A few weeks ago - along with some of you - I went to hear Shane speak a couple times at Victoria’s first Starfields festival. It was great. We lived near Shane and Katie in Philadelphia so it was fun for me to feel worlds “colliding” a bit here. Then yesterday morning I went to a Victoria Church Leaders Forum with World Vision and heard from Keith Stewart, a pastor in Texas doing really inspiring things with his church in their community.
I gathered a few inspirations, observations, and questions from what I heard from the two events. If you were at any of them (or even if you weren’t), I’d love to hear what you think too!
First Take-Away: Talking can really help.
I remember how much I resonated as a late 20-something with Richard Rohr’s statement that we aren’t "changed by sermons but by experiences," and that we don’t “think our way into new ways of living,” but rather “live our way into new ways of thinking.” I still agree, BUT these two events reminded me how good and important talking can be on the way. We walk and we talk. The journey isn’t once and done, the talk informs our walk, and our walk informs our talk. I'm now realizing the Shema already said this: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. TALK about them when you 1) sit at home, 2) walk along the read, 3) lie down, and 4) when you get up.” Right.
Second Take-Away: Such question-provoking quotes!
All the talks got me thinking so much, wondering a lot, and asking myself questions. Katie Withrow told me that this was the main thing she got from hearing Shane too: a broadened imagination. Asking “What if….?" about this and that and this person and this problem...wondering with God about the radical life and opportunities for growth and life and engagement right under our noses. Here are some of the quotes that broadened my imagination and some of the questions that followed:
“So often those of us with resources still aren’t often in relationship with people without resources.”
Shane referred to someone saying the (North American) church has a “compassion problem,” but he took it further and said we have a “relationship problem,” not often enough in relationship with people without resources, because that draw towards cultural and socio-economic similarity (and status quo) is so strong, and largely unquestioned. He shared how Mother Teresa said that the “circle we put around our families is far too small,” and that although it may “become fashionable to talk about the poor, it will probably never become fashionable to talk to the poor.” Wow.
Made me wonder:
Who are the people with very little resources in my life right now? What would it look like to prioritize relating with them more, and more mutually? How could I cross paths with people with less resources than me more often? What little things could I change? Any big things?
“You are what you eat.”
When Shane spent time with the sisters of Calcutta in India, he was included in their daily 5am prayer and communion. When he asked why they took communion so regularly, one nun said: “Well you know the phrase, ‘You are what you eat?’ That’s what we’re going for.” He said their posture in prayer was the same: it wasn’t about saying anything, but just “soaking up Jesus” so that when they touched someone that day, it would be Jesus touching the person, and when they looked at someone, it would be Jesus’ eyes seeing that person.
Made me wonder:
What if I saw prayer as a “soaking in and up” rather than something I do/perform/complete? What prevents me from seeing myself - my expressions, communication, interactions - as a conduit of Christ’s presence and love? What would it be like to “soak up” Christ one morning, and spend the day assuming God’s love was flowing through me?
“For some reason, God wants to change the world with us.”
Shane shared that one of his favorite miracle stories is the feeding of the 5,000, and that his favorite part is that the little boy who offered up his lunch got to be part of the miracle, as well as the disciples. Jesus could have done it all himself, but he involved them: “For some reason, God wants to change the world with us.”
Made me wonder:
How does God want to change my corner of the world with me? How does God want to change Victoria with us? How IS God changing Victoria with us? Where is the Spirit’s renewal activity already evident? What should we join? What am I drawn to?
“Don’t chase issues.”
Keith Stewart quoted a friend (who I picked up from the airport once in Philly!) who told him this, as his church was wondering “what to do” about the poor. The implication was that God’s invitation wasn’t something to be ran down “out there” but rather awakened to “in here.”
Made me wonder:
What are our blind spots as a church? Who among us needs to be fed, touched, visited? Whose cause needs to be understood and defended? Who might not “have a voice” in our church? What jams people up in Victoria? What isn’t fair?
Third Take-Away: So what now?
Well, I feel totally roused from sleep. Not once and for all, and not from a deep sleep, but from one of my many half-naps. Here are some of my plans:
- Tell you about it so that I’m held accountable to following through on some of what Shane and Keith stirred up in me.
- Have our May Evensong as a walk and talk, specifically, walking down Pandora, looking for shapes of suffering and signs of hope, stopping a few times to pray a different version of the Lord’s Prayer, and then convening at a coffee shop downtown to share observations, inklings, and ideas about next steps as individuals and as a church.
- Keep walking, and talking (with you)! (If the comments work, please throw any of your reactions, questions, or ideas into the mix!)