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Wasted breath

20 May

Twenty years ago I sat in the study of First United Methodist Church, Millington, Tennessee, where I was pastor. A fantasy played in my head-again. It was of me standing before the Lord some day and having him ask me what I had done with my life. After I had yammered on a bit he asked me, “What about that one thing I asked all of my disciples to do just before I left the earth?” “Oh, you mean that go and make disciples thing? We never got around to it. We spent all of our time taking care of those who were already safely home.” Wow! That is not a good fantasy. It’s not that I think that will exclude me from life in the Kingdom come. It’s just that I don’t want to have spent my whole life here and stand before my Daddy with only disappointment to show for it. This time around with the fantasy I felt God yawn and say, “Is just feeling bad about that all you are going to do? When are you going to stop wallowing in that sorry mess and do something about it?”

I said, “Ok, Lord, what next for me?” And the Lord answered with a vision about a wild and crazy church that would be focused on reaching the unreached-that would bend it’s every speck of time, erg of energy, spark of creativity and penny of resources on helping those who don’t know Jesus find their way home safely to him and his tribe. Out of that vision Heartsong Church was born.

Just before we launched our first public service I knew the stakes were high. The scope of what we were hearing that the Lord wanted us to do was God sized. We felt afraid and called at the same time. We understood that to do what the Lord wanted us to do would take a band of committed fired up Jesus followers. Mere attenders and spectators would not do.

As the launch approached I had a chilling thought invade my mind. It said, “You are a fool! This thing you “see” will never happen. It will fall flat on it’s face, and you will be a laughingstock. You cannot do this.” I recognized the voice as that of the evil one.

I knew he was right about me. But after some struggle I decided to trust that he was wrong about God. And all I have to say to that now is: Happy 15th anniversary Heartsong! You, by God, have proven the devil wrong!

And now that we have laid out Seeing 2020-what we have heard from the Lord about what’s next for us as Heartsong, I’m feeling exactly the same as I did before our launch fifteen years ago. Jesus in motion, deeper influence, wider presence? The scope of what the Lord is calling us to is definitely God sized. I’m sensing that the tribe is feeling both afraid and a definite call from the Lord to pursue what we are seeing. And there is no doubt that if we are to accomplish what we are being called by God to do, it will not possibly happen without a strong tribe of committee fired up disciples.

And this time the devil isn’t even wasting his breath on me. How about you?

#Being2020 #devil’sbreath #Godsizedscope #Jesusinmotion


Can you feel the mountains tremble?

13 May

The first thing we heard from the Lord in this several month discernment process we have been calling Seeing 2020 is that he has crafted us over the years to be just the reflection of him he wants us to be. Loud and clear we heard from the tribe, the council, the senior leadership team, team leaders and some of our friends from the community at large that the heart of Heartsong is just who the Lord needs us to be. That doesn’t mean that we individually have grown to full maturity, or that we as a tribe have. What it does mean is that why we exist, what we do, how we do it, our five core beliefs and the Jesus centered life are all gifts to us to be shared with as many as we can influence for Christ’s sake. As we all go deeper in our personal relationship of love and trust with Jesus and each other, and as we go wide in sharing that same kind of living with all in our sphere of influence whose lives are not working as they would if they were spending life according to the teaching of Jesus, we will continue to be this particular and peculiar Jesus following, grateful recovering tribe of knotheads, hotheads, potheads, sots and assorted nuts, ever including all those we are able to reach who do not think they fit in any of those categories and as such, are in denial. We will continue to be about the Lord’s work and only his work. As we have done the past fifteen years, everything we will ever do-everything will be a witness to the life, teaching, death, resurrection and ongoing life of Jesus among us, in us and living through us. Whew! We are so grateful to know the Lord wants us to be who we are! And that was only week one!!!

Yesterday, Jathaniel laid out the second big part of what we are hearing from the Lord in response to our question to him: What’s next? It’s not flashy. No big buildings or capital campaigns in this part, and I know you are disappointed we are not launching a three year capital campaign right now! ;>). What we heard across the board loud and clear from “us” is that the Lord wants us to roll up our sleeves, abandon our comfort zones and make some new relationships. We are being called to a deeper influence in this community for Christ’s sake! Quite frankly, it was a surprise to me how deeply you felt the Lord nudging us to be involved in bringing light and love to the pervasive problems that divide us and demean us and threaten to destroy us as a community. And you have heard the Lord say that we need to develop strategic partnerships with those in the community who are doing the work of community and individual uplift. And what we are called by God to do is bring our faith and hope to bear in ways that may not eradicate these massive issues, but in ways that save one and maybe several at a time. There is no big surprise there. The Lord told his people long ago that they would be salt and yeast-maybe not changing the whole community at once, but having a growing impact on their world by doing what love does one by one, day by day.

And I will admit it was a surprise to me how strongly you feel about Friendship Park being a key part of our going deeper for Christ’s sake. I love the project personally! My belief is that it will be a world monument to friendship that makes not only our community, but the whole world a safer and more joyful place. I’m not sure what it is about the park that moves the tribe to claim it as our own, but that message came through crystal clear. This version of the body of Christ wants to extend our arms to the whole world, and offer a witness that goes beyond what might benefit us personally. As we take this to heart and live it out I believe the same thing about Heartsong that I believe about Bob Goff (“Love Does”). We, like him, will not make Jesus smile; we will make him laugh out loud!

So….. be who you are for Christ’s sake, and extend your love into the community and world in ways that make both more reflective of the Kingdom come. So far what we have heard from the Lord is not complex, and it’s not flashy. But by God, if we all give ourselves to it we will learn, and show, that complex and flashy can more than a bit overrated, if not grounded in being who we are, and being a force for good where the Lord has planted us.

And as we come up on our 15th Anniversary this Sunday, we will hear the last part of what the Lord is saying to us about Seeing 2020-about being 2020. Do you think it will be flashy and complex? Don’t be surprised if it is.

Far More Extraordiary

6 May

Yesterday Jathaniel began to lay out what we are hearing from the Lord as we move from Seeing 2020 to being 2020. For those who have not heard, since last September the Heartsong tribe of Jesus followers has been asking the Lord “what’s next?”. We are fifteen years into this experiment in practical Jesus following-this adventure of a lifetime, and want to know where the Lord wants to lead us between now and the year 2020.

As we prepared to hear “what’s next?” from Jesus we put on our Jesus glasses (i.e. chose to see the world as he does), grabbed our towel and basin (because whatever he says to us will be all about serving others), and took to heart again that the love he call us to is beyond mere thoughts and feelings: for Jesus love does.

The first part of what we “saw” yesterday is that the Lord wants us to know that the culture he has built into us is foundational to everything else that’s next for us. The Lord has led us to be clear about why we exist, what we do and how we do it. He has formed us around five core beliefs and the 3G way of following him and given us the nine tenets of the Jesus centered life to keep us close to him and on task for the sake of his cause.

None of that will change. What will change-what will have to change for us to do all of “what’s next” is the dedication of each one of us and all of us together to live out together, and to share this Heartsong culture-the Heartsong way of following him. Everything else he is calling us to do between now and 2020 depends on us growing deeper in our commitment, deeper in our investment in this tribe, and wider in reaching out to our FRANS (friends, relatives, associates, neighbors and strangers whose paths we cross).

What we will be sharing in the next two weeks is exciting! It shows the confidence the Lord has in us to play our part in God’s ongoing story. And to get to that exciting rest of our story, will require us pouring our lives into making this tribe as strong as possible. We will need to grow in every way a tribe can grow to be able to take on all of what the Lord is saying to us about being 2020.

It is beyond the power of each of us to do what we will need to do to be faithful to “what’s next” for Heartsong. All I can do is give my best time, energy, creativity and resources to it. All you can do is give your best. But you know what? If you and I do that, if all of us give our best to this tribal effort by reaching out, showing up, joining up and showing out, the Lord will make what we see in 2020 be in 2020.

What’s next for us by God is a God sized next. It will require the power of God working through ordinary people like you and me for it to happen. But that is just how anything wonderful and world changing ever happens-by God! It happens when ordinary people invest their lives together in the cause of the Almighty God. I would love to be a part of the Lord doing something far more extraordinary through Heartsong than the extraordinary things we have already done for Christ’s sake! If there are enough of the Heartsong faithful who share that desire (and God only knows how many of us are needed for that critical mass), we will look back on these days as the time we began to take joyful responsibility for being the grown up church the Lord had in mind when he said: let there be Heartsong!

#gutcheck #Heartsongfaithful #Being2020

Call me a dope

29 Apr

Ok, you are going to think I’m a dope. Last week as I was preparing to speak on Sunday it suddenly dawned on me that the three messages I had written to prepare all of us to hear “what’s next?” from the Lord for Heartsong were just some new ways of saying what we have been saying for a while now.

The three messages were: “What You See”, “Without A Vision” and “Love Does”. “What You See” was about how we need to take on the way of looking at life, the universe and everything (i.e. reality) the way Jesus does. That turns out to be another way of talking about how we “Get it!”. Adopting as our own the plausibility structure of Jesus is another way of saying downloading Jesus. “Without A Vision” was from the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and telling them to do the same for one another. That story took the place of the Last Supper story for John, and I suggested that might well have been because he recognized holy communion (a union of wholeness with the Lord) as experienced through service. Discovering our places of service in each situation with each one day by day by day is another way of saying embracing our heartsong (“Got it!”). We will serve at the call of the Holy Spirit according to our one in a zillion wiring. We will place our unique never before been and never will be again selves at the disposal of others as the Spirit points us in their direction by opportunity, impulse or arrangement. “Love Does” was about-well-love doing. Love cannot be merely a feeling or thought or plan. Love, Jesus style, is not love unless it eventuates in something done, which is another way of singing our heartsong out loud.

I believe the Lord blinded me to those completely evident recastings of the 3G life because if I had tried to prepare us using those categories you would have been sorely tempted to have yawned me off the stage, and I would have pulled all my hair out trying to find a fresh way to express what we have come to know as the basics of following our Lord into life. Get it, got it, go! Download Jesus, Embrace your heartsong, Sing it out loud (“Go!”).

Those are not one time accomplishments. They are major movements in learning who we are by God and how we are meant to spend our lives. There must be a macro downloading of Jesus as we begin to learn who he is. There must be some initial soul searching as we learn more deeply who we are, and we will need to learn the full sweep of the story of God if we are to find our place in it. There must be the early on application of all that as we try our wings in our sphere of influence, and maybe along the way some macro calling to a specific vocation for how to spend the lion’s share of our time, energy, creativity and resources for Christ’s sake. But beyond the macro movements of the 3G life are the micro applications of it.

Downloading Jesus, embracing your heartsong and singing it out loud are how we are called by our Lord and empowered by him to spend our every day with every one in every situation. And to the extent we do that we are ever ready to hear what the Lord has to say to us next. So bottom line: we get ready to hear the Lord by following him into life according to how he has taught us to do it. We live that way we are ever ready.

Some of you will call me a dope for not understanding at the outset that however someone might think about how to get ready to hear “what’s next” from the Lord it will come down to a steady focus on the 3G life. The rest of you will say, “we already call you a dope.”

On not taking one for the team

25 Apr

My heart goes out to all who are feeling the pain in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. It is gut wrenching to see all of the heartache as it continues to spread into the lives of countless people. A particular focus of prayer and love on this day are the parents and family of Sunil Tripathi, whose body was discovered in the Providence River yesterday. Sunil disappeared on March 16, the day after the bombings, and was for a while the focus of fierce online speculation. He was misidentified as the suspect in the picture that turned out to be Dzhokhar Tsaraev.

That misguided witch hunt for someone who was obviously not involved in the bombing, but deeply distressed turns my mind to a painful truth. Among those to whom my heart goes out these days are our sisters and brothers of the Memphis Islamic Center, and all like minded and big hearted people of Islamic faith and heritage.

Again, someone in the name of Islam has committed a horrible atrocity. Again, the eyes of a lot of people in American will look with suspicion at, and hold angry thoughts about those they guess might be Muslim. In order to be exonerated in the courts of popular opinion (social media, some public media outlets and many personal conversations) people of Muslim faith will be expected to take a stand against what was done in the name of their faith, or by their silence be considered to give their tacit approval. They will feel pressure to take one for the team.

I hope they do not. All of the Muslims it has been my joy to come to know, to a person, have absolutely no sympathies toward those who use their faith to spread hatred and violence. The character of their lives is on display everyday in their places of work, in their interactions with their neighbors, in the ways they reach out with love to those in need. Why should they have to take one for a team they do not play on?

When someone claims the name of Jesus and does something hateful and violent I don’t feel any need to distance myself from them by making a public statement. I don’t play on the same team as them, no matter how strongly they claim the name of Jesus. The Jesus they pledge allegiance to is someone I do not recognize, and one not worth knowing. And I don’t get stares or suspicious glances or feel that people are looking at me as if I’m just like the one who stepped so far off the love path in the name of Jesus. You may think that such a thing does not happen to our neighbors across the street, but let me assure you that it does.

It is not fair for them to have to distance themselves from these hateful atrocities. We should not expect that of them. The lives they live in communion with all of us in this community are plenty statement enough. My hope and prayer is that with enough open hearts and minds, and in time, the majority of us in this dear country will realize that whatever name someone claims who does cowardly, hateful and violent things, they are actually doing it in the name of the evil one, and they will be seen as acting on their own misguided understanding, and not one shared by loving people of any faith.

#lovingourneighbors #faithfulMuslims #fairness #Bostonbombings

Self Radicalized

19 Apr

Boston strong. Those are two words we are hearing a lot as the tragedy of all those damaged and lost lives in Boston streams before our eyes and calls for the attention of our prayers. The spirit of a people are tested when all hell breaks loose, and the resolve of Bostonians to rise above the hatred and embrace the glory of life is a witness to us all of the potential in every human spirit.

So is the ugly turn of the lives of the brothers who unleashed hell on unprepared and innocent victims. That too is a witness to us all of the potential in every human spirit-including mine-and yours. From all accounts to this point, people who knew the Tsarnaev brothers would have given them their highest recommendation. The older brother, 26 year old Tamerlan, was a golden gloves boxer and a fine student. The 19 year old, Dzhokhar, was also an accomplished athlete and student. And both showed sterling character to those who thought they knew them best.

What went wrong? Two other words we are hearing a lot during the 24/7 reporting are “self radicalized”. It means that there was not an organized group that fostered this horrible turn of events, but that these two were motivated internally by an ideology, acted on their own initiative and independently together carried out their assault. Something inspired them to act, but acting was a conscious decision by each one that came from their own minds and hearts.

Hear me carefully. You and I as Jesus followers will best serve our Lord and his cause by being self radicalized. I don’t want to trivialize those two words or co-opt them to make a point. Like many other concepts this is one that first and best applies to those who follow Jesus and has been twisted in applying them to a horror such as this one.

The word radical means from the root. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine (root) and you are the branches. Those who remain in me (following me according to my way of love) will produce much fruit.” And the fruit of which our Lord speaks are the acts of love we unleash on the world that make our world a safer and more joyful place. To be self radicalized for Christ’s sake is for each of us, by the powerful inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be motivated to live Jesus out and to make conscious decisions from our own minds and hearts that extend the love Jesus shows us to all who are in our sphere of influence. We are to show up and show out for Christ’s sake. Another way of saying all that is to download Jesus-Get it!, embrace our heartsong (that intersection between how we are wired and what God is up to in the world)-Got it!, and sing our heartsong out loud-Go! When we do the world changes as you and I self radicalize-as we show up and show out-for Christ’s sake.

When you and I walk into the Kingdom come and are met by Jesus and all those who got there before us, the Lord and his whole entourage will not want to hear about what you and I were up to during our time on this planet that went wrong. They will be eager to hear about what you and I unleashed for Christ’s sake. What they will want to hear about is what went right.

#Boston strong #self radicalized

The Fear of God

14 Jan

A voice from the other side of the world once said something of me that was not true. From New Zealand, after talking with me for around eight minutes about how the relationship between Heartsong and the Memphis Islamic Center began, one of the interviewers said, “You are an amazingly fearless man.” My immediate response was, “The one I follow is the most amazingly fearless man ever!”

It’s easy to think of someone as fearless from the other side of the world. But up close and personal he would have been able to detect all kinds of fear in me. I still fear being misunderstood. I fear when the church is struggling to keep up our financial obligations. And I certainly felt fear during the time of our initial moves toward a friendship with MIC, and when some of those we thought were with us turned out not to be, or whenever I am criticized while trying my best to faithfully follow the Lord. And don’t get me started about my fears regarding the Fearsome Mary Stone! ;>)

But not all fear is bad. In fact, it may save our hides from time to time. It may cause us to reconsider our course of action and veer toward a truer and more faithful course. It may cause us to grow and deepen in our relationship with the Lord and others. And there are some fears that are holy!

Among my greatest fears is one I have concerning coming face to face with the Lord for the first time. It’s not a fear that he will reject me. I’m secure regarding his sacrifice covering all my and your sins. I fear that I might disappoint him. Not because I am human. He is far more accepting of my faults and failures and my shortcomings than I am. The fear is that I might have to face him knowing I have not spent my life as he wants me to. I know that when he sees me walking into the Kingdom come, he will be looking behind me to see who I’m bringing home with me, as he will with all who say they are his followers. Trust me, that is a motivating fear. It’s a holy fear. See, I love him so much I use that fear to keep me hard after him, on the love path, staying at his ways to the best of my ability, and when failing to do that getting right back at them again-with him as my constant guide for course correction.

That is one of only two fears of God worth having. One of only two fears of God that does us, him or the Kingdom any good. The other fear of God worth having is that one called “the beginning of wisdom” in the bible. It is not fear in the sense of being scared of God, but instead a deep sense of awe at the power and majesty of God-the immensity of God as opposed to our limitations. It is that “fear” that causes us to take God seriously. And when we do, and begin to try to please this awesome God, we discover that the only way to do that is for us to love this God who loved us into being, and to love others whom he loves to the best of our ability.

And by the way, saying that the one I follow is amazingly fearless is also not true. Jesus does fear; God also fears. God fears as parents fear for their children. God fears that you and I, that any created child of God, might completely misspend our lives in existence instead of following Jesus into real life-abundant life, overflowing life-life that is of an eternal quality. The fear of God is a function of God’s love for us, and the only two fears worth having are also functions of our love for him.