posture matters

•July 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

post from: KrisAnne

Confession: I am still in the early stages of learning how to be a “local missionary.” I often stumble through the beginnings of conversations, unsure how to present who I am to the person I am talking to. I have tried to set aside Wednesdays and Fridays to spend a good portion of my day in Doylestown, and some mornings, I wake up and wonder what in the world I’m going to do there. To be honest, I sometimes feel fatigue… it is not easy trying to get to know a new place, new people. It takes quite a bit of energy. Some days, it feels like an exciting adventure; other days it feels like a chore… something I just need to get done and check off my list. How can I possibly learn to love, I mean LOVE, strangers? One thing I know– I am committed to learning this.

Here is my newest insight… my posture matters. I am not talking about my physical posture, although that matters, too. If I have my eyes on the sidewalk instead of taking time to smile at people, that communicates something. If my arms are crossed and my shoulders are slumped, am I welcoming people into relationship? Probably not. However, the posture I am talking about is a posture of the heart…

I have done my best to approach the people I meet in humility of heart. Because I know I am a student and not a teacher on this journey, I embrace that humble role. I get lost in town and ask questions. it’s lunch time, and I ask a passerby which restaurant they would recommend. I take paintings into a shop and ask for help getting them framed. I take a shell into a beading store and ask for help creating a necklace. I sit with someone at dinner and ask questions about gardening sweet potatoes and protecting my kale from those little green worms that seem to enjoy munching on the leaves. And I have discovered that this creates some kind of bond between us… they feel free to ask me questions, too.  When I see them again, we can pick up our conversation almost immediately.

I choose to meet them on their turf… if she works in an art shop, it’s a good bet art is her passion and joy and skill. If he runs a bookstore, he knows something about books and literature. I honor them when I respect and acknowledge their expertise. People respond positively to being honored, less so when I miss the opportunity to honor them.

Scott and I were sitting in a coffee shop, talking about spiritual transformation.  We were talking and laughing rather loudly.  A young man sitting near to us began shifting in his seat and frowning. He was definitely showing signs of irritation and annoyance, maybe even anger. Scott noticed before I did and realized that he was reading from a Jewish prayer book. He tried to begin a conversation with the young man… but he was frustrated and put-off enough that he did not want to talk to us. Certainly, that was his choice. But I wish that I would have been more observant and respectful of his space– more observant of my posture in that room that day (which probably communicated over-confidence, arrogance even). Perhaps an expression of humility on my part would have created an opening for friendship, or even just a simple conversation.

Questions I live with:

When I spend time with those who are not yet followers of Jesus, do I approach them as teacher or student? How can I show them honor and respect, even as I yearn for them to deepen their connection to God? How can I become more aware of the posture of my heart toward others?

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walking-around life

•July 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

post by: KrisAnne

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of accompanying two women on a short prayer walk around Doylestown. I was inspired by their love for the town and the people who passed us, as well as their sensitivity to the Spirit as we prayed. It was obvious to me that they were committed to seeing God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done in this place– freedom, forgiveness, healing, wholeness, new life, hope.

Wherever our feet went, our hearts and prayers were there.

I have been working on sermon preparation the past few days, and (without spoiling the message for you before you hear it on July 31) it has me thinking about where we go every day… and with whom… and how we are there, what we do and say… and why we are there.

Wherever our feet go, may our hearts and prayers be truly, completely there.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life– your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life– and place it before God as an offering.”  (Romans 12 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message)

I’m thinking this: If I can manage to do this with my life. Just this small bit from Romans 12… that would be something. Something very significant.

Together

•July 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

post by: KrisAnne

We created something beautiful together last night. As the sun was setting and the summer breeze was gently blowing, we made something new.

We offered and received food. We learned about each other’s lives, found common ground. We laughed and told stories, shook hands and shared a bit of our hearts.

We honored what others brought to the table, whether it was a new delicious recipe or the leadership given to a project.

Most beautiful to me, was that we ended the night by working side by side, harvesting potatoes. Strangers that had become new friends, bending down on hands and knees, digging in the dirt…. in order to be generous to the community.

There is something about working shoulder to shoulder with another that acts like glue, I think. I pray the bond will only  become stronger with time!

ambassadors from another country

•July 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

post from: KrisAnne

I am continuing to read Right Here Right Now: everyday mission for everyday people by Lance Ford and Alan Hirsch. On page 74 they begin to consider what it means to be an ambassador sent with a purpose to another country. Hirsch includes this fantastic entry from a document called The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, written in the second century concerning what was observed about Christians by nonChristians:

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. they are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in theri very dishonour are glorified.  (p. 75 in Hirsch and Ford’s book, with an endnote citing original document)

What would this look like today? To live as natives, but as foreigners, citizens of another Kingdom with another King… yet fully living in the flesh at this time, in this place, with LOVE.  We are ambassadors of love, mercy, justice, grace, goodness, right-ness… in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. What does that mean, in practical terms?

the art of conversation

•June 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Post from: KrisAnne

I heard someone say once that Christian faith is the freedom to be self-forgetful. Self-forgetful. That is not something that comes naturally to me. The natural thing is to watch out for myself, to seek the things that meet my needs and make me happy. But Christian faith sets me free from me-centered living. Just like Jesus, I can now put the needs of others first and my needs last. Even in conversation.

….which leads me to the title of this post. Have you ever noticed that there is an art to good conversation. Some people are skilled in this art and others are not. There are conversation partners who consistently steer the conversation back to themselves, who interrupt, who miss opportunities to ask follow-up questions, and who use insider lingo that the other isn’t familiar with. This is not self-forgetful. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone like this? It’s both awkward and frustrating. And one tries to avoid future conversations with partners such as these.

I, for one, want to learn the art of being a good conversation partner. I want to listen to my partner with my ears, mind and heart. I want to be more interested in hearing them than whatever I am going to say next.  I want to allow them to completely finish their thought. I want to ask good questions that invite the other person to say more about their passions or their pain. I want to learn to speak their language– the language of music theory or computer technology or veterinary medicine or football or gardening– at least a bit of that language, anyway. I want to be self-forgetful in conversation.

Why, you may ask? Because I believe this is missional practice. Learning to have deep, meaningful conversation with someone is one way to show that I honor them and value them. They are not my project, my potential convert– they are not MY anything. They are a sacred human being who God loves. They have a story worth hearing.  Therefore, conversation is an art worth learning. I’m going to need more practice, and lots of grace from my partners while I learn.

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Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford on conversation (from Right Here Right Now: everyday mission for everyday people): Christians are not necessarily good at conversation. We tend toward functionality in our relationships [what will get done here], we lack cultural breadth [because we are submerged in Christian this and Christian that], and we are too quick to want to get to the Bible and spirituality… [we should be] culturally tuned to the issues of the day… stop being overly ‘spiritual,’ using religious language to talk about God– it mostly alienates people. Rather, bring a God interpretation to ordinary life without forcing conversations to the four spiritual laws. Conversation invites friendship, provokes intrigue, promotes mutual quest, weaves story with opinion, extends a listening ear, and offers something of the self in the equation. At best it is done around tables or in places of social engagement.” (p. 51)

I am pondering these elements:

1. invites friendship

2. provokes intrigue (curiosity & questions)

3. promotes mutual quest (what are we both looking for here?)

4. weaves story with opinion

5. extends a listening ear

6. offers something of the self

Good News

•June 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Post from: KrisAnne

Our discussion Wednesday night centered around what we see as the Good News of God for the world, what God’s Mission is all about… what we believe about it, what excites us about it, what it means for us and for those who don’t know God yet.  Good News is exciting! If it ain’t exciting, it ain’t good news!

We talked about 2 Corinthians 5, and the privilege we have to be ambassadors of God’s Good News. I heard many energized, committed ambassadors speak that night. We were exploring possibilities, asking questions, naming how God was already at work. We recognized that so many churches struggle to find ways to connect with their neighborhoods, and here are playing catch-up because our community is coming to us, asking to connect with us. The world notices movement and movement is happening at DMC, clearly.

It seems that God has given us a gift, has brought our community to us– Steve Kriss reminded us that the hard work is ahead. How do we cultivate what God has brought to us? How do we carefully, lovingly nurture these relationships? Our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians5).  How can we continue to be agents of reconciliation for our community– with God, with creation, and between people? What is the way forward?

church activities versus family mission

•June 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

post by: KrisAnne

I think I mentioned on this blog before about the “Christian busy-ness” that keeps us from getting to know our own communities and neighbors. We get very busy preparing for church programs and we then running them.  Sometimes we are at church two and three nights a week, twice on a weekend. Add to that, our jobs and our children’s school/sports activities… and we are busy people.

In my estimation (and feel free to disagree… I am only trying to get to the root of our disconnection from our communities), many of the church things that keep us busy and disconnected with those outside of church, are our children’s programs. Children’s programs are not bad. They are good things. Sunday School, Children’s Church, weeknight clubs, vacation Bible schools… all of these serve a purpose– a good purpose– of educating our children to scripture, faith and the person and work of Jesus. At the same time, these things are extremely time and energy intensive. They demand much of us and our limited resources. And I fear that if we are serious about being on mission in our communities,  adding one more thing to our packed schedules would only test our limits of stress and exhaustion. Is it possible that we need to let go of some things in order to create the space to do community mission?

In her book The Missional Mom, Helen Lee suggests that being on mission as a family unit is an important formational activity for parents and for children. Allowing our children to see us as people on mission with God, and witnessing our children participating in God’s healing and hopeful work in the world– this builds faith in both generations. Additionally, family mission strengthens family relationships. I remember how sad and disappointed I felt when my husband and I would come to church with our children and be separated… yet again.  My husband barely had time during the week to spend with our children because of the demands of his job. Weekends were precious family time… but church structures isolated our kids from us, much like they were during the work week. I longed for the four of us to be together, especially at church where we were being shaped as Jesus’ disciples.

Let me ask this question: what if we took the resources and time that go into church programs for kids, and put it into mission that we did WITH our children, engaging other parents and children in the communiy? Neighbors could come over for dinner and games; we could go camping with our friends from the other side of town instead of with the girls or boys club. My daughter’s school friend’s family could come join us at the miniature golf course on a Wednesday night.

What if we let our missional journey shape our children’s faith– outside of a classroom or club setting– and then educated them and ourselves to the Bible at home, together? Christian small groups have their place, certainly. The faith building that happens when Christians gather together is key to our growth and maturity in Christ. But perhaps we could begin to reshape our schedules around mission instead of church activities. What do you think? What would we lose by doing this, because it may very well involve loss? And what would we gain?