Two years ago while on Sabbatical, Ben attended a FOCUS retreat of HTB London. He witnessed just a few days, but he saw the church in the city venture to the countryside for a week together of worship, encouragement, rest, and recreation. Ben began to pray about doing something similar with our church. He shared the vision with our team. The vision and prayer were now in the making! We would do this in May on the weekend of Bay to Breakers (an “athletic event” in the city that runs from the Bay to the breaking of the ocean waves in the Pacific where clothing is optional, but one cannot run intoxicated) This weekend always affects getting downtown to Epic anyway - so let’s head to the redwoods! We secured the location, speaker, and worship leader. Our Kids director wrote a full curriculum and our team executed the most excellent, well-run weekend ever, full of games, personal tote bags for every camper, and marketing/storytelling that wowed us all. Even a week prior to our first FOCUS, Ben and I were talking with a pastor in London. He said, “you’ll see things happen in a weekend away that would take 5 years to come together from one Sunday to the next.” We shook our heads believing he was telling the truth. We just didn’t know how good it would be!
we’ve been to london. but more than that, we’ve been changed.
Ben and I had the incredible, most humbling and exhilarating opportunity to see the Church alive. Believe me. I saw it with my own eyes. The Church is alive all across this planet!
God is using Debbie and her brother to invest in the lives of thousands of youth in India. Pekka from Finland is stepping into schools and seeing life change. A lawyer from Germany has started a church in a pub. Danny and Jackie remain faithful leaders at a church in Indiana. Issac and Valerie are forming a community of creatives in south Florida. Al reached out to a Michelin star restaurant in East London about partnering with his church to provide meals for the single mothers in their community and the chefs said yes! Claude was a drug dealer at a young age and found Jesus and is now studying to be a pastor. Jessica and David Oyelowo talk marriage and acting and Jesus being central to all they do.
And while conferences can be quite overwhelming with information, God did something so sweet and intimate with me and Ben. He repeated Himself to us. He used new friends and main stage speakers and His Spirit to repeat what He’s been speaking to us for the past few months. How kind is that? I didn’t fill my journal with a wealth of new information. Rather, I wrote phrases that I’ve written down recently and I let Him wow me with confirmation of what He wants to do in me, in His Church in San Francisco and in this season of life.
Here are a few takeaways. My London leadership learnings:
Love Where You Live is 3 months old TODAY. How can it be?
My dreams had her on the NYT Best Seller list and supported with an orange flag on Amazon by now. But God! But you! And with a pure, yet fighting heart, I can honestly tell you, I want God to do His thing with LWYL and He is!
From my vantage point, my launch team, friends and family pre-ordered the book and were cheering loudly on social media all around release day (1.22.19). About 50 pastors and spouses gathered to pray over the reach of this book the Sunday before release day. I’m starting to see that the reach has gone beyond people I know and it’s now in the hands of friends of friends! LWYL is going places!
I had a conversation with God on Palm Sunday during communion and He revealed something significant and clear, yet vague! I love it when God speaks intimately to us! (I’m sharing this intimate conversation with my neighbors, those who subscribe to the newsletter. Click here and scroll down and subscribe.)
But let me tell you what you’ve done! Let me tell you where you, the readers, are taking this book and who you’re handing it to. You’re about to be amazed…
I’m learning that it is so much harder than it sounds. I’m learning that it requires great effort without immediate results.
In the Town of Six Traffic Lights, as best as I can remember, I saw a small, yet strong community of people who showed up. Majority of them were farmers. They took little time off. Even when their family went on vacation to the beach, they often stayed back. People in my town (and I dare say, people in my culture and the 1990s) graduated, secured a job and stayed in that job. The pharmacist got her degree, returned to the community and served the people. The doctor moved to town, opened up his practice and served the people. My school teachers juggled home life, community life, social life, and school life until retirement. I witnessed a culture, a community who showed up every day, not seeing results immediately, but eventually.
Yet the farmer’s seeds became bounty.
And the pharmacist and doctor gained trust and clients and patients.
Even the teachers gave us knowledge to stand upon. (Ms. Caldwell, Mrs. Williamson, I am the product of your showing up!)
But what if you don’t want to show up? What if you’re fed up, exhausted, so over this?
One of our kids is showing up every day for practice, not knowing if he’s going to get any playing time.
Ben shows up to write a message, delivers it on Sunday, and shows up to write another for Sunday comes again.
A friend of mine keeps getting up and loving her kids though she lost one too soon.
Another friend keeps loving his family in the smallest of ways because that’s all he’s got the strength to give right now.
A close friend is walking circles around a piece of property, believing God to provide.
My mom and dad show up to take care of my aging grandfather.
I’m learning that on the days I don’t feel like showing up, the world still goes on. But it goes on without my contribution. It goes on without my faith.
Big or small, our contribution matters. I’m learning that showing up is how we build something great. Showing up says I’m going to do my part, no matter the size. Today and the next day after that. This isn’t about taking a break. This is about not giving up, not letting something significant feel insignificant.
You’ve asked me if I have seen Salem or Ruth or Remus recently.
Yet I have.
I look for them when I’m in their neighborhood. But over 35,000 people live in the Tenderloin, a community just blocks from Union Square and upscale shopping, but where drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking, and homelessness abound.
I hear from Ruth from time to time via text. She reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus and those texts always come at just the right time.
I have seen them in the faces of others I meet though. Yesterday, I was walking the underground station at Powell Street and my mind was ahead of my feet, wondering how many would be finding shelter from the rain. I counted three men. Two asleep. Another in his wheelchair reading the Bible. One of the men who was sleeping only let his feet be seen. My pace slowed down despite the fact I was late to pray at the church. In my slowing down, I wondered if I had a water bottle and a cloth, would I have woken him from his sleep to offer a foot bath? Would he have even wanted that? Feet have never bothered me. His were no different.
This neighbor of mine, tired from having to stay alert and vigilant in the dark hours of the night was getting rest in a well-lit station with only his feet to show for it. Oh to cover his feet with another blanket. Oh to offer a foot bath. I had neither. I offered neither. I let him sleep.
To the other side of the tunnel sat a gentleman with his book open. I did not interrupt him either. But he interrupted me. He had my attention. Did he have the attention of other commuters on their way to work, appointments, and business as usual? God has his attention as he consumed the words on the page. And that got me learning.
How did he see our sleeping neighbors? Were we all the same kind of different? Two resting. One reading. Me walking. Is it our circumstances that keep us from paying attention or is it our perspective or lack thereof?
I’m guilty of seeing the outside of humanity and then determining they are suffering, they are the least of these, they are the marginalized. So how do they see me? Clothed? Capable? Cared for?
I kept walking. This wasn’t a one time experience. This is my city. My neighbors. Our issue. Our community.
Journaling is behind-the-scene content creation. That was last week. This week is about publishing what you create.
Publishing is hitting send. It’s submitting a paper or manuscript. It’s delivering a message.
And we are all publishers, by the way.The picture you share on Instagram. The words you carefully choose to go with your Insta-story. That Facebook post. How you craft your message. The story you use before you get into your three points. The group presentation. The weekly newsletter or the email to the team.
In case, we’re new friends: I’ve written a book published with a traditional publishing house. I co-authored a book with a friend and together we used proceeds to help build a home for trafficked girls in Africa. I took a compilation of blogposts happening in real time and organized them into an e-book for a church planting organization. Most of my publishing is in written content, but many of my friends create content for video and use pictures to tell stories.
The truth is we all have something to say.
The lie is that it’s for everyone to hear.
The lie, when wrapped around the truth, keeps us from even using our voice and our gifts because we think that not many people care to hear it, to read it.
But what is it we have to say?
Wise words are filtered words run through the mind once more, certain they are true and helpful.
For even one person to read what you have written, to hear what you have spoken, can that be enough?
Not if we’re keeping up with the person on our feed who has thousands of likes within 60 seconds of posting.
I’m hearing this phrase more and more. Our church staff talks about creating content for small groups, sermon series, announcements, and videos. Friends in the marketing world tell me it’s what they do. Even though my book is out, I find myself writing parallel content for podcasts and articles and talks.
Everyone is creating content and most of it is being stored online. When you write a post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. When you write your notes for teaching. When you construct an email, business plan, or essay.
We’re all writers.
This week I share what I’m learning about content creation, but specifically - journaling.
Journaling is behind-the-scene content creation.
Writing thoughts down in a journal may or may not become anything for the world, but maybe it will. Journaling, drafting is a huge part of content creation. So is brainstorming, research, and experience. Next week I’ll share about publishing content. Publishing is hitting send, delivering, submitting your content.
So where do people store their content before they publish it?
40 days of fasting and prayer leading up to the most remarkable days in the Christian faith, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is Lent.
Because Easter is a moveable feast, so is Lent and the other holy days of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday. This year, Lent is observed from March 6 – April 18. It’s not found in the Bible, but has been observed by followers of Christ for centuries as a spiritual discipline and remembrance.
I’ve learned from some scholars that the 40 days imitates Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness before He began His public ministry. I’ve read that “like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter.” (Christianity Today)
Secular theories of Lent involve Fat Tuesday and giving up something for selfish reasons, selfish gain, or out of religious obligation.
From my findings, observing Lent is intentionally setting aside time to remember Christ's life and death and resurrection and to discipline oneself to fasting, prayer, and studying of the Scriptures.
I recently read that “if Lent is not about getting to know Jesus Christ better, it is a waste of time.”
Therefore, I don't feel pressured into observing Lent, but consider it an opportunity to know Christ more.
Anytime I make a goal or set out to do something, I’m also looking to the other side of the accomplishment or journey. Looking at Lent, I wonder, what will come of us after 40 days of fixing our gaze on Jesus and less on the things of this world as we deny self more than normal? What could happen as we develop a stronger discipline of prayer, or at the very least an awareness that we’ve given something up to gain more of Jesus? (put this in the email to those who participate)
What if the gain is greater than the sacrifice?
“No matter how deep you are now, wade in deeper still. Don’t worry about what’s going to get wet. Don’t stop at the point where you can keep your feet underneath you. Get swept away. What are you holding onto? What are your hesitations to living a more Spirit-led life of faith? What illusion of control are you clinging to? Go all in. Pray today that this fast will be just the beginning of a deeper relationship with God.” (21 day fast, You Version)
“What you would call mundane and ordinary, God calls significant and sacred.” This is somewhere in the book, but it was fun to hear Ben quote me on stage!
Seriously, if you can grasp hold to the reality that when Jesus left earth, He left earth to us, then you’ll start to see that everything we do and say impact one another for the good of mankind and for the glory of God.
It’s been an absolute BLAST to teach with Ben in this series! I’m certain he’d say the same! What I love now that the series is over…