A few days ago I watched a History Channel show on Rogue Waves. Basically, these are waves which can come out of nowhere and are at least twice as large as any other wave in the set. Often these waves are three and four times larger than anything in the area - and they can even pop up on calm seas. Apparently for a long time rogue waves were reported, but considered to be the excuses a drunk captain came up with to avoid the truth of his ineptitude...until people started catching them on camera. Waves of over 100 feet have been filmed, smashing into and completely destroying huge tanker ships and even oil platforms.
There’s a growing suspicion that these waves are particularly prevalent, and provide partial explanation for the strange disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle.
I was fascinated.
It wasn’t until the next morning that it struck me why these rogue waves captured my imagination. They are a perfect metaphor for the last several years of my family’s life. There have been storms, to be sure - even some that we were not sure we would survive. However, it wasn’t the storms that were the source of our anxiety, it was the random rogue waves which always seemed to come along in the calm seas after the storm had “passed.”
Our latest rogue wave came in the form of a series of disconnected (but utterly connected) bad tidings regarding finances. Without going into the boring details, I should be panicked right now...or selling a kidney. But what has been very perplexing is that I’m not. I realize the seriousness of the situation. I’m doing what I can to address it and “avoid the rocks” (in sticking with the maritime metaphor).
But I’m not panicking.
This baffles me. Why am I not a blubbering mess?!
At first I was afraid it meant I’d finally had a mental breakdown...the part of my brain controlling the self-preservation instinct had just dissolved or something. But, if that were the case (and yes, I seriously considered it enough that I had to actually rule it out), I wouldn’t be trying to do something about the situation.
I quickly ruled out both super-faith and Pollyanna-like naiveté. My faith in the face of risk has certainly matured, but I’m still plagued by doubt. My current lack of fear doesn’t stem from a confidence that “everything will be okay, because God won’t let the monster get us.” I have several years of empirical evidence to suggest that God is most certainly faithful and compassionate, but I do not take deliverance and rescue for granted.
Bad things still happen in this world, and it will continue to be so until Jesus finally and fully establishes the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. I can’t be so arrogant as to think God will keep all the monsters at bay, because there are too many people in this world that get eaten...and I am no more precious to our Lord than they. (Which is not at all to say that neither they nor I are precious to God.)
The other night, as we had this very conversation, a friend asked, “Are you just numb?” I could only respond, “Well...maybe.”
But I don’t really think that’s it either.
I think - and I hold this belief with humility, knowing that tomorrow it could look differently - that I’m just getting a bit peace in the midst of the storm. The storm is real; the chaos - like the fiery furnace that three Jewish boys stood before - is threatening. And from somewhere I’m being given the strength to respond, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from [this threat]. But even if he does not...”
I don’t know that this is a test...and if it is, I don’t know that we’ll be delivered at the 11th hour for our faithfulness. But even if we are not, we will not bow down to the idol of fear.
I don’t want to oversell it. There are too many people who love us for me to believe that my children will ever be truly hungry...there will be a place for them to sleep in peace. Perhaps that’s a source of peace as well. In the book God’s Economy, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove speaks to the wisdom of investing in relationships over financial security...perhaps for this very reason. Jobs have a tendency to go away, bank accounts seem to dry up. People who love you are much more valuable.
So, back to the title of this post: where do we go from here?
We’ve done what we can to streamline the budget, now we have a few short-term, a few mid-range and a few long-term plans.
For right now, here’s where we go.
Over the last few years, I’ve been developing this six month process for groups (congregations, small groups, house churches, bible classes...or just a gathering of friends ready to move forward together). My doctor of ministry project (which is currently over half-way through the action phase) is focused on one particular aspect of the Communitas experience.
Communitas, which means a deep experience of community which is formed through a shared struggle, ordeal or common mission, combines online learning and dialog, with spiritual formation in community and practical engagement in missional life right where you are. Unlike other processes which either stress classroom learning or provide manufactured “practice” experiences, Communitas guides participants to begin learning what it means to live missionally by...well, living missionally.
I hadn’t planned to make Communitas available “to the public” until January. I was told pointedly this past week, “What are you waiting for?”
Message received. If you have a group of friends, a study group or an entire congregation that may be interested in this transformational experience, send me a message and we can talk more.
Seminar in Missional Living
In addition to the six month process, I’ve also developed a one-day seminar that can be hosted with your church or group in which we’ll address some of the basic biblical and practical concepts which can ignite the missional imagination.
This seminar can be incorporated into a church retreat - or even expanded to serve as the entire retreat focus - with very little advanced warning. This isn’t just an academic endeavor for me, its an orientation to faith that I live and breathe - if you need someone there this weekend, just give me directions.
Interim or “Relief” Preaching
I love my church family. One of the most endearing qualities of this group of people is a genuine concern for people over programs. Rather than just being willing to press on without me if I’m invited to speak somewhere on a Sunday, these folks are willing to find other ways and times to get together.
If your church is in a period of transition between preachers, I am available to preach on Sundays or Wednesdays - for one week or several, whatever fits your circumstances. I’m also happy to fill in for the preacher who just needs a week off - whether its for an out-of-town trip or an out-of-pulpit respite.
If your church is in or around the DFW metroplex I’d be happy to come spend time and share the good news of God’s kingdom with you.
We also have several other things in the works which we believe will cultivate a more sustainable rhythm for our family and ministry. Some of these should come into fruition in the next six to nine months, some over the course of the next couple years. This post is already too long to get into them all...but maybe I’ll post some further thoughts in the next few days.
The final piece I want to mention in this post is:
Support for Church Planting.
Support for Church Planting.
Just in the past couple months we’ve launched out with our new church planting effort, The Gathering: Burleson. We have a fundraising newsletter that we’ve put together with more information about our work in this area, and we would love to tell you more if you’re interested in partnering with us. We’re grateful for the community of friends who’ve supported us over the last few years, and we’re praying that God will raise up a few more to get us through the wilderness and into (we hope and pray and hope and pray) Canaan, soon.
If you would like any further information on Communitas, the Seminar in Missional Living, Interim Preaching availability or supporting our church planting work with The Gathering, please don’t hesitate to email, post a reply or just yell really loud.