New…Part 2.

25 11 2010

Since I recently blogged about my journey to accept newness over the past year, it’s only fitting that I update you on a couple things that are new in my life.  They’re pretty significant, actually – and I covet your prayers, partnership, encouragement, advice, questions and reminders to rest (!) along the way…

New Health. As many of you know, in August of this year I discovered I was severely anemic, and had to brave my biggest fear – needles! – to undergo a blood transfusion so I could get back on track.  I have since been seeing specialists to determine the cause of my iron deficiency.  We haven’t ruled out all the more serious possibilities yet, but the good news is that my body responded really quickly to the initial treatment which is a good sign.  Thank you to those of you who prayed – I really feel God has given me this new health, and I feel better than I have in a long while!

New Church/Role. After moving to Tacoma a year ago, I struggled to find a church that truly felt like home.  There are some great Christian communities up here to be sure, but I couldn’t find peace about joining with any of them.  In the meantime, I moved into a neighborhood in the southeast area of the city, more ethnically diverse and lower income, and a longing grew to be a part of a church community there.  A couple months ago I came across First Creek Church, a Foursquare church plant in the nearby Salishan neighborhood, and as I prayed about joining up with this community, God began to stir my heart for that neighborhood and for ministry possibilities there.  I sensed very clearly that God had prepared a place for me, to use my seminary education and ministry experience and to continue to grow into who He is making me.  And so, a couple months ago, I committed to join the leadership team of this small, new little church, as the Pastor of Discipleship and Outreach.

In this role, I oversee our outreach and partnership with the community, networking with leaders and getting to know our neighbors.  I also work to develop our church’s community within – overseeing how we welcome new people who come on Sundays, cultivating ways for people to connect through smaller, intentional groups, fostering spiritual growth through discipleship, guiding the church’s prayer ministry, and preaching on a regular basis.  Obviously, this is more than one full-time job, so I’m looking to engage others in this kingdom work too.  I am so excited about this new role and new community – and a little terrified too.  I’ll still be working at World Vision, and working with First Creek Church on a volunteer, part time basis…meaning I will be very busy!  Beyond this, it’s cross-cultural ministry; every interaction challenges me, stretches me and puts my faith and knowledge to the test.  It’s both exhausting and exhilarating.

As I begin to step into this role, I not only want to make you aware of this significant life change, but I want to invite you to join with me in some way.  As you think of me, I request your prayers – for energy, wisdom, team unity, breakthrough and transformation in southeast Tacoma, and for God to give me vision and creativity as I help pastor this community.  Some of you may share my heart for the poor and oppressed, and may be willing and able to commit to praying for me and First Creek Church on a weekly basis.  If this is you, please send me an email or comment and I will include you in a team that I will send regular updates and information to.

Lastly, some of you may be able to give financially to help grow our church.  Currently, none of the pastoral staff is getting paid – we are all working separate full time jobs – and this will likely remain the case for quite a while.  In the meantime, however, the church is seeking to raise funds for operational costs and for a future home facility (we currently meet at First Creek Middle School).  We are currently about $4,000 away from reaching an interim goal of $25,000 which the Foursquare denomination will match.  Since I am not raising monthly support, a one-time gift would go directly to our church’s budget and used to reach the community.  If you feel led to contribute, please reply to this email and let me know and I’ll get you details on how to make sure your donation is tax deductible.

If you would like more information about the specific vision, mission and method of First Creek Church please let me know and I will share those details with you.

As I struggled to make Tacoma home, God recently reminded me of Jeremiah 29:4-7:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.  Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'”

I’m not much of a gardener, but I pulled a lot of weeds in my yard recently and let each yank be a commitment to the city of Tacoma and to it being my home for however long God desires.  Before I went to seminary, while I was in seminary, and even after seminary, nearly everyone I knew or met would ask me if I was going to become a pastor.  The answer was always “no” without hesitation.  If I am completely honest, accepting this new role has been an identity shift for me and a slightly uncomfortable one at that.  I’m not going to stress myself out by trying to figure out what this means for my longer-term future.  All I know in this moment is that I am assured of God’s invitation to be here and in this role, and it is (as I recently discovered as I read back over an old journal entry) a direct answer to prayer.

I am so excited for the possibilities ahead, grateful I can journey through these new things with you, and hopeful that the God who makes all things new will continue to supply all our need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

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New.

7 11 2010

About a year ago I moved to Tacoma, WA rather reluctantly.  I had a great job opportunity but I was tired of moving and starting over.  Since 2003 I have lived in three different cities (Tacoma would be the fourth) and three drastically different communities, moving from college to working in politics to seminary (anyone want to talk politics and religion?).  Tacoma didn’t represent potential or adventure for me, it represented the potential for further isolation from a beloved community, another obstacle to the continuity I craved in my relationships and lots of “get to know you” conversations I’d already had enough of.  In all my other seasons of transition, I embraced each new place and experience whole-heartedly, without blinking an eye.  But my heart fought Tacoma and remained reluctant.  For the first time in my life, I lacked the energy to engage with unfamiliar people around me, my heart couldn’t release the people I loved in California and I didn’t want anything to do with anything….new.

This reluctance and deep inability to embrace change was, in itself, a change for me that I didn’t enjoy but had to accept.  I couldn’t be untrue to myself or how I felt.  So I sat in it.  And over the course of the past year, God has consistently, faithfully, and persistently nudged me, invited me, reminded me and encouraged me to not reject newness.  I decided to do my own informal word study of “new” in Scripture to see what God really thought of it.  Admittedly I didn’t use the Greek, but nevertheless received a helpful overview.  Referred to almost 200 times, the simple word “new” has a lot to say about who God is and what it’s therefore like to live with him.  Consider this:

In 173 English references to “new” I only found nine that put the concept in a negative light.  That’s only 5%.  14% of the references were neutral and the remaining 81% of appearances referred to “new” in some positive way.  Newness in humanity and in God’s kingdom is primarily and overwhelmingly a good thing, and a normal thing.

The downsides of newness are legitimate: Israel, for example, chose new gods and we all know that didn’t bode well for them.  God despised Israel’s new moon festivals when their hearts and integrity didn’t precede their celebration.  New kings and new Christians had limitations because they didn’t have the experience needed to make certain wise judgments.  So, my hesitations with newness weren’t far off the mark – history, experience and the “familiar” develops relationships and builds wisdom in us that has deep value.

But new things have their benefits too: most references to “new” in Scripture relate to the new moon festivals or to the seasonal harvest.  New grain and wine were prized and their cyclical coming was depended on and celebrated as evidence of God’s faithfulness.  New things are stronger – new strength, new cloaks, new carts, new bowls are all referred to as superior things.  The Psalmists often speak of new songs they will sing, a direct result of new acts of faithfulness from God worth their praise.  Isaiah encourages us that God will do new things and tell new things to his people…and we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth that promises God’s shalom.  The New Testament is rich with the promise of newness: we have a new covenant precisely because God found fault with the old one.  God gives new hearts and new spirits, and new mercies every day.  God’s people, with the Holy Spirit, will speak new languages, will have new life and a new nature.  And, in the chapter of the final book of Scripture we are told that indeed God is making all things new and we are given a picture of the beauty of newness.

After seeing how clearly God is a god of newness and how he has made newness to be a part of our months and our days, I challenged myself to celebrate newness somehow each month.  And as I do, I see how new I am now too.  In deep – sometimes unexplainable – ways, I notice myself engaging challenges differently, working differently, thinking differently, dreaming differently…all as a result of the way God is growing me here in this new place.  I still long for stability and comfort, but in knowing that God in his very nature will always be doing new things, I can’t resist newness too long or I will resist God himself.

What’s new with you?