Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm Stoked!

I'm so excited! I just got a ticket to Walking with the Dinosaurs in San Jose, CA!

Here's a video that captures some of the excitement!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"You Can Come to My Birthday Party"

Building Bridges was an incredible experience. I have never seen a group of people (both volunteer staff and our teams) work so well together and so hard. We sent out over 150 individuals throughout the San Ramon Valley to do everything from clearing trails, painting ball walls and cleaning yards to staying behind and packing care packages for troops in Iraq/Afghanistan and making lunches/cooking dinner here at church. This is a HUGE deal I discovered throughout the day. The logistics were amazing. The planning goes beyond what I was seeing/listening as we met throughout the summer and into the Fall. It really is true that you have to witness something sometimes to get a good perspective on what it really takes to pull off an event such as this successfully. There were some great moments out of the weekend. Our children had their own program at church while their parents were out serving. Our project was drawing/designing Christmas cards for the troops. And they were precious. We narrated the cards with what the children wanted to say to them. Before we had them get working on the cards we took them to the staging area where the boxes were packed, had them see some pictures of soldier whose mom's are part of the Blue Star Moms and showed them where their cards were going. It really helped I think for them to see what they were doing. Too often kids (and adults) do things in a vacuum never really understanding where their contribution fits into the entire picture. The comments/thoughts of the kids were precious. The Blue Star Moms were sharing that one of the ones that touched their hears was "You can come to my birthday party." Talk about pulling on heart strings. To a child celebrating is a part of life - and what a better wish to send to an individual in the line of fire than a prayer that they could come and celebrate life with them back stateside. It is beyond words.

We ended the weekend Sunday with a celebration service at church. The middle of the church was given tables for people to sit around and chairs were still available for those not at tables. A member of our community is currently in hospital and a giant hot pink card was passed from person to person being signed for them. There were such demonstrations of love from each of these people. You can tell how much this person-who is such a dynamic part of the community-is truly missed and cared for.

I have to say from a personal perspective, that I really think we need to consider as individuals who plan what a worship experience looks like - ways to encourage community and relationship building within church services. So much of what we do on Sunday mornings is relegated to an individualistic experience. It takes a great amount of intentionality to incorporate people communicating and talking with each other, hearing about their spiritual journeys into a worship service. What a gift we would be giving each of us if we could be vulnerable and open to both the Spirit and each other in the context of a worship experience? Coffee Hour after service just isn't the same. I saw something happen when the tables were set down. When people shared their experiences. When children and families and small groups were sitting around those tables in prayer and worship together. It was an entirely different atmosphere that rose up and took over. It was celebration, which is what we are exhorted to do throughout the pages of Scripture. What an invitation that could be - to invite people whose lives are really unknown to all but the Creator to celebrate, just as one of our children invited a soldier to their celebration. What kind of an impact could that have in the life of a church?

Friday, October 19, 2007

And you thought you've carved big pumpkins!

Here are some pics that I snapped last weekend at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival. I remember going to this when I was a kid and just loving the experience. A few weeks ago I saw a documentary on "Giant Pumpkin Growing Contests" on PBS which totally fascinated me. I guess that is what you get when you watch PBS when you are bored on a Sunday afternoon. Anyway, it made me remember about the Pumpkin Festival and the fact that they were having the weigh in contest for the great pumpkin the monday before the festival began. I didn't make it to the weigh in on my day off but I sure did have fun on that Saturday!

As usual, there was traffic congestion on the freeway out there. However what is normally around a 45 minute to an hour trip took over 2.5 hours to get there.

The scenery was beautiful - look at how the huge trees create such a canopy to drive under. We had three days of rain which for Northern California is a lot at one time at this point in the season. Yet Friday evening the skies began to clear up and the weekend was incredibly beautiful and warm. Didn't even need a jacket at the coast as I thought I would.

Almost there - the longest 2 miles that I remember.

The pumpkin fields and stands begin to show up just outside of Half Moon Bay. Boy where they festive!

Here are some pictures of the "great" pumpkin that came in at 1543 pounds and this guy who carves two giant pumpkins each year at the festival. This is the one that he was nearly done with as of 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Missional Mazes

This weekend is "Building Bridges" at the church where I work. It's premise is simple - do the most you can to those who ask for assistance. Be their friend. Be their assistance. Be Jesus to them. We're celebrating our 5th year of Building Bridges and let me tell you, it is one incredible project. My first meeting was literally the first Sunday that I came to work - mid May. Since then we've had numerous discussions, seen a major corporation sponsor via a grant this years' endeavor and watched as the projects have rolled in. It appears that this year our projects range from clearing trails in the local East Bay Regional parks, to painting at local elementary schools, installing new smoke alarms for seniors, and doing the tasks of cleaning out over-crowded homes and over-grown yards.

The weekend begins on Friday with a time of worship and going through the next day's activities. Saturday work day begins with breakfast, teams gathering at the church and then going out to their assigned projects with lunches either going with them or teams coming back to eat before moving onto another home. Saturday night is a celebration dinner and Sunday morning the entire church gathers together to process through the experience. I found out last week that this means our children will be in service as well - we have approximately 30 children who will be with their families directly serving their community and another 4-10 staying here at church doing their own service project!

This experience has led me to consider what it means to be a missional people in a post-Christian world. Anyone can be a part of a community event and there are plenty of them. Runs/races for cancer, HIV/Aids, homelessness. Marches to show solidarity for our troops, against the current Iraqi occupation, human rights. Telethons to assist natural disasters, terrorist tragedies. Picnics, festivals, parties to celebrate heritage, seasons, community life all abound. What makes what we who are Christ followers different?

I think it is community. I talk on or about this alot, probably nauseating some people who know me. Some would hypothesize that my discussion of this topic is a glaring demonstration of my need for community. At first I was offended by this comment and yet realized that they are right. I am in need of community. I am in need of a group of individuals who know me, accept me for my limitations and my gifts. Who will laugh and encourage, cry and exhort. I need a community who will kick back and watch LOST or Ugly Betty with me, cry when the Giants again miss the playoffs or cheer when USC is beaten by anybody - especially UCLA!

The reality is that we all are in need of a community. When the church is firing on all cylinders this is what we do best-we connect people to others and to God through relationships. In the past missional approaches from churches seemed to follow a traditional formula of offering a program, a speaker, an event and having individuals come to the church. Or perhaps the traditional visitation appointment. These may still work in certain cultures or geographical locations but the reality is that we must cast out a larger net in today's world. And we need to use different bait.

For Children's Ministry this means thinking outside of the box. It means that I spend time at the schools where my kids attend. At last count that is 14 schools throughout the year. I am doing yard duty or reading groups at 2 elementary schools which the majority of our kids attend. We send "thank you" baskets at Christmas to the teachers of our children's schools in appreciation of what they do for the children of our community.

It means expanding our families' horizons. And their comfort zones. In the future we will be going to homeless shelters as families and serving meals or passing out backpacks and clothes throughout the year. It means having desserts for parents only where you can relax and enjoy the company of other parents while honing your relationship with your spouse - after all family ministry begins with parents. Sports clinics such as baseball/softball, rock climbing and soccer are on the calendar for this year. And going out to local tournaments to pass out water or snack bars donating back the funds raised to community sporting events. These are ways over the next two years that we hope to make a broader impact in our community.

Will all of these cause large impacts in our community. More than likely not. Each one will cause a ripple that moves out from the center further into the community than we would experience if we stayed behind the stucco walls of our building. Yet the goal in all of this is not to boost numbers on the church roll. It's not to tell others about our church. It's to invite people into a community and into relationship with individuals who daily try to live an authentic life. It's an invitation to be the individual that God has created us to be when we are truly authentic.

It will take teaching. And sharing the vision and God's passion about building into our children and community the reality of Micah 6:8. And along the way we will continue to move towards being more creative in maneuvering the missional maze.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Welcome to the Ministry!

To a dear friend who just started her first "official" week as Children's Ministries Director at her church -

Congratulations and God's Best! I know that you will do well in your ministry, and see God's hands in this adventure.

Buckle your seat belts - it's going to be a great ride!