Monday, May 13, 2013

Further Up, Further In

Last week was an exciting one in our journey with the Green Book.

First, Aaron got to spend an hour or so last Sunday evening leading a sort of reading circle/group discussion at Ashton Church of the Nazarene based on excerpts from Week 27, "Receiving Direction." Afterward, four or five different people asked how to order copies for themselves! That was exciting.

On Monday morning we came across this reading from Emmet Fox's Power Through Constructive Thinking:

"The most secret, sacred wish that lies deep down at the bottom of your heart, the wonderful thing that you hardly dare to look at, or to think about - the thing that you would rather die than have anyone else know of, because it seems to be so far beyond anything that you are, or have at the present time...

"That is just the very thing that God is wishing you to do or to be for Him. And the birth of that marvelous wish in your soul - the dawning of that secret dream - was the Voice of God...telling you to arise and come up higher because He had need of you."

Wow. That really got us thinking. 

It reminded us of Pastor Brandon and our friends at OKC First Church of the Nazarene's Overflow worship nights, who first taught us to love the All Sons & Daughters' song Called Me Higher (which we've been streaming pretty much non-stop for the past week).

It reminded us of one of Aaron's all-time favorite (fictional) C. S. Lewis quotes from The Last Battle, the last book in his Chronicles of Narnia series. "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!"

It made us wonder what God is calling us to next, long-term, big-picture.

Next up was Monday's Scripture reading...which turned out to be Matthew 28:18-20. Uh-oh. 

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" (NRSV)

Wow. We don't have the clearest idea what this means for us yet. Probably something like bivocational ministry, with lots of teaching and loving people and cooking and reading on the side.

But where that calling might eventually take us? Back home to the States, or around the world? We haven't a clue. But we do know that we are called!

So where God leads, we'll continue to follow...
higher, deeper, further.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Social (in)justice and the morality of cheap socks.

After a few months' absence, we got to spend last weekend with our house church friends and family at the Fresh Ground London. During the Sunday service, Pastor Jason led a group discussion that focused on the idea of social justice in light of the recent collapse-and-fire at a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

We watched this heart-wrenching news report.

It reminded us of Isaiah 58, a passage that makes us laugh and cry and always reminds us of our friend Lance. It reminds us why we buy everything that we can secondhand, too.

Then we watched a thought-provoking/convicting/inspiring video from the TearFund project about what it means to be Christian in the light of everyday injustice, and how we can be more conscious (and more Christ-like) in our decision-making.

It reminded us of Micah 6:8. Of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly.

After a long, thoughtful group discussion, we wrote out prayers of confession. This was Aaron's:

"Father, I confess that I have often willingly and knowingly neglected to hold myself to the standards and passions that you have created an cultivated in me.

"You know how difficult it is to remember all of the things that I hear you calling me to do and be and say...but you also know full well when I'm just choosing to ignore your voice, your words, your Spirit in my life.

"Convict me, I pray...about the things I say and do; the things I eat; the ways I contribute to environmental problems; the things I buy and wear and own. Help me to be faithful in small things, so that I may be faithful in big things. Forgive and use me, I pray. Amen."

We concluded by singing Tim Hughes' We Must Go as a sort of prescriptive benediction. It seemed fitting, somehow...because singing (and thinking, and talking) isn't enough.

It's not nearly enough.

Because as Christians, we are called to act, to live, and to love each other...and to do so prayerfully and mindfully and intentionally, knowing that the God of southwest London is also the God of southeast Asia.

We are all his beloved children; we are called to act like it!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Club Kids, Jesus, and The Church.

A few Sunday nights ago Ashton Church of the Nazarene hosted a talk by several members of the Greater Manchester Street Pastors, a group who spends weekend evenings (and very early mornings) spending time with (and showing God's love to) club kids, addicts, and homeless folks in Stalybridge, another nearby suburb in Tameside.

Our expectations weren't that high; the Greater Manchester Street Pastors blew us away anyway. The following are some snippets from their inspiring, encouraging, make-you-want-to-stand-up-and-get-involved presentation:

"We make up one-third of what's called the 'Urban Trinity:' the local police force, local government, and local churches. We're not about preaching; we're about offering practical help to vulnerable people.

"We are called to love our neighbors. In Stalybridge, our neighbors are often drunk; they are sometimes covered in vomit; and they are quite often very loud. But we are still called to love them!

"It's not just talking to people on the streets; it's chatting to the door staff and police as well...we provide girls -that is, young women- with little rubber stoppers that make it harder for blokes to spike their drinks! We carry flip-flops to help avoid foot injuries; we carry little brushes and dustpans to sweep up broken glass and get bottles off the street. It it's not there, it can't be used as a weapon.

"After six months of Street Pastors in Stalybridge, there's been 60% less violence; 70% less public disorder; we've removed 1,000 glass bottles from the streets; we've had more than 4,000 conversations and helped more than 50 vulnerable persons seek assistance."

"The good news is that Stalybridge is no longer the leader in night crime in Tameside; the bad news is that now Ashton is."

Long story short...yeah, we're probably going to look into Street Pastor training. :)

Because it's absolutely where Jesus would be if he were alive and walking around Ashton in 2013. It just is.

History, Missions, & Me

Brittany and I spend (almost) every Tuesday that we're in Manchester on campus at Nazarene Theological College. She studies for an upcoming graduate school module; I volunteer in the NTC archives. We generally attend chapel and eat lunch together.

A few weeks ago I attended a chapel service without her (I can't remember why) that was led by Professor Andrew Walls, a Scottish Methodist and pioneer missionary/historian to West Africa (among many other places).

Prof. Walls is an amazing figure, and one of the leading scholars in the field of 20th-century church development in Africa and Asia. His unique perspective as an historian-turned-missionary-turned-church-scholar absolutely fascinated and inspired me...the following are snippets from his talk about that journey:

"I went to the field as a Christian historian. Africa made me a missionary....God doesn't waste anything, any of our experiences. He uses it all.

"I've been amazed, over the course of my 85 years, how FEW decisions I've actually had to make! And I'm so grateful for all of the places God has taken me -I've lived all over Europe- sometimes kicking and screaming! I've sometimes gotten myself anxious about what decisions I would make, not the decision itself! But generally I've found that he makes his will so plain, there's often no real decision to be made...and I'm so thankful.  

"Disciples are those who learn about Jesus; apostles (Greek) and missionaries (Latin) are those who teach and tell others about him! In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said that he came 'to seek out and to save the lost.' In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, 'the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.'

"In the Gospel of John, after Jesus' death, he returned to his disciples and said 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' Then he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' This is a calling without a retirement age!" I 100% certain what God has planned for the rest of my life as a teacher/scholar/missionary/minister? Not yet. :) But was I incredibly inspired by Prof. Walls' example and encouragement? Absolutely! Thanks be to God!!