowing down.

I’m a stay at home parent. I’m also a full time student, and I work at a church where I am being mentored by the pastor (as part of the degree program). You know that scene in Star Wars, the one where the Millenium Falcon goes into warp speed? I often feel like that is what is happening to my life. Sometimes I get to the end of the day, and I feel like it’s been super long. I’m tired from having chased my three year old around or held my one year old all day. When I do get them down for nap/quiet time, I either work on a sermon or a paper for school, or if I am super good I get a craft ready to do with the boys when they get up. When I experience those days and bed time finally rolls around, I look back on the past 24 hours and I am speechless (and breathless). The days seem long when I’m living them, but the months are falling away like a tree shedding its leaves for winter. I want to slow down life. I want to, but I just need to figure out how. Recently I was reading a text for one of my classes and came across a really good concept that I want to share.

Author Tracy Balzer, writes about finding rest from all the noise in our lives;

“Perhaps we should consider when we last experienced true silence. It may be difficult for us to say with any accuracy, because we’ve gotten so used to the hum of electricity around us that we don’t even realize that we live with a constant level of noise…When did I last drive my car without the stereo playing? When was the last time my family and I sat around the dinner table with phones, dishwasher, and television turned off? None of these things are evil. But could it be that the many layers of noise we dwell in have numbed our sensitivity to the still small voice of God?”

As I write this I let myself listen for all the levels of noise that exist all around me. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, the electricity of the lights, the WIFI modem, the computer fan, levels and levels of noise that I never really notice, all working in harmony to numb to the presence of God in my every day existence.

I think maybe I can slow down by being intentional with what I allow myself to take in. By taking a day of rest, where our family turns off our cell phones, and powers down the computers, and really listens for God. I think this could become a weekly event. Does it make you uncomfortable to think about turning off your cell phone for a full day? I know, I know, how would you be able to check facebook, your email, craigslist, gumtree, or the scores of that sporting event? Do you know that theres actually a word for what I am describing? It’s called a Sabbath. Not just a weekend day where we go to church, but a day completely plugged into God. Would you like to join me in carving out time to celebrate this day? To turn off and unplug electronics, to refresh our spirits, rekindle our passions, renew our minds and bodies, and reconnect with God and those we love.

Sunday Confessional

4 Oct 2015

I confess that I’m really struggling to find a light hearted confessional this week. I’ve been searching my soul and I find it difficult.

I keep thinking about all the injustices in the world that I should write about. I think about the 153 million children that are currently labeled as orphans. I keep thinking about the immigration detention centers in Dilley, Texas that seem to operate more like a concentration camp that anything else. I keep thinking about the mass shootings that are plaguing the United States. Or I think about the mass flood of refugees. I keep thinking about all this and I find myself struggling. I find myself looking to the only true source of comfort that I know. I find myself looking to God. I find myself saying to God “Why don’t you do something Oh LORD?” and then I take a minute and I listen to God say “I did, I made you.”

And do you know what? God made you too. He made all of us so that we could work together to serve Him.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I have forgotten to post the last couple weeks. We’ve been away a bit and I’ve been focusing on school, finishing up one class and beginning another. I confess I’m actually very nervous about this upcoming class.  It’s a pilgrimage around Ireland and Northern Ireland to see various holy sites.  I’m really excited about the course content and the opportunities presented.  I’m nervous because Abigail and the boys will not be going on the 10-day journey.  I have spent `a grand total of two nights away from Abigail in the five years that we’ve been married, only one away from Hosea, and 0 away from Moses.  I am, at my a core, a family man. I love my family, and I love spending time with them.  It hurts me to think about spending that much time away from my family.

I confess that I plan on using this time of pilgrimage to seek God’s will for our family and what our next steps will be.  When Abigail and I returned to the States from Haiti in 2012 we had a hard time adjusting.  I didn’t realize why I was having a hard time until I heard Pastor Tim Suttle preach on the importance of finding margin in your life. Just carving out time for God. We had done it without thinking in Haiti because often, there wasn’t anything else to do some days. I would find myself sitting on the roof of the hotel reading my Bible in the warm Haitian sun.  I had concentrated time of margin where I sought the Lord.  It was so good. I hope to use the time during the class as a bit of margin.  A time when I can pause and pursue and be refreshed.

I want and crave that time of renewal and refreshment, but I can still feel a bit of clinging sadness for leaving my family for a time.  I will desperately miss my boys.  I always put my boys to bed at night, I read to them and then pray with them and rock Moses to sleep.  It has become part of the rhythm of my life and I think a part of me depends on it.  Bed time at our house is a calm time, and its typically a time when I can really have some of my best conversations with Hosea. So I will miss my boys. I will miss my wife as well.  I will miss making her breakfast in the morning and I will miss lying in bed next to her.

I know I will only be gone for a few days, but I’ll miss doing life with my family. I cherish the everyday moments leading up to these 10 days away.

I confess that I am both anxious and excited for this course.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that today was a good day. And that Sundays are my jam.

I love Sundays. I often leave the house an hour early so that I can be there for Praise Band rehearsal, and I treasure the few minutes I get to myself as I walk down to the community centre where we meet. A few minutes to think, pray, and take a breath.

It’s especially fun (i.e. interesting) to sing at church on a day when John is preaching. As we’re finishing up going over the last couple songs before the service begins, I see John come in wrangling both boys on his own, always playing the part of “Super Dad” with the superpower of endless patience. I give them all a quick hug before I’m back up front for the service to begin. While singing, I get to watch my boys worship in their seats. Moses likes to call out in his loud baby-voice whenever he hears music, so there’s that, but also there’s my big boy clinging onto his daddy. He doesn’t know it, but that’s a huge way his little body can praise God; enjoying a few minutes where his mind can hear the music and listen to the love-filled words while safe in the arms of his earthly father. At some point Hosea goes off to the creche and as we sing our last song, I quickly get to my seat and take over being in charge of the baby. This is when John goes up to the front and starts to preach. Then, once he’s finished, we swap places again when it’s time for the praise band to close the service with more music.

I love these “tag team” Sundays, and I missed this experience last week! Hosea’s first few chicken pox had just started appearing so John stayed home with him (and Moses). The worst part was when I left the house and Hosea was crying his little eyes out,

“But I want to go to church! I love church! I don’t like my chicken pox! I want to go to church!

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were really tough. Poor Hosea was itchy all over, had a fever and incoming molars, and even had chicken pox on his tongue (which made eating VERY difficult)! He was really achy (who can blame him?), so we held him most of the time. He was hungry but broke into tears with every bite because of his swollen gums and sore tongue…So he ate a lot of homemade popsicles. He was sweaty from his fever, and a greasy/sticky mess from the anti-itch cream I made him. We couldn’t really go anywhere because he didn’t feel good and so we watched movies, drank tea, gave him oatmeal baths, read a lot of books, and cuddled on pillows and blankets in the living room.

As the week progressed, things started to improve, and we were able to get outside for a bit, and thankfully made it to church this morning! A day to focus on God, family, and rest? Yes please! Sunday morning is our family’s favorite part of the week. The people there are our Northern Irish family, and it stinks when we don’t get to see them! I told Hosea that I was soooo happy we could all go to church together today and he said, “me too!”

I love Sundays, but I especially love that Hosea loves them too.

I confess that I’m not always grateful when the hard days come around, but today was made better because we got through hard days this week.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I skipped church today.  The first Sunday of every month is a time of breakfast, fellowship, and a guest speaker at Millbrook Church. I was slated to speak about our time in Haiti with my lovely wife.  This morning I went into Hosea’s room and he was covered in the early stages of chicken pox.  I picked my boy up and carried him into our room where his mom and little brother were already snuggling on the bed and the two boys immediately started to wrestle. I looked over at Abigail and told her that she would be the one speaking at church today.

Normally when we speak, I’m the one that does most of the talking but I was confident that Abigail would do an amazing job.  I told her to go because I know that she is an incredible communicator when she is confident in what she knows. I told her to go because it was her turn to get out of the house for a bit, and she hates missing church. I knew it would be so much harder if she took Moses with her so I asked her to leave him too, and the 3 of us had a boys day.

Today I skipped going to church, and instead I was the church to my boys. I put my sweet baby down for his morning sleep, and then I held my sick big boy while we watched How to Train your Dragon and put lotion on his itchy spots.

There are times as a parent, and as a minister of the gospel, when I am called to stay with my children and show Jesus to them. Today was a “stay home day” filled with wrestling and cuddling.

I confess that my heart is full and my body is tired. I love my family so much!

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday in Barcelona

We just had the great blessing of being able to travel to Barcelona for the week. My husband, two young boys, and I had such a wonderful time exploring this fascinating city! I want to document our daily adventures here in hopes of remembering all the fun things we saw and recommending activities for other families traveling there with small children.

11537957_3509382971935_2495650037582778780_oOur flight landed in Barcelona around 10:30am so we had the whole day to explore! First we set off to locate our flat that we found on airbnb.com. It was in Las Ramblas area, a great location just a few minutes from La Boquería market and tons of restaurants. First things first, I have to mention that the BEST IDEA I EVER HAD was purchasing a toddler carrier so that my husband could wear our 2 year old. I wore our 8 month old and we were able to navigate the streets/metro/trains/buses with so much ease! I highly recommend using carriers over strollers or buggies if you have wee ones. The boys were able to observe their surroundings without feeling overwhelmed and “out there” in a foreign city, they napped on us and we were able to continue exploring during the day, and we weren’t ever worried about them running off!

After dropping off our bags, we had lunch at Ambos Mundos in Plaça Reial and our favorite was the seafood paella! The servers were very kind here and this was the only restaurant that offered us a highchair for our baby. Feeling rejuvenated, we set off for the Picasso Museum but, because it was after 3pm on a Sunday (and therefore FREE), the queue was super long and we didn’t feel like waiting. We decided to just walk and explore the side streets. We passed by several neat artisan pottery shops and gelato places (try the coffee flavor!). We ended up at the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella and rented a rowboat at the lake before enjoying a walk to admire the flowers. Our 2 year old loved the boat and even attempted to help us row.

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At dinner we visited a different place in Plaça Reial called Cañón. All of the seating is outside and so fun when street performers come around! We were treated to a group of guys doing capoeira, Brazilian martial arts. The boys loved this! We sampled various tapas and I fell in love with “buñuelos de bacalao”. It was a fried cod cake type thing and reminded me of a savory donut, yum!

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Stay tuned for my next post, Monday in Barcelona!