This past week we had the New Church Start Boot Camp. It was a very full day with lots of ideas posted on walls as we began to flesh out next steps. I posted a picture and a little overview and put it up on Face Book. Since June, we have gone from 112 to 404 people who are following the PRUCC FB Page. In the past couple of days the numbers that people see show a gain of two more people. What is interesting, is that is not the case. Since this post, for the second time in three months we have had people unlike us. Yesterday there were 5 people who unliked us and 7 people who liked us. The unlikes were in response to the Boot camp post. I wondered what I might have posted that would get people to unlike us. It didn’t take long to realize that I mentioned that I have a wife. That was the case the day others unliked us. In or Out is an interesting concept. Phoenix Rising UCC will be a place where no one will be unliked.
“Jesus said I am the good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. I know my sheep and they know me…I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.”( John 10:11-16) Jesus was prophesying that Jews and Gentiles would both come together in one sheepfold, live in peace, and follow. We saw Jesus model this truth, with the women at the well. (John 4: 6-29). She was a samaritian woman who was a rejected member of her community because she had been married several times and was now living with someone. Samaritians where also considered half breeds. half Jewish and half gentile. The did not belong in the Jewish community or the gentile community because of this. What made this story so important was Jesus did not reject her, He spoke to her, let her know that she was In with God not out!
The Good Shepherd say’s come, you belong to me and the sheep who hear come! The sad part of the Christian story is that throughout history followers have excluded many who heard the voice, putting up barriers, even killing others because they refused to accept that they” belonged
Nevertheless the Good Shepherd continues to call the sheep of every race, religion and sexual persuasion and they continue to come. Desmond Tutu said, “God is not upset that Gandhi was not a Christian, because God is not a Christian! All of God’s children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God.” Love’s ultimate proof is manifest in those who love God, self and others! We recognize the sheep because they listen to the shepherd.
Because Jesus never turned anyone way you can trust that God will never unlike you! Does it bother me that people have unliked Phoenix Rising UCC? Yes and no. Yes, because on both days PRUCC unlikes took place in response to articles where I mentioned my sexual orientation and same gender loving self. It is sad to me, because it left me with the assumption that those who took the time to unlike us, did so because they could not imagine themselves in a church were there was a gay minister or gay people. Are you out or are you in really isn’t the issue. What needs to be lifted up is Jesus has “other sheep” and they will be welcome with open arms!!!!
It is my hope that if this article provokes you to unlike our FB Page you might message me so that we can have a conversation. All Sheep are welcome in!!!
I attended the National Leadership Institute Conference in Atlanta a week and a half ago sponsored by Center for Progressive Renewal.1 A friend let me use their buddy pass which means flying stand-by. There is a saying “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Which means, no matter how well you plan circumstances may change. I was bumped twice before I got on a flight and I was frustrated. However, before the day was over my attitude had been transformed. What if some circumstances are meant to change? What if some intentional course corrections are influenced by God?
I was bumped two more times before a seat opened up. I got to sit next to two lovely, young college students, cousins who were going to Florida for vacation. They asked me where I was heading and I told them. As we conversed one of them shared that she was a sophomore at Regis College. I responded, “Wow what a coincidence, I am Regis College Alumna!” They were both raised in a Seventh Day Adventist church in Malden. When they told me the address, I was taken aback. I had been a member of the church that sold the building to their parents, both ministers in the early 90’s. When I shared about Phoenix Rising UCC, they opened their tablets and explored the website, soon asking many questions. We parted with hugs and good wishes. Clearly, this was not a coincidence.
The conference was filled with wonderful fellowship and insightful information. It felt like being hit with a fire hose filled with grace. A highlight for me was the opportunity to share the Phoenix Rising UCC story with author Brian McLaren who was the key note speaker. His writings have had a profound effect on my ministry so meeting him was as much a stand-by moment as my fight.
On the way home I sat next to a pastor of an interdenominational church of thousand from Alexandria VA. What are the odds that I would sit next to yet another who shares my love for Jesus. When he opened his laptop There was a line highlighted: Jehoshaphat said: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” I leaned over and said I love the story of Jehoshaphat. He smiled, “Are you Christian?” “Yes I am” I replied. Our conversation was very interesting; me a liberal progressive God is Still Speaking Christian and he a spirit focused Pentecostal Christian. It was a delightful harmonious conversation. I got to share Brian McLaren’s influence and Phoenix Rising UCC. He gave me his card and asked if we could chat again sometime.
Brian McLaren wrote: “…Faith was never intended to be a destination, a status, a holding tank or warehouse. Instead, it was to be a road, a path a way out of old destructive patterns into new and creative ones. As a road or way, it is always being extended into the future…To be a living tradition, a living way it must forever open itself forward and forever remain unfinished- even as it forever cherishes and learns from the growing treasury of its past.”2
My experience has opened my eyes to the profound reality that we are flying standby every day. I think it is reasonable to conclude that flying stand-by is truly living by faith. If you could grasp this concept what would change for you? I am convinced that crossing paths with the folks during my trip was not a coincidence. I can’t help wondering how many opportunities we miss when we get upset and angry when plans and expectations go awry. How could living by faith modified discouragement and frustration? Would we be less likely to see ourselves victimized by circumstances? What would be the likelihood of being more purposeful? Imagine how your life could change if you began walking by faith as though you were flying stand-by! If we are awake and aware and let ourselves seize the day intentionally what amazing experiences will we encounter or even become a part of?
 Center for Progressive Renewal: http://progressiverenewal.org/
 McLaren, Brian D., We Make the Road by Walking: A Year Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Aticvation, Jerico Books, pg xii,© 2014
This week I was a chaperone for a youth group who went to The Forks in Maine Whitewater Rafting. I had never gone whitewater rafting until three years ago. Over the years, seeing the video and pictures it seemed too extreme for me. It was then that I decided if these kids can do it, I can too! It was life changing. The first step is orientation. During this time, we get fitted with a helmet and life jacket and given a paddle. Then we are instructed how to hold the paddle and how you will use it. In the midst of all the instructions you are also told of the dangers. Somewhere during this time there is a moment when fear and anxiety almost changes your mind. Nevertheless, despite the fears you get on the bus and go.
Once you are in the boat with nine other people: each a novice with a paddle, each ready to take on this adventure like experts. You shove off. The guide shows us a few commands as we enter the first of five rapids. Picking up speed we race fast and furious; twisting and turning over boulders and rocks, through gorges surrounded by sheer cliffs five stories high. The whitewater crashes over every angle of the raft and people fall out. There is no time to be scared you have to bring them back on board. It isn’t long before you become acutely aware of the danger and the reality that the river is in charge not you. However, you can also rest assure that it is okay because the guide knows every nuance, every ebb and flow of this watercourse. What you have gained in this adventure is the wonderful experience of being fully aware that you are alive!
The second and third night we went on a Moose Safari. The first outing we did not see a moose until we were on the way back to camp in the dark and a moose ran out onto the road in front of us. Suddenly we all were awake and aware that at any time a moose might cross our path and it would not be good if we were not watching. The second night we got to see four Moose. We got a few great pictures of a Moose eating in a bog. Two on the side of the road and one who we saw in the distance giving us time to slow to a stop. As we came up on this beautifully awkward creature it just stood there in front of the car without a care in the world. After a while we even beeped the horn and it just went to the side and began to graze.
Each of these experiences, whitewater rafting and searching for moose made me think about what it really means to be awake and aware in our daily life. How often do you really take the time to stop thinking of all the things you need to do and just let ourselves be present in your day? The truth is most of our us experience life filtered through TV or Smart Phones, tablets or computers Faith is the evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hoped for. Being awake and aware is evidence of faith! I can say from experience that God is my guide when life feels like the rapids and turbulence surrounds me. A moose only has to cross your path once for you to become extra alert to the possibility of another encounter.
I am compelled to believe God is trying to alert you! God is crossing our paths all the time showing us love and acceptance but we are not aware that it comes from the one who is LOVE itself. I believe God has called me to Haverhill to bring together people who are searching for a place where second chances are a reality; where you are accepted as you are; where the message of Jesus is not just words and speech but deeds and truth!