Craig and I sharing an Astro’s game together – they lost…
It was just a little past noon when I pulled up in front of their home. Graciously, Craig and Trisha were going to allow me to mooch off of them for no less than NINE days. Nine days of sitting in the dinning area at meal times. Nine days of sprawling out on the living room sofa. Nine days shuffling the order of cars in the driveway, showers, coffee, meals, conversation and life. Nine days of letting someone you don’t really know that well, and have never lived with before, move in and live with you.
But they did much more than LET. And while I was technically a guest in their home, I was never really a guest. It was more than that. It was richer, and deeper. It was shared fellowship that blessed me greatly.
I was going to be in Texas for nearly two weeks. Away from family soon after dropping my oldest off at Hope College. Most of that time would be spent getting training in some marriage therapy before participating in a Faithwalking Retreat with other pastors from the RCA and CRC. Rather than spend those first nine days in a hotel, I did what I do – I invited myself over to the to someone’s house! In this case, the home of Craig and Trisha Taylor.
I know Trisha well through Ridder Church Renewal (an RCA/CRC initiative) and had met Craig once. As soon as I stepped into the house, I was not only given a key and full access to the kitchen, where I taught them how to make double crust stuffed pizza, but I was also given the gift of shalom.
It was shalom in the sense that while I was away from my family, I was given much more than “guest privileges.” At no time did I sense I was tolerated, but was made to feel that my presence in their home mattered.
What was on my heart, mattered to them. And as they would share, it was done in such a way that what was on their hearts mattered to me. I had access to who they were and they had access to who I am. When Craig and I were told we were on our own for dinner, we spent hours sitting at the table sharing long after the pulled-pork sandwiches, and although my backside was sore from sitting, the experience of shalom kept us glued to where we were. Shalom.
Throughout the following days we would laugh, watch sports, talk music and movies, go to the coast and eat out; but there was always more. There was a shared sense of meaning and the work of God in our lives.
The gift of hospitality is much more than a bed or some food. The gift of hospitality creates space where lives intersect, can be accessed by others and shared in such a way that shalom develops.
Depending on the version you read, the Bible calls this “entertaining” one another (Hebrews 13). But our culture today has hijacked that to mean something trivial – having a “good time.” Not that having a good time is bad, I’m all about that! But to be hospitable, entertaining one another, is so much more. In Romans 12:10 we are told to be devoted to one another, prefer one another; and, when the occasion arises, entertain one another.
I wonder what it would look like if the CHURCH were more entertaining. Not with light, music, programs and parking lot greeters; but in the deeper sense of the word. What if the church was about the business of creating the safe places necessary for others to experience the Shalom of God?
I wonder what our world would look like…
Leave a comment | tags: discipleship, entertain, faith, Fellowship, gift, home, hospitality, hosting, Jesus, Leadership, life, love, relationships, shalom | posted in Uncategorized
The half dozen or so people were spread throughout the fitness center. Each one doing her, or his, own thing. Most were on some sort of cardio machine and only one other was over by the free weights of this Houston area Planet Fitness. I followed the unwritten rules of gym ettiquette (mostly because it wasn’t my regular gym) and worked out without engaging anybody in conversation.
It’s an interesting phenomenom, belonging to large nationwide gym. And with Planet Fitness’ “no gymtimidation” policy, most people work out in silence, with headphones on and only on occassion even making eye contact. Even then the eye contact is usually some sort of non-verbal communication around the use of a piece of equipment – not relationship…
Not here. Not Houston’s little PF on Fondren. Not with LeRoy.
Let’s face it, public locker rooms are always a bit awkward; and when you are leaving the shower area with your towel wrapped around your waist, you feel particularly vulnerable! Just saying… That’s how it was for me when I met LeRoy. Still sweating from my workout, but freshly showered before heading to the couple’s therapy training I’m in Houston for, I had my towel around my waist when I hear a southern accent say, “I don’ think I’ve seen you ‘roun’ here before?”
I look to my right and there before me is a tall, thin African American of about 60 years of age. He had a huge smile and held out his hand, “LeRoy.”
“Brian.” And inside my head there is only one word sreaming loudly, AWKWARD!!!
LeRoy asks when I moved to the area and I explained to him that I was here on sabbatical getting some training on couple’s therapy. LeRoy’s smile immediately is replaced with a look of deep regret.
While we both got ready for the day before us, LeRoy told me about his failed marriage, that he moved to Houston to try and rebuild relationships with his kids and grandchildren, and how much he regretted not working hard to make his marriage work. He was going to meet his two year old grandson for the first time later that day.
As I was getting ready to leave, he told me to learn a lot. Then he paused and asked, “Would you pray for me today? Maybe you have more pull with the Big Guy than I do.”
I’ve never prayed for anyone in a locker room before, at least I don’t think so, but I’m glad I did. I will probably never see LeRoy again. But I think our world is full of LeRoy’s. People, like you and me, going through life with its struggles and joys, hurts and pleasures, successes and failures.
And all of us longing to connect more deeply with one another and with God. Only very few of us will find the courage to step out of the unwritten rules of culture and become vulnerable enough to reach out and connect with others.
I’m really glad LeRoy had the courage to start a conversation in a locker room – even if it was awkward.
Leave a comment | tags: awkward, belief, christian, connection, conversations, culture, divorce, faith, fear, God, isolation, Jesus, Leadership, locker room, loneliness, love, pray, prayer, reach out, sabbatical, vulnerability, vulnerable | posted in Uncategorized
At 7:50pm 4 cars came to the intersection at roughly the same time. I was second. The first driver was to my left and made a left hand turn. As he cleared the intersection, I began to cross the intersection. I was second. My daughter and I had just left the gym after working out, we were tired, thirsty and in desperate need of showers. We were heading home when the lady from my right pulled out in front of me to cross the intersection.
At that moment you would have been hard pressed to find any love at the corner of Ravine and Nichols in the Kalamazoo area! My windows were up and the air conditioning on so I don’t know what it was she was yelling out her window. But as I uttered inside the confines of our 2001 Subaru Forester (180,000+), “Not your turn,” I could tell by the look on her face that she was maybe more angry than I was.
But, it was MY TURN!
Have you ever noticed how often we think about it being “my turn?”
It’s my turn for a promotion at work. It’s my turn to go first. It’s my turn to be successful. It’s my turn to get the biggest piece. It’s my turn to use the car. It’s my turn to get… You get the picture right?
Ironically, just yesterday morning I had a conversation with some amazing people looking at how to live a more mission/other minded life and what it looks like to create more loving spaces in the mundane places of our lives. It’s hard to live a life of love when we are focused on MY TURN. In the book of Philippians, Paul reminds those of us who have been deeply impacted by Christ’s love to be more concerned with OTHERS than ourselves. Here are the words he uses in chapter 2:3-4:
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.
In spite of all the rhetoric about love wins, our culture is making it increasingly more difficult to live a life that is other focused and rooted in love. In fact, today Tim Cook and Apple will tell me that the new iPhone 6 I got two months ago is now obsolete, that my iPad is too small and that AppleTV is a real necessity! Technology isn’t bad. That’s not what I am saying. Our culture, however, continues to disciple us into thinking and behaving more and more individually and in self-centered ways.
But I am responsible for how I live and love – not culture. I can make choices about who I want to be and the way I want people to experience me. And last night there was a stranger who didn’t experience love while crossing an intersection. Last night, without thinking, I also discipled my daughter teaching her to be as self-centered and unloving as I was.
I don’t have to be selfish. I don’t have to be self-centered. Because of Christ’s work in me I can choose to be different. I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I have this amazing partner, the Holy Spirit, who helps me learn to lead myself.
Who will you be today? Will you choose with me to love someone you otherwise might not want to?
1 Comment | tags: Bible Gateway, choose, Christ, christian, culture, disciple, discipleship, driving, faith, intersections, Jesus, lead, Leadership, life, love, love others, Philippians, sefl-centered, selfish, transformation | posted in Uncategorized