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A Pregnant Pause.

A Pregnant Pause.

From the time her water broke to the time Annika arrived was 20 minutes. That sounds like a relatively easy labor. The problem was we lived a solid 15 minutes from the hospital. It was your classic 3:00am dash – running red lights, driving faster as the groans grew louder. Once inside, the staff was so intent on NOT delivering until the doctor arrived. At this point, Annika’s little head was crowning out of the birth canal. I hear nurses literally say to Laurel, ‘just relax…try not to push’. Fine! But gravity is an impossible negotiator!! As the doctor finally enters the room, she glares at the nursing staff and exclaims with a nervous smile, “Let that baby come out!!”

The doctor’s presence meant “salvation” had come. Delivery meant Deliverance – for Laurel, for Annika, and for this group of labor nurses. New Life had come!

On the day Jesus decided to visit the house of a Jewish tax collector named Zacchaeus, everyone cringed. He was a man who knew God’s moral law, justice and faithfulness yet lived with complete self-interest. He worked with the ruling elite in exploiting his own people (Luke 19). Yet, Jesus (who’s name means, ‘God saves’) publicly exclaims for all to hear, “Today salvation has come to this house!” Jesus didn’t say this because this man had right doctrine or recited a prayer but because of a confession and eagerness to make amends. Jesus’ presence in his home brought peace. His handling of him offered hope. A meal together meant an opportunity to turn.

This weekend, we’re gathering as Tribes to practice community and hospitality. It’s a chance to visit, pray, even plan to make faith and community accessible. Like Jesus, this is another chance to but the ‘divine of display’. You’re not just volunteering to host or bring a brunch items. You’re gathering in faith believing that God can revive even the most stressed hearts, stale marriages, and doubting minds! My prayer is that, like Zacchaeus, each of us would grow in a willingness to turn…turn toward being known, finding a contribution, compassion or obedience. And we’d increasingly turn away from doubt, fear, and temptation. Let it be said of Mission Hills, whether we gather for worship, for a meal, in service of needs, at a party, or among friends – ‘Today, salvation has come!’

Enjoy what you create.

Enjoy what you create.

We had a saying we used with our kids growing up. We wanted them to treat each other as friends and with respect, not combative siblings. We never wanted to dismiss sibling rivalry as "just how it is". So we reminded them, "You get to enjoy what you create". In their case, it was the difference between enjoying a friend at home versus having a foe, feeling safe or being guarded. It was same toward us as parents. If they wanted to enjoy our trust and confidence, they had a say. It was one of the boundaries we used to make it easier for a sleepover or play date work, to enjoy eating out, or be part of a crowd even if other kids acted differently. As a result, we ALL got to enjoy a lot more fun than discipline, a lot more conversation than screen time, a lot more outings and adventure than time outs.

When it comes to faith, community, and mission – WE (as in each one of us) get to enjoy what we create. Faith should be transformational, but it’s not automatic. Community NEEDS a ‘standing appointment’ for quality relationships. Faith requires we DO something with our belief (otherwise God is just a theory). And the mission we long for is what makes life most meaningful. For our church family, our mission is creating a living faith, together, that will ultimately impact others starting with those closest.

Our home feels remarkably different this week as we moved our son into college. Ours will never be his address again. He will visit and stay but he’s not coming home each night. I’m in awe of the expansive quality God has created our hearts. My heart is SO FULL of joy and gratitude and at THE SAME TIME full of sadness and loss. It’s hard but so, so good. He was sad to leave as much as we were sad to see him go. YET, that’s a good thing!! AND, we are enjoying what we created – a son who’s ready and able to be on his own. A son who Lives what he Believes about Jesus. A son who longs for community and invests in others to make it happen.

Mission Hills seeks to exist as an extended family of faith more than simply a church service to attend. This fall, we have four Tribes – (1) South Austin, (2) Westlake/NW Hills, (3) Four Points/Lakeway, & (4) North Austin.

And here’s the thing: YOU Get To Enjoy What You Create!

When you’re IN community you see what people are capable of and work together to draw it out—Support for a Living Faith? ‘Current’ with friends? Experience with God? YES!  Each Tribe has capable leaders but, like any family, it takes each person seeing potential in others and finding their contribution. Sept.1&2 is Church-as-Tribe weekend. It’s a chance to pursue a faith that transforms our hearts, homes, neighborhoods, and city.

This is not that.

Former NFL Quarterback, Doug Williams had a historic career in the NFL. In 1998, he was named Super Bowl XXII MVP as he led the Washington Redskins to victory passing for a record 340 yards and four touchdowns. Williams was also the first black starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. In 1998 Williams become the head football coach at Grambling St. succeeding the legendary Eddie Robinson who had coached there for 55 years! When Williams was introduced as the new head football, “You don’t try to fill those shoes. You just dip ‘em in bronze, kiss ‘em, and sit ‘em on your mantle.”   In simple terms he was saying about his new tenure, "This is not that!” 

We often need a new lens to see a new opportunity. When we’re trying to adjust to something new, something different…maybe the least helpful thing we can do is try to compare it. When it comes to our faith, we all have a reference point that helped shape who we are, what we believe, and what we like and dislike. We all come with an expectation, a hope, a desire but only God can meet that in the most personal and maybe surprisingly different way!

As we create Mission Hills Church together, whatever your church experience was (good, bad or indifferent), can I just say, “This is not that”? This will feel different simply because it’s new, which might be what Austin (and each of us) needs. While we want to create a dynamic worship environment with some familiarity, we also want to see our lives — that is, our gifts, resources, time, and influence — align us with the God’s heart in Austin as it is in Heaven. 

If you’re used to a small group with curriculum and easy answers…
If you’re used to a lotta talk and large crowds…
If you’re used to merely being divided up by a stage of life and calling it community…
This is not that.

Tribes are designed to be more like an extended family group who offer encouragement and support in friendship and living out our faith. 

This is…surrogate aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
This is…finishing the night in the kitchen cleaning up together.
This is…investing in other’s kids because they’re a part of the life of the tribe.
This is…connecting with different stages of life and discovering what's common among us.
This is…experimenting, practicing, embracing and implementing the Rhythms as a way to follow Christ in community.

Many are skeptical of religion yet are spiritually curious. We need a place to ask questions and express doubt. We also need a community that offers a way to express care and justice in order for faith to gain traction.   This can be that.

Many are far from family physically, perhaps emotionally. Yet we all need a community who stays current in our lives, reminds us of who we are, knows our potential, and calls us to make a contribution. 
This is the dream that is Mission Hills Church. 

Making Awkward Look Good

Remember the feeling of the first day of school on a new campus?
Ever relocate to a new neighborhood or city and you were the outsider looking in?
Have you ever started a new job in a fast-paced office where you knew you were a step behind everyone else?
Ever show up to a workout class or gym and feel like you stick out like a sore thumb?
Last question . . . Ever start attending a new church and feel like everyone already has their friends, knows what to expect, and knows what to expect?

None of these experiences make us feel comfortable. They tend to create an awkwardness we’d rather avoid. The good news for all of us starting Mission Hills Church is that we’re all starting in the same boat. Maybe another way of saying this is, We make awkward look good! 

The only thing worse than an uncomfortable moment is when we go through it alone. We all desire spiritual growth but stepping out in faith alone is hard to sustain or enjoy. Yet, we can find strength in numbers.  Mission Hills seeks to re-imagine church as a shared practice of faith by embracing Rhythms, together. 

We see Tribes and worship gatherings as two-sides-of the-same-coin that we call church; Sharing meals, extended conversations, faith applications, intergenerational fellowship, expressing gratitude in worship, study of God’s living word — all spells a dynamic community of faith.

We see the church as an extended-family living on mission together in how we care for each other, respond to needs and opportunities around us, and offer our hearts up to Christ. We seek a living faith that looks 3-Dimensional – Inward, Upward, & Outward.

My hope is as you invest in Mission Hills long enough, you’ll find someone a little further along, someone to come alongside, and someone you can invest in. Trying anything new feels uncomfortable for a season but we have a chance to make awkward look effortless! Glad you’re in for the journey!