We were having Bible study the other night with friends. We are reading through Mark together, section by section and talking about it as we go.
This week was Jesus sitting at the table with his disciples. While they are sitting there talking, eating and relaxing (the Bible says “reclining”) together Jesus drops the bomb, “One of you is going to betray me.” Immediately the disciples start to shoot back, “Not me! No way!”
One of our friends chimed in. “It’s a way out.”
Last week I was given the Sycamore Award.
This award comes from the story of Zacheas in the Bible, who climbed a sycamore tree to get a better look at Jesus over a crowd. This award is given to community members by Rochester Church of Christ for helping folks see Jesus better. Someone asked that I put up my acceptance speech so they could see it later, so here it is.
[Giving the introduction and presenting the award was Bert Bryan. He is an elder at Rochester Church, a member of the Board of Directors at Micah 6 Community and a dear friend and mentor.]
[Earlier that evening other winners included John and Sara Barton for their work with KIBO group and their service to Rochester College. Also presented was Lisa Cain and family for their work in creating God’s Helping Hands. Additionally awarded were Lynn Stewart for 35 years of teaching the toddler class and Joey Kessler for many years of devoted service to that church.]
Thank you for this award. I feel a little ridiculous getting it though. John and Sara founded a mission effort that is changing Uganda and has been impacting lives for almost 20 years. The Cains have built an organization out of a warehouse that is changing lives and helping folks out all over Southeast Michigan. Me? I haven’t done anything yet. This feels a little bit like Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. It’s like the committee saying, “We expect you to do great things, so here’s this award in advance.” I hope that in the years to come you’re more satisfied with your decision than the Nobel committee is with theirs.
Guys like me have heroes. Often times, if your family life wasn’t great you find heroes in other places–sometimes in writing. One of those heroes for me when I was in college was Donald Miller. I read Blue Like Jazz my sophomore year and it was incredibly refreshing to me. It helped me bridge these competing worlds I was living in– being a new Christian and wanting to remain relevant to the world in an attractive way.
BLJ was refreshing for many people, in particular guys my age. So, it is hard to see someone who you credit for so much of your growth, flailing around like a child. This is how I feel about Donald Miller this week.
For those of you who don’t know, this month Donald Miller wrote a series of blog posts about why he doesn’t attend a congregational church any more. His answers were classic consumer-church ideas. He says he doesn’t “get anything out of” singing, therefore doesn’t attend church. He says instead he gets community in other places but is non-specific about what those are– mentions nature and his job.
I have been a little MIA lately– everywhere. Seriously, I can’t think of one area of my life where I’ve been completely present and dedicated to in some time. My friendships are waning, my spiritual life is stalled, work tends to be where my greatest energies are spent but I spend most of that time wishing I was working on other things.
I have been in survival mode a lot lately. Truth is, that is where I like to be most of the time: running on fumes, doing as much as I can, as fast as I can and as well as I can. Being in survival mode can lead to great creativity and work under pressure. It can also ruin your ability to be present in anything because you’re always ready for the next fight and challenge.
This being the case, I haven’t had any goals for myself in a while. It isn’t that I have been floating along without the care for self improvement, but rather I have been sprinting along trying to avoid burn-out. And thus, as I said earlier, I have done nothing well in some time: relationships, work, Micah 6, spiritual growth, health, etc. All of these things have been suffering. Read More…
“Where there is no community, there is no accountability.”
I say this at least once a week to a person or a group who asks about Micah 6’s work in our neighborhood.
When I say it, I am usually talking about crime. When no one knows their neighbors, there is no one to identify you when you break into a car, bully a kid, litter. You are essentially anonymous to your neighbors.
There are times where God’s work is black and white. Sometimes it isn’t difficult to say, “This is good” or “this is evil.” Cut and dry.
I don’t get to deal with very many of those.
There is a passage in the Bible that talks about God and the gifts that he gives us. He says that good parents aren’t mean. That, if their kids come to them and ask them for breakfast good parents don’t hand them poisonous snakes.
Sometimes the Bible is extreme.
I heard a sermon once that talked about that passage. The guy giving the talk said something like, “So, remember sometimes we don’t get what we want because good parents don’t give their kids snakes. Maybe the thing you’re asking God for is a snake.”
That lesson has really stuck with me. Sometimes we pray for things that we only see as good, but might actually be harmful to us– money, power, lovers, comfort. So, when we aren’t handed those things, we are upset with God about that, but in actuality he might be protecting us.
This is what I am talking about when I say that sometimes Grace and gifts from God can often fall into a grey area. I’ll share some stories.
Our garden projects are well underway here at Micah 6. Our friends at Rochester Church of Christ took seed packets home with them in April, planted them and have brought them back to us in recent weeks. This means a few things for us 1) We’ve been putting a lot of plants in the ground, 2) We have lots of plants sitting in window sills, tables, desks and anywhere else that gets a fair amount of sunlight in a day.
I was out watering some of these window-dwellers yesterday when I noticed something odd. As I came to every set of plants, each of them was leaning either to the right or to the left, along some imaginary line. The plants on the porch did this, the plants in the kitchen did this, the plants on the coffee table did this. They leaned one way or the other, often times there was a line down the middle of their egg-carton planters– one side leaning one direction, the other side to the opposite direction.
I thought that was odd so I really started trying to figure it out.