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Archive for September, 2011

Let’s paint a picture.

Let’s paint a Puerto Rican single mom and her toddling half-Mexican daughter.  Let’s add a teenage black boy.  And his two sisters, one twelve years old, the other seventeen.  Let’s paint a Nigerian doctor, and a white nurse who was raised in Hawaii.  Let’s paint a white college student studying fashion, and a black one studying audiology.  A Brazilian soccer coach, and his newly wedded dancer wife.  A Colombian railroad worker.  A black rapper.  A white guy who owns his own computer business.  A black teen mom who has been separated from her daughter.  Let’s paint a half-Argentinean guy from California and his roommate from Kansas.  And let’s add one more white girl into that mix.

Stroke that brush and depict them sharing a meal.  Someone makes some soup.  Someone brings some bread and cheese.  Sandwiches are made. A pretty cake appears, and someone else traipses through the door with homemade mint tea in hand.

Let’s paint this small crowd sharing this meal in the living room of a two-bedroom triplex located on the border of the impoverished and crime-ridden part of the city.  Let’s paint a scene where the fifteen-year-old black kid leads the whole group in remembering Jesus’ great sacrifice by offering them a broken piece of a pita chip dipped in glass of Coca-Cola.  Stories are told from the week, stories of how the God who upholds the universe by the word of His Power invades each of their own little worlds.

Paint a book with words of life, and everyones hands held open on their laps.  Paint understanding pouring out in the form of simplicity off the lips of the twelve-year-old.  Paint tears in a few eyes.  Paint light dancing in many hearts.  Let’s be sure to paint smiles. And great sobs. And uncontrollable laughter.

Let’s paint the picture of these beautiful people praying for the sick in their midst.  Show how some are healed immediately.  Let’s not forget to add the scene where one girl’s leg is shorter than the other and grown miraculously on the spot.  Paint the prophetic words that fly around the room, and the ones that fly across the city via phones and laptops.  Depict the teenagers helping the single mom distract her little one, so she can have a twenty-minute break.

Paint that picture in such a way that we know that a few of those individuals have not yet made decisions to follow Jesus.  And several just started following Him a few months ago.  A handful more have known Him for just a couple of years.  Only a few have really known Him long.

In the middle of the painting, show the highschool students breaking up fights at their strife-ridden schools.  Show the Nigerian doctor sharing the good news of Jesus to a pregnant girl in his clinic.  Paint the nurse praying fearlessly over each of her ill patients, at the risk of losing her job.  Paint a few of the crowd driving their dear friend to the emergency room and taking her tiny kids home for the weekend.  By the way, their friend is a stripper & addict with sickness ravaging her body.  Let’s paint a scene where the computer business owner takes flowers to the eighteen-year-old while she recovers in the hospital after being shot in a drive-by shooting.

Paint these beautiful people crowded around a fountain nearby, as someone who just experienced the forgiveness of Jesus gets baptized by someone who has never baptized anyone before.

I wanted to paint a picture.  I suppose we painted a mural.  I suppose if we painted all this it would take up the whole side of one of these dilapidated buildings I can see out the back window that faces Troost Avenue.  If we paint with broad strokes it might cover a few.

What shall we name this lovely mural?

Let’s call it church.

(Note:  This is not a far-off dream.  This is not a bunch of nice ideas.  This is my present reality.  I have personally experienced all of these things happening within the last month, both here with my local spiritual family and as I have spent time with spiritual families on the other side of the nation.  I am in awe of what can happen when people begin to encounter the love of God for them.  I’ve tasted the miracle that Jesus called “church.”  And all I want is MORE.  This times a million, doused with even greater hope, greater faith, greater compassion.)

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It was the start of another scorching summer day in Austin, Texas.  I was sitting on the stairs of some ridiculously large tower in the middle of UT’s campus, listening to Erik Fish* animatedly tell stories about the all-importance of disciple making.  Erik was doing that thing that spiritual dads do best – persuading us that we are more than we think we are and managing to soundly kick our butts at the same time.

When the dust had settled, and the weight of his words had just begun to hit the small crowd of college students to my right, I watched with swelling admiration as a handful of my friends, some long-time and some brand new, began to dart about.  They grabbed the shoulders of those experiencing conviction, commissioning them to make disciples just as Jesus commanded.  They hugged the crying students, and joined the laughing ones.  Not a person present could withstand a grin at the sight of the few students who couldn’t even stand up under the joyful pressure of the Presence of God.  My friends are courageous little freaks, all very young twenty-somethings who have encountered the power of God  and His Family sometime in the last few years, and have boldly stepped up to lead their peers down the Path of Life.  The whole crowd  next to me that morning was a sea of tears, and slobber, and hugs, and dancing.  The kind of mess that makes every lover of Love truly happy.

But rather than join in the fun, I was chilling out on the sidelines, throwing myself a royal pity party.  Erik’s anointed teaching had the usual affect on me.  I was struck to the core, and all I really wanted is to follow Jesus 100% for the rest of my days.  After I whined for a bit.

Waaah. Waaah. Waaaaaaah.  I suck at making disciples.  I can’t do anything right.  I shouldn’t even be here right now. I should have had more boldness in that situation last spring.  I didn’t love that girl this summer well enough.  I’ve only ever failed and there is no hope for me to ever… 

In the middle of my whine session, I noticed three Asian-looking girls had wandered over to the far side of the portico where we were located and were observing the slobbery-hug fest  happening amongst the students.  I had an inkling I should go over and speak with them, but as soon as the thought came I saw a few students go over and strike up a conversation.  “Great, they’re covered,” I thought and went straight back to my pity party.

I’ve only ever failed. All I do is fail.  I don’t even know if I am a real follower of Jesus. 

Meanwhile, Holy Spirit Friend was completely disregarding my pathetic little shin-dig.

“Right knee.”

Maybe no one I invest in will ever become a true disciple.  Maybe I will never learn how to love right…

“Right knee. Lindsay, right knee.”

Seriously, Holy Spirit?  Right now? 

“Right knee. Right knee. Right knee.”

So I meander over to the Asian trio, and casually ask if any of them had any pain in their right knee.  After a few quizzical looks and head shaking, I began to clumsily explain how sometimes I hear things that God wants to heal for people and then how sometimes I think I hear from God but I just made it up.  The girl with huge movie-star sunglasses piped up.  “I used to play basketball and I have an injury to my right knee that comes and goes.  It doesn’t hurt right now, but a lot of times it does.”

Classic,  Holy Spirit… classic.

So I asked her if she’d like to be healed so she would never have to feel that pain again.  I squatted down on the ground next to her, laid my hand on her right knee, and commanded it to be healed in Jesus’ name.  After my brief prayer, I realized that the girl was fascinated by the scene going on behind me.  “Do you know what all these people are doing?” I asked her.  “No,” she exclaimed, “Do you?”

I laughed a little.  “I do actually!  All these people here are followers of Jesus.  They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God.”  I was pretty sure that meant absolutely nothing to sunglasses girl, and she looked intrigued enough to listen to more, so I just went for it.  “Have you ever had any experiences with God?” I asked.  She shook her head, “I’ve been to church a few times, but now I have to work on Sundays so I can’t go.”  I loved the slightly-confused look on the bottom half of her face that wasn’t covered by her cool shades when I told her that most people in the crowd next to us also didn’t go to a church building on Sunday mornings either.

Ohhh let the fun begin.  If I didn’t rub my hands together in gleeful anticipation, I surely wanted to. I opened my mouth… and out it came.  I laid out the whole story of God for her, how He’s invisible and we can’t see Him but how He wanted friendship with us so much that He became a Person to show us His character and personality.  How that Person healed sick people, raised the dead, and caused a ruckus with religious folks everywhere He went.  How He came to teach us how to rightly relate to God and to each and to the whole world.  How He came to make all that is wrong with us right, and make it possible for us to be in His Family.

I couldn’t see her eyes because of those darn sunglasses, but I soon noticed big tears sliding down her cheeks and I knew our words were hitting home.  I say “our”, because most of the stuff that tumbles out of my mouth in situations like these definitely does not originate in my brain, but is the overflow of the Holy Spirit inside of me.  We’re a team, me and ol’ HS.

The tears on her face stoked the fire burning in my bones, and I began to passionately describe to her the ways that Jesus has changed my life, how He rescued me from the place where I was convinced I was completely alone forever and proved to me that He is always with me.  “Look at these crazy people!” I gestured towards the students behind us, who by this point were nearly all dancing, laughing, and worshipping their little hearts out.  “You can see for yourself the joy on their faces.  They’ve met the God of Love.”

Just then all the student began to gather around Erik to pray for him.  He was getting ready to leave town, and they wanted to send him off with a blessing.  In the middle of my sentence, the young woman in front of me rose to her feet and headed towards the students with their hands all stretched toward Erik.  I had to bite back a giddy laugh as I scurried to join her… This girl wants IN!

When the prayers had subsided, she turned to me with all sincerity, “I want to learn more about Jesus.  I have only one thing holding me back.  My mom is a Buddhist.”

I wasn’t daunted for a second.  I immediately began to point out various people around the room who had parents of differing faiths.  I motioned for my friend whose dad practices Buddhist values.  She came right over, and soon they were chatting it up.  We quickly discovered that the girl was heading to Denton for her first year at the University of North Texas that very next week.  And wouldn’t you know it, my friends’ highschool buddy just happened to be a student at UNT already and had just told my friend a few weeks prior that she wanted to start a simple church on her campus.

Classic, Holy Spirit.  So classic.

I gave her my Bible.  My friend swapped phone numbers with her.  The girl with the movie-star sunglasses was heading off for college with the stories of Jesus tucked under her arm, a vision of love, and the potential of friendships at a strange new school.  And, I believe, the promise of a place in God’s eternal family finally within her reach.  I walked away… no, maybe I was skipping or twirling… Well anyways, I left BRIMMING with joy inexpressible.

I am so glad Holy Spirit Friend disregarded my pity party.

Anytime,  any time at all You want to interrupt my days, You just go for it Holy Spirit Friend.  Your ideas are waaaaay better than mine.

(*Erik Fish and his wife Jen have been coaches, mentors, and dear friends to me for several years.  They train young people all over the nation and world how to plant simple churches and make disciple of Jesus.  You can find articles by Erik at his website: www.erikfish.com.  You can find the nearest Student Church Planting Experience at www.scpx.org.)

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In the summer of 2009, Poppa led me and handful of friends to a house on the corner of 39th and Tracy Ave.  Our new home was quickly dubbed the Tracy House, and our Friend Holy Spirit showed us our destiny that lie hidden in our name.  “Tracy” means a road or path; to harvest or to reap; brave.  We knew right away that He was asking us to show our broken neighborhood the path to the Father, to labor with Him to bring in the harvest, and to live with bravery & courage in the tumultuous East Side.

Since then, a whole slew of people of different colors, ages, and family backgrounds from both the Boiler Room family and the urban core have come to call the Tracy House their home.  Along the way, we’ve made bucket-loads of friends here on the East Side, many of whom have had powerful encounters with the love of Jesus at the Tracy House.  Some of those individuals have chosen to follow Jesus with their whole lives, while many have chosen to leave His gifts by the wayside.  We’ve experienced both incredible joys and serious heartache during out time at the Tracy House.  Meanwhile, our relationships with the Jesus have exploded in grace, we’ve learned enough to fill at least a few books, and we’ve formed friendships to be treasured for life.

Through a series of shifting circumstances, many conversations with our family leaders, and much prayer, Poppa has made it clear that the season of the Tracy House has come a close.  It’s good, it’s right, and it’s time.  At the end of August, all the current members moved on to the new beautiful things Poppa had prepared.

Even while we ache for each person who has met Jesus and walked away to return Home again, we adore our Friend Jesus the extravagant grace He continually pours out in our house and in our city.  Regardless of how each person that has been encountered by Love has chosen to respond, we still want to honor our Friend Jesus.  We remember the time that He miraculously healed ten lepers when only one returned to thank Him, and we want to jump in line with that one grateful leper and say, “Jesus, You are ALWAYS GOOD!”

We invited the whole Boiler Room community to the Tracy House the day before move-out to celebrate 2 very fully years’ worth of beautiful lives that Jesus has loved.  The Boiler Room family has largely contributed to the stream of love flowing in our home and we wanted everyone in on the festivities.  We partied properly with delicious food and laughter, told powerful stories from our experiences here, and worshiped Jesus together.  God was in our midst that night.  They were many beautiful tears around the room.

I myself have cried many more tears before then and since then.  The Tracy House has been so precious to me, such a significant part of my journey to wholeness, such a place of discovering the nearness and greatness of God.  Never has a home simultaneously held for me so many intense moments and so many delightful ones.  But I know the time is right.  I know it is His time.  And I am convinced these two years are just the beginning of the beginning of the adventures the Father has for Kansas City Boiler Room family in the East Side.

In the process of this all, the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about both His friendship and my identity, neither of which will change with shifting circumstances.  He has become to me my dearest, closest Friend.  I know that He goes with me, and that our friendship only deepens so long as I remain surrendered to Him.  I signed up for life-long adventures with Him years ago, and that contract is not about to end.  I get to be with Him forever, joining in His grand schemes of Love.

As for my identity, I’ve begun to cling to the words He spoke so very clearly: “This is who you are, Lindsay.  You will being doing things like this for the rest of your life.”

I do believe He is right.

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