living excursus

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a9f/4366019/files/2014/12/img_3522.jpg While the culture swirls around me in a frenetic display of preparations for year-end celebrations, I’ve stepped far away from their activities to reflect upon my life. Consider it a living excursus, not unlike its literary counterparts. I also celebrate the ending of 2014 and the onset of 2015, but in my own way. In the quiet, the lull before re-engaging my neighborhood in mission.

I’m at that place where youth and age meet in conversation. It’s likely not what you might expect. Rather than age saying, “Let’s play it safe” and youth snorting in derision, it’s quite the opposite. I continue pressing into the margins, to the unsafe, uncharted, even–at times–undesirable places. In my early youth I secretly desired prestige, position, honor, and titles. In my public humility I privately craved approval. I wanted to be loved.

Through the years, I’ve learned increasingly that I have always been loved by those who matter most, foremost The Lord God, and also my family.

Therefore, I forsake the need for approval. I choose to take up, instead, the cross which Jesus Christ has set before me.

This gives me courage to seek out and try to help those who do not know God and who are vulnerable to the vicious cruelty of systemic injustice; that is, justice which we as a culture fortify via our collective behaviors and the actions of our elected representatives in government.

For the last few years I’ve struggled to make sense of my life and purpose. Formerly it was wrapped up in academia and being a children’s pastor. Now it continues to be shrouded in obscurity, like a winding, muddy mountain trail curving up into the fog bank into a dense stand of trees.

So be it.

You asked who will go, Lord. Here I am. Send me.

Wilderlands

Yesterday I joined the 180 team and kids and their parents and grandparents, along with many friends from church to share a thanksgiving meal together after an abbreviated 180 session. My favorite memories include watching a grandma race children to carry ping pong balls from one bucket to another. She was quick. Her team won three times in a row. No lie.

We are developing relationships. Doing life together is becoming a pervasive theme in our ministry ethos. It’s gratifying to witness this ongoing maturation in our culture.

In our ministry there are no stars. Just humble servants seeking to do God’s will. And if we should ever become tempted to succumb to pride, may God crush us once again for our sake and that of our community.

We are invested for the long term. No plans to move our campus to a more affluent area as was suggested by some folks years ago. We love our neighborhood. These are our people. Their hurts are ours. So we are learning to open our hearts to them, give of our time, become vulnerable, become real.

It’s hard. We don’t have all the answers. I know I don’t. In my brokenness I cling desperately to God’s grace, thankful for his deliverance and healing. Yet for the sake of the gospel I must press more deeply into the wilderlands, the untamed territories, the hard places where most don’t want to go, where I sometimes fear to tread. How can I not?

Whether it’s the drug addict or the ex-con, the hardened truck driver or tough guy warehouseman, the wealthy businessperson or destitute person on the street corner, I must be fully present for them in God’s timing.

As I’ve written before. It’s not about me, it’s all about Christ and him crucified.

What about you? What is God stirring in your heart?

Neighboring

The teen boy in the neighborhood attempted to push the SUV forward by himself. Too much weight. I immediately pulled over and lent my shoulder to the effort. A second teen jumped out of the vehicle, which meant the three of us were now a team with one goal: move the car two hundred yards forward to the nearby gasoline station.

No problem. Some sweat in the frigid air. A few breaks from our exertions. Bam. Job done. They shook my hand and began to offer money, I smiled, telling them they did not need to pay me. I am always happy to help.

It’s what I learned from my father as I saw him help others on many occasions over the years. Later in life a friend named Danny inspired me in the same way. How can I not follow their examples in giving when it is within my power to do so? Anyone can articulate the importance of helping neighbors and being on mission to share Christ’s love with them. Yet, without tangible action, the words are just a theory of what we might do or a memory of what once had been done.

Neighboring is not about living and working in proximity while minimizing prospective interactions, thereby keeping the peace…. No. It’s about intentionally reaching out to neighbors in kindness within the common routines of daily living. It’s simultaneously an invitation to community and a respect for personal privacy.

It consists of shining the hope of the gospel in dark places from an embedded platform of prophetic humility: relational togetherness, rather than some vague notion of spiritual otherness as seen on tv or heard on the radio. Knowing and being known while remaining faithful to the gospel in belief and action.

It’s what we do, you and I, as we serve God in the way of Jesus.

You in?

the power of choice

You have a choice right now. Will you continue reading this post or move on? Will you scratch your chin because it itches or ignore it? Will you act on your dreams or treat them like the itch you likely just ignored? What is your choice?

If something in you stirred concerning acting on your dreams, then this post is for you.

What is blocking you from taking action? What fears? What obstacles? What choices you have previously made?

Are you ready to make a change? If yes, then coaching may be for you. If no, then you may benefit from a compassionate listener such as a pastor, counselor, or friend.

If you are interested in coaching, check out my coaching page for information about my services and how to obtain them.

We all may benefit from coaching from time to time, whether in business, ministry, or our personal lives. I share this post because you own the power to choose. You can change those things in your life, work and ministry which are within your power to influence. Will you make that choice? Or will you choose to maintain the status quo, doing what you and others have come to expect as normal?

Want my recommendation? Toss mediocrity to the garbage heap and agitate the status quo for the sake of a preferred future. Your preferred future. By God’s grace and with his wisdom and power you can make that choice.

It’ll be scary. The big dreams always are. But if it’s God’s dream for you, then he will empower, supply, and encourage you along the way to its fulfillment for God’s glory.

Interested? Use the contact page to look me up. Let’s talk.

Portland Street Ministry Network

For several years I’ve taken steps to befriend leaders who minister to and with the homeless in the Portland metropolitan area. I’ve visited some of their places of ministry, shared in conversation, and mostly listened, asking questions so I may better understand what they do and why.

But that didn’t entirely satisfy my curiosity; it stoked the fires, inspiring me to dig more deeply. So with the encouragement and active support of my friends Pastor Steve Kimes of Anawim Community and Pastor Luke Sumner of HomePDX, I started a network designed to bring homeless ministers together every two or three months for encouragement, collaboration, prayer and inspiration. We’ve met three or four times as a group. We are on the process of planning our next gathering, likely on October 16, 2014, with details to come soon.

We are a varied assortment of people. There are pastors of homeless churches, homeless advocates, folks who run shelters, and even a box truck driver, namely me. Some are liberal, a few more conversative. We have anabaptists, Roman Catholics, baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and so on. Our gatherings are characterized by kindness and compassion, flavored by authenticity and candor. We have nothing to lose by keeping it real, but we try to consider the feelings of others in the process.

It’s an organic, fluid conversation that is nuanced by the diverse perspectives of those who are present. That’s why we need you: your wisdom, experiences, dreams and hopes, even your pain and frustration. That way we can learn from and support each other.

You may be wondering how you can get involved. Here are a few ideas:

1. Join our email list by leaving a comment on this blog with your email address. Or you may message me directly using the contact page.
2. Come to our next gathering. Every month I use the email list to inform subscribers about upcoming events. I would love to see you at our next network gathering!
3. Pray: for the network and for all those who are doing the work of ministry among the homeless in Portland and beyond.
4. Volunteer: find a local shelter or homeless church and give time, money, food and clothing, and so on.

Got questions? Ask away! Meanwhile, go befriend and love someone who lives outside. It will change your life.

friendship

Friendship is what happens when two or more people hang out because they care for each other, simple as that. No leveraging of influence or expectation of financial remuneration for time spent together, as in consulting or coaching. Just a mutual interest in the welfare of the other. A concern full of hope and desire for the best.

Friendship is rare. The real kind. The kind that doesn’t evacuate when disagreements occur, or evaporate when one disappoints the other. It endures the vicissitudes of conflicting schedules and geographic distance.

Friendship expects the best out of oneself for the sake of the other. It loves, sacrifices, cherishes, gives. It weeps when a companion weeps; it celebrates likewise with joy.

It’s rare. It’s hard. It’s friendship.

purpose

When I rise in the morning there is no soundtrack to inspire would be onlookers who might happen upon my ordinary story. There isn’t even closed captioning. Just a comical middle-aged man, struggling to get up while it’s still dark. Another day of labor. Filled with purpose.

Film producers would throw my script into the scrap pile. “Who cares about an old guy getting up at 4:25 am and going to work everyday? No one wants to watch that. We need action! Peril! Conflict! Lots of exclamation points preceded by saucy language, receding hemlines, and pyrotechnics!”

Therefore I’m destined to live in the invisible background of contemporary entertainment, not even meriting a cameo as an extra. I do so with purpose and with joy.

It allows me margin to listen with compassion to two elderly friends as they grapple with physical infirmity and concern for wayward adult children. It provides me space to join a group of friends in comforting one of our own who is hurting deeply.

It reminds me that I am not the hero of my story; I’m not even the protagonist. I’m just a simple player in a larger ensemble which is being refined for God’s glory so that his story may take priority in all of our lives.

I’m a follower of Jesus. The degree to which his person and work are magnified through my life will mark my level of obedience to the purpose for which he has made me.

Less of me, Jesus. More of you. Truly, to live is Christ and to die is gain.