There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability;
there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. - M. Scott Peck

Thursday, January 27, 2011

10,000 Miles From Home

Ellen and I have been traveling the last ten days. I’ve missed my small group and being at Nativity on Sunday. What a great thing to have a small group DVD with me and to be able to check out Sunday’s message and the message guide readings on the internet. I feel connected and nourished even when I’m almost 10,000 miles away from home.
We’ve been staying at a home near Manila for children who have physical and developmental handicaps. What an amazing place! It’s a bit off the beaten path, not flashy, and very basic by American standards. It’s not Haiti, for sure, but, it’s not Timonium either. I’ve watched handicapped kids serve other handicapped kids at dinner; I saw staff members sweep sidewalks with straw for brooms; I walked through a laundry that does wash for 80 children every day with one staff person and two developmentally children doing all the work; I arm wrestled with kids who have trouble walking, but smile constantly; and I constantly felt God’s presence where ever I went.
And in the midst of all this I came to a deeper understanding of what Plan B is all about. When Fr. White talks about God calling us into a bigger story, I feel that my story is clearly not big enough. I don’t influence enough people or make enough change in the world. I am not part of a big story. And some of that’s true – I can clearly be doing more. But that looks at the story from my viewpoint – not God’s.
How much influence does the woman in the laundry room have here? How much change in the world is happening because of what a doctor does in this isolated part of the Philippines? Who even knows this place exists? What’s the big story here – really?
But being in a big story means being in God’s story, not my own. How can God not see what is being done here in so many simple ways with these children as a very big story. Sweeping a sidewalk with a straw broom – what’s the big deal. If you do it in God’s story, it’s a big deal. If all you care about is your story – not such a big deal.
What story is God calling me to be in? One with a lot of status, fancy clothes, big car, nice house? Maybe, but what’s so big about that story if that’s the whole story. God will certainly see someone fixing toilets in this home for kids as a bigger story than me working to get a new, bigger car. Someone feeding a child here is surly in a bigger story than me if I’m just trying to influence others just to get more for myself.
Being in a bigger story is what we should be focused on. But it’s only a bigger story if it is God’s story. And God’s story is a big story whether it’s in a small children’s home in out of the way Manila or in my own backyard of Timonium. I need to be in God’s story, whatever it is for me, because that’s the only really big story. What story are you in?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hope In the New Year

Our first get-together of the New Year and there’s no message series to kick us off. So what do a group of mostly Catholic guys do to begin a New Year? You reach a bit (or maybe a lot for some of us) and ask each guy to bring and share a scripture verse that reflects their hopes for the New Year.
If you want to know if God really shows up in small groups, check out the richness of the scripture that this bunch of self professed bible illiterate Catholic guys were able to pull together on very short notice.

I hope in the New Year that I…
Proverbs 3:5-6 = trust God more and rely less on my own wisdom and power
James 2:23-26/4:13-17 = have the courage to do the right thing no matter what the personal cost
Exodus 4:39-42 = know the Lord more than know about the Lord (Rahner)
Romans 12:9-13 = keep faith, practice love, and share myself even in midst of my struggles
Matthew 6:25-34 = worry less and focus on what I really need, not want
Romans 8:28 = really come to know (not wish or hope) that God is working always for my good even if I can’t see it
Psalm 46 = will become more quiet, know that God is God, and that God is okay with my struggle
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 = serve my clients at work better by working harder
Psalm 19 = can translate the ability to see God’s greatness in nature into seeing God’s greatness in my life
Jeremiah 29:11/Ecclesiastes 7:14/Joshua 1:9/Psalm 23 (obviously, some of us are better versed in scripture than others or just couldn’t settle on one!) = commit to what God, not I, want for my life and deal with my anger issues better
Ephesians 4:17-32 = live a more God honoring life and not just say the words

It continues to amaze me what can happen in small groups. Two years ago, this exercise would have been a difficult (if not threatening) one for most of us. We all had a “passing acquaintance” with scripture, but never really encountered God in the words of scripture. And now, scripture’s richness, comfort, guidance and hope are real parts of our group. The practical scripture application from the pulpit at Nativity and the message series definitely help. But you if you only sit in rows on Sunday and never join the circle of a small group, you will really miss out on an important part of your journey. God’s word speaks more clearly to us in our circle, has more practical meaning in our lives because of what we share with each other, and, more and more, our hopes are built on those words and how they resonate more clearly through the voices of our group members.

What would your scripture verse be for the New Year? It’d be great if you’d share it with us - and your own small group. We’d love to add your hopes to our prayers for the New Year.