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Monday, June 24, 2013

What Writing The "Old Men Planting Churches" Blog Has Taught Me Thus Far.

On October 28, 2008, I wrote my first blogpost ever: . It was short and addressed the notion of an 59 year-old man thinking he could plant a church because it's a young man's game, and for good reasons. The inaugural post simply expressed where I was as I took the first steps of planting. I only knew what I knew which was not much other than what I'd read from guys like Frost, Hirsch, Cole and McManus. I was a church planting greenhorn for sure.

Be that as it was, I also wanted to take an extended foray into writing about what I was experiencing. It would help me sort things out and record what was happening, for me and for others. I had no assumptions about how illuminating my experience would be or whether I'd have much to write about. I just knew I
wanted to make a record of my perceptions and journey for however long I'd be engaged in the imagine/Northampton sojourn. Writing was also my way of saying I was here, and expressed how I interpreted what I lived. I wanted it for my family, friends, other imagineers on the way, and for folks considering planting a church, or just living their own journey with Jesus. I have zero visions of grandeur in this task; I just know I'm supposed to write my thoughts of this leg of my long trek home.

So I have written 250 with this post, and I'm glad I did. I've tried to be honest about the joys, sorrows, frustrations, surprises, challenges, and spiritual realities of being at this endeavor at my age, and in my peculiar skin. I've also tried to inspire others to go deeper and further out into the missional tasks our magnificent Lord has beckoned. Writing about the people I've met, walked with, lost, and shared Main Street Northampton with has been my attempt to shed light on what's like to live in this unique small city. I've also tried to reveal how much passion I've had to see Jesus glorified and his Kingdom displayed. Sprinkled in the mix are glimpses of how deeply broken I am ... and yet loved beyond my comprehending.

Writing Old Men Planting Churches has let me peer into my heart and see the widening of my spiritual sensibilities. I've glimpsed what matters most to me and seen the edges of my abilities. I have few illusions about what it takes to be a missional church and be a leader of one these days. At least for me, it's tougher than I ever imagined and occasionally bewilderingly so. My weaknesses glare at me sometimes, especially when I fail others. On the other hand, my strengths work in the background, and I get to see their evidence when someone feels loved or helped or motivated. Such evidence is a sea breeze for which I'm always grateful. Cool air in the fray lightens my spirit.

Writing this blog has taught me I can write. It's shown me the peculiarities and mannerisms of how I write, and what are my limits. I'm no virtuoso, but God's given me some chops. Writing OMPC has inspired me to write more, and consider tackling a longer piece of work in the next year. We'll see.

Writing this blog has taught me to be more reflective about what I'm experiencing and how to notice life situations, encounters, or experiences rich with spiritual meaning. Noticing is soooo important, and I'm grateful being able to write my blog has opened me beyond what I was able to see before.

Writing this blog has shone me I have deep passion for the Kingdom of God and relationship with Jesus. It's unlocked a strong longing in me to see him known and to see his wondrous Kingdom of true life come. I'm convinced more than ever His Kingdom is the only domain worthy of the heart's deepest allegiance and joy. There is nothing like it in the universe.

Writing OMPC has revealed how much I've grown to notice the sadness and struggle of the human condition, especially with folks on the street, the chronically addicted or mentally broken. I've counseled many people for many years but "the least of these" his brethren are more present to me than ever. I

Writing the blog has taught me how to celebrate what we have been able to do here in Northampton. While it is very modest compared to what others have been able to create and achieve for Christ's glory in this world, celebration is still much in order for the fact we've weathered many storms, setbacks and struggles, but we're still here, we've served, and are ready to serve more.

Writing my blog has taught me to be vulnerable about what I really think and feel. I'm an introvert and private by nature, But through writing about and living in this mission I've come to believe firmly that revealed vulnerability and brokenness can connect more deeply with others than protecting any the illusion of being together. Humility is precious freedom, and a wall-breaker.

Finally, writing the Old Men Planting Churches blog has helped me connect with a whole bunch of lovely people who take a bit of their time to consider what I have to say. I had no idea who'd, or if anyone would read it, but they have. I don't use this word a great deal because it's so overused in the Christian culture, but knowing people read my thoughts is a genuine blessing to me, whether they agree with my thoughts or not. It's just a happy thing to think people find it worthy of reading at all, and I'm not exaggerating!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TRAJECTORY: Am I Christ's Or Am I Mine?

For the past couple of months in the midst of the unsettling I wrote about recently regarding church, I've also experienced a persisting nudging to go deeper into the spiritual sensibilities I learned in my mid-30's and practiced most assiduously in my 40's and 50's. During my 30's I went through a number of formative experiences which changed my sense of self and what it meant to be a Jesus-follower. In my mid-30's, I went to through a year of inner healing with a wise and gifted Episcopal priest. A few months later, I was stopped in a stairwell after church and prayed over to receive spiritual gifts, especially teaching. Months later, through my brother, Stacy, (who journeyed from Albuquerque at God's prompting), and my wife, Tricia, prayed over me to receive the gift of tongues. A few months after, my brother in-law, Steve, called to tell me of a book he read which revolutionized his way of praying. I knew him to be a man of prayer already, so I heeded his advice, read the book, and began a 30-year journey of listening prayer and journaling. Finally, while going to a Methodist church in Bakerville, CT, I was invited to go on a Tres Dias retreat for men, and later, co-led a mens' retreat at the church. That led to attending the BARN in Simsbury, CT soon after where we were invited to take the elders on a retreat. We taught them listening prayer, and were soon invited to move into the Center For Renewal Retreat House where we led retreats, offered counseling and spiritual direction for the next 20 years prior to moving to Northampton to plant imagine almost 5 years ago.

I wrote all that to give you a sense of the spiritual disciplines we have practiced as normative in our Christian journey, especially over the last 30 years (Tricia even beyond that). I also wanted you to see a bit of the spiritual "trajectory" our lives have taken. According to the dictionary, a trajectory is a path, (chosen or taken), a progression or line of development. In a physical sense, it's the angle, arc or orbit of a projectile as it moves. I think you can see from the little bit of my spiritual history I was moving in a particular direction even though I had no clear perception where all of it was heading. I was just experiencing the movement of the Spirit as I acted according to invitation and opportunity. In many ways it was all quite mundane, but God had a trajectory in mind for me as it turns out. I made decisions about things that looked good to pursue and he moved me into position for what he wanted. At the same time, my sense of the realness and Presence of Jesus with me was acute. Much of my life was about being in the silence with him to pray, listen, read, contemplate and seek. That could happen even when I was with others and it did. I took action because I know when God was nudging me to go.

But at the heart of this blogpost is one question, a central question of eternal magnitude, I think. It's a question more important than any other you or I could answer in this life. It determines where we will give our deepest heart and our best gifts. It reveals how we actually walk with Jesus through our days. This question illuminates what we'll truly give our lives to, and what is our greatest treasure or pearl of great price in reality. Such a question exposes our egos, fears, vanities, confusion, lusts, weaknesses and what we protect more than anything.

There are only seven words to the question: Am I Christ's or am I mine? Put differently, do I belong to him, or to me? Do I spend most of my time on things which serve me or serve him? It's a matter of to whom or to what I give my heart; i.e., my deepest, most persisting allegiance. 

Ask yourself as many of these questions that fit:

  • What fills my head most of the time? 
  • Where in life are my most cherished and protected pleasures or interests?
  • Where, if I were ruthlessly honest with myself, do I want to be left alone to do as I please - including by God sometimes?
  • What are my dreams; do they have anything to do with relationship to Jesus and his Kingdom? Is my spiritual life mostly routinized to-do's: go to church, have a quiet time, read the Bible, tithe, be a nice, responsible person, sing in the choir, volunteer for a project, stop cussing or smoking or watching TV, etc.?
  •  When was the last time I was overwhelmed with my love for him or sensed the closeness of His Presence?
  • Do I ever get the sense I'm going through the motions because I'm spiritually bored or detached from a spiritual life. 
  •  Am I struggling with hidden sin which causes me to shy away from being with Jesus much less feel I belong to him because I don't want to give it up?
  • In reality, how much am I working to secure my piece of the American Dream for myself and my family?
The thing of it is when we look at the call of Christ on all who would be his disciples there is a pretty rigorous summons to sacrifice their lives and follow him. They were, and we are to be at his service. The motive to do so is because we've experienced the ravishing goodness of who he is on our behalf. One way or the other, we've come to know him as real and near us. Remember that once the disciples saw the risen Christ, they devoted all of their days to proclaiming him in the world no matter if it cost their lives, They finally recognized the enormity that he is God Incarnate who sacrificed himself for the world because he chose to out of unfettered love. When you see God, the other stuff just doesn't sparkle as much.

We all know this because we've read and heard the stories a gazillion times. But curiously they seem a little unreal to us. They're the heroes of the faith, the exemplars. We're just folks. And the reality is we have our hands full needing to keep our jobs in this economy, pay our bills, keep our health insurance, put our retirement plans in place, get the kids to college, maintain a style of living we're comfortable with, and have some time to have a little fun once in awhile. That's reality, right. Yeah ... it's a perspective of reality, and distinctly western. Is it the trajectory we've been called to maintain in lieu of something better? I think not.

Wrestling over the years with my own issues of belonging mostly to me rather than Jesus, I recognize how easy it is to subtly drift into dual trajectories of seeking to attain the felicities and comforts of the world while trying to maintain a respectable spiritual life as a Christian. The problem I found, with notable exceptions, is that Christians spend a larger percentage of their time trying to build a trajectory that makes them feel comfortable, free, fulfilled or safe, and end up largely avoiding actually following Christ where he is working in people around them because it's messy, scary, time-consuming, or they have to sacrifice the quality of life they really want in the end. If we can can get the best of both worlds we feel pretty satisfied. God understands. 

Again it comes down to ownership. Do we belong to Christ who is our Lord and has a trajectory he calls us to which mostly reflects his values, and eternal interests in the world he has placed us in, or do we belong to ourselves which largely reflects American Dream ideals and personal preferences. I think when we finally decide we genuinely want to be Christ's, and that it means a trajectory of shouldering our own cross to carry through a preferred life of service, our spiritual perspective changes, and we begin to see our identities primarily as followers of Christ who is at work all around more than we cared to notice before. Yes, we need to eat, and pay bills and keep a roof over our heads, but the American life of creature comforts, gadgets and leisure pursuits no longer satisfies like it did to one who has crossed over the line of ownership.

Here's why I think that's so. Belonging to Christ defines a spiritual trajectory that is both contemplative and active, spiritual and practical, inward and outward. We seek to be alone with him who is our Refreshing Source and Abiding Fountain of Life. We listen to his voice, study his thoughts and ways, learn to notice his Presence in the ordinary, and find pleasure when we recognize his unabashed love and goodness toward us. It's called FASCINATION. Anyone who has heard his voice or had a revelation he is real, or been touched by freedom and healing because of him stays fascinated because WONDER who is real and loving has opened REALITY which stays close.The more you sit with Jesus and enjoy his company , the more your trajectory will remain in him and flows from being with him.

At the same time because we've been in the company of One who loves and frees us we want to take action in service that the Values and the blessings of the Kingdom are manifest in the lives of people who can't see Him. We want to bring grace, healing, freedom, food, comfort, dignity, courage, friendship, wisdom and reality to our corner of the world or beyond if he summons. Our spirituality is not cloistered away, but in the crowd, out in the streets, and in the homes and workplaces, over the back fence. It's real because we've been with the most REAL and know his heart for this groaning creation. Our spiritual trajectory leads us to benignly overwhelm hatred with fierce love that won't back down because we're Christ's. Our action joins his Presence. We don't make it up; we follow because we've noticed him at work and come to help (nor because he needs us, but because he invites us to join him.

So ownerships begins 


Learn to sit in the silence in the early morning at home, or by a lake, pond, or river at some point in the day to just be with him who's trajectory of ownership frees you.

Talk to him and listen for his response. Go for a walk with him and open your heart to his beauty and truth.
His trajectory of ownership enlivens you.

Examine your day or the one before, and ask for the grace to notice his Presence there. Thank him for the blessings he sent you that day. His trajectory of ownership lavishes you with grace.

Ask him to show you your sin, especially those which reflect your selfishness and belonging to yourself in your heart, Ask him to reveal your offenses that you might make amends with others.Thank him for his forgiveness.Ask him to free you from any selfish trajectory which steals your heart. His trajectory of ownership washes you abiding forgiveness.

Then, just be quiet and learn to rest at peace for a few minutes.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Artist Reception For Catherine Gibbs At The imagine Art Gallery Was A Smash!

Last night at the imagine ART Gallery we hosted an Arts Night Out Artist Reception and Opening for Impressionist painter, Catherine Gibbs.We didn't know what to expect in terms of attendance, but turnout well exceeded our expectations, both in number and enthusiasm for Catherine's bold and wonderful paintings. Her show was entitled Passing Through and had as its focus, trains. In Catherine's words:

"Through my paintings I have become attentive to the splendid drama of my everyday world; the passing of light through the day, the movement or stillness of water, or subtle shifts in seasonal color.” But, of late, she has started to focus on “urban scenes, specifically trains.” She says they are metaphoric in that they can evoke playful feelings or convey nostalgia, even loneliness. She sees as most compelling that trains evoke a “sense of hope,” in that, “whether they be moving at breakneck speed or pressing on slowly and steadily, there is promise in the journey;” they “transcend what could be considered mundane to beautiful.”

Indeed, they are powerful  because of her use of rich color, large structures which evoke movement and heft, and the feeling of power and energy. The train paintings fill the space with big shapes, bold colors and train yard majesty: big transport machines like big beasts of burden doing their work or waiting on the next leg of the task. In her exhibit, she's also included some earlier work of pastoral paintings lending of wetlands and  the diffuse light of the Impressionist's eye. Also, sprinkled in the mix are small and mid-sized paintings of New England warehouse and mill buildings of the Industrial Age. Her exhibit is both striking and subtle. It all works.

But before I go further, I need to thank some folks. First, thank you, Catherine, for creating the work and agreeing that the imagine ART Gallery was the next stop for it. Then, there is Tricia, who has this gallery in her heart (she's really it's curator), and lends a keen eye for atmosphere, optimal placing of the artwork, and then creating a spectacular feeling of grace-soaked hospitality through the delicious food of great variety and amazing taste she prepares. It's all a labor of love for her. Then, I must thank imagineers Jenn Swick and Kristen Hastings who faithfully show up on Arts Night Out, and other gallery evenings to do all manner of things such as setting up the hospitality, making sure the food is replenished, standing at the door down on Main Street to invite folks upstairs, and at the end of the evening helping clean up, or actually host for an evening when we can't. They also add to the bounty of the food table. Thanks also to imagineers Kevin and Janet Williams who always come by to lend support and help out, including with the making the signs on our Main Street front door. Imagine newbies Chris and Laurel Peltier and Lauren Raymond came by to support the evening. Lauren brought food as well and manned the door with Jenn for a while.

As with the TWiNE exhibition of exquisite tapestries, we were delighted by how many people came to see Catherine's work. . TWiNE was the largest Artist Reception and Arts Night Out we'd experienced by far. Catherine's night was not that far behind. There was a steady stream of people all evening. At times it was packed! They kept her busy in the front room talking about her work, and wrote comments in the Guestbook such as:

"Awesome! So beautiful..."
"Powerful; wonderful work. Wow!"
"These are wonderful - varied and with their names take on many dimensions!"
"Another beautiful exhibit. So glad we came!"
"Impressive body of work!"
"Am I hearing the image? feeling the air? the vibrations?" Yes." 

Added to our delight for her was all the folks we got to talk to: old friends, people from our past and folks that we've known by name, but never met. We also had artists come up to us and inquire how they might exhibit at the imagine ART Gallery. That's happened before, but we had more folks ask last night than any other night. It was our pleasure to meet and get to talk with them. They're still surprised we're a church. Some at first seem a bit guarded, but as we explain who we are, they ask questions or even pick up some of our literature. A few last night asked Tricia about coming to one of our worship gatherings. That'd be lovely.
Jenn mentioned folks are beginning to know who we are. She said she heard people talking about the space and how great was the experience they had. They tell others on the street to pay us a visit because of the art and the great food. She said someone walked by and pointed "that's where imagine is." So we're getting known in town - a reality longed for and very exciting to us because we want to be of service in Northampton.  

Everyone also talked of imagine's gallery being a great space for art. We've heard that from the beginning. More than one person said there was something about the space which made it inviting and serene. People notice the hospitality and the grace extended to them and it moves them. There are "wow, the food!" comments. We've wanted to do just that. One person said she'd been to the TWiNE exhibit which made her day, even her week, and she very much looked forward to coming back to see our next exhibit which last night had the same effect on her. We know it has mostly to do with Jesus being the center of and reason for all we do, and he is in our midst including the gallery exhibits. Plus, we sincerely want to bless people with beauty and grace and welcome. Art can be a such refreshing breeze to the soul, an unforeseen delight to the heart, and an unexpected liberator to the mind. So it's a lovely feeling to see people recognizing we want their experience with us to be special because the art is very well done, the food and hospitality are more than they've expected, and the space is curiously inviting.

So we're 6 months in and have no idea where God will take us in the days ahead, but there feels a momentum not of our making in this gallery work I'm very careful to assume too much because I've done so here before and way prematurely as it turned out. Doing so can be quite disappointing. Reality remains God will bless as he will bless to suit what he desires for imagine's work. Anything else we try is mostly chasing after the wind. We just need to show up each day ready to work, full of faith and hope and love. Our part is really for us to follow him when he calls from one day to the next. I think he's been calling us consistently through the gallery, but we'll see how it unfolds. 

I never will relish being a windchaser!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Our Two Encounters of the Towing Kind.

If you've read my blog for awhile you might remember a very early post where I wrote of my frustration with discouraging folks from parking in our rented private space. We've put up cones and had 5 of them stolen. I've also stated we really don't like towing people who refuse to read the signs posted and park there anyway.

Every time we leave our space to go somewhere we pray when we return no one would be parking there. It's true! Our landlord and others in the building renting adjacent spaces have told us the only alternative is to tow them. As I mentioned above, we honestly don't like doing that because it's $135, plus storage fees at $25 per hour. We know folks come into town to shop, have a meal, visit one of the pubs, or go to a concert. They're just looking to have a nice time out. I get it ... another reason why I don't relish towing them.

But recently, I've soured any leaning toward compassion in the matter. A couple of months ago in the afternoon we were coming home from some sort of errand and there ensconced in our parking spot was a car. All the other parking spaces adjacent to ours were empty. Grrrrr. So, we know the routine and called the towing company who've become very familiar with us (since March, the need to tow has picked up substantially because McLadden's Pub just opened right around the corner). A few minutes after they called, we spotted two young men in their 20's walking to the car carrying what looked like cake boxes. Just as they were about to get in I said, "Hey guys, you're parking in our private space and were about to get towed." The young guy on the driver's side smirked and said, "Yeah, like that's gonna happen. GRRRRR." I retorted, "You think we're kidding? Why don't you just sit right there for another 5 minutes and you'll see how much we're kidding!"

The kid on the passenger side looked surprised and said, "what are you doing that for? We just came to pick up some cakes." I replied, "That might be true, but why should we have to wait for you to do that when it's our space? We don't where the owner of the car is or how long they'll be there. Like you, people give us all sorts of reasons why we should let them park there 'for just a minute.'" He gave me a "that's BS" brushoff." They got in the car and left.

Don't you just love attitudes of entitlement!!! I know I do.

The second encounter was more upsetting  because of the person's quick and self-righteous judgment of people she doesn't know.

Last week we were coming back from somewhere and, once again, someone was in our spot. All the adjacent parking spaces were empty. We summoned the tow truck which showed up in about 7 minutes. The driver hooked up the car, and was done in about 5 minutes. We pulled into our space, got out our stuff and started to leave when this petite women in her late 40's or early 50's walked up and offered, "Well that was a pretty a__hole thing to do, don't you think?" "No, I don't," I said back. "You didn't need to tow them," she responded. "Yes, I did because it's our space and they have no right to park there!" She looked at the adjacent spaces and shot back, pointing, "You could've parked in any one of those." I said, "No, we couldn't have because they're private too, and would tow us. It happened before with our daughter." I continued, "Look at it this way: if you go home tonight and someone you didn't know just decided they're staying in your house for the night, you wouldn't respond, "Oh, sure, I'll just get a hotel room." When I said that, she nodded slightly and gave me a subtle facial gesture suggesting, "You got a point there." But, then she  turned slowly  and as she was walking away left us with: "Well, as long as you can live with yourself." I was annoyed and surprised by her words so I snippily retorted, "We do that quite well, ma'am."

I'm not proud of saying that last thing, but I have to say I was confused and angry at why she felt the need to say anything at all to us. We don't know each other. It was as if, to her, we were in the wrong and just needed to let people park there whenever. To tow them was over-the-top, or unfair, or un-neighborly, I guess.

As I thought more about it, I realized my frustration with the two young men, and then with her was that the folks who ignore the signs, steal the cones, and park where they please have no responsibility to the people who pay for the spaces. The latter are supposed to yield to the interlopers who feel entitled to use that spot because it was empty and for the taking - first come; first served, I guess? In both situations we were judged as being unreasonable and unkind. We needed to yield, period. Our small inconvenience did not match what towing would cause them. That's true, but if we did nothing people would park there all the time. We've tested it, especially since the pub opened.

The reality is: we pay for the space. It is ours to park in or not. We need no one else's permission to do so, especially someone who just decides they're going to take the space as they please. By the way, it is clearly marked that the space is reserved parking, and non-compliers will be towed at their own expense. You takes yer chances if you ignore the warning.

As I said, we don't enjoy towing, but we also don't like being taken advantage of, or being summarily judged by someone who knows us not. No one likes either of those two injustices.

So, we'll continue to pray no one parks there, and continue to tow if they do. Sometimes people need to say, "No, you can't."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Way of Celebrating and Testifying; Noticing and Not Keeping Silent.

Most every imagine/Northampton worship gathering we use the fat cylinder of marbles you see above. Yeah, I know we're weird. Been there; am there; will be there, most likely. Actually, one person's weirdness might just be another person's insight. The reality is our weirdness has meaning: we think Christians should be celebrators and testifiers to the core. We think each through his or her own personality, temperament, and sensibility should develop an attitude of celebration given the enormity of the unmerited grace each one has been given because of Jesus.

On Sunday, we generally begin our worship by giving folks a chance to celebrate the goodness or greatness of Christ by how he's revealed his love for them. From experience, I realize most people think it best to testify to their remarkable encounters with grace, God's provision of healing, kindness or abounding blessing experienced during the week. But to testify to something mundane, seems well, mundane, not particularly worthy of note. In my view, all the ways we are made alive by grace are far beyond counting, from the tiniest to the most monumental. We'll be astonished when he shows them to us.

I remind people that when we hear the word celebrate we need to think of everything from: how our past week was not upended by unrelenting chaos, or fear or danger or loss, illness, cruelty, frustration, stupidity (ours and theirs) etc., to we were able to get out of bed to work another day, or have a roof over our heads. From one day to the next, if we choose to, we'll have bellies full of food we prefer to eat. Yes, we may have had the unthinkable happen this week - because it does for most of us at some point in life - but unless we live in an area of the world overtaken by chaos, it's not the norm. Therefore, celebrating the commonplace or routine is wise. Testifying often and with gratitude to an "uneventful" week is fitting. Pouring out thanks that none of us or those we hold dear went hungry this week is right to do given the One we know behind all our blessings.

I think a hallmark of our being related to the Most High must be our desire to tell of his simple and wondrous works. We are wise to learn the frequent proclaiming of  his greatness, and reminding each other of his goodness. We'd center in REALITY each day by often looking for the evidence of his care and sustaining hand. In other words, a day should never go by without deliberately pausing for a moment to inventory, then acknowledge God's Presence and unmerited favor toward us through the ordinary. Such humility and gratitude soften our hearts to the spiritual discipline of noticing. Taking a moment to perceive God locates us in the REAL behind all that is. The heavens declare the glorious handiwork of God, but so does being able to have a hot cup of coffee in the morning, or being able to wear clean clothes if we want.

And as we make it a spiritual discipline to testify to one another of the Holy Spirit's apprehendable Presence with us each day, we gently entice others to do the same. We point the way. Our noticing and reporting amazing grace unlocks wary lips. Speaking as "normal", Jesus's subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) interaction with his people gives spiritual sight to the hesitant and distracted. When we talk of something regularly over time it becomes to be part of our culture together. Celebrating the Lord's presence in our community helps people begin to look for and share evidence of his life intertwined subtly with ours. God with us becomes God with us because he did this and does that, and "showed up" in this situation, so it goes.

For us the marbles give a light-hearted forum for telling each other how God answered prayer, opened the way for something, healed one of us or someone else, provided just what was needed, is teaching us this or that in real-time situations. Our relating the stories confirms The Story we hold fast to because the God in those stories is the active God of our stories. He's in our midst, and though not physically present in a way we can see him with our eyes, he is spiritually present by how he influences our daily living, whispers in our thoughts, opens our eyes to his Word, answers prayer, uses problems and persisting difficulties to mature us, and sometimes intervenes miraculously such that there is no other reliable way to explain it. Those who seek to know his ways learn to recognize his "hand marks."

The way of celebrating and testifying, noticing and not keeping silent is the way of the Patriarchs, the Kings, the Prophets, Jesus, the disciples, and all who couldn't or wouldn't keep silent throughout the generations since. If God is, then he is to be noticed, celebrated and testified about. It really makes no sense to not tell one another of his faithfulness and beneficent sanctifying in our lives. We are to live/ALIVE as if God is really God so our lives can reflect him. A powerful way we do that is to talk to one another about what our God is doing in and through our days. He's doing what only he can do to make us ready for the weight of glory. So learn to notice his ways in your life. Ask him to teach you of this. Then celebrate what he creates in you, especially freedom and getting to walk with the Teacher of all teachers who will finish what he started in and through you.

Look at the prayer of David below . Notice what he implores his people to do based who he knows God to be and how he has revealed himself in his life:

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5)


Open my eyes, gracious Father, to see who you are and what you're doing in my life.

           Heal my blindness.

Give me discernment to notice keenly much the Holy Spirit is active and near me all the time.

          Heal my ignorance.

Teach me the way of celebrating who you are and how you're making my life matter.

          Heal my hesitation.

Unlock my tongue and open my mouth to testify often to your beauty, greatness, and goodness.

           Heal my silence and fear.

Let me be one who helps others see you and come close because of how I talk of your liberating love and ways.

In your name, the ONE who is worthy to be honored and celebrated.