Last night we shared "our story" at a campfire worship service at church. We were gathered on the lawn of our church (you can do that in Feb. in southern California) with a campfire, blankets, food, music, a little bible study, small groups that shared prayers and concerns with each other, and our story.
It all was good.
Our family is relatively new at our church, and it is a really tight church family here... only one service on Sunday. It's a community that thinks that 1. Christ is a pretty good example to follow, 2. all are welcome to his table, and 3. we're all in this together... the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the homeless, and that if Christ was not above any of them, neither are we. There is a sense of humility and service like a thread that moves through everything here. I am reminded of the great quote I once read," Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." I love that imagery... all you who have ever felt imperfect, unworthy, quirky, dorky, wounded, discriminated against... you who have sinned, shunned, drunk, hurt, belittled, taken advantage of others, YES, YOU, TOO...
You are welcome here.
I am sitting in our "fireside room" which is our fellowship hall right now listening to Tenth Avenue North on Pandora while Ali practices with the children's choir in the next room.
There was a really funny moment earlier in the week when it dawned on me that we would be coming to church 3 times in two days this weekend, and that old obligatory attitude spoke up saying, "We have to go back on Sunday? But we were just there on Saturday night... doesn't that count?"
Have you ever gone to church or prayed in order for it to count?
C'mon... be honest... ;-)
... as if there is some report card or scoreboard somewhere, right? I laughed at myself. I like it here. My heart feels good on these grounds... it heals a little more every time I pull into this parking lot, because each time I do, I am coming to bare myself to this community, and to God.
But back to the title of this post...
There is no better feeling than being known, being accepted, and being loved. It's what babies need in addition to clean diapers and food to live. It's at the core of who we are. Last night, we were given the opportunity to be known by our new community. The congregation here sees Angelique, Julian, Ali, and me smiling and participating on Sundays, but most of them don't even realize that perhaps the one in the family that has made the biggest difference on this planet isn't even with us physically. They think we are a family of 4, but we are a family of 5. Last night we got to introduce them to Bella, her journey, our journey with her, and our subsequent journey through faith and prayer. It felt so good to share about it all. Some there knew the whole story, some knew a little, many knew nothing. Now, we are known in our entirety. Our true identity was revealed, and that felt so great.
This morning, our music director paid me the nicest compliment. He said, "... just meeting you, you are the most chipper guy around... more chipper than me, and that's hard... and yet you have been through this extraordinary ordeal. It's amazing." I really appreciated that statement, because we all have a choice in how we relate to the world around us, and by continuing to look for God's beauty and perfection in even the toughest moments, it seems to show. (I tribute that skill to my mom. No matter what is going in her life, when you meet her and hang out with her, she delights in you and in your company)
Practice makes permanent.
Practice makes permanent.
It's like my guitar student, who only two months ago had barely ever touched a guitar... and it showed! Now, he's cranking out the melody to "Ode to Joy" on his guitar, and it is starting to really sound like music! How did he get there? A coach, and a lot of practice.
God is the ultimate coach, and he has armies of assistant coaches here on the ground for you to work with as well. I call one of my "assistant coaches" here on earth 3-5 times a week in the morning to just check in and get me head set straight for the day. We've probably had about 200 conversations since he intervened in my grief journey in late November of 2010. I give him permission to give me honest constructive feedback based on what I share... he's not just there to listen, agree, and enable whatever is running through my head.
What area are you struggling in? Find a coach and start to practice. Could be a minister, elder, counselor, life coach, sponsor, priest, friend, family member, colleague, mentor, teacher... whoever it is, consider that they get to fulfill their purpose on earth by coaching/mentoring/guiding/supporting/serving/teaching... so don't feel intimidated asking for one.
I got off a coaching call on Friday where at the beginning of the session, the person was confused, intimidated, and frustrated. When we got off the call, she was clear, confident, relieved, and ready to go with a defined plan of action. Listening to her transformation over the hour brought so much joy to my heart. I could literally hear the weight lift off her voice. It was such a privilege and honor to share such an intimate place with her, where she laid bare her struggles, fears, and confusion, and was willing to look bad to another human. I honor that trust so much. So when you consider enlisting someone to divide your fear and multiply your joy, don't worry. God has placed an army of us here on the ground to support others. It brings us joy to the deepest level.
Practice seeing Providence.
They have been game changing tools, and they are available to us al, free of charge.