People have been telling us that God is doing something new. Though helpful at first to explain our swift departure from a traditional church setting, the reality of living into something new is a lot more mundane and bewildering than the Netflix documentary version.
There are more open-ended conversations that seem to go nowhere and much more waiting on the Lord. Then there is the second guessing. Am I supposed to partner with this person or that group? Should I be putting on my own oxygen mask before helping my loved ones, as the flight attendants on the airplane tell us? Should I be taking care of our personal survival needs first? Or should I ‘seek ye first the Kingdom of God’?
I have not heard an audible voice from God telling me, “Turn right at the next intersection, then stay in the left hand lane…” Rather, it has been a series of conversations with those I trust, a good deal of prayer, and reading the circumstances and situations we are faced with every day that have provided the direction. We pray at the behest of the Holy Spirit.
Frankly, at times, it feels like it is killing the West Point, plan-every-moment-side of me. But then I hear of someone’s life changing, or of a transition beginning for someone who has been resisting God’s call for a long time, because of a conversation or encouragement offered, and my anxiousness disappears. Even in the midst of the chaos, there is a moment of peace and calm that tells me that I am where I am supposed to be.
So where does that leave us? We need to examine what the next normal will be. In no way do I want to portray what I am doing as the new way forward. Rather, I am like an explorer, searching for new paths and new ways to connect and grow the Kingdom.
Like a tightrope walker on a thin half-inch wide cable, miles above the chasm floor, I am trying to maintain my footing as I balance our sacramental imperatives with the sacred cows that can be jettisoned and discover new ways to connect with some who are reluctant to engage with a “church person”.
If you have been following our journey and wondering:
Why is he doing a garden?
Why is he visiting a nursing home?
Why is he ordering bedspreads for a lady that he just met?
Then maybe I should explain myself a bit. Many of us are resistant to change. And there are good and bad reasons for that feeling. But one thing is certain: the face of tomorrow’s pastor will be changing.
In my perfect world, I would pastor a small wooden church painted white, with a little steeple on top. The congregation would look similar through my rose-colored glasses. They would be ecstatic to hear my sermons and teachings, and between studying and learning new church words, my days would be pretty full.
You can see by the photograph at the top of this post that I am not a complete romantic. I want to maintain the dream of a little white church, but I realize it must come alongside the reality of the dirt, grime and messiness it will take to get there. We can maintain the ideals, provided we are willing to change our way of thinking and work to make the ideal a reality.
CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF IN A SHORT-TERM COMMITMENT TO BENEFIT A LONGER TERM ONE?
Someone asked me the other day, “Do you really see yourself as a farmer?” Nope. I view myself as a student, willing to learn farming as a way to connect with more people for God. Does that mean that I am working a bait and switch? Absolutely not. I have to learn to be passionate about planting actual seeds to get the opportunity to plant spiritual ones. Let me tell you, Genesis is taking on new meaning as I pull weeds by hand and battle the red ants to reclaim the land for the Lord and take back dominion.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE, IN SOME CASES, WAITING TO DIE?
Forget the fact that it’s the wrong question and that everything does not necessarily have to revolve around us as Christians; we are called to honor our elders and care for those often forgotten by society.
The group I visit at Longwood Rehabilitation and Health has a wide variety of ailments and needs. Simply providing time and presence blesses the residents in innumerable ways. Yet there is so much more. God’s economy always seems to provide double blessing. Just when I think that I am blessing someone, I realize that He has used the situation to bless me all the more.
By leaning into an often uncomfortable situation, I see the residents for their complete selves, and not simply the two-dimensional person from a first perception. They have families and lives well-removed from the immediate situation where they currently find themselves.
Even when they are lacking in mental facilities, we may find God speaking through them to teach you. Feel like you know the Bible well and have no doubts? Come with me to Longwood and spend an afternoon with the residents. Read from their point of view the promises that seem so clear to you, and wrestle with how to explain it from their perspective.
Sometimes it takes suffering, pain and discomfort to see the depth of the promises that remain true even in the most dire of situations.
ARE THERE ANY TASKS TOO SMALL OR TOO INSIGNIFICANT?
One of the older ladies I visit wanted to buy new bedspreads. She is on a limited income and is not one to splurge. Just how long it had been since she splurged, I would sooner learn. She handed me a catalogue and explained that she would like me to call and order them for her. She speaks English very well, but at times she gets confused over the phone, and she explained that when she tried to order them herself, she could not understand what they were trying to tell her. She has family, but they are located across the country and the world, and often she is left to fend for herself.
I made out the list of items, identified the customer number, calculated the cost and made the telephone call.
Good afternoon, how may I help you?
I am helping a friend of mine.
She would like to place an order for bedspreads.
May I have your customer number?
That dash should be a number.
I am not sure what to tell you.
That is the customer number that is printed by your company
on the catalogue you sent her.
The representative then asked me additional information before transferring me to customer service where the lady there asked me the same questions. Then:
What is the item number that you want to order?
Oh… that is a really old stock number.
How old is the catalogue you are looking at?
Me: I don’t know let me check…
We had just moved this lady from one apartment to another, toting all of her worldly belongings . . . including a handful of catalogues that were nearly twenty years old!
There are things that may seem insignificant to us that are monumental to someone else. We are not ordering items for our friend; we are providing peace and dignity by helping and gaining trust for later conversations.
Over the next several months, we will concentrate on consistently serving these three areas: The Community Garden, Longwood Rehab and Health, and individuals whom the Spirit brings into our lives. Look for updates on the webpage, https://www.thecommunitychaplain.com, Facebook page @thecommunitychaplain and future blog posts. We are always seeking those in need as well as those who would like to participate, and suggestions are always welcomed.