May 28, 2009

Chasing Elusions

Sunday was a wonderful day! As a church family we were able to recognize, encourage, challenge, and pray over our graduating seniors. It was emotional for sure because this group of young people was the first group I got to be with all throughout high school. But it was also inspiring to witness how God has worked in and through these students over the last four years. I can't wait to see how God will use them as they step forward into the future!

I titled the message I shared Sunday "Chasing Elusions." I like this play on words. All too often we get caught up in chasing so many things in this life. In a lot of ways what we try so hard to chase though, only continues to elude us. We aren't really ever satisfied. There is always something else to chase after. Before long we are like a dog chasing a rabbit, and we lose sight of everything else going on around us. Is it good to have dreams and goals? YES! But if we are not careful the dream becomes an end in itself and we forget what it means to chase after the heart of God.

What have you found yourself caught up chasing in this life?

How do you make sure you are first and foremost chasing after the heart of God?

-Mike D.

May 26, 2009

Another Round of CARE

May 24 was both exciting and sad. This round of our CARE groups met for the last time, awaiting reorganization later in the summer (new leaders, new members, etc.). I'm deeply grateful for the time I had with my group. And my, oh my, we went through a lot together.

We watched people come and go. Some came searching for a place to belong and we made intentional efforts to provide just such a place, while others moved away and took pieces of us with them.

Here's some of what I remember from our time together:
...we celebrated several marriages
...we brought several into fellowship with our church family
...we witnessed baptisms
...we helped one family find a place in a church in their own community
...we birthed a 6 pound 11 ounce, 18 1/2 inch girl
...we watched a teenager and senior saints interact as if there was no age difference
...we moved from one house to another (about 3 times)
...we grieved when one of our kids moved to Germany
...we suffered through job changes
...we encouraged an empty-nester to go back to college
...we cooked for each other
...we laughed and cried together
...we were painfully honest at times
...we opened our homes
...we ate and ate and ate--you name it, we ate it

And we grew closer to God and to one another!

So how about sharing some of your group experiences? How has your group blessed you? What is one of your best memories? How were you challenged? What would you say to someone who has never been in a small group?

Our small group ministry provides opportunities for us to be about as close to original Christianity as we humanly can.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 22, 2009

A Hummer of a Song

My mom is a hummer. No this isn't intended to be a mama joke comparing her to a large off-road vehicle. What I mean is that from as far back as I can remember my mom would hum songs wherever she was...around the house, in the car, at the mall, you name it. Often she didn't even know that she was doing it. She had a song in her heart and it was like second nature for it to spill out for others to enjoy during her daily routines. I am my mother's child. Except the song in my heart is not usually as muted as a hum. Usually, whoever is around me (and it only takes a few minutes) should be prepared to be serenaded. It may be a real song I have stuck in my head or it may very well be one I've made up in the moment. After all, everyone needs someone who has a song for everything at any moment, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself.

By now (married 6 years this summer) Sara is used to it. She probably has even learned to tune me out! Most friends expect it at a moment's notice. But I...I value it. For me a song gets inside of me and in some unexplainable way it becomes a little more a part of me today than it was yesterday. The songs that we sing on a Sunday morning are more than enough to last me through the week...over and over and over again. I love the imagery in Scripture where all of creation "bursts" out in songs of praise to the Creator. That's me! Sometimes all that God is and all that He does in my life can't be contained inside, but must "burst" out of me in the form of song.

For me it is as normal as living and breathing. For whatever reason, God placed in me a love and joy for life that can only fully express itself in song. And for that, I wouldn't have it any other way, than to be a hummer like my mother!

What song has been in your heart lately and how has it been meaningful to you?


May 19, 2009

Three Ss--Shimmy, Spirit, Signs

For several weeks my van has been acting up. Nothing bad...yet. While driving at various speed, suddenly it feels like the vehicle ran over a washboard-type surface. The steering wheel shimmies for about half a second and then it's over. No, it's not the road suface--bumps, holes, gravel, etc. I'm stumped, but I know something is up.

Life's like that too. Driving along at various speeds suddenly, strangely there's a little shimmy. Maybe it's just intuition but something doesn't feel right. O well, maybe it's nothing. But then again, maybe it's something.

But who has time for reflection and introspection? We're always in a hurry when it happens. My van never shimmies when it's parked, only when I've got to go somewhere and then I don't have time for a breakdown. So, I journey on. A shimmy here, a bump there, a strange feeling that something isn't right. So we think about possibilities: stress, not enough rest, or maybe we just ignore it; after all, we're in a hurry to get somewhere.

Then the shimmies become more regular, like my van. I drove it about 10 miles a few days ago and it shimmied several times. A friend drove it and suggested the transmission may not be functioning properly. Ouch! Can you count George Washington's face 2,000 times?

So this shimmy thing is causing me to wonder if there's a shimmy in my life, not just in my van? I've noticed a couple of bumps there also. What about your life? Is there more need for prayer, Bible study, service? Is there a temptation you've been flirting with? Is the shimmy the work of the Spirit as he endeavors to send a warning that everything is not well? Maybe it's time to pay attention to the "check engine" light (or is that a "check spirit" light)? Maybe God is already giving us a sign that we're moving too fast and too far without him. I have a hunch that if we don't pay attention today we may find ourselves on the side of the road tomorrow with a sticker on our window.

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 15, 2009

The Trek of the Star-Crossed Soloist

I like to try to fix things. Now by "things" I should probably clarify that I don't really mean in the "handyman" kind of sense. While it can be rewarding to experience some handyman pride, in that area I usually end up breaking more than what I initially set out to fix. Instead, I mean I like to fix problems, come up with solutions for all sorts of situations. I am a peacemaker at heart and I like to help usher (sometimes occasionally nudge/shove) people into a greater sense of shalom (whole life peace). Like the great life philosopher Vanilla Ice says, "If you have a problem, yo I'll solve it."

While there are plenty of positive things about this mentality, the cons can be numerous as well. Sometimes my wife just wants me to listen. Ministry continually humbles me by reminding me I can't always be in control. Some people don't really want you to fix them anyway.

In life you quickly learn there is PLENTY of brokenness to be fixed...but ultimately I am not the fixer.

I saw two movies recently: "The Soloist" and "Star Trek." On the surface it may seem they don't have a lot in common. However, both of them had something similar to impart to me after leaving the theater. I can't always fix the problems of people all around me. In fact I'm not even sure it's my responsibility to try. There's already a Savior and he has a pretty high success rate even without my help! But what I am called to do, even when I'm frustratingly reminded that I am incapable of saving them from their brokenness, is to simply BE with them. BE a friend. BE someone who cares. BE a shoulder to lean on. BE the tangible hands and feet of the one who has "fixed" all things then, now and throughout eternity. BE in the the the mile...and in the trek. Don't BE in it for yourself, but just BE for God's glory.


May 12, 2009

When God Calls a Beauty Queen

I'm not a beauty pageant fan. I'd rather watch NCIS or Monk. But I've become somewhat of a fan of Miss California, Carrie Prejean. The 21-year-old from San Diego didn't wake up one morning and decide to become Christianity's new spokesperson for traditional marriage...but she did. And she's not the most vocal advocate, just the most visible. During the Miss USA contest, which Miss NC won, Carrie affirmed her conviction that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Since then, a very questionable, semi-nude, topless photo of her (when she was 17) has been published, followed by a dozen more; the dozen more were photoshopped (fake). The other was taken by a female friend. Ok, there's a lot more to the story (such as whether she violated Miss California pageant rules) and all the details may never be known. I certainly don't have all the details and I'll leave them up to people who have nothing better to do with their time.

More to the story . . . Alysha S. Castonguay, now Miss Rhode Island USA, intentionally posed for similar pictures but no one is calling for her crown. Castonguay stated on CBS' The Early Show that Prejean's stance on gay marriage is the issue, not the photos. Really? Surely not! The state pageant is also investigating possible contract violations in her public appearances with groups that oppose same sex marriage.

Now to the point . . . when no person of faith was around, God once used a pagan named Abraham to begin a people of faith; he used a prostitute to protect twelve spies; and a sinful woman washed Jesus' feet, who himself preferred to be with tax collectors and sinners. Is this one of those times when God used a beauty queen to uphold traditional marriage? I don't know Miss California. Don't know what kind of person she is. And I have issues with her chosen direction in life which has called for her to (un)dress before millions of people and parade in a bikini on a catwalk. Yet, I love her statement to all of us regarding our faith: "Do not be silenced." So, I'm not going to judge Miss California. Rather, I'm choosing to thank God for her. She took a stand. She suffered tremendous emotional pain because of her stand. But she took a stand and then defended her stand.

Unbelievable! God decided to use a beauty queen who shows off entirely too much skin before millions of people on public TV all for the purpose of impressing judges and getting their vote of approval. Now, if God had asked me I would have chosen a different spokesperson. But he didn't ask me. He called Miss California, who said she sensed God's calling her to stick by her convictions when the question was asked. And she did. She did not disappoint. I applaud her. It would have been so easy to compromise. It would have been so easy to be politically correct.

God called a beauty queen. And she answered, "Yes, Lord, here I am."

At least that's what I think. --Terrell Lee

May 5, 2009

Three Words. Two Nerds. One Heart.

Beyond the Walls. Mike and Terrell. The desire to see people live out the way of Jesus wherever they are.

And we have.........liftoff!

It gets old trying to live within the "mike-made" walls I've constructed in my life. I know why I try though. It's simple. Clean. Familiar. Safe. But after a while, especially when you rarely leave the "house," you realize new appliances, light fixtures and a fresh coat of paint aren't as appealing as they once were. You can only makeover the inside so many times before you find yourself wondering if there is something more to life beyond these walls. Sure, it can be more complicated. Messy. Vulnerable. Risky. I'm well aware of that. But that's the kind of life I want to live. One that follows Jesus into all the nooks and crannies of this world. I don't want to be content with just coming to meet God in a building on a hill. Don't get me wrong. That has an important place for multiple reasons. But I want more. I want to join God as he holds the heartbroken in our community. I want to meet him as he loves on young people who are so often viewed as unlovable. I want to be where He is already at work, drawing the last, lost and least of these closer to his heart. And that means...stepping outside the walls...becoming a little more comfortable with the uncomfortable...and trusting God to lead us into the unknown.

Terrell and I plan to use this blog as a means to encountering God more meaningfully in everyday life. At times there could be anything from exploring the humor in the ordinary and mundane to deep spiritual insight as we attempt to reflect on how God is at work in our church, in our community, and in our world. We invite you to join us in this formative process. We learn, grow, and are shaped best in the context of community. So please take time to comment and reflect with us on the God we love and serve and praise in everyday life.

We hope to see you beyond the walls!