Posts Tagged ‘ Community ’

I AM NOT A WRITER

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything here on The Green Couch. And I think a light bulb just went off that helps me understand why. Ready?

I am not a writer.

I know, I am writing now. There was once a blank space here and now there are words but when I say “I am not a writer” what I mean is that I don’t get this urge deep down to puts things down on paper or save them to my hard disk.

I can write. And a lot of the things I do involve writing. As a pastor, I craft 3000 word messages week after week to share with my community. As a musician, I jot down lyrics that explain an emotion or idea that I want to share in a song. As a game designer, I have to write clear instruction so people I don’t know can figure out how to play my games.

So, I write but I am not a writer. It’s not in my blood in the same way as real writers. You know the kind I am talking about. The ones who would be happy to spend much of their lives in a small, quiet office massaging the keyboard in a way that every word becomes a part of a sentence that forms a paragraph that makes you gasp for air because of the beauty and truth in what is being shared. Yeah, that’s not me. That’s someone else.

Don’t think I am being overly hard on myself. I am okay with this discovery. I am not a writer. I write. And I can even write well if I put my mind to it. There have been many times when I wanted to see myself as a writer because writers are important. And who doesn’t want to feel important?

I’ve noticed that the times I do write are always connected with doing something that connects me to the people around me.

I write a sermon each week to connect with the people of much church. I hope that what I share adds value to their everyday lives and, in the long run, to our community. We have to do something when we get together, right?

I write songs to help me communicate things that are hard to communicate. But I also write songs because I get to record them or play them in front of people. Music is about creating an experience.

And that weird board game thing I’m into? Well, that’s about creating an experience, too; bringing people together in a real life situation, face to face, using their brains, having fun, and making memories.

I don’t write just to write. I write when it leads to bringing something new into the world. I write when I see an opportunity to connect. I write so I can do.

I’m not a writer. And that’s okay. I’ll keep writing because it’s what gets me to the life I want, to the life I feel called to. I’ll keep writing because if I don’t there will be many things I want to see in the world that never come to be. Writing is a tool. Writing is a gift. I am not a writer. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t feel like writing.

WHAT TO DO IN THE IN-BETWEEN TIMES

This is a note I wrote to the people who are joining us in the church planting adventure that is Dwellings Church. Though this list fairly specific to those in our community, I thought there might be some helpful ideas here for others, too.

Here we are in the in-between times. I’ve heard from some of the Dwellings folks that they weren’t sure what to do in the time between when Lisa and I finished up at Wildwind and a month or so down the road when we begin meeting on Sundays for worship with Dwellings.

Here are some ideas to help with the transition, some of which our family will be doing, too:

1. Rest. Take a Sunday off and sleep in. God gave us the Sabbath to remember that we aren’t machines. Somebody said (maybe it was Rob Bell, or somebody like that), “We are human beings, not just human doings” See what I did there?

2. Visit another church to see how others experience the community of faith. We’ll be visiting some friend’s churches to share about Dwellings and see how others do it. We’d love to head back to TheStory.CA in Sarnia (the church Darryl helped start) and a church called Praxis way up north. Some of what they are doing really resonates with us so we’d like to connect with some kindred spirits. Maybe you can join us. We’ll keep you posted. Otherwise, visit your parent’s church, or a church in your neighborhood. We’re all family so go visiting and ask for open eyes to love and serve and listen for what God is up to.

3. Invite someone else you might not know that well who is a part of Dwellings over for breakfast on Sunday. This can be church, too. Just hang out and get to know the people of our community in a different way than a larger group setting. Remember, the church is a people, not just a service.

4. Do a service project with your family. Is there a need you can meet by spending a few hours together on a Sunday? Connect with the people and the needs around you by giving some of your time, talents, or resources.

5. Consider our Wednesday night gatherings as “church”. Show up. Be present. Worship in community as we learn to listen and dream the dreams God has for our church. Again, church is wherever God’s people are.

6. Go to Wildwind. It’s okay, we love these people. Spend some time with them. They are our family, too. We would, recommend however, to take some time doing something different to ease into our new rhythm of life. I imagine that Dwellings will feel very different on Sunday than being at Wildwind. The change might not feel so abrupt if you take some time away.

7. Spend your Sunday at a coffee shop or going around to garage sales. Notice that for many Sunday morning worship is irrelevant and dated. Listen to the lives of others and try to spot how God is working outside the walls of the church.

8. Seek God in nature. Go for a hike or a bike ride. Spend some time in quiet. Listen God’s still small voice…remember, he is still there even if, especially if, we aren’t busy!

9. Engage in worship on your own or with your family. Read the scriptures together. Write a poem about God’s love. Write a story about God activity in your life.  Do something creative. God is the Creator and we are ‘created in his image’….don’t be afraid. Don’t seek perfection, just do something out of your comfort zone to connect with God.

10. Come up with your own idea. I hope my ideas are just a little spark to get you thinking about being the church over the next month. Grace and peace is the key. No guilt. Just step into the stream of God’s love and see where it leads you. And then come share your stories! We can learn a lot from each other, that is the beauty of community.

I love you guys. I can’t wait to see who we become and how God will use us in Flint. Let’s be open to new adventures and encounters with God in places where we least expect it!

DWELLINGS CHURCH @ FLINT LOCAL 432, PART 2: WHAT IT MEANS

In my last post, I shared a bit about the arrangements that Dwellings Church has made with Flint Local 432 regarding the use of their space for our Sunday services. In that post I shared some ideas about what this relationship DOES NOT MEAN. I hope you’ll take a look since I believe it will help explain some of what we are trying to do as a church. Hopefully this post builds on that conversation.

The other night, I sat in my living room with a group of people who are joining us in this church planting adventure. Some of us have known each other for years and some folks were meeting for the first time. It was a night of conversation and collaboration, both things I value greatly and will continue to strive to build into the culture of our new church. Our discussion really helped me to see that this won’t be a difficult task. Ideas flowed freely while grace and peace characterized the words that were shared.

During our time together, we tried to identify some of the opportunities that are available to us as a direct result of holding our services at the Flint Local 432. Here’s what we came up with (in no particular order):

1. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will get to be present in Downtown Flint. Being present means locating ourselves in a specific community and being available to that community.

2. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will have the opportunity to defeat negative stereotypes that are often associated with Christianity. It is our hope that as we are present Downtown, we will be able to demonstrate the love of Jesus in a refreshing way. And let’s be honest, there aren’t a lot of churches that would choose to hold services in a punk rock club. These Dwellings folks must be at least a little different. 🙂

3. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 means that we will be involved in a place where God is already at work. Folks might not recognize how God is at work but we believe that God is at work wherever love and truth live. Love and truth live at the Local, and just about everywhere else, too. If we are willing to look for it, we’ll find it.

4. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 will give us opportunities to have new, exciting experiences of learning from others. Sometimes it can be easy for Christians to get stuck in our own little bubble. Locating ourselves in a public space will help us to connect with people in new ways.

5. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432  allow us to be renters which will keep our focus on building community. Buildings are cool because they give us a place to be. But owning property takes a lot of energy. We hope that by being renters we will be able to keep our energy focused on building relationships and serving others as our new church is being born.

6. Dwellings Church meeting at Flint Local 432 allows us to gather in a comfortable space for those interested in exploring life-with-Jesus who might not be comfortable in a traditional church setting. People, myself included, have a lot of baggage that they associate with “church”. We hope that doing church in a different way, in a different kind of space, we’ll create opportunities to connect with folks who would otherwise avoid stepping into a church building.

So there it is. This list represents some of the opportunities we are being provided with by being welcomed into the Flint Local 432. We are grateful for the chance step up and grow into these ideas/opportunities. We also look forward to recognizing new opportunities as they are presented to us. Thanks for keeping up with our unfolding story.

ART ASKS GOOD QUESTIONS

I went to see some bands play this past week at Flint Local 432, the local  all ages art space in my city. I had been looking forward to seeing a band from Atlanta called The Wild. I’d been listening to their record, Set Ourselves Free, for the last year or so. The record is good but it didn’t really sink in all that deeply. Seeing them live really took their music to the next level for me. The energy and emotion came through in a big way even though there were only 30 other people in the room.

One song in particualr struck me in a powerful way. Here’s a snippet of some lyrics to their song “The Saddest Thing I Ever Saw”:

       on the corner there once stood a church full of sound, you could hear songs escape at night. they’d sing praise be to him for what we have built… a home, a community, a life. but it broke. now stands a high-rise. I can’t take back what I’ve done. so we danced around the room to an old familiar tune, and I looked deep in your eyes, and I thought about the fact that we are lucky for what we have, but I wonder what’s the price.

For me, good art asks good questions. It leads to reflection, about self and the world around us. The Wild helped me to ask some good questions the other night.

As I stood bobbing my head to the music, I wondered about the ways that our choices shape our world.How do our shopping habits impact our sense of community? How does the shape of the spaces we inhabit influence our thinking about things like security and safety? How often do we abandon something good for something quick and easy? Summing up the question that The Wild asks in the song; what’s the cost of what we’ve got?

Good art doesn’t always have to give you the answers. Sometimes just getting the conversation going is enough. It allows us the opportunity to search out the answers for ourselves. I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m grateful for the encouragement to wrestle with them. I’m grateful for art that asks good questions.

How has art encouraged reflection about your life or community? 

UNLOCKED: AN INTERVIEW WITH LOCAL AUTHOR JEFF LAFERNEY

First, let me say that I am not a big reader of fiction, aside from the occasional graphic novel. But when I ran into one of my old middle school English teachers at a local art fair, I decided to take a chance and pick up one of his books.  I started reading Skeleton Key, by Jeff LaFerney, one afternoon and I found myself sneaking away to steal moments here and there until I finished it the next day. My wife was impressed with my focus since I am usually found reading 5 or 10 various church books and memoirs all at the same time. I found the story compelling and characters interesting. I didn’t want to put it down. When I was done I immediately went to the Kindle store and bought Jeff’s first book, Loving The Rain. He recently signed a deal to re-release his first two books with World Castle Publishing and is hard at work on the third. I’m always glad when I have the chance to share a little space on my blog with great local artists. In this interview, Jeff shares a bit of his story and some of the inspiration behind his work. It is my hope that after taking a glimpse, you’ll find a new companion to spend a few afternoons with during this dreary, Michigan winter.

1.Can you talk a little bit about how your journey from teacher and basketball coach evolved into author of fiction books?

My journey started when I began building a classroom library for my students.  I started reading junior high level award books (like Newberry Awards), assuming they were the best and I would begin to learn to recommend books to my students.  Instead, I read so many books that I didn’t think were very good that I found myself thinking that I could do better.  Eventually that thinking spilled over into adult books, some New York Times best sellers.  I found that several of those were poorly written too.  But I didn’t have a topic, time, or motivation, so the idea of writing just kind of ruminated in my mind.  My son then transferred schools his senior year, resulting in my losing my basketball coaching job.  I’d had a very successful career but was a bit frustrated when I was unable to get another job.  During this frustrating time, I got an idea for a book.  Then my son graduated, and because I wasn’t coaching in the summer and I didn’t have all of his activities, I found that I actually had time on my hands.  Then I was rejected once again for a job and instead of fretting about it, I got motivated.  I had found the three things I needed and Loving the Rain just simply flowed from my mind onto paper.  It was amazing .

2. How would you explain the heart of your books to someone who has never read them?

Clay and Tanner Thomas (father and son) have parapsychological abilities.  I wanted them to be as normal as possible, so I gave a medical reason for their abilities and I made them ordinary people with ordinary lives.  Tanner is a star athlete.  Clay is a college teacher and coach.  Both are genuinely good people.  Clay spends the first book dealing with the consequences of the few times he actually used his powers in an attempt to fend off a criminal.  In the second book, he decides to use his powers for good.  Except for mind-control that they share, they otherwise have completely different abilities, so they need each other and depend upon each other.

3. Where do you find your inspiration to write?

Unbelievably to me, I find that I’m quite creative.  The ideas haven’t been hard to come so far.  I think of things in the most unusual places, at times, but at other times I get ideas while sitting in front of the computer.  I thought of the ending for Loving the Rain while in bed in the middle of the night on a cruise.  I wrote it on a notepad in the dark.   In the morning I could actually read what I wrote.   Sometimes my wife gives me ideas when we’re talking about the book, but usually she isn’t trying.  She just says something that clicks with me, and I get an idea.  Sometimes, I just believe that writing is simply what God wants me to do, and He gives me ideas.

4. The characters in your book do some wrestling with issues of faith. Why do you think it’s important to tell those kinds of stories?

I found that I simply wanted to be true to myself when I wrote the books.  For instance, I don’t swear, so there is no swearing in my books.  I love sports, and I like humor, so I include those things in my writing.  And I’m a Christian, so I can’t but help but write from a worldview that includes God.  If Clay and Tanner are believers, then they should have struggles like all believers have had—struggles like I have had.  I’m proud that I’ve written books that my 8th grade students can read and that my seventy-year-old parents are proud of.  I think it’s good that anyone can read my books and enjoy them without me preaching at them, but the values and faith lessons and real struggles are evident too.

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