The Church: Traveling Together

What seems like a bazillion years ago, I participated in a high school marching band (sorry, no humiliating pictures available – I did look, I promise). Before freshman year, I registered to be the pianist/accompanist for Beginning Orchestra; unbeknownst to me, everyone quit and the band director transferred me to Marching Band. And the trombone, because the band obviously did not need a pianist yet needed a trombonist.

It will require a separate soul-searching sesh to figure out why I roll with some punches and not others, why I allowed this change to be made on my behalf rather than asserting a desire to try, oh let’s say, writing, journalism, or yearbook. Whatever. I learned a few things.

I found a community. The band room became my safe haven in the large, scary ‘world’ of high school. People knew me, nick-named me (“Huggy Bear,” because I bounded a few steps, dropped my backpack, hugged, and bounded off a few more steps – repeat, repeat, repeat), teased me, loved me, encouraged and challenged me. And yes, we got into some trouble together, too; I have to remember that as I parent a high school kid of my own.

marching-band-md

Staying in step is crucial. Take a clumsy pianist who’d rather take a seat, thank you very much, put an unfamiliar instrument in her hands and to her face, and then make her march in step down streets and around fields in formation… Who thought this was a good idea? And yet it was a whole lotta fun, until we had to listen to tapes of the judges’ comments and hear them yelling, “Low Brass, out of step!” Later, when I thought maybe switching to xylophone might be at least keyboard-friendly, we heard even more, “Percussion, out of step!” Because marching with a xylophone strapped to your shoulders prevents one’s ability to see their own feet (and hurts your back. I don’t recommend). And you have to move both feet and both hands and, oh, it’s All Too Much! But it’s part of the game, so you practice it all the more.

marching-band-md

The music is the message. Left-right-left-step aside (and to think I dated the Drum Major for much of this experience – he must have been chagrined at my lack of rhythm, considering my musicality), the band had music to share. We loved playing together, being together, laughing and making music. As a dear friend recently pointed out, so much of life is work; even when you work at it, music is play, and the very best sort. We made melody and harmony together, and we had a gift to offer even when we were too-often out of step with one another.

marching-band-md

Staying in step together puts you out of step with the crowd. At our best, our notes sounded in tune and our feet hit the pavement/field in synch. But we were only in tune and in step with each other. The crowds watched and listened. They might have tapped a toe, clapped or what-not to the music, but they didn’t march with us. Marching defined us as a band, a unit, a family, distinct from onlookers.

So what’s this got to do with Church?

I listened to our pastor preach this morning on the Church, on Christ as Head of the Body, and how we all fit as God ordains, with unique positions and roles to play. And I listened as the choir and congregation sang – some more on-key and -beat than others – beautiful, joyful noise unto the Lord. And together we observed Communion, received that blessed grace God has given as a remembrance of the great gift of His Son Jesus Christ, as a defining mark of His family, the Church.

And I kept thinking about our high school band. That we belonged together. That we were in step and in tune, and when we weren’t, we dealt with it together. That together we had something to share with others who were not us. That we needed each other, and that others needed us.

Sometimes these metaphors surprise me. As much as “Band Geek” sometimes sounded like a slur, and the uniforms were universally unflattering (who looks good in a fringe-covered marshmallow hat?), I am grateful to have played with the band. C’mon, friends, C’mon, Church, let’s make beautiful noise for the Lord.

Connect
Share about a memorable trip you took with others.

Study
Read aloud 2 Corinthians 5:11-20.
Paul states several reasons why he must share the good news. What are his reasons?
How are “fear of the Lord” and “Christ’s love” complimentary and in tension as motivations, and how do they motivate us to share Christ (vv. 11, 14)?
Of what is Paul “convinced,” and what implications does that have for the Christian life (vv. 14-15)?
What does it mean to “regard no one from a worldly point of view?” (v. 16)
What does it mean to be “in Christ” (v. 17)?
Define “reconciliation.” Explain the ministry and message of reconciliation. What does it mean to be “Christ’s ambassador”?

Live
In your experience of sharing Christ, what has been your primary motivation?
What would it take for you to begin to see people from God’s perspective rather than a worldly perspective?
What do you need to feel equipped and encouraged to take up the ministry of reconciliation?
For whose sake right now in your life has God made you an ambassador of Christ?
What could you do as a small group to live out the ministry of reconciliation together?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that God will direct you to people who are open to hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Soup, Stories, Snuggles & Sparkles

Tween is sick. Except not really.

Poor kid has Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, also known as abdominal migraines. Yup, migraines that seem to mostly bypass his head and move straight to vomiting. And cyclic, because he throws up every morning, whether or not he’s eaten, until he’s exhausted and his belly aches from convulsing muscles. Obviously he can’t go to school, or do much of anything else, because who wants a pukey kid? Who wants to be Puke Kid?

This came on a year ago and we thought it must be an odd stomach bug. Until it bit again last fall. And winter. And this week. His shortest cycle has been three days (we’re on Day 3 now); his longest cycles have been two five-day weeks, separated by an apparently healthy weekend between.

Beyond the barf, he’s not actually sick. No fever, aches or pains, definitely not contagious. Blood tests have ruled out food allergies or worse problems. I’m keeping diligent notes of everything – any fun or stress leading up to a cycle, what time he has been unwell, what he eats, how he feels… So far no patterns. The new object of our suspicion: hormones. He is 11yo, stepping right up to the plate of puberty. As if puberty doesn’t have enough in its sick-o Bag o’ Tricks.

Puppy snuggles = sweet comfort

Puppy snuggles = sweet comfort

He is missing end-of-school-year fun. He missed the middle school Spring Fling/Open House – Games2U truck, friends, food treats. Worst of all, he has to miss out on his buddy’s promised birthday gift to him, a weekend trip to Santa Cruz – hotel + pool, beach, boardwalk, too much fun! [His parents are also missing out on fun, but this isn’t about us.]

So what’s a parent to do? Continue to find ways to thank God and stay positive.

* This kid is naturally predisposed to be a home-body. He loves pj days, cozy blankets, and snuggles.

* We have time for all that and more, especially as I have a fairly flexible job and understanding co-workers.

* We have been journeying with Bilbo and Dwarves for months as we’ve been reading The Hobbit and we’re almost at the end. Guy took Tween to Redbox and rented the last movie so we can see it tonight after we close the covers on the book.

* I stopped by the library yesterday and found a few new books Tween hasn’t read, entertainment for those stretches I have had to work, or at least take myself and the dog for a walk.

* I made a big pot of soup before this cycle hit and it’s been one of the few things that sound good to him and he’s been able to (mostly) keep down.

* Staying hydrated has been a struggle as, surprisingly, water seems to be one of his triggers. Then again, I couldn’t drink flat water when I was pregnant with him; it had to have ice and bubbles. So we’re putting our SodaStream to good use, making ice cold sparkling water. Fizzy bubbles add fun.

We know other parents have much bigger struggles, kids battling much worse ailments, and our hearts and prayers go out to them. Still, this struggle is ours and once this cycle ends we will continue to pursue answers and possible treatments and a better way forward. Meanwhile, soup, stories, snuggles, and sparkles – a cycle of their own, and prayerfully, a healing cycle for all of us.

When Tuesday Acts Like Monday

The day after Memorial Day Monday, of course, is Tuesday. But when Monday is a holiday and Tuesday begins the week, then Tuesday acts like Monday. Except that I work from home most Mondays, and Tuesday doesn’t allow me that freedom. People grump about Mondays but they’re one of my favorite days of the week; today I understood the grumps.

I jumped from a full weekend of travel and friends to a day in the office, the more worse for wear because I did not sleep well last night. At all. I woke up from a bad dream at 3:20am, got up for a drink of water and a walk around the house, hoping to fall back into restful sleep. No such luck. Same bad dream, different scene (If I could only recall in daylight the craziness of my dreams I could write a movie blockbuster. Where does this stuff come from?). Repeat for the next four hours until daylight wins and I give up.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. But I also love sleep, and its lack put me on edge. I forgot to eat breakfast. I left my full travel coffee mug on the kitchen counter.

Surprisingly, I got to our weekly Tuesday morning meeting a) prepared and b) through the agenda in less time than usual (maybe I was too tired to be chatty). I moved on to one overly complicated project, only to realize I had another more pressing project and not quite enough time.

Between projects Guy had given me a handmade cross, a gift from another pastor made by one of her parishioners. Guy had another very similar and so, as he told me its story and I commented on how good it felt in my hand, he encouraged me to take it.crossI couldn’t know that cross would be such a gift today.

I set it to the left of my desk as I worked. Repeatedly it caught my eye and I picked it up, admiring its heft, the way it fit my hand, the smooth beauty of the wood grain. I’d put it down again and return to work. Until the song on my busy-office-noise-canceling headphones caught my attention:

We have seen the pain
that shaped our hearts
And in our shame
We’re still breathing, ’cause

We have seen the hope
of your healing
Rising from our souls
is the feeling
We are drawing close
Your light is shining through
Your light is shining through

Wake up, wake up, wake up
wake up all you sleepers
Stand up, stand up
Stand up all you dreamers
Hands up, hands up
Hands up all believers
Take up your cross, carry it on

all that you reveal
with light in us
will come to life
and start breathing, ’cause

here we stand our hearts are yours, Lord
not our will but yours be done, Lord

“Wake Up” by All Sons & Daughters

On a sleepy, sleepy day, the call to Wake up, Stand up, Hands up, Take up your cross, carry it on broke through my haze. I looked up the song lyrics, held the cross, and prayed. The last line, sung over and over, Jesus’ own prayer in Gethsemane as He faced the cross. Not my will but yours, Lord! I pick up my cross. I couldn’t sleep but you didn’t sleep, either, as you faced your death. I feel whiny but you sweat blood. Egads, there can be absolutely no comparison.

And yet there I sat, at my desk, working “in Jesus’ name,” without Him. My work: reading the Word of God, writing questions to guide people in their study, and the passage about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ… Prayer and the power of the Spirit are integral to this work, and I had neglected Him, had attempted to do it in my own sapped strength.

Would it surprise you that, once God caught my attention, the work flowed out of my heart and mind and fingers onto the computer? Nah, me neither. His light shines through.

In her new book, Wearing God, Lauren Winner writes:

“One of the invitations…of the Bible is this: you can discover things about God by looking around your ordinary, everyday life. An ordinary Tuesday – what you wear, what you eat, and how you experience the weather – has something to offer you about God. There is a method here, and it is Jesus’ method. Jesus, after all, specialized in asking people to steep themselves in the words of the scriptures and then to look around their ordinary Tuesdays to see what they could see about holiness and life with God. This is not merely entertaining wordplay to give overactive minds something pious to do. It is the Bible’s way of making us aware of God and of the world in which we meet God.” (15-16).

On this ordinary Tuesday, a day that pretended to be a Monday of the grumpy variety, I learned (yet again) that God shows up. That a gift might be an icon, that a song might lead to prayer, that my work will only be as effective as my remembrance of God’s presence. That God loves me, and that He has the power to overcome my sleepless grumps with His gentle good humor.

What has your ordinary Tuesday taught you about God?

Salvation: Search & Rescue

Mother’s Day Sunday afternoon the neighbor’s cat caught a small bird, a sparrow, perhaps? Neighbor was able to rescue the terrified bird from the over-excited cat’s mouth – Have you ever seen a pet cat with a bird in its mouth? They’re funny about it, growl-y and amped, racing about but not injurous – and brought it to our house.

Which seems like an odd decision unless you know my family and the zoo we call “Home.” This is not the first time a bird has recovered in Teen’s room. He has a red shoe box that might as well by now be designated for this purpose. It contains an old worn-out soft dish towel in which he places the bird in need of shelter. He shuts the lid tight and leaves it alone, for hours at least, or until he hears fluttering.

No bird has ever died under Teen’s watch, mostly due to playful but not mean cats.

Mondays are my work-at-home days. As I soaked in silence, working hard and fast, I heard a Thump! from across the house. No one was home, so I had to get up and check.

In Teen’s room I found a red shoe box on its lid, our own cat batting at the side; she must have heard fluttering wings. And Teen must have been overly distracted to uncharacteristically forget about Bird in Box.

I shooed the cat away, grabbed the box, and ran outside. Well, not entirely accurate. As I snatched up the box, my first instinct was to open it and see if the bird was okay – first one cat, and then another… sheesh! Thankfully, I thought twice and did not open the box in the house because that would have been fun.

I ran outside and shut the slider behind me (no more cats in this game). I did not pause to grab a camera of any sort, a non-decision I regretted instantly as I lifted the lid.

This isn't our bird, but it works...

This isn’t our bird, but it works…

There sat God’s perfect creation of a bird, stunned by two cat attacks in less than 20 hours. It blinked at sunlight. It did not look at me. It sat so still that I considered whether I might have time to run inside for a camera, and then it took off for one of our large pine trees and I lost sight of it in the branches. It flew straight-line, not bird-limping, though I’m not sure I’d know what that would look like.

The bird embodied wholeness, perfection, freedom. My mom has always said she’d like to fly like a bird. I’m afraid of heights and prefer my feet on solid ground, though I admire the instinct to soar.

The bird did, the bird was, perfect Bird. Honestly, at first I felt exasperated that Teen had forgotten Bird, and then I felt elated – I got to release Bird, to watch healthy and whole Bird fly away to a hopefully much longer bird-life. This has not been my role in the family, to help hurting creatures. And now I get it in new ways, this desire to love God’s creatures in need of care. I am grateful.

In the same breath, I thanked God for my own creation, redemption, freedom. He created me; I am injured and He rescued me; He freed me to live in wholeness, to be the person He created me to be in the first place. I can soar with Bird, even with my feet on Solid Ground.

Connect
Reflect on a time when you or someone you know was involved in a search and rescue (official or unofficial). Who or what got lost, and what happened?

Study
Read aloud Ephesians 2:1-10.
Compare and contrast the “dead” life (vv. 1-3) with life with Christ (vv. 4-10).
How are “this world,” “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” and “the cravings of the flesh” spiritual forces in opposition to the Spirit of God?
Notice all the verbs where God is the subject. What does God do? What do we do?
Define “saved,” “grace” and “faith.”
For what reasons does God save us?

Live
How is your life different because of God’s great love for you?
How have you seen people try to earn salvation? When have you personally experienced this temptation?
Why do you think grace can be so hard to receive? To offer?
Read 1 John 4:10-12. How are love and grace related? What will you do to more freely extend God’s grace to others?
What good works do you think God has planned for you to do?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that you will live more fully into the reality of your salvation by God’s grace and that you will take every opportunity to extend God’s grace to others.

Superhero

Tonight was Open House at Tween’s elementary school, our last elementary school Open House ever.

One year ago we toured Tween’s class in under five minutes – his classwork hardly represented, his teacher avoiding eye contact, my stomach in knots. We moved quickly from his 4th grade classroom to the 5th grade classrooms. We closely inspected work by kids we didn’t know; we watched how the teachers interacted with students and parents; we talked with parents about their child’s experience.

At home I began composing a letter to the school principal along these (much abbreviated) lines: “Tween has had a difficult year in Room 3 as he and the teacher have not achieved the best ‘fit.’ We toured the 5th grade classrooms and noticed this about Room 4’s teacher and that about Room 6’s teacher, all good things just maybe not the best for Tween, while Room 5’s teacher greeted him by name with a warm hug and a compliment. We know we’re not supposed to request a teacher, but we need a win: please place Tween in Room 5.”

Two weeks later, Principal announced that Room 5 Teacher would be moving to the middle school. Ouch.

So we prayed and prayed some more. One more year like 4th grade would put Tween in jeopardy. Day after day he came home deflated and defeated, intimidated by his teacher, our bright boy telling us he was “obviously not smart.”

At summer’s end, we got word that Tween had been assigned “the new Room 5 teacher.” Hallelujah! The Powers That Be had listened. And our hopes have been rewarded.dapper

First day of the 2014-15 school year, this dapper-dressed man with a great big smile opened the door. Without having previously met any of his students, he shook their hands one-by-one and welcomed them by name into the classroom. The year is almost over and he hasn’t yet stopped welcoming his students.

Tonight Tween directed us to his desk topped with piles of his work. Atop the stack sat a survey about their experience this year. Favorite subject? Reading (of course). Most improved subject? Math (Yes! He has persevered and proven to himself that he can both work hard and succeed – a triumph!). Favorite activity? Science camp (no surprise). What will he remember most about 5th grade? “I will always remember my best teacher ever: Mr. Mathews.”

Cue the mommy waterworks. He loves his teacher, and the feeling seems to be mutual.

This dear man could hardly accept my thanks as he extolled the wonders of his class. They are sweet, and smart, and hardworking, yes, but he has clearly honored and encouraged them and steadily endeavored to bring out their best version of themselves.

Case in point: last week Tween gave his all on a science test-prep packet. Long packet + slow processing speed = frustrated Tween and incomplete homework. Still working on it early Friday, Grumpy Tween slammed the packet on the desk and declared: “I will just tell him I left it here!”

Commence parent-child conversation about honesty and lying, hard work, and the reason for his 504 plan which allows accommodations for situations exactly like this. He shoved the packet in his backpack.

Imagine my surprise as I unpacked his Friday folder to discover a note saying he had not turned in said packet. When Tween returned from baseball practice, I asked him to read the note aloud, and then explained that he’d be writing a note of apology. He burst into tears, terrified that exposing his dishonesty would cause his teacher to stop trusting him.

He wrote an email, not excusing but explaining best he could his frustration with the workload, the peer pressure at play, his own disorganization at having left the packet in his backpack in the breezeway and not in his binder where it belonged. “I am sorry that I lied under pressure. I should have been stronger than that.”

One day later – on a teacher’s Saturday at that – Tween received a graceful response, acknowledging the courage required to come clean and requesting that Tween live into the bravery required to tell the truth up front, whether to this teacher or any other. Tween read the response silently and immediately typed back-hit send:

“Thank you for replying. After I wrote this I thought that you would get mad at me and not trust me. Once I read this I felt reassured that you are the best teacher I’ve ever had. Thanks again!”

Teacher Appreciation Week appropriately wardrobed this guy

Teacher Appreciation Week appropriately wardrobed this guy

Tween has learned a lot this year, reading stacks of books, practicing math concepts, delving into the scientific method, even designing and printing a new invention on a 3D printer (seriously, how cool is that?). Those lessons will hold him in good stead as he moves on to middle school.

However, he has also learned lessons that will carry him far in life: saying sorry, facing failures, supporting friends, hard work, persistence, courage, laughter, positive attitude, even (dare I say?) the benefits of tidying up (whether he’ll ever overcome his embodiment of the Absent-Minded Professor remains to be seen).

I’ve felt weepy-silly this year as we run our last lap around elementary school. Tween can’t wait for middle school – no anxiety, all anticipation. He is ready for the next adventure. And tonight my heart overflows with gratitude for the gift of this teacher, this year, this miracle.

Thank you, Mr. Mathews!

class

Jesus: The Way

As we planned and lived last year’s Costa Rica summer, guides took on an importance like never before. Before we left we had maps and guidebooks and websites, all of which we continually referenced throughout the trip. But once on the ground, we also relied on new friends and strangers to point the way; just after we picked up our rental car a friend of our new landlord met us at a major landmark so we could follow her to our summer home. We would never have found it on our own.

We would have driven in perpetual circles without the GPS we bought for our rental car; Costa Rica has no street names or addresses; roads to major tourist destinations are two-lane, seemingly insignificant, and ill-repaired – without the GPS we definitely would have thought we were going the wrong way and, even still, sometimes we were. More than once we came to roads overrun by streams and in one case a river had completely washed out the road to a highly anticipated hiking destination.

We never left home without our copies of Fodor’s See It Costa Rica to direct and inform our itinerary and The Wildlife of Costa Rica to help us identify the magnificent creatures we encountered in air, land, and sea. It’s a wonder we didn’t wear out the covers of these books as each one of us thumbed through them almost daily. The kids in particular used the wildlife book as a treasure hunt, ticking off the animals they’d seen and setting goals to see others. Another important reference book: our Spanish-English dictionary. Its heft made it unwieldy to carry around so we made note of words and looked them up when we returned home.

Of course we also had tour guides. We went to several animal rescue centers, including Proyecto Asis near Arenal Volcano, and the Jaguar Rescue Center and the Sloth Sanctuary, both on the Carribean coast. These amazing people are working to make Costa Rica – and the world – a better place by serving animals and educating people.

Carlos & spider monkeys at Proyeto Asis

Carlos & spider monkeys at Proyecto Asis

Staff & guide at the Sloth Sanctuary with an injured 3-toed sloth

Staff/guide at the Sloth Sanctuary with an injured 2-toed sloth

We visited several ministry sites (Abraham Project, La Montana Camp, Roblealto Children’s Homes) and met with followers of Jesus serving the people of Costa Rica.

Phil at Abraham Project and the site of their upcoming stadium sanctuary/skate park - no kidding, this is out-of-the-box creative ministry!

Phil at Abraham Project and the site of their upcoming stadium sanctuary/skate park – no kidding, this is out-of-the-box creative ministry!

We spent one remarkable day with Prudencio and his five-year-old son Leandro in Yorkin, a community of the indigenous BriBri people. Entirely in Spanish, Prudencio spent the day explaining to us how his people live: schools, organic farming, chocolate production, making thatched roofs, hunting and fishing by bow and arrow.

Prudencio at the entrance to Yorkin

Prudencio at the entrance to Yorkin

Prudencio & Leandro teaching us to thatch a roof

Prudencio & Leandro teaching us to thatch a roof

You can’t travel to Costa Rica without adventure, so we also had adventure guides – white-water rafting guides, scuba and snorkeling guides, tranopy and ziplining guides, and hiking guides. Stanley, our snorkeling guide, offered to take us on a true locals-only Costa Rica frog ‘hunting’ hike: his goal was to find three frogs, one found only in that particular region of Costa Rica, and indeed he did find all three on our hike. Greivan, our host at the Jaguar Rescue Center’s La Ceiba jungle house, took us hiking three times in two days looking for animals. A PhD candidate in herpetology, he was a special gift from God for our budding herpetologist.

Grievan & a kinkajou at La Ceiba

Grievan & a kinkajou at La Ceiba

And finally, it took us a while to figure out that the people barking orders at us as we arrived at different destinations weren’t beggars but parking guides, a culturally acceptable way for people to make money in a country sorely lacking good parking. We had a unique encounter with a parking guide at Guayabo National Monument, an archaeological site. He directed us to park along the street (typical), but the spot was on an odd angle. When we tried to leave the car slid sideways towards a rock wall. We had to climb out of the car and wait until the folks parked in front of us returned to their car, and then several men came and helped to push the car out of danger. Only then did we notice that the parking guide was blind!

All this thinking about the importance of guides for life in Costa Rica caused Guy and I to reflect on important guides for the life of faith. We need a guidebook, the Bible, and other reference books/websites can be of great help. We need a GPS, the Holy Spirit who directs us even (especially?) when the road seems out of the way. We need tour guides, mentors and friends to walk the way with us. We need adventure guides, people who help us take new steps of faith in service or mission. We need parking guides, the church in which we regularly park our patooties to worship and learn and engage in relationship.

All of these guides point us to The Way, Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

In An Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling writes:
“What if, instead of a road map, God is offering to be my guide? What if I let him decide where we are going? … He would prefer to guide me as my companion for the journey rather than hand me directions that I’d be tempted to run off with, leaving him in the dust. Maybe I could learn to ask less for God’s guidance and more for a sense that he is being my guide; to ask less for help and more for the awareness that he wants to be my helper; and to ask less for strength adn more for confidence that he is my stronghold” (p176).

In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

And then in John 10:9-10 He said:
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jesus Christ, true God and true man who lived, taught, died, rose again, and reigns at the right hand of the Father, is the way to abundant and everlasting life. His road may be bumpy and pot-holed, out-of-the-way and not well-traveled, but I’d rather walk His road to life than an easy road to destruction. Walk with me?

Connect
When you meet someone new, do you introduce yourself by who you are or what you do? What do you say, and why?

Study
Read aloud Colossians 1:13-20.
What does Paul tell us about what Jesus does?
What does Paul tell us about who Jesus is?
Describe Jesus’ role in salvation (vv. 13-14, 20); in creation (vv. 15-17); in the church (vv. 18-20).
How does Jesus show us God (v. 15ff)?
Jesus is “the head of the body, the church” (v. 18). What does Paul’s description of Jesus say about what might be Jesus’ priorities for His body, the church?

Live
When you think about Jesus, do you think of Him primarily in terms of God (Paul’s cosmic description in Col. 1) or human? Explain.
What most stands out to you from Paul’s description of Jesus, and why? Which, if any, are most difficult to accept, and why?
How might this description of Jesus change or challenge your view of Jesus? Your relationship with Him?
Read Matthew 16:13-18. Who do people today say Jesus is? Why was Peter’s answer such a big deal? Who do you say Jesus is? Who does Jesus say you are?
What is Jesus saying to you through this passage and how will you respond?

Pray
Pray that you will grow in knowledge of and love with Jesus.

100th Post: Pay It Forward

Guy bought a car last week since our household now claimed three drivers and two cars. We swore we would not buy a car, but this deal was almost too good to pass up.

We almost passed it up anyway. The car was older and bigger than Teen wanted, had a lot of miles, and lacked a good speaker system. Older and bigger didn’t make for major considerations in our book since the price was right (better than, truth be told). As for lots of miles, Teen will drive it around our small community for about two years before he takes off for college with his bike; we don’t need it to last forever. The car had been kept in pristine condition, every service record on file, and in fact, most service done by the local mechanic selling the car on behalf of the owner. The mechanic had his reputation on the line; he wouldn’t sell us a lemon.

Guy figured: this is a reasonable cost for increased freedom, both for Teen and his parents.

teen driverBut, no speaker. There had been one, but it had been removed. Bummer.

Guy did due-diligence, checking the service records and asking the mechanic to do one more once-over. And dragging his feet a little, as suspense does wonders for a teenager’s motivation.

When they finally went to seal the deal and purchase the car, lo and behold, a subwoofer had been installed. Teen was so excited he might as well have been driving on the moon! He admits: the sound system makes the car.

The next day we told our co-workers about the purchase. And that afternoon a co-worker went to have her hair done the next big city over from our small town.

(Not a random fact. Hang in there!)

As our co-worker sat in the stylist’s chair, chit-chatting the afternoon away, Stylist told her about the new car he’d just purchased (same make/model, different year, as the car we purchased). And the car he’d just sold (same everything). He told her that the mechanic who had serviced his car, who had sold his car for him, had advised him to remove the subwoofer because he could sell it for a lot (close to half-again the price of the car). So he had the subwoofer sitting on his kitchen counter. Taking up space.

When the mechanic told him that a dad was “seriously interested” in buying the car for his 16-year-old son, Stylist felt guilt-stricken. What teenager wants a car without a good speaker system? Would he really ever get around to selling the subwoofer? Did it matter to him all that much? Didn’t a kid’s happiness matter so much more?

He decided to pay it forward. He immediately packed up the subwoofer and drove it back to the mechanic’s shop and helped to reinstall it in the car. And he turned down two full-price offers over our lesser offer because we had expressed interest first.

By then our friend had figured out the catch in this story: she knew the car’s new owners! She knew the happy Teen beat-bump-beating down the streets. Small world, great story.

As soon as Teen got his driver’s license he hyper-focused on trying to find a car in a reasonable price range. He got excited, and hopes dashed, over and over. We said: God will make it clear which car you’re meant to have. And He did, as we receive this story as confirmation that God has been behind-the-scenes.

bloggingThis is my 100th post on this blog, and this milestone deserved a good story. We all deserve good stories, and we all live good stories day-in and day-out. Even when our stories are uncomfortable, even painful, they can be hope-filled and redemptive as we seek miracles in our mundane.

Writing this blog has been redemptive for me. I have enjoyed the discipline of regular writing and reflection; I have thought differently, lived differently, as a result, which is exactly what a discipline should do: change you, preferably for the better. I hope my writing has improved with practice, and I know my life has changed as I’ve felt happier and increasingly centered in all the right ways.

And I feel as though I am contributing something new to the world as I share my stories, my small attempt at paying it forward. From time to time (at least), I hope you feel like this blog is my gift to you. Because it is.

Just over a year ago I went to Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference with this blog on my heart – I just didn’t know it would be this blog. The theme of the conference:

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story?

I bought the coffee mug. And I began writing.

I meet so many people who tell me they can’t write, and yet they have stories to share. And, honestly, I’ve read plenty of writing that shouldn’t have been written. But whether or not you think you can write, we need to hear your stories. Please, tell your stories. Let someone else write them down if need be. The world will be a better place as you pay it forward.

what is your story question