Monday, October 1, 2012
We are Together
Tonight, Jason's out playing hockey, the boys are up in bed reading and I'm just sitting here finishing off my day with a glass of "wine". I am not a wine drinker by any stretch...so this...this may be the closest I get to appreciating an end of the day drink. We only have it in the house because it's birthday week...both boys grow older this week and so that's two birthdays and Thanksgiving all in one week around here. There's much to be thankful for. Tonight, in my flannel pyjamas, it feels like New Year's Eve. There's no ball to drop or shouting at midnight, heaven knows I can't stay up that late anyway! I'm just looking back at the year that has been and looking forward to what is ahead. Grape Fanta brings me back to Aunty Sue's in Kitwe, sitting with Cathy and J and the boys and just recouping from whatever the day brought us. I was reminded today by our dear Honeybunn's status on Facebook, that I'm not the only one who still daily remembers and misses our friends there. Her status simply said, "Africa" and when I see that, I know her heart is aching and missing and grateful too. We had such a beautiful little community of family in Africa and even here, in Canada, we are still joined together by the longing and missing and work to be done. In looking back daily, I've realized that Africa has opened a passion in me that I never imagined. Ten years ago, I would not have dreamt I would be so consumed by the day to day work of care workers in small villages, the children we lived with, slept by and ate with. Sometimes in the mornings, I get out of bed with tears in my eyes longing for the kids we love in Share, the same way I believe I would wonder and miss my own boys if they were that far from me. So, in looking back, I have come to a place to look forward.
Today, the first of October, is the start of something very new for me. I resigned my job working at Pier 1 with some of my favourite women in the city. Seriously, there has been no better place to work in the past four years than this place has been for me. They've challenged me, rewarded me and given me freedom to travel back and forth to Africa and best of all, become good friends, loved me and healed many things in me in the midst of it all. I'm going to miss them and all the glitter that goes along with working in such a shiny, good smelling environment.
If you know me well, then this will be the beginning of some interesting conversations. Please know that if we were sitting across from one another, I would drive you mad with the excessive amount of air quotes my fingers would fling at you. I find it hard to describe what I'm going to be doing accurately. Let's just say this...I'm jumping in the deep end of a new "church" venture. (Cue the quotation marks.) Why I can't just write CHURCH or Church or church is because I know that for many of you, and to be frank, more for me, it's difficult to reconcile what we in N. America know as "church" as "church". Yes, folks, that's two quotations in three words. I'm that good.
So, for now, let me say that there have been conversations about trying to be different in how we reach out to people in our cities, our country and our world. These have gone on for years in different circles and over the past few years, here in Saskatoon, they've been in our living room, coffee shops, other "church" buildings and yes, even on back porches with an occasional waft of cigar smoke. I try to sit upwind on those conversations. If all that those conversations had only led me to look deeper into who I am and how I'm wired, I think it would have been okay. Not time wasted...but nothing ventured. This is definitely a venture. I'll be working with a couple of guys that love Jesus a lot and are really, really driven to find a way to honour that in the way that they live, forgive, talk, and work. They are leaders that don't ever have to have a platform or microphone to get their message out...their lives are pretty much open books. And like all open books, there are chapters that keep you up at night, pages dog-eared, re-read and talked about over the water cooler, plot lines that show weakness and cause people to write off the whole book...but all in all, these books (if I may call them that...) are all about character development. So, while we're planting a "church", I keep calling it a non-profit organization. I'm all about getting by on a technicality. After many months of conversations and contagious enthusiasm to me banging my head on my steering wheel on the drive home wondering if I'm absolutely nuts, I running with this one. I am going to work in a "church". All I know is that there is an underlying desire in me to align what I know about who Jesus was, what love looks like, and personally, to stop being afraid to call myself a Christian, lest I be painted by the same brush as those that make headlines for picketing funerals and choosing my chicken burgers based on the Bible.
I'll be working alongside one of Jason's former bosses, which in itself is interesting, and together we're going to try and put into practice the things we have been dreaming and talking about. A church that is simply just about telling people about Jesus and what difference that should make in the lives of those that say they actually love him. I can't promise there won't be fish on cars or cheesy bumper stickers in the parking lot of wherever it is we're going to catch up with one another. I'll do my best not to judge that harshly...it won't be easy. I just promise that I will do my best to get those same vehicles into the streets of Saskatoon - finding their way to food banks to volunteer, to shelters to meet people and even to the airport to get out of their typical day to day and challenge them to see what it means to others around the city and around the world, on both sides of the idea that being a Christian actually sets anyone apart in a positive way. I want to be part of something where people aren't afraid that handing out condoms or catching up with friends in a bar does anything but enhance their character and help them build up a community where when someone in trouble sees the "church" as a place where he or she knows people and is known and can be cared for wholeheartedly.
I know that on both sides of this, there are people who will find it offensive that I don't believe in "church", "the church" or "Church"...and those who find it equally offensive that I would jump in with 'organized religion' in any way shape or form. What can I say, I'm equal opportunity offensive.
If nothing else, this will be yet another interesting chapter in what has become the storyline of my life. A story, as Donald Miller describes one, of a forest in which I am just a tree. I hope that over the next few months, the contagious enthusiasm develops and that the steering wheel head banging recedes...until then, I'm going to buy myself a sheepskin steering wheel cover and buckle in for the ride.