Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Being With People

People were created to be with other people. We all have within us a great longing to love and to be loved. When a child is born, the first place that he finds peace is in the arms of another human. We have all heard the horror stories of what happens to people when they are secluded their entire lives. When a person is never hugged, never touched, never talked to, never smiled at, something within them dies. When God looked at Adam, he didn't see perfection. He saw loneliness.  He saw that he needed a friend, a helper. When that was finished, he saw perfection. People were created to be with other people. 

And beyond that, people were created to be in deep relationship with other people. Not just walking on the same planet as them. Not just living in the same house as them. Not just working beside them. No, instead there seems to be something within each of us that cries out to give and receive a love that pierces through our loneliness and cracks open transparency. To love with nothing else in mind except pure otherness. This kind of love relationship removes the "Me" and replaces it with a "We." 

God is love. Therefore, the best kind of love that we can give to people and receive from people is God himself. God doesn't look at the outward appearance. He doesn't pick and choose who is worthy of his relationship. He doesn't have favorites. He doesn't pick the friends that will make him look better. He loves because he is the essence of love itself. He looks at the heart. He sees that at the heart of every human is a need for love and a need for other humans to spur on that love. He made it that way. People were created to be in deep relationship with other people. For encouragement. For assurance. For reminder. For truth. 

There is not better place to be reminded of this necessity in our lives than on a small mattress that is shoved into the back of a small van. Driving from place to place, meeting new people, engaging in new cultures is beautiful...but so lonely. We missed long-term friendship. This GO lifestyle has created within us such a great appreciation for being still. We have been in Tacoma, WA for about 5 months. We were not planning on this at all. We were not even wanting this...but God knew we needed it. 

We needed to form some friendships that would hold us accountable and push us forward. That is exactly what He is giving us through The Pathway. They demonstrate everyday what it means to be a family that carries one another burdens. There is realness and transparency that we have never seen at a church before. Church here is not on Sunday mornings. Church here happens all day, everyday as individuals live out the Gospel of Christ in the midst of this very broken city. The church is literally paying rent for people, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and fighting to ensure that every person is taken care of. No one rich person is taking care of all of the needs...multiple people are literally sacrificing all that they have for others. It is Acts 2:42-45 happening all over again. Everybody is screwed up. But the beautiful part is that everybody admits that they are screwed up. It is real. It is church, alive. It is people being with people...in the midst of each other's struggles. It is exactly what we needed without even knowing it was what we wanted. 

We have watched this church grow in just 5 months in crazy ways. We are learning everyday what it means to be in real, tangible, life-changing, heart-shaking, community. We have cried with each other, laughed with each other, laughed at each other, and been annoyed by each other.  We have seen the frustrations towards God, towards this world, and towards one another. But it is all drenched in real love. And this past Sunday we watched as so many of our friends got baptized for the first time. The church erupted in cheers every time somebody else got baptized...and we could literally feel the spirit reaffirming our Amens. New life is happening here in Tacoma, Wa...and I think a lot of it has to do with people from this church really, genuinely being with people. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Deeps Thoughts from K-5th Graders

This is Jeanette. She spoke boldly, passionately and with a sense of urgency about Jesus Christ.

When talking about Jesus' death on the cross, one of the 5 year olds expressed with puppy eyes, "that's sad." I agreed and told them that he died for us. Jeanette quickly finished my thought, "Yeah! He died so that we could live!"

"He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him"
1 Thessalonians 5:10

When talking about believing in your heart that Jesus is God and deciding to follow him (like the disciples), Jeanette spouted off in one long breath, "I want to follow Jesus because I love him and he died for me and if we all got in a line Jesus would be in front and we would stay behind him and go wherever he went..."

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27

We've talked about how it is not always easy to be like Jesus. She finished her longwinded sentence with, "...but sometimes Jesus is behind you pushing you forward."

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

Our conversations were deep in many ways and my heart jumped with excitement each turn it took. One thing I know about kids, they tell it like it is. We as adults get to be amused by their sincere, but sometimes brutal, honesty. I've learned this bluntness doesn't stop when they get to the gospel. What if we spoke the gospel just like it is...what if we decided to get in the line and follow Jesus even if it's hard....what if we lived by the truths that we know...what if we truly did change our cautious ways and become like these bold children?

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. " Matthew 18:3

 I am humble and challenged by their genuine interest and perspective of the gospel.  I hope you are too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Trust Me.

We get asked constantly, “What’s next?” “Is VanGO going to last forever?” 
Sometimes, I wonder if we are completely irresponsible because these questions seem far too big for us to figure out. They seem out of our reach. Out of our control. 
We have come up with ideas...1. After Tacoma, VanGO will continue to the east side. 2. We will start an organization that allows gap-year college students to trek the U.S. in vans to learn and do as we have been able to. 3. Screw it all, lets find some husbands and move back to our 409 in Texas!
But they are all ideas...ambiguous possibilities that may or may not be God-Given.  Do we want answers to give people? Yes. Do we want answers for ourselves just out of a selfish desire to see the future? Yes. It seems unfair sometimes. As if God is keeping something from us. Like a mean big brother or a best friend who knows the ultimate secret but won’t tell you a word! 
On Thursday nights we are going through “The Story of God” with some people from The Pathway.  It is a 10 week story formed version of Scripture, all the way from Genesis to Revelation. We are on week 7 and so far there seems to be one central theme that keeps standing out to me. Throughout history and throughout scripture God seems to constantly be telling his people, “Trust me.” Sometimes he literally says it..sometimes he just screams it through his actions. 
- God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit...Trust Me, “You will surely die.” 

- Noah looked like a crazy man to the world as he built a giant boat for unheard of rain...He was told, Trust Me, “I will establish my covenant with you.” 

-Abraham and Sarah couldn’t have any babies even though God promised him to be the “Father” of many nations.....God insists, Trust Me, “I will make you exceedingly fruitful.” 

-God’s people were finally freed after hundreds of years of slavery. While running from their enemies they ran into a giant sea and started freaking out...Through the mouth of Moses God reminded them, Trust Me, “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be still.” 

-God’s people were waiting for a Messiah to come and save them...God sent Jesus to say, Trust Me, “I AM..the shepherd, the door, the way, the truth, the life, the resurrection, the bread of life, the Messiah.”

-A blind man couldn’t see, a deaf man couldn’t hear, a lame person couldn’t walk, and Mary and Martha buried their brother...all just to be told, “Trust Me.” 

-When the disciples thought that Jesus was dead, the empty tomb shouted, “Trust Me.” 
Is this getting repetitive? Yeah...it is a pretty repetitive and annoying concept. It sounds especially annoying when we are worrying about things like our future jobs and husbands. 
Regardless of what we have said to you in person, over the phone, on skype, or even at the church services that we have spoken at...the truth is, we still have no idea what is next. Right now we are working through the summer for The Pathway...heading out in August. Our lease is up in June. We will be completely out of money soon and our van is broken down. 
Is it irresponsible that we don’t have answers to fix these future problems? Maybe. As of now, I don’t feel convicted...it is as if all I hear is a resounding, “Trust Me,” from the same God that has brought us this far. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

You Know My Name?

As we have mentioned, the Lord has provided us an apartment for our 6 months here in Tacoma, WA. We spent a month adjusting to our home without wheels. That mainly involved spontaneous moments of jumping in circles just because we could. Then it was time to meet our neighbors! The plan of action- bring them red-velvet cake balls and introduce ourselves :)

We had never made cake balls before so it took a whole saturday for us to make over 100 (and of course sample many). We finally finished at 6:00 and set off to make besties! The first door we knocked on was opened by a short woman with wiry hair and a confused look on her face...probably thinking "what are these white teenagers doing at my door??" We jumped right into unrehearsed but enthusiastic introduction, "Hi! We're your new neighbors- Jenna and Stacie. We just wanted to meet you and bring you some cake balls!" (Visualize our cheesy smiles and an outstretch arm). She sternly responded, "Well I don't want to meet you" and slammed the door in our face. There we were....frozen in the overly excited/stunned split second rejection. Before we had time to snap out of our freeze frame, she slung the door open with a smile and let us in on her joke. Fewf! What a relief. Come to find out, her name is Missy and she is a ball of fun!! It was the prefect start to our awkward night :)

We went on to pass out cake balls to 22 of our neighbors. We got to chat with a few but mostly we briefly got their names and watched there initial creeped out faces turn to surprised flattered faces. We ended the night excited and encouraged. The huge praise was that the family beneath us came to our soup-er-bowl shindig and we found out they had already been connected with The Pathway. One of the little girls had accepted Jesus during a summer vbs put on in the courtyard of the complex. COOL! Unfortunately, they moved out less than a week later and we didn't get the chance to tell them goodbye...sad day.

Since then, we haven't made much progress in these new friendships. We've invited them to different things the church has done as well as attempted to invite them over for dinner to get to know them more. None of the above has succeeded but the cool thing is we know their names.

We were inviting those we had met to join us in one of our gatherings and after being rejected, we parted ways with a casual "bye Laurence." He looked a bit shocked and said, "You know my name?" He was genuinely uplifted by that simple intentional act. So although we haven't been able to deepen our friendships, we know their names.  We get to walk in and out of the apartment and greet our neighbors by name which often time leads to general conversations held in passing. This may not result in deeper relationships but it's a step closer.

We aren't slowing down in being intentional. Instead, we are pushing forward. We're fighting to put a crack in the reclusive walls people build up in order to barricade themselves into a "safe place". We're walking the line of freaking people out/showing them that we were created for fellowship routed in love. We're trying to flood our apartment complex with the aroma of Christ and praying that God will give the growth exactly as he sees fit. And indeed he will.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crazy Followers.

Screaching halts are scary. It seems like there are so many times when I feel like I am coasting down the road of life, knodding my head at everything around me, and then BOOM!...I'm dazed, confused, and holding my head feeling a severe case of whiplash. Why did it stop all of a sudden? And, its not like the road that I was traveling on was easy...not at all...I was just starting to get use to it. Everything was starting to look familiar and whether it was hard or easy didn't matter. The road was just starting to become home...literally.

We have been traveling for over a year now. Going just as we felt led by God. Then we got to Tacoma and it felt like all of a sudden, everything slowed down. One minute we are eating canned tuna out of the van and the next thing we know we have a stove in a short-term lease to an apartment. Is this still van, GO?

We think so. It may actually be the most beautiful part of going. Going, until he says stay..and staying until he says go. We are strangers on this planet, placed here for only a short amount of time. Our jobs are not to build our own little kingdoms on earth. Our job is to build a kingdom that lasts for eternity...and to invite the rest of this world to join us there. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal." (Matt 6:20). "For whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his life?" (Mark 8:36).

And that is basically what this whole trip feels like. Like we have "lost control," of our lives. We are going with no clue about what tomorrow brings. To the world we look like idiots as we walk refusing to take the blindfolds off.  It feels like a supernaturally controlled fall....if you could even imagine. We put our hands to the plow, and though it is tempting to look back we force ourselves to "Go" forward (Luke 9:62)...even if "Go" means something different every day. We are not going to a destination on this planet. We are not vanGO because we constantly have to be physically moving our van. We are going to an eternal heaven. Which means we have no clue what the route looks like on earth. So we literally can't be the navigators. We're just the crazy people who are following the seemingly crazy leader, Jesus.  Just when we thought we were starting to take a small grip on our lives, getting use to the road that we were on, God changed it all up on us again.

 Does the whiplash hurt sometimes? Yeah. It feels like we are never going to have another "normal" day. But it is those spirit led whiplashes that are such great reminders...we need to trust our driver.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

War Hero.

As you read this know that I'm not saying one way or the other how I feel about  America being in war. I'm only telling the story of one man, John.

I sat next to him on a plane ride from Texas to Seattle. We were only a couple sentences into a seemingly shallow conversation when John began to tell me what the life of a war hero is really like. His eyes shouted with brokenness as he shared his story. 

When John leaves for war he leaves his entire family behind. He has a 2 year old. They hardly know each other. His job on the battlefield is to go before the rest of his team to make sure that there are no bombs on the road. This means that he drives up and down roads, waiting to get blown up. He says, "I'm not scared of death anymore. I'm pretty numb to both death and life." For John life is only an existence that awaits death and the close whisper of death never fades away.  

To train for this type of life, John and his wife (who is also in the military) had to go through a required form of torture.  They are brought up into the mountains as they undergo real life torture. No food, no water, and constant beatings.  They were forced to do things like curl up in a small box that was filled almost to the top with water. They were left only enough room to stick their lips out of the water to breath. They were stripped naked. John said that when the uniform is stripped away, men begin to break down in tears. Without the uniform they feel like they have no identity and they can't find a purpose or motivation to help them fight through the torture. 

"We are trained to kill," John said. "It really doesn't blow my mind when people get back from war and kill their families, their friends, or random people who look at them wrong on the streets." They are use to killing people who make them angry. If somebody looks at you wrong in Afghanistan, you shoot them. John's eyes were filled with horror stories. His heart was obviously ripped up the shreds as he told story after story. He said over and over, "I have done so many bad things." He sat beside me and questioned the "Thin line between feeling honored for protecting my country, and broken because of all the bad stuff I had to do to people to keep it that way." In the midst of war, morality and necessity seemed to blur for John. 

My heart broke. So I did all that I could think to do, I told him about Jesus.

John said that he knew and believed in Jesus but he was unsure about what "Saved" meant.  I shared with him what it means to be saved by Jesus Christ and how He had done it for me already. John stared at me as if he actually believed what I was saying (which was really refreshing...a lot of people just stare at me like I'm a crazy person). He kept nodding his head and randomly smiling as he obviously reminisced on something from his past. After I was finished he said, "Yeah, that's what I did when I was 17. I just didn't know it had a name." John began to tell me the story of his salvation. 

Despite his salvation experience, John admitted that he was not growing in his relationship with God. "I don't feel like I have a purpose on this earth, besides being blown up."When he said those words, the holy spirit began to move as I told John about God's incredible plan and purpose for his life. I encouraged John as bluntly as I could to read his bible, to go to church, and to pray. I told John that his purpose on this earth was to fall in love with Jesus, to let Jesus love him, and to lead his family to the cross. Again, John listened as if he believed in what I was saying.

 John was unsure about most things in his life. Life. Death. Morality. War. Necessity. Family. But when it came to the moment that he spent before God at 17, things made perfect sense to him. I tried as hard as possible to remind John that all of these other things will only begin to make sense when he looks at them through the light of the cross.

 I don't know the end of this story. After 4 hours of talking, the plane landed. We shook hands and we got off. All I know is that John looked more hopeful after being reminded about Jesus than he did when we first got on the plane.