Viewing entries tagged
Compassion

Good timing.

Good timing.

Google the term 'photo bombed' and you're sure to see an endless amount of images where a photo becomes a story or even a punch line. Some images are accidental, many are funny, but all are well-timed. 'Photo bomb' is a good commentary for how God shows up in our lives in unexpected ways. Most would believe that He's present and cares. We experience comfort and provision and answers to prayers. But so many of life's circumstances feel more hellish than heavenly. And yet, God's always present. My hope is that we can train our eyes to see glimpses of a good God in the backdrop of everyday life.

When Jesus describes heaven on earth, it often looks more subtle than grand. It’s a like a seed…yeast that works through dough…or a field of wheat mixed with weeds. He used everyday and ordinary images to offer a glimpse of the world God intended. Jesus wants to change our perspective that heaven is a realm we can experience today, not just when we die. And he invites us to be co-creators in a revolution of generosity & compassion, hospitality & forgiveness.

Since Easter, we’ve distributed $500 worth of HEB gift cards and $1000 worth of $50 cash envelopes.  We want to be a catalyst for compassion by finding opportunities to encourage others. However, this is also a chance to practice Renewal by yielding to the Spirit’s prompts and turning toward opportunity. Can’t wait to hear how you capture moments of heaven on earth – Salvation has come!

What's your story?

What's your story?

Creating a New Normal requires, well, a new approach, a different practice. This faith experiment is about finding simple opportunities to bring encouragement to others. However, it's also about learning to respond to the prompts of the Spirit. The Rhythm of Renewal is about increasing one's awareness of the presence of God. The more we respond, the more sensitive our hearts become. It’s how we draw near to God and sow seeds of heaven on earth.

If you received an HEB gift card or $50 envelope, you have a story to tell. Perhaps it’s a story YET to be told. Either way, I want to encourage you to pray. Ask neighbors. Talk with friends. Listen for ways YOU can help, bring hope, and support people living in our city. The resurrection means new life is available, and begins with each of us. So far,

  • A co-worker of Laurel’s, in the midst of divorce legal fees, received $50 for gas money, so that she could drive to the coast to visit grandchild and son for their birthday weekend. Another Tribe mate leveraged their $50 so that she could show up with a gift.

  • Jess and Kristin organized a brunch with ESL moms – all living on food stamps. They invited Shannon & Natalie to ply their trade a dietitians to offer introduction on healthy eating, shopping on a budget, and supplements that make a big difference for aches and allergies.

Please come ready to share your story at Tribe weekend on June 1-2. Just start with prayer, look for opportunity, and imagine if we all practiced yielding to God’s Spirit? That could be a transformational story. It feels like a New Normal. Get ‘ur done, friends…in Austin as it is in Heaven!

 

A Conditional Guarantee

A Conditional Guarantee

The very nature of faith means there are no guarantees. We can believe God’s Word. We can trust in God’s redemption, celebrate mercy, and hope in prayer. But guarantees in this life are hard to come by…Except, trouble. Jesus said in John 16, “I have told you these things, so that in me YOU MAY have peace.  In this world YOU WILL have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.” That’s right, In Christ…you may/might/possibly/by chance experience peace. BUT, ‘in this world, you WILL have trouble’. Honestly, I didn’t need Scripture to tell me something I already know. 

Here’s the beauty: If trouble is guaranteed…and peace is available, then is serves to reason God is already present in the midst of this world’s struggle.

Heaven is not simply a place we go when we die. Rather, Jesus said that heaven is here and now. Eternity has already begun. It’s like we live in a field of wheat but there are also weeds all around us. And, as the Parable goes, Jesus was adamant the field NOT be uprooted for fear of losing the good.

When we talk about heaven on earth, we’re talking about, sometimes small, ways of restoring the world as God intended through ordinary but attentive ways. When we celebrate the resurrection at Easter, we embrace the promise of “do over’s” and the chance to begin again…and again. What we find is that attempts to bring light, encouragement, support, relief, and help is Just. Not. Easy. Nor convenient. Nor comfortable. And often uninspired and unrecognized. Yet, God is in the Hard and the Good, which means we can experience peace in the midst of this world’s trouble. So, sow seeds! This is how Jesus described the kingdom of heaven.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve distributed $500 worth of HEB gift cards and $1000 worth of $50 envelopes. On one level, we want to experiment with compassion and generosity by finding opportunities to encourage others. However, this is also a chance to practice Renewal by yielding to the Spirit’s prompts and turning toward opportunity. Can’t wait to hear your stories of new life! Welcome to the resurrection! This is Church. 

In the Hands of the People.

In the Hands of the People.

The resurrection means that New Life is available for everyone for all time. The chance to begin again, heal, overcome, bounce back, retrace your steps can be part of our human experience. Like prodigals returning home, we have a chance to create a new normal for ourselves and for others. 

In response to New Normal, we raised $1500 by ‘fasting’ normal and everyday expenses. With those savings, we distributed $500 worth of HEB gifts cards on Easter. The idea is this: The resurrection means new life is possible for all of us. Jesus said, Kingdom of heaven is like a seed…” so yesterday we passed out ‘seed money’—$50 to every family, couple or individual in hopes of discovering ways to sow seeds. In Christ, we can bring encouragement and support to others. It’s not simply about finding a ‘needy’ situation but looking for an opportunity to ‘seed’ heaven on earth.

Even though new life is possible, it’s not automatic. Our Rhythms invite us to practice a living and resurrected faith! Renewal is the Rhythm to encourage a growing awareness of God’s presence. We become spiritually alive the more we yield to ‘turn’ to the prompts of the Holy Spirit. The reason we practice Generosity or Compassion is a way to see how God is the Source of all that we have. Perhaps this practice might ignite a new way of seeing our own resources and everyday opportunities to ‘seed the kingdom of heaven”.  This is just another way we can Apprentice or share what following Christ means with those closest. If you find an opportunity that requires more than $50, find Community with friends and Tribe mates—The money is in the hands of the people!

Beyond Circumstances

Beyond Circumstances

Adolph Eichmann was the mastermind behind of Hitler’s genocide against the Jews.  He was finally captured in Argentina in 1960 and brought to trial 15 years after the war. Among the witnesses called to testify against Eichmann was a small, haggard man named Yehiel Dinur. He had survived brutal torture in the death camp at Auschwitz. Dinur entered the courtroom and he stared at the man who had presided over the slaughter of millions, including many of Dinur’s own friends.

As the eyes of the victim met those of the mass murderer, the courtroom fell silent. Then, suddenly, Dinur literally collapsed to the floor, sobbing violently. Was he overcome by hatred? By memories of the stark evil that Eichmann had committed? No. As Dinur explained later in a 60 Minutes interview, what struck him was that Eichmann did not look like an evil monster at all…he looked like an ordinary person…Just like anyone else. In that moment, Dinur said, “I realized that evil is endemic to the human condition—that any one of us could commit the same atrocities.” In a remarkable conclusion, Dinur said: “Eichmann is in all of us.” In other words, we’re all equally flawed and yet that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Compassion is recognizing a person’s needs that’s merely different than our own.

Salvation. Is. The. Same. Way. 

In Ephesians, Paul is in jail – by his own people – for making salvation available to non-Jews. Nevertheless, he doesn’t seem mad in the least bit, maybe because Paul didn’t see himself as any better. He doesn’t pray for circumstances to be better nor easier, simply “asking that the God may give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation, so that you may know him better.” (1:17)

Paul shares how the Gospel changes everything—“…That may you have the power to understand, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is” (3:18). We don’t have to be defined by wealth, mistakes, luck, regret, broken relationships, class, or culture.

As we understand who we are in light of who God is, we emerge with a new identity. We are hidden in Christ, not buried by circumstances. Faith is knowing God’s present, able to redeem all things. As we seek to make amends or give up control, it begins with experiencing how deep & wide, how long & high of God’s love. That’s change from the inside out.

Hearing God.

Hearing God.

The word “Listening” in Latin is ‘obedire'. 'Audire' means “listening with great attention”.

That’s where the word “obedience” comes from.  Jesus is called the obedient one, that means listener. 

The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is “surdus”. If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word “absurd” comes from. 

So it might be interesting to note that somebody who is not listening is leading an absurd life.

This insight comes from Henri Nouwen’s Advent Book, which offers really helpful guidance as we move through this sacred but Oh-So-Hectic Season. If this month feels more emotional, it’s because we all carry with us particular longings. Some are shaped by God, some not. But all of us long for EXACTLY what Christmas represents – God’s peace, hope, love, and Joy. And while Christ has come, the world – & all of us in it — are left longing for more. The Good News is that Hope has come. The more Good News is that we get to participate with God as agents of justice & mercy, compassion, generosity, & hope.

This month, we’re celebrating the anticipation of Christ’s coming with a series entitled, December Longings. Chances are the people closest to you are also longing for something more, different, and better. BE. LIGHT. Offer Hope, help, healing. Invite them into faith and community

Speaking of Heaven on Earth, in the last two months, Mission Hills has been able to leverage almost $3000 from the Good Neighbor Fund!! All people in significant need. Your attendance ($1 set aside for every person in worship attendance) and your attention to the needs in our city MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE! 

  • A single mom who’s husband is incarcerated, driving for Lift, needed car repair

  • Dental care for immigrant friend

  • Rental assistance for hospitalized & out of work burmese family 

  • Grandparents left to raise 9 grandkids that two drug-dependent daughters abandoned, 

  • ESL books for 10 students taught by our own people

Hope has come. You’re part of it. We all still carry longings but, when we bind together to practice and share a living faith, Christ Reigns!

"thoughts & prayers..."

"thoughts & prayers..."

I recently asked my friend Jonathan if his Burmese community appreciates the people from Mission Hills bringing groceries and donating clothes. 

He said, “Yes, they are very thankful. BUT…the thing they like most is when you pray with them and for their families.” 

I said, “Really?? They’d rather have our prayers than a meal on their table?!?”

“Pastor…meals are good but prayers are best!”

It occurs to me when you grow up with scarce education, food insecurity, under military rule, and a persecuted faith…dependence on God is your best Resource.  For a Christian who grows up in poverty and persecution, prayer isn’t something you do as a last resort. It’s a lifestyle. Prayer is a common as breath…inhaling the hope of God and exhaling praise and petitions to God.  

The idea of offering “thoughts and prayers” to people in need has been criticized as inaction and a lack of care. But we also live in a culture of advanced degrees and material wealth. We’re a society that places a premium on self-sufficiency. Of course, offering both prayers and tangible gifts are needed. However, learning to trust and rely on God can feel so un-natural, if not uncomfortable.

Here’s what I learned from ‘church’ last week when a couple of groups from Mission Hills had breakfast in Burmese apartments.  

We don’t help/serve/give to people in need in order to save them. We share our lives because we’re no different.

Practicing Compassion starts by spending time with people whose needs are different than our own. In the end, we need each other. Their dependence on faith and community continues to inspire. And, yes, we got to hear their concerns and enjoy a time of prayer together.  Felt like a lil’ heaven on earth.

 

What remains.

What remains.

As a young leader learning to deal with difficult people, I found the sage wisdom of an elderly mentor. Bick Moore was a retired Army colonel. He was full of stories and insights. In fact, after listening to me want to distance myself of a few hard-to-love personalities, he challenged me to “Drain the swamp”. I said, “Huh?…I don’t even know what that means.”  

Bick said, “The most fear on the battlefield was when you didn’t know where your enemy was hiding. David, we weren’t afraid of a sniper, when we knew where he was.” He said, “Drain the swamp” to know remove the doubt of where danger exists.

Life has a way of exposing us – bankruptcy, addiction, success, prodigal children, cancer, abundance, power, responsibilities, aging, divorce…all leave us vulnerable! It also reveals what we believe about God. 

When we’re drained by work, politics, human tragedy, family needs, and difficult people, what are the remnants of faith that surface? It’s so easy to let circumstances define faith INSTEAD of faith grounding us in an unchanging and present God! 

The basis for God’s intervention in our lives is because He is compassionate and gracious. Compassion means, “to suffer with”. God suffers with us in sickness, loss, fear AND selfishness and pride. That’s solidarity! And solidarity is compassion. God looks at our broken world—injustice, oppression, poor, marginalized and seeks to come alongside. So can we.

All of us possess a picture of God. Some accurate, some skewed. Exodus 34 is the only place in the entire Bible where God self-describes and, because of that, is epicenter to build (or heal) a theology of God. Join us on Sunday as we explore “God Who?” and grow a Living Faith.

Under the Influence

Under the Influence

We’ve all seen, cringed, &/or probably laughed at alcohol’s effects. In a social experiment called 3 Glasses Project, a photographer captured the curious results after 1, 2 & 3 glasses of wine. We even have language to describe its influence: “liquid courage”, “take the edge off”, or “drown my sorrows”. And, of course, people under the influence are also prone to being louder, laughter, and affectionate.

Maybe, the way we relate to alcohol can offer us an idea of how we’re supposed to relate to the influence of Holy Spirit. We find clarifying moments in scripture apart from alcohol’s effects.

When it comes to being “under the influence” in the Christian life, it means we receive the Spirit’s guidance and strength. Not unlike alcohol, the infilling work of the Spirit provides the ability to step out in faith to do what doesn’t always come naturally.

Take compassion. It’s hard to be too concerned for homeless, cancer, unemployment, war, immigrants, mental illness, violence, abuse… UNLESS it personally affects us. Yet, when we sense the Holy Spirit at work in us (despite fear, discomfort, or convenience) the fruit of compassion always grows.

LENT / TGIF for FRI, Mar.30th: Practice Compassion. Find simple ways to express empathy.

  1. ray about what limits your empathy & compassion…fear, time, interest? Pray for eyes to see & meet a need that’s different than your own.
  2. Make a care package and give to someone you love or needs it.
  3. Do something for someone that they hate doing themselves.
  4. Let someone go in front of you in line or traffic.

 

Prototype for Shelter

Prototype for Shelter

Being a single mother used to carry more of a social stigma. Now it feels fairly common or even acceptable. 2000 yrs ago, if you’re unmarried & pregnant, it could get you killed depending on how you interpret Levitical law. In Luke 1, Elizabeth was married, without kids, “past-her-prime” but finds herself pregnant with John the Baptist. She’s got morning sickness and chores. She’s moving slow and more tired. Despite all that, Elizabeth becomes a prototype for hospitality in giving shelter to a marginalized girl-on-the-run.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were in good standing. Yet, she finds it in heart to offer shelter to Mary – pregnant but not wed. Imagine the looks, the whispers, the risk to their social status. And yet, compassion to those on the margins is God’s calling for every Christian. We don’t show compassion because we have so much. We do it because we’re no different. 

History is filled with people who lived fully in God’s story…AND it was disruptive. Curiously, it’s called ‘Good News’. We all have days of peace, moments of joy, expressions of grace, feelings of gratitude — These are foretastes of heaven. They wet our appetite for God’s salvation, love, and intent. But, to be sure: following Christ is disruptive. (Anyone with a houseful of guest for the Holidays knows how disruptive hospitality can feel.)

Hebrews 13:2 says “make sure you practice hospitality, you may be entertaining angels.” Like Elizabeth, God’s chosen each of us extend hospitality. Sometimes we make room. Other times, we are learn to receive. In either case, it’s means we see who God’s prepared in advance for us. When we do this, God transforms us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Here’s to seeing Elizabeth’s story as our own!