Messy Toolbox

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Messy Toolbox

What does duct tape teach us our mission in Messy Church? What about a wrench?  Crystal Goetz, Regional Coordinator for the state of WA, shared a fun and inspiring Facebook Live on August 5th exploring her Messy Toolbox.  The good news is that even if you missed it live, you can still catch it on the Messy Church BRF Facebook Page.  Don’t miss it!

Check it out HERE.

Crystal, in the middle, with Messy Friends from South Africa at the MCIC 2019

Messy Church USA Webinar

Are you experiencing impatience with figuring out how to reach your Messy Folk? Frustrated that you don’t know how to make plans for the fall in this changing and uncertain time? Are you more than ready to be done with all of the complexities of planning during a pandemic?

Join us on Thursday, August 20th, at 10 am (PDT) to renew your spirit and learn some new spiritual practices. Rev. Nicole Reilley, a founding board member of Messy Church USA and teaching pastor of Valencia United Methodist in Valencia, CA,  will be sharing what she is learning about patience and spiritual habits during this pandemic. Bring your entire Messy Team! 

Cost: Individual $ 25.00, Team of 2-4 people is $ 40. Over four people to a team is an additional $ 5.00 per person. REGISTER HERE

Discount available for all Sustainer members of the Messy Church USA Network. Check with roberta@messychurchusa.org or Johannah@messychurchusa.org for details. 

Don’t Be Afraid…Really?

 A Sermon by Johannah Myers, Associate Director of Messy Church USA

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;

I John 4:18

There are certain things you can say to me that are guaranteed to have me doing exactly the opposite. Telling me to “calm down,” will not, in fact, help me calm down. To be honest, I’m pretty sure that telling anyone to “calm down” has never, in the history of the world, actually worked.

Right along with “calm down” come the equally useless phrases “don’t worry” and “chill” (or it’s companion, “relax, I’ve got this,” which is most often spoken by someone who rarely in fact has it…) – all phrases likely to have opposite effects. And of course, there’s the classic, “Don’t be afraid.”

Telling someone to not be afraid in the midst of a frightening situation seems about as useless as a back pocket on a t-shirt. Yet, it never seems to fail that as soon as we find someone in the Bible in times of disaster or at the start of a massive, impossible task, God shows up in one form or another and says, “don’t be afraid.”

The Israelites facing down Pharaoh’s army – don’t fear.

Daniel, facing off against lions or his buddies Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a fiery furnace – don’t fear.

Mary, surprise, I’m an angel of the Lord and oh by the way, you’re gonna have a baby by the Holy Spirit – but yeah, don’t be afraid.

Storm on the sea, Jesus says, “Why are you scared?”

Jesus tells his friends they’re going to be persecuted and he’s not going to be around anymore the way they’re used to, but hey, don’t let your hearts be troubled.

There are some who say that there’s a Bible passage telling us to not fear or not worry for every day of the year. The instruction to “not fear” certainly appears more frequently than any other. As if somehow telling us to not be afraid will actually help!

Frankly, fear is a fundamental reaction – it’s wired into our bodies. Some fear is instinctive; it helps us stay alive figuring out if we need to fight or flee. We are made to experience fear – and who designed our bodies? Who knitted us together in our mother’s womb? Who knows every part of us, in our inward-most parts? So why is God going around telling us to “not be afraid?”

Lord knows, 2020 has given us plenty to fear.

Murder hornets? We’re wired to feel fear.

Massive dust storm? Fear response engaged.

A global pandemic, with daily reports of the rising, massive loss of life making even the simplest of tasks like buying groceries or coming to church dangerous? Our bodies are going to send out warning signals to every part of our body.

Protests? Political unrest, economic uncertainty? We’re wired to feel fear.

As the popular meme goes, let’s look outside and see what chapter of Revelation we’re on today.

The writer of 1 John wrote to a community wracked by division and excessive pride and it’s into this brokenness he writes, “perfect love drives out fear.” God is love and God’s love is revealed to us in the sacrificial love of Jesus. When we abide in God – rather than in our own fear – love is our only course.

But here’s what God knows better than anyone. Yes, instinctive fear is helpful, life-saving. We have an intrinsic fear of pain to keep us out of painful situations. But fear’s a funny little emotion. Because a good deal of our fears are not actually instinctive, but are taught – life experiences and even cultural norms can teach us to be afraid of certain things, even certain people. Fear gets even trickier because it’s also partly imagined. In the absence of something genuinely scary, our brains will begin to imagine the worst. We literally – without even realizing it – can make ourselves afraid in anticipation of something that may or may not happen.

So along with the instinctive fears of 2020 like murder hornets and a global pandemic, we can add in the “what if” fears. What if this never ends? What if life never returns to normal? What if we really don’t get to sing together for 18 months? What if the economy doesn’t recover?

Because fear affects all of our body, from head to toe, it’s no surprise that it greatly influences how we react. Fear leads to heightened anger or anxiety and so we’re angry without even knowing why. Fear causes us to lash out, to make enemies of neighbors and friends. We hoard resources. We are rarely creative when we’re afraid, meaning we’re less likely to find new, innovative solutions or even, apparently, manage good, critical thinking skills. When fear takes over, we are not at our best selves.

You’re scared. I’m scared, too. If ever there was a season that’s given us plenty to actually fear alongside enough imagined or anticipated fears to last a lifetime, 2020 has been that season. Lord knows, we’ve seen fear in action over the past months, wreaking havoc in its wake.

Into our fear, God says “Do not be afraid.” Not because God doesn’t recognize or understand why we are afraid, but because God knows that being afraid won’t leads us to live the abundant life God wants for us. Instead, God says “don’t be afraid” as an invitation to abide in something far better.

Like telling me to calm down will quickly have me doing the opposite, God’s is also calling us to do the opposite of being afraid.

What is the opposite of fear? Bravery? Courage? Maybe. But the root of the word “courage” is the Latin word “cor” – heart. In a recent sermon, Lutheran preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber suggested that we see in the life and example of Jesus that “maybe the opposite of fear isn’t bravery. Maybe the opposite of fear is love.”[1]

The writer of 1 John wrote to a community wracked by division and excessive pride and it’s into this brokenness he writes, “perfect love drives out fear.” God is love and God’s love is revealed to us in the sacrificial love of Jesus. When we abide in God – rather than in our own fear – love is our only course. We’re right back where Pastor Michael left off last week – love God, love one another.

[1] https://nadiabolzweber.substack.com/p/be-not-afraid-um-yeahok

Have you noticed that when someone is scared, we call them “chicken?” Ironically, it’s a chicken – more specifically a mother hen – that Jesus compares himself to. And Jesus certainly wasn’t chicken! In times of danger, a mother hen will gather all her chicks under her wing, sheltering them from whatever danger persists. Her action does little to protect herself; indeed, farmers have found hens killed by fox or fire, whose chicks remain alive and well, safe in the shelter of their mother’s wings. Gives a whole new meaning to calling someone “chicken,” doesn’t it? Jesus, like a mother hen, didn’t act in fear; he acted in love and calls us to do the same.

In times of heightened fear, God pushes us to get to work, putting sacrificial love into action. Instead of fight or flight, God wants us to lean in, extravagantly serving our neighbors. God calls us to move beyond the “what ifs,” the anger, the “worst-case scenarios,” and to do the opposite – love.

I want to close this morning with the story of Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, examples of what sacrificial love looks like in the midst of great fear.

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, Robert and Kenneth, both medics with the 101st Airborne Division, were dropped behind enemy lines in France. While the 101st and the 82nd Airborne divisions, worked to secure the roads for the incoming waves of troops arriving along the Normandy beaches, the medics were to provide first aide to their comrades. They found the village church in Angoville-au-Plain and set up a first-aid station. The fighting was intense. While the battle raged, the medics administered first aid, going out into the battle to search for wounded, bringing them back to the church in a wheelbarrow.

Even when the Allies lost their tenuous hold on the area, Robert and Kenneth continued to work in little church, treating the wounded in their care.  The Germans left the Americans alone to work because they realized quickly the men were offering medical care to anyone brought to them, no matter their uniform. They treated American soldiers, French villagers, and German soldiers, never discriminating between friend or foe. For three days, they worked tirelessly with hardly any supplies to save anyone who came in the door of the church. They only required that everyone leave their weapons outside the door.

At some point, a mortar shell hit the roof of the church. There’s still a crack in the stone floor where the shell fell – and remained, unexploded. After witnessing this hit – one that should have taken out the whole church but didn’t – 2 German soldiers came out of the bell tower where they’d been hiding and surrendered to Kenneth and Robert. The medics promptly put the men to work helping treat the wounded.

When the battle ended and the dust settled over Angoville-au-Plain, 80 lives had been saved, American, German, and French. Despite having received very little medical training before they deployed, Robert and Kenneth only lost three people.

I first heard the story of these brave medics in 2017, standing inside the little church which still has bloodstains on the pews. There’s a newer stained glass window that replaced one damaged in the war. It simply reads “greater love has no one than he lay down his life for his friend.”

2020 has been a most difficult year. We haven’t parachuted into flooded bogs and intense fighting – but we’ve had plenty to fear, real or anticipated. Into our fear, God says to each of us – to all of us – “Do not be afraid.” Now is not the time for fight or flight. Now is the time to buckle down and get to work putting sacrificial love into action at every opportunity – to be “chickens,” if you will, mother hens willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole. And in loving God and loving one another, love will cast out fear.

Sermon preached on July 5th, 2020 at Aldersgate United Methodist in Greenville, SC.

Thanks Johannah for sharing your words of courage with Messy Church USA. You can reach Johannah at Johannah@messychurchusa.org.  

Good News! On-line Messy Church makes a Difference!

A Story from Crystal Goetz, Regional Coordinator in Washington

I greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and send you peace from Auburn, Washington.

It was suggested that I write up a little blurb and send you the sweet story of a family that uses our online Messy Church to see each other. I hope you enjoy this touching story.

For over a year, a grandmother, Jimmie, has been bringing her grandsons to Messy Church..It’s has been their time, once a month to spend some quality time learning about Jesus together.  Then…COVID-19 hit and Jimmie had to be quarantined away from them because she has some very dangerous risk factors and her daughter, the mother of the two boys is a public school speech therapist and at the time had direct daily exposure to people, preventing Jimmie from being with the family.

When Messy Church online started, she was thrilled.  This was the first opportunity she had to see her grandsons for weeks.  She specifically learned to use Zoom so that she could be a part of our online Messy Church.  The boys log on with their Mom and Jimmie logs on from her home and guess what?  They are a family again!  It’s a beautiful thing to watch how joyful this family is together in the presence of Jesus.

I just thought I would share with you this happy story of what continuing to meet at Messy Church, albeit online, can do for those in our Messy Churches.

Crystal and our Swedish friends and colleagues Olle and Mikael at the Messy Church International Conference 2019 (when we could be together!)

Crystal is the Children and Youth Director at Auburn First United Methodist Church in Auburn, Washington. She led a team in starting a Messy Church three years ago and is our Regional Coordinator of Washington. You can connect with her at Crystal@messychurchusa.org.

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Creativity during “in-between” time

Roberta J. Egli

“We are made in the image of God, and God is the great Creator of new things and re-creator of people and communities who are broken. As we create and play together, we echo (God’s) creativity and we are renewed and repaired ourselves.”

Lucy Moore, Messy Church: Fresh Ideas for Building a Christ- Centered Community

My husband is the gardener in our family! He patiently plants bulbs and waits for them to spring up out of the ground.  He gave up on a few bulbs he planted earlier this spring only to be surprised when a little green shoot came out of the ground much later than he expected.  The growth that was occurring underneath the ground was beyond our visual perception.

As I engage in conversations regarding what is next for Messy Church in the USA, as well as the global community, I wonder how God is creating something new, even though we may not perceive it.  I wonder if the anxiety that I feel arising from the unknown to the many complex questions regarding how Messy Church adapts to our changed world blocks me from placing my trust in our creator God.  Rev. Nicole Reilley, a Messy Church USA board member, shared in her recent sermon on July 12 that “we need to look to God rather than the past or the future…we are to live in the in-between space trusting in God.

Do not remember the former things,
    or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43: 18-19

Trusting in our Creator God and grounding ourselves in the messy foundational value of creativity, I am wondering….

  • What are the most effective ways our Messy Church USA network to engage with one another to learn from one another and to perceive the movement of the Spirit?
  • What kind of resources do local church Messy Leaders and the households they engage with need at this time?  How can we most effectively provide those resources without overwhelming overworked people engaged in ministry?
  • How can we equip local Messy Churches to engage with their Messy folk through on-line, in-person or hybrid experience?
  • How do we stay grounded in our five values of Hospitality, Creativity, Celebration, All-Ages Together and Christ Centered as we experiment with new forms of Messy Church?
  • How do we envision new ways of being Messy Church in our changed world?
  • What are the spiritual practices that we need so that we can more clearly perceive God’s presence and guidance for our ministry?

On July 23rd at 10 am Pacific time, you are invited to a Messy Church USA Zoom town hall to engage with the above questions as well as questions that you bring to the conversation.  Here is a link to the Zoom invitation. 

My friends, this is a difficult time.  This is the first (and hopefully last) global pandemic that we have had to navigate.  Many of us who work in the church, use the summer to plan out the worship and curriculum for the coming school year.  However, everything is constantly changing which causes our plans to not be relevant in just a few short days or week.  Let us place our trust in our Creator God who is making something new that we cannot even imagine right now.  Let us live in a sense of curiosity rather than anxiety as we experiencing the unfolding of the next weeks and month.   I look forward to our ongoing conversations as I hold you in prayer this day.

Prayer: As you find yourself in times of uncertainty, may you perceive God creating a new thing within your life and community. In the places that are broken, may you experience the healing power of Christ. In the spaces where community is being re-created, may you place your trust in God’s Spirit to lead and guide you. May your spirit be renewed as you place your trust in the God of Love.  AMEN.

Grace and Peace,  Roberta

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

“What Next” Questions

Roberta J Egli

During the past several months of hunkering down at home, I have gained a greater appreciation for the global Messy Church Community and the USA network.  Hearing how people from all over the world are adapting their Messy Churches to on-line, or at home, or zoom calls has been a highlight.  I give thanks to God for all of the many ways that people from all over the USA network and world have creatively shared the good news of Christ in a large variety of ways over the past four months.

 One of my weekly routines has been to turn into the Messy Church/BRF Facebook Live event every Wednesday. Several weeks ago, Lucy Moore,founder of Messy Church, voiced something that I had been thinking for a while.  When COVID-19 began, there was a sense that we were in for a several month crisis that would soon pass and then we would get back to our regular church routines.  How silly!   It is now apparent that we will be living with COVID-19 precautions for an extended period of time. Even though some churches across the country are re-opening across the country many others will not hold in person worship until much later this fall or in early 2021. Even when we gather again in person, Messy Church will look much different as we have entered into a new reality of how we can gather to worship all-ages together!  

Lucy shared some questions that I have been pondering. (Read More Here)

  • Is it too early to decide on a course of action or strategy for the next seven months?  Should we just do all we can to listen to families, leaders of Messy Churches, wise people?
  • Should we keep pushing the ‘Keep contact, keep caring, keep serving, keep reaching out even if nobody seems to respond, keep offering Messy Church at home resources, keep doing Messy Church on Zoom and Facebook Live for a much longer stretch than we’d imagined
  • Should we see this as a fallow/sabbatical/Jubilee period and give Messy Churches permission/encouragement to stop rushing about…and use the time to think and pray and listen to God?
  • Is this an opportunity to leave the garden to its own devices and recover or not after the storm to re-imagine everything from scratch and break the ground in the new field we now find ourselves in? (“Wilding” is a concept that i learned about in Lucy’s blog, learn more here)

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.

Rainer Maria Rilke

What I found inspiring at the end of the 30 minute FB live session with Lucy is that she did not proceed to give any answers to the questions. She simply invited others to join her in conversation to discern which questions to ask.

We are called at this time to live in the tension of ‘what next’ questions which reminds me a favorite quote:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
i
Letters to a Young Poet

So, my friends, what are the questions that you have been asking in your local church settings?  In my next blogpost I will share some of the ‘what next’ questions we have been asking at Messy Church USA.  Our mission as an organization is to equip Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect.  In order to meet our mission, we need to hear from you what it is that you need at this time. Look for an opportunity to gather via zoom to learn from one another on July 23rd.

Grace and Peace,

Roberta

Below are some articles that have been helpful in my pondering! Happy Reading!

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Stones of Help

Johannah Myers, Associate Director of Messy Church USA

Johannah Myers from South Carolina led the Messy Church Facebook Live event on June 10th.  Watch the FB live here.

Johannah Myers
Messy Church UK Facebook Live, June 10, 2020

Johannah’s original blog post from Messy Church UK is posted below.

I’m in a part of the world where things are opening back up – including churches. In fact, we’re planning to start back with in-person worship this week. It’s very scary. And it’s very different! One of the changes that will be hardest for many of us is that we won’t be singing together any time soon. I’m not sure if I know how to be Methodist if I can’t sing!

One of my favorite hymns is ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’. There’s a line in the second verse that says, ‘Here I raise my Ebenezer.’ And of course, how many times have we sung this song without ever knowing what an Ebenezer was and how we might would raise one?!

It comes from a rather random story in 1 Samuel 7. The Israelites messed up (again) and lost the ark of the covenant to the Philistines. Of course, while the Philistines were in possession of the ark, they experienced nothing but trouble – passing it around from city to city because no one wanted it! Finally, the Philistines take the ark back to Israel! But it’s another 20 years before it seems the Israelites are ready to turn back to God in a way that they can bring the ark back into their center. Samuel gathers them to repent and pray. But the Philistines learn that Israel’s gathering, and they decide to attack. Israel calls on God for help and God protects them. Samuel takes a stone and sets it up and call it Ebenezer – eben = stone, ezer = help. Samuel wanted the people to remember the ways that God helped them. The stone was a visible sign of God’s faithfulness.

A few years ago, on a retreat, we made ‘Stones of Help’. Mine has names of people who, throughout my life, have been a source of strength, help, encouragement. As I look over this rock and all the names, I realize how many ages are represented!

iStock

As we begin to think about Messy Church during this season of forced physical distance, but also what Messy Church will look like as we begin to gather, I wonder about how we will make space for the Messy togetherness.

For the last few years at my church, we’ve had small groups (10 or so people, 3-5 family units) that meet monthly for really what amounts to a mini-Messy Church or a Messy Church at home. They’ve done Bible study and activities together, worked on mission projects, they eat together… so basically Messy Church, just smaller! As we’ve moved out of strict shelter-at-home restrictions, some of our Companion groups have even gathered to reconnect in person.

Like many of you, I’m realizing that our Messy Church may be one of the last pieces we can bring back in full. But like Greg, who did this Facebook Live earlier today, I’m wondering what opportunities this season presents for us. Our Companion groups were an accompaniment of our Messy Church – now, they might very well be the primary access to Messy Church, at least for a season. Maybe we think small as a way of thinking big?

Going back to my Ebenezer – my stone of help. These people are here, listed on my rock, because along the way we had space for relationships to grow and development. In those spaces, I found help and support along my faith journey. These are the people who pointed to God, the ultimate source of my strength and help. Where will we create the spaces for relationships to flourish in ways that we can point the way to God, our Rock?

Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect in the USA.

Journey to the Jordan Messy Adventure

While sitting in our respective home offices, many people journeyed around the world on a Messy Adventure on May 21st.  This fifteen-hour YouTube live event was the brainstorm of Messy Church founder, Lucy Moore.  Messy Church USA collaborators provided two one-hour sessions for the world event.   Our first session was filled with stories and activities focused on baptism.

In remembrance of Jesus baptism in the Jordan, Messy Church USA virtually traveled from coast to coast as we explored stories from various waterways.  We began at the James River in Virginia with Cindy Banek taking us to the water’s edge and then sharing a number of shell craft messy activities.  Next, we went to the Mighty Mississippi as Jillian Mayer from Illinois led us in a breath prayer as we gazed at the Mississippi flowing past the majestic St. Louis Arch. Roberta Egli then introduced the Willamette river that flows south to north in Oregon.  WE then headed to the California coast line of the Pacific Ocean as Marty Drake and Leyla Wagner shared the scripture through sand art. 

A Coast to Coast Journey

the outline for the Jesus Journeys to the Jordan Messy Church Session if below and a link to the video follows the outline.

Theme: Come to the Water

Scripture:  Mark 1: 9-11

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased’”

Outline:

  • Welcome
  • St James River and Shell Craft Activity
  • Prayer at the Mighty Mississippi
  • A song by the Willamette
  • Scripture at the Pacific Ocean
  • A Messy Science Water activity
  • Renewal of Baptism Celebration
  • Water Fun

Messy Church Adventure USA Collaborators:  Cindy Banek(VA), Marty Drake(CA), Roberta Egli(OR), Crystal Goetz(WA), Jillian Mayer(IL), Johannah Myers(SC),Jenna Reinke(TX), Leyla Wagner(CA) and Jim White(CA).

Join the Journey to Jordan Adventure Here

Find the entire Around the World Messy Adventures Here

Renewal of baptism Order

Sahalie Falls, Oregon
Picture by Roberta Egli

Scattered Senses

A blogpost by Roberta J. Egli

Morning Prayer at the Egli backyard

Over the past weeks of this stay at home pandemic reality, I have begun most days drinking coffee in our backyard, in the cool spring morning, listening to a daily devotional a friend recommended titled Lectio 365.  Like many good things (i.e. Messy Church) it originates from the UK and uses the rhythm of P.R.A.Y; Pause, Rejoice and Reflect, Ask, and Yield.  I have resonated deeply with the opening invitation to pause: “As I enter prayer, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to re-center my scattered senses upon the presence of God.”  (Learn more Here)

As someone who has worked from home for almost three years, I have been surprised at how difficult it has been for me to focus for a sustained period of time during this physical distance work rhythm.  My mind is scattered, jumping from one thought to the next attempting to figure out what the future of Messy Church USA will look like which leads me to get stumped because this is a completely new reality for us all.  We are living in an extended pause and even though part of the USA is beginning to ‘re-open’, we will not be returning to any semblance of what life looked like prior to COVID-19. Taking a moment to be still and breathe the prayer; “re-center by scattered senses upon the presence of God” has been a life preserver to cling to.

I pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to re-center my scattered senses upon the presence of God.

Morning Prayer, Lectio 365

In the Bible paraphrase, The Message, by Eugene Peterson, Jesus gives strength to his followers with these words: “Are you tired? Worn out burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message)

My friends, we have all responded to this pandemic in different ways. Each day may find us experiencing wildly different emotions.  I have heard people describing ‘roller coasters’ of emotions. As we continue to step into the unknown future, may we put our trust in our God of all time. We are not alone; God is with us.  We are not alone; a global Messy Church community gathers to share ideas, experiences and a taste of life.  We are not alone; we can rely on the unforced rhythm of grace rather than our own anxieties, scattered senses or strategies to re-open. We are invited into the unforced rhythm of grace as we simply take one step and then another as we follow in the way of Jesus the Christ.    

My friends, wherever you find yourself,whatever emotion you are experiencing, take a deep breath, pause for a moment and center your scattered senses on the presence of God. (repeat often!)

Grace and peace, Roberta 

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Separated

A blogpost from Lindsey Goodyear

iStock

“Scenes from an apocalypse” would be the only way I’d be able to describe the last month around here.  On March 13, 2020, we got a call from our son’s school letting us know that school would be canceled for the next two weeks.  The following week, it was confirmed it would be closed until after spring break.  Then, last week, we were formally notified that our kids would not be returning to school for the remainder of the year.  With each passing week, more and more businesses closed.  With each passing week, more and more people filed for unemployment.  With each passing week, we lost access to parks, the beach, church, and gatherings of any kinds with those we love.  We were advised to stay home to “stay safe”.  If we absolutely needed to go out, gloves and a mask should be worn but it should be a “necessary” outing as every time we left home, it was a risk to us and the most vulnerable among us.  News outlets were splattered with devastating headlines of what the coronavirus pandemic was doing to our world.  Death tolls ticked up and we were left to watch, unable to believe our eyes.  What on Earth was happening?

As I’ve shared before, I struggle with anxiety.  One thing that helps, is conversing with others and making a connection.  I’m definitely someone who gets energy from being out and about.  I love talking to the parents at drop-off and pickup, I love meeting friends to exercise with, and I love making small talk with people I don’t know while I’m around town.  I love to cook and some weeks I go to the market four or five times.  Because of this, I know most of the people who work there and look forward to seeing them.  In short, I’m a gal who thrives on conversation.  So, when we received the news about our new way of living, I did my best to ward off panic and be in good spirits.  So, we are homeschooling?  That’s okay.  It’s an opportunity to spend more time with my boys.  So, I have to exercise alone?  That’s okay.  I’ll use the time to do some deep meaningful thinking.  So, I can’t go to the market on a daily basis?  That’s okay.  When I do go, I will smile and chat with people the way I always do.  But, this positive way thinking was not only ambitious, it was short lived.             

Homeschooling is arduous and teaching at home was proving to be an adventure I’d have to white knuckle through June.  I was spending more time arguing with my sons over how I wasn’t teaching the way their teachers do than time spent on actual school work.  Trips to the store were a huge letdown, as well.  I was all excited to go one morning but my arrival brought the reality of bare shelves and rude people shoving to get to items first.  I was only able to get a few things and stood number 22 in the checkout line.  To top it off, I was suddenly painfully aware of the loneliness I felt when I gave an elderly gentleman a big grin only to realize he had no idea.  The mask I was wearing would never show my smile.  Then there was exercise.  Living in a beach community, there is no shortage of people outside.  My normal morning workouts were littered with friendly smiles of people out for runs, walks, or a ride on their beach cruiser.  Now, the silence was deafening.  I was lonely.  I know this doesn’t make sense since I’m quarantined with my husband and two sons, but I did feel lonely.  I felt like there was no one to talk to outside of my house and although guilt came along with these feelings, I couldn’t help but wish there was someone else I could interact with.

 We’ve been lucky that the church we attend is in the same neighborhood that we live.  My kids both went to preschool there, it’s the home of our Messy Church, and it’s both my boys’ absolute favorite parking lot to ride bikes in once the service crowds have dispersed.  I was nearing the end of my morning walk, one Friday, when I looked up and something struck me.  I was right in front of this church that I knew inside and out, yet, something was different.  I always acknowledge the banner that hangs in front of Community United Methodist Church is Huntington Beach as it is changed from week to week to display different Bible verses.  This week’s stopped me dead in my tracks.  Romans 8:38-39 says, “Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  Wow.  In a time where all I felt was separation, I ignored the fact that I hadn’t been alone.  Not even once.  I was so wrapped up and consumed by the fact that I couldn’t see and make my normal connections with everyday citizens that I missed the fact that I had a direct line to a connection anytime I wanted.  It was just the reminder I needed to refocus and look at our situation with fresh eyes.

That verse did its job, and some anxiety was relieved.  I’m still a little anxious about what’s to come but, I’m definitely more aware.  God got my attention, once again, with His incredibly comforting words.  Although we are separated from each other right now, we will never be separated from God.  With the confidence of His words backing me, I’ve noticed things are starting to fall a little more into place.  Zoom has made it possible for our incredible teachers to do distance learning and both my kids are reacting favorably to their new school schedules.  When we go out on walks or bike rides, there are others out, now, as well.  They may be wearing masks or cross the streets to keep a safe distance, but they’re there.  Our Messy Church held their very first meeting through Zoom.  It was great to see faces of the “Messy” families that attend our church and to be able to catch up (it may be our new normal for the next few months).  Last but not least, the cooking.  Grocery stores have started to have more stock and my cooking has gone back to normal.  It takes a little more planning on my part so that I only go once a week, but things are looking up.  As I left the store the other day, I acknowledged a fellow shopper whose eyebrows lifted, cheekbones raised, and eyes sparkled.  I knew it instantly…there was a smile for me underneath that mask.                             

Lindsey Goodyear and her family attend Messy Church at Community UMC in Hungtington Beach, CA. You can reach her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com
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