Everyday Story, Kate Schwass

As we left a favorite neighborhood restaurant lately, the couple at the table next to us commented "this is like your Cheers!"  It was true, it is one of the several nearby spots where "everyone knows [our] names."  One of our great joys over the last few years has been settling into our neighborhood and developing deep relationships with both neighbors and local businesses.  What made me pause about this couple's comments was two things: 1. That restaurant is not the only one where we know the names of the staff and get hugs when we arrive and leave, and 2. Actually knowing the names of the business owners and staff was a crucial piece of developing these relationships.  

About 8 months ago, Chris asked the servers at another restaurant, Sushi Park, what their names were - and quite suddenly, it unlocked such a special relationship.  We went from becoming customers and servers to friends.  Before that, we were friendly, but the relationships did not feel personal.  The same thing has happened at many of our local spots - partially because we prioritize shopping and eating out as locally as possible... but mostly due to Chris' consistent practice of introducing us and asking for the names of the people we meet.  The act of knowing and using someone's name is incredibly powerful.  We know this from the Bible, of course - God consistently uses the act of naming to cement his relationships with his people.  And while we aren't giving anyone their names, the act of inquiring about the names of others, remembering their names and sharing our own has become a important practice for us.  We now know and use the names of most of our neighbors and the staff of several restaurants, the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the nail salon and my favorite crossing guard.  Moving through our neighborhood has become a true joy - filled with interactions with people who know us and who we know.  We feel deeply connected to this place - and it all started with asking "What's your name?" 

Invitation: Take the first step this week and introduce yourself to someone in your local context - could be the janitor of your building, the barista at the coffee shop or neighbor down the street.  I can't promise it won't feel awkward (actually, I bet it probably will!) but I do promise that over time, it will be totally worth it! 

Everyday Story, Leah Chambers

I so desperately need this series on Sabbath right now! My life, job, and family feels very chaotic, and I find myself less and less able to distinguish what’s important in any particular moment. Recognizing sabbath and rest as a STARTING point - instead of something I do only when I am at the collapsing point - is a complete shift. 

I don’t yet know which moves I’m going to make towards rest, and am a little nervous about how I’m going to get there, but I’m hungering for a different rhythm than the one I currently have.

Invitation: How do I interact with sabbath and rest in the middle of transitional or really tough (but hopefully short) seasons? I'd love to hear some ideas!

Sabbath as the Provocative Center

  From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast  here .

From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast here.

In the beginning, God created a rhythm of moving and breathing and living in the world.

God moved to this rhythm and God invited humans to do the same; to be human was to move to this divine and sacred rhythm that began with rest and wonder and awe and deep and divine community.

It was out of this rhythm that the Community of God created the universe, shaped the very first humans, and then invited them into the magnificent and creative task of making the rest of the earth look like the garden paradise they were created in.

But before the humans got to work, they were reminded of this rhythm, this provocative center of a starting place - that though there was good work to be done, they paused and entered into this rhythm, this starting place, this sabbath.

Before Sabbath was a command
Before it was a law or a practice,
Before it was something to be argued about and defined
Before it was performed or abandoned            

It was simply the rhythm of reality and divinity and humanity. 

THE FIRST HOLY THING

The very first time in all of the scriptures anything is called holy, it's not God who is called holy, but God who calls this rhythm of rest to be holy. This day, this period of time, and all that's encompassed within it, is blessed and called holy by God. A holy and provocative center for nearly everything. 

THE VERY FIRST DAY AND THE REALITY OF OUR DAYS

The first full day the first humans experience is an invitation to sit back and rest in the wonder and delight of God’s creation before taking up the God-given mantle of continuing the work of creation.

Think about this first day. What would it would have been like to be a human in this world?

Contrast that with our experience of the world.

Hectic, frenetic, chaotic, busy, constant go-go-go. We live in a "never enough" reality.

Never enough time money sex possessions iPhones books records deals trips cars shoes.

It's never enough. There can never be enough. You are not enough. You can never be enough. 

A myth of scarcity enters a story of abundance and we are completely out of sync from this rhythm that undergirds everything. 

THE SCRIPTURES AND SABBATH

Sabbath doesn't start as a command - just a reality. 

It becomes a command after the Israelites are forced to work for the furtherance of Pharoah building bricks and more bricks every day. The command of Sabbath is to remind God's people that they free from the oppression of forced labor, that they follow a God of freedom and liberation, that they are invited to TRUST that

their lives are not in their own hands
their worth is not dependent on their work
the pinnacle of their existence is not earning or production or the capital they invest
but the simple and sacred beauty of their soul at rest in God’s presence.

that they are creatures who are a delight to their creator and
filled with creativity and beauty and mystery and
an invitation themselves participate in God’s creation.

Sabbath is not a command to pull them out of their rhythm but a reminder to hang on to what is most true about them, about God, about the world.

Later in the story, when Israel is not under the thumb of an oppressive empire but at risk of becoming the empire, Sabbath becomes a prophetic and provocative reminder that God's call to justice and righteousness and rest and life and flourishing is for all people in all places (Isaiah 58). Sabbath s a subversive and countercultural call to deep justice and pervasive peace for all people and all places. 

And when Jesus arrives on the scene, Sabbath has been ritualized and littered with rules. It had become a chore on the weekly to-do list - far from its intention and purpose. So in all of the gospel accounts Jesus has these encounters with cynics about sabbath practices. Jesus says he is not beholden to sabbath but actually lord over sabbath (lord = master = knows what it's all about).

And he says humans were not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for humans. 

In other words, humans aren’t invited to squeeze themselves through a sabbath-shaped hole, but recognize that the rhythm of sabbath shapes us into Human-shaped humans.

Without sabbath, we are not the humans God intended us to be.

God did not create us as robots or worker bees but
as magnificent and creative creatures of delight that
the scriptures call humans and
God calls supremely good.

In the Book of Hebrews, the writer comes close to just flat out saying that Jesus is sabbath, the very rest of God - that to understand Jesus is to cease our striving and our yearning and our constant questioning of who’s in and who’s out and whether or not we measure up.

A PEOPLE OUT OF SYNC

If our first response when we’re asked how we’re doing, is “I’m busy,”
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If six days we labor and toil and on the seventh we wake up and stress and worry and fret about our labor and toil until we open our computers or inboxes so that we can continue labor and toil,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that we’ll take a break one or two weeks a year, or that we’ll stop working once we hit 65 or 68 or 70,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that a set of religious practices is going to earn us space near and dear to the heart of Jesus,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that invites us to set aside our striving and our earning. 

If we try to outsource our responsibility for others by cutting a check or casting a vote,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that draws us together as humans. 

If our brothers and sisters of color don’t feel like their lives matter,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that reminds us what it means to be created in the image of God.

If our rest and leisure and pleasure comes at the expense of others - their humanity, their health, their dignity -
we’re way out of sync with this rhythm built into the fabric of our world. 

The world is waiting
The sacred is humming
The invitation is there.

Will you sync up with this rhythm of reality?
Will you step into this provocative center?
Will you live as a human created in God’s image?
To rest. 
To wonder.
To enjoy.
To sabbath. 

Kids Dreaming Session

ODK_story.jpg

A few Sundays ago, a couple dozen of us gathered to dream with and on behalf of our Open Door Kids as we discern and prepare for the season ahead. Our time mapped out some of the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of Open Door Kids and brainstormed about what might be in the months and years ahead as we continue to fuel the formation of our Kids. 

We have a few initiatives that will arise in light of this meeting - including a cross-generational prayer initiative for our older kids, increased participation and intentionality around the times we have Kids with us in our Gathering, and further movement toward partnerships and participation with local schools and Young Life. 

As we prepare for Caitlyn to close out her time as our Pastor of Kids and Family Formation, we are finalizing a job description for an interim role to continue the work of Open Door Kids for the next 3-6 months. Over the course of that time, we will plan, pray, discern, dream, and seek to fill a long-term staff position to catalyze the next season of Open Door Kids.

The season ahead is full of possibilities and potential - we cannot wait to see what's in store for our Open Door Kids and Teens!

Everyday Story: Dave Kludt

book circle_1.jpg

A number of us participated in the first gathering of what we're calling the Book Circle. It's kind of like a book club, but with a twist - that we want to read good and provocative books (fiction, non-fiction, possibly but not necessarily written from a faith perspective) and, after reading and talking about the book, decide to shift or change or practice something new as a result of what we've read. 

For our first meetup, we read Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, a Pulitzer-nominated novel tracing a family navigating the complexities of mental health across two generations. While the book was our starting point, our conversation quickly shifted to our own experiences, stories, and questions around mental health and wellness. 

How do we understand mental health?
How do we navigate acute crises in mental health?
How might our faith interplay with mental wellness?
How might Open Door as a family better walk with each other through complex and difficult seasons?

We didn't arrive at any quick or easy answers - that wasn't the point of our time. But our conversation did guide us toward new practices: normalizing conversations about mental health, opening up about our own stories, making intentional shifts in language around mental health, integrating spiritual practice and practices of mental wellness.

A couple of invitations: 

Take some time to learn about an aspect of mental health you don't know much about. 
Share a story of a mental health challenge you've encountered. 
Pray for and reach out to someone you know navigating the complexity of mental health. 
(And join us for the next round of the Book Circle!)