Tag Archives: connection

Stand by me

I’m thankful to be surrounded my a loving wife, beautiful kids, a great family, and many friends who stand by me during tough moments of my life. I know there are many in this world who do not have that support… or don’t get it from the people who are supposed to give it. Some folks do find that support in a church, but churches can abuse people too. I long for a world where everybody has that oasis, a place to be loved and connected regardless of who they are and where they were born.

The playing for change songs are great and provide this image of a common language by which all humans can communicate. We have plenty of old songs, new songs, and songs yet to be written that can help us vision and live into a world where our lamentations and dreams mingle together. A world where it don’t matter the money you have, the education you have, the mistakes you’ve made, or even the religion you follow – someone is there to stand with you.

Do you dream of that kind of world too? May we pray for it and live for it… together.


Into Chaos

My Kids Are Home

It’s been a long summer for me, but my wife and kids are home after 90 days in beautiful South Korea. I had a busy week before they were back, but it was like a calm before the storm. I cleaned our apartment. I waited. I held my breath.

And then, they were back, and it was chaos again. Our apartment stayed clean for all of an hour before the kids were tearing into their toys that they missed and rediscovering the best hiding places. We even managed a brief biking excursion outside in the Texas heat. Everyone was glad to be home, so glad, that no one really wanted to sleep.

Just as community can be an aid to our sense of loneliness and disconnection in the world, it can also be chaotic. Relationships are not tame things. Relationships have that edge of unpredictability. Going from a sense of being alone to being knee deep in new energy and excitement is a quick baptism to make. But maybe it’s worth it – maybe the chaos is just part of the joy of being back in the presence of those you love.

I am reminded of an Albert Schweitzer quote here:

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

Has anyone rekindled your inner spirit this week? Your family? Your friends? Thanks be to You, God, for the gift of those we love and for the fire they rekindle in each of us.


Craving Community

Nathan & Seth, hanging outI’m not sure if people are lonelier than ever before.

Some research, like this 2006 study in the American Sociological Review mentioned at Christianity Today, indicates so.

As of 2004, the average American had just two close friends, compared with three in 1985. Those reporting no confidants at all jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent. Even the share of Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent.

While we are a few years out from 2006 now, I wonder whether such research might hold true. Certainly with the emergence of social networking, people can take networks with them more easily than ever before. You can move to a new place and still remain up to date with your friends and family all around the world. And if you only plan on being somewhere for a short time, why bother at all developing another network that you will leave behind?

For my wife and I, moving to Dallas was an exciting and lonely process. We left behind a great group of friends and extended support, as well as favorite restaurants, grocery stores, hangouts, and so on. It took a while for us to warm up to Dallas, to find places and people to call our own. For just about anybody, a move invites this blank slate of opportunity which can take a lot of time to work through and make it something worthy of being called “home”.

The Christianity Today articles goes on to say this in response and reflection:

To draw our culture to Christ, evangelical churches spend enormous amounts of money on slick marketing materials, enormous amounts of creative energy crafting “authentic” worship, and enormous amounts of intellectual capital on postmodernizing the faith. We’re not convinced these strategies get to the heart of our cultural malaise.

Indeed, if there is a kind of community that can offer a sense of belonging, ideally it is church — but even church can be a lonely place. My wife and I know this from numerous experiences of being outsiders. I know this serving as a pastor where some folks at the periphery of our community can easily be forgotten. Even in church, it can take a lot of initiative and patience to break down walls and finally be considered “in”.

And while attending a big worship service can be helpful, it may not really fulfill that deeper need of connection and support that we all seek.

I suppose I believe that everyone craves community, and I make the case every Sunday morning that there is always enough room around the table. The real challenge is putting that to practice more deeply beyond our church walls – not trying to convince others that church is a family that you need to belong to (or else?) – but living so as to reveal the good news that we all are part of God’s family, whether we come to church, love Jesus, or… not.


Meet Me at the Crossroads

There are a lot of ghost towns in the US, especially in rural parts of the country. When my wife and I are traveling through some back roads in southwestern Oklahoma, for instance, we inevitably come across these tiny little towns that may have a single gas station to their name. At one time, that little spot in the road may have hosted a store, church, post office, and more – it may have been the nearest place for a lot of folks to come to get their news of the outside world and do business.

But with changes in technology, driving 30-50 miles to go shopping is easy. Getting a phone call from around the world is effortless. Packages can be shipped overnight, and some people do all their business from their laptop. Those little towns have dried up, leaving behind just a few families who like the peace and quiet.

For the rest of us, our crossroads have changed. We can connect with people when and where we choose, whether it is in a grocery store line, via Facebook, at church, through a local networking group, or at a game. We can roll up our windows, look the other way, delete the message, and move on with our life. We have more control than ever before.

And yet, these places of connection are still extremely important to us. People who are not connected to others, who do not have friends or support networks, often struggle the most. Some with mental illness, like suspected Arizona gunman, Jared Loughner, find their imbalance worsened without meaningful relationship. Even church, in all of our theology and ideas and systems and programs, is still the best when you have good friends there. Our social networks are still the primary ways we find jobs and mates.

No matter how the world changes, we still need friends and fellow travelers to keep us company on the long journey of life.

This is why, when I talk about church, I often like to talk about community. The Table is really more than a worship service – we are a community of diverse people who journey together. And in the coming months, we are being challenged with the whole church to open our hearts and arms and minds to those new connections, to be a new crossroads for our neighborhood and city.

Join us at the Table, at the crossroads, this Sunday!

- Rev. Nathan


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