2012: Two weeks in

2012 is not even two weeks old and God has already begun his work in and around me. About a week ago, as I prayed about what God had in store for me this year, my mind was drawn toward the word “intentionality”–a theme I talked about in my New Year’s sermon (“In the beginning … rest”) and also in a recent blog. I got the sense that this would be a year of big decisions and big choices, with big consequences. At the time, I had no idea what those would be, but even in the last week, I’m beginning to see what God might have in mind.

This weekend, The District Church’s Leadership Community will be heading on its yearly retreat, for a time of spiritual renewal and re-visioning for the coming year. Last year, we had about thirty people; this year, our church having grown now to a community of around 250, we have over 50 people coming–and several other leaders weren’t able to make it this weekend! Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we get involved in helping this toddler-aged church learn to walk and talk.

As for myself, I’m learning to fill out my role as Associate Pastor at the church, moving from a manager and task-completer to a vision-casting, proactively-investing leader, with the remit to create, to innovate, to make space for other people to grow into their God-given potential. It’s, in equal parts, exciting and challenging, and I can’t wait to see how God does his alchemical work with what I have to offer. Discerning where and how to invest my time and energy is definitely a matter of prayer, and I’d appreciate yours for my continuing development in the calling God has for me.

Finally, I’m so stoked to inform you that–through the generosity of many of you getting this email–I’m now at over 50% of my target support for this year, after only two months! That’s not even including those of you who’ve said you want to support my work at The District Church but haven’t yet given! What an amazing testimony to your love and support; I’m so humbled, and glad to have you along for the journey. I count you as part of the ministry team without whom my work wouldn’t be possible! And as a reminder of how I ended up where I am, here’s a video produced by Lindsay, one of the storytellers (she’s a writer and photographer) at our church, from an interview we did last summer:

The Artist

The artist has eyes to connect the visible and the invisible and the skill to show complete what we in our inattentive distraction see only in bits and pieces.

Eugene Peterson, The Pastor, 164

 

Theologizing superheroes (or, revealing my inner geek)

Original post: December 5, 2008; repost: March 20, 2010.

Last night I satisfied for a brief moment my inner comic book fanboy and watched Superman: Doomsday, the cartoon adaptation of The Death and Return of Superman series. [Some of you may be saying, “Superman died?!” Others will be rolling your eyes that I even need to explain that, and there will undoubtedly be a few who don’t really care.] I’ve always loved superheroes. Maybe I’m mindlessly buying into what Robert Jewett in Mission and Menace calls “the American monomyth paradigm” (236-238); maybe I’m just indulging in childish flights of fancy. Regardless, since I was a kid, I’ve loved Batman’s fun gadgets, Wolverine’s ridiculously cool adamantium claws, and Spider-Man’s webbing (and humor). But Superman has always been my favorite superhero.

Every hero has angst. It’s part of the comic book code: everyone struggles with something, whether it’s Spider-Man trying to figure out how to balance school and girls and fighting crime, or Wolverine wrestling with his shadowy past and trying to control his feral nature. Superman’s angst is his otherness, his difference, his rootlessness; his struggle is to find his place in a world that is simultaneously his home and yet not.

Here then is the first parallel, one of the reasons I like Superman: because I identify with him. Both for myself as a Third Culture Kid, and for myself as a Christian, whose citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Phil. 3:20), this search and longing for home—to find people who really understand me and welcome me for who I am—is one of the struggles I face. Where do I fit in this world?

But the second parallel is what struck me (again, but with more clarity) last night, when I watched Superman: Doomsday. What makes Superman who he is? It isn’t just his super-strength, or his laser sight, or his super-speed, or his ability to fly, or his invincibility. It’s his values. It’s the fact that, even though he’s got the capacity to have the world fall at his feet, even though he’s got the power to subjugate all people and do whatever he wants, he chooses to be a servant, even to the point of laying down his life to defeat evil. Uh … obvious analogy, anyone?

Of course, the Superman mythology can be interpreted another way, as feeding into some of the American myths that Richard T. Hughes looks at in Myths America Lives By: of invulnerability, of always trying to do good, of American innocence. But I think even this way of understanding the Superman/Christ/America association belies the way that we as Americans (and we as Christians) can sometimes tend to (consciously or unconsciously) claim for ourselves a messianic mantle. (New discussion … go!)

Anyway … just wanted to bare my comic book-loving soul for y’all.

[Disclaimer: The movie isn’t all that amazing; but it is 75 minutes of fun.]

Tonight is inexplicable

Tonight, for some reason, I am filled with a most-unspeakable and inexplicable joy. For the first time since my move to DC, there is a settledness of spirit, a calmness of character. There is a renewed hope in my calling, a reinvigorated sense of freedom in God, a restored feeling of confidence in my own creative abilities and in what I hear God speaking to me.

The fire in my belly to create music and to perform and to put my faith into song is back. The passion to write the words (and perhaps books) that I believe God has put on my heart is back. The yearning to live with and laugh with and lead and love the people of God is back.

Perhaps it was the gig I played at on Friday night, where I was reminded of the great joy and satisfaction–a certain assuredness or perhaps even a sense of divine approval–that comes with using the gifts that God has graciously given me.

Perhaps it was the conference I attended this weekend–RootsCampDC–a gathering of progressive organizers. At RootsCamp, I encountered kindred spirits of all ages and colors, and my hope for change and the power of people working together was renewed.

Perhaps it was getting to talk with my dear friend Kate, whom I love and miss dearly, and whom I could best describe–and not exaggerating all that much–as the person in whom I see the peace and love of God embodied. Every time I talk to Kate, I’m reminded not only of God’s perspective on life, but I’m also humbled by how he is at work in her life in ways great and small–and simply because she has given him the space in her life to work.

Perhaps it was the decisions that I made at the start of the Lenten season already beginning to bear fruit.

All I know is … God is good. He’s showing me the path and urging me to go, like a father encouraging his toddler to venture out.

So I go.

Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

–Matthew 19:26