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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A few still pics from Holiday Road

I really didn't want this blog to turn into a picture parade -- but having just returned from 3 1/2 weeks of vaca and realizing not everyone in our church is down with the Facebook technology, I figured my first return post could be some moments from your pastor's holiday -- so you can behold the experience in all its glory (and humiliation).

I've included a mix of fun n' nice photos. Later on, I'll try to post some more meaningful fodder re: lessons learned & gleaned during our time away.

I did explain in a recent sermon Mason's desire, yea, to construct Robots. And again (to prove all or 90% my stories are real and I don't steal them all from the internet) here he is working on RoboCop with his grandpa. Notice the tractor! They have goats & donkeys too.
Katie and her sisters prepared, constructed, fashioned this really cool "Cousins Camp." It had a camp schedule; morning, afternoon, evening activities; morning devotions & singing, campfires. Heck, there was a Camp Dance at the end of the week (where I served as both deejay and chaperone...I had to say "Leave a little room for the Holy Spirit" toa couple kids who got too close). Anywho, here is the hayride -- if you look closely, you'll see I was left on as the only adult. Poor children.
Tubing. Is there anything more rural America than going tubing down a river -- usually with sunblock on one's nose and a cold beverage in hand (though as a pastor I cannot comment whether that occurred or not on our tubing 'tour'). Here, our youngest Gage gets in his tube, which is tied with some old twine to Katie's tube. Now imagine him like this for 3 1/2 hours. Pure ecstasy!
This was the view from the pastoral retreat center at which we stayed. Katie & I got to spend a few days away at the Whitestone Inn (sans the younggins). Great experience. Spent the first day on our own in a silence & solitude retreat. Spent Day II fellowshipping & living it up. Spent Day III listening to a sermon/seminar on planning & doing some family planning. Thanks for all your prayers for God's refreshment during this trip. Prayer answered!
So the itinerary went a little sumpin' like this: Katie's parents house, Katie's sisters house, Retreat center, my family's annual trip to Kiawah Island Beach (in S. Carolina...just one State down from the greatest U.S. State -- N. Carolina). Here my adorable & precocious nephew, Andy, has caught my sister and she has, on this day, given up on her disciplinary efforts.
Not the most flattering but the most candid picture Katie and I had together. The twilight, the ocean, the wind, the sand (even still I may pay dearly for posting this photo).
Our oldest, Mason, with my sister's oldest, Grace.
Cousins (from my side) all together. (From Left front) Gage, Mason, Matthew (my brother's middle boy), Grace, Lila (newest addition to family), Andy. (Standing) Kurt & Lincoln (my brother's oldest & youngest respectively).

That's all. Thanks for stopping by, friends.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Looking forward to Fall 2010: HOSPITALITY

While things are sort of light this Summer at Sunrise Community Church, I'll be blogging as to some of the plans that myself & the elders have been prayerfully discussing for the Fall. Please chime in with your thoughts as we're always looking for new ideas.

One of the areas we're looking to revamp is how we do Hospitality at Sunrise. Hospitality is both commanded in the New Testament for all believers and mentioned as a spiritual gift. Contrary to what I used to believe when my Mom made me eat nicely decorate food that tasted like plastic, hospitality goes beyond tea, crumpets, & making sure everyone is properly introduced with their titles (Madam, Miss/Misses, Mister, Doctor, Reverend, and Sir...I occasionally met people who'd been knighted). Hospitality, more broadly and more biblically-speaking, is that ability and practice of making another feel comfortable (see Romans 15: 1-7 to understand both what hospitality entails and what serves as its proper motivation). The Greek word translated "hospitality" is philoxenia, which literally translates "stranger love" or, less literally, love of strangers. And during the times when the NT was written, such "stranger love" was often the difference between a traveller and his family receiving a roof over their heads or having to spend the night outside, even bearing the elements to the point of death.

We've been enjoying our vaca with la familia, amigos & amigas back in the U.S. of A. Last week we had the pleasure of being hosted at a pastoral retreat center in the mountains of Tennessee. The Whitestone Inn is part of the Christian Hospitality Network -- which is a network of hotels and inns that offer special opportunities for full-time pastors & missionaries to get away & be refreshed at reduced rates. The very first night we were there, this place lived up to its Hospitable billing. The owners of this 600-acre facility invited some of us up to his large home on top of the hill to watch fireworks erupt below in the Tennessee River Valley.

While they didn't allow hospitality to overextend to the point of altering commitments made to guests of their home & family members (they have a grandchild living with them), they did extend a type of philoxenia ("stranger love"_ that I'm trying to describe. " I'll give you a few examples. (1) They let dozens of folks they've never met before meander through their home with the comment "you're welcome to go and look through any room that has its door open." And this place was an architectural & ecological delight. (2) The owner came to every breakfast and personally introduced himself. (3) At every dinner, he would tell a story and pray for the meal. As one person described, "It was like being home or what we wished our homes would be."

What a great concept for our ekklesia, our church fellowship. Church: What we wished our homes would be.

When everywhere else we feel like strangers, home is a place we ought to feel like we belong. That is the church to which Christ has called us. When we speak of "stranger love," I can't help but think of this truth in God's Word about our condition without Christ:
"Remember that your were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2: 12-13).
Obedience in the Christian life is all about response -- it's hard to be too emphatic about this overarching truth. Just as Christ has brought us near when we were strangers, so he asks us to show "stranger love" that others might be brought near to God through faith in Christ & his blood (ie. his sacrifice on the cross).

Here are some things we're planning demonstrating "stranger love" as a church and I'll follow that up with ways you may want to consider getting involved:
  • Newcomer's Lunch: Katie and I have spent the majority of our first six months just getting to know existing and new couples. Mostly one-shot meetings getting to know people's faith-stories, their experiences with churches, and fielding questions/concerns about SCC. These get-togethers, often informal and even unplanned, have been among the greatest joys for us during our brief time in Cayman. But as the church grows, we need to find a better way to introduce people to the church -- namely, a small group forum immediately after church in which Katie and I will open our home to newcomers, provide a catered lunch, get to know some folks, and field some questions and provide some info. about Sunrise. We plan to start this in September and run one every 2 months. All are encouraged to sign up and attend the first lunch.
  • Nametags: Nametags are one of the issues that old-timers in the church (which for our church is a maximum of 3 years) and those of us who are long time "church goers" either love or hate. Mostly the latter -- I think because we take a little pride, perhaps, in knowing most people who come through those doors. Problem is: So many of us don't (I blame my ever-deteriorating memory due to childrearing). I'd love to hear your thoughts re: Nametags. I'd prefer printing out some you can wear each week (versus the plastic kind you pin on). And then having blank ones that people can fill out. But who should have some printed out? People who come most weeks? And how do we determine that? Would love to hear some ideas.
  • A Culture of Hospitality. Being greeted by more than the "front door Mr. Rogers." Knowing where to go, where to eat, where to send their kids. Little things like making sure people can easily and readily provide us their information. We'll have three chair pockets for every single row among the center section of the Theater. That way everyone has access to a contact card, pen/pencil, and Bible -- not more than a reach away.
How might you consider getting involved?
  • Offer a ride to or offer to accompany someone who is attending the Newcomer's Lunch (should you do so, we may even let you partake of the grub).
  • Volunteer to be a Greeter/Usher
  • Sign up for the Sunrise Facebook Page and recruit to it someone else you just met.
  • Arrive 10 minutes before the service starts and note anyone(s) sitting by themselves who look new. Go sit near them and strike up a conversation. Newcomers often come early and those first few minutes are among the most uncomfortable of their entire week. Among God's people, this should not be!
  • Once-a-month force yourself to rush out to the parking lot after the service, where you'll find newcomers often rushing to their car because they've grown accustomed to the idea that church is less than an "ideal home."
  • If hospitality ain't your thing (and is certainly not your spiritual gift) put your heads together with a friend, roommate, or spouse, and figure out what you can do to invite a neighbor or new church attendee over to your home. As my former pastor said, "Spend time outside of the tribe" (outside of your circle of influence -- friends/family).
  • What are the unique gifts or resources has given you? How would those bless people in the church? For instance if you have a trampeline, pool and/or big yard, how can I bless a new family with kids in our church? If I live on the beach, perhaps someone who does not would appreciate an afternoon at the beach while we either join them or vacate our premises so they can enjoy some alone time.
  • Serve with someone. Find someone relatively new to the church, who you've gotten to know a bit, and ask if they'd like to serve with you as a greeter, in the nursery together, etc. I find there is perhaps no truer bond that is formed between people as when they look outside themselves and serve others.
These are just some ideas. Let us keep in mind, and may God help us, that the key to lasting in creating a culture of "stranger love" is to continually recall that we were once strangers brought near to our Father through the sacrifice of Christ. We estranged ourselves through sin -- choosing to go our own way -- but Jesus showed us "stranger love" by pursuing lost sheep and bringing them near to the Father and to His church.

Oh what love!!