Scatter Seeds Recklessly…Trust God

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Scatter Seeds Recklessly…Trust God

Messy Church International Conference (MCIC) Reflections 

Part 4 of 4

Roberta J. Egli 

Following the first international conference in 2016, the four USA delegates returned and brought others into the conversation as to how we could create a  structural ‘trellis’ to help support and encourage  the healthy growth of Messy Church in the USA.  We have been busy listening to one another as we implemented a vision for a nonprofit whose mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect with other Messy Churches in the United States.

This year, our delegation met on Sunday afternoon with Canon Richard Fisher, chief executive of Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), Jay Elliot, head of finance & operations BRF, and Lucy Moore, founder of Messy Church.  We wanted to take advantage of their wisdom and expertise as we move forward as an organization.  Richard shared a central core of their philosophy from the very beginnings of the Messy Church movement which was to TRUST the movement of the spirit in the growth of Messy Church.   He also shared the importance of focusing on the foundational values of Messy Church.

Front Row L-R: Jay Elliot, Maureen Carey, Leyla Wagner, Marty Drake, Steve Kim
Back Row L-R: Lynn Egli, Crystal Goetz, Richard Fisher, Roberta Egli, Lucy Moore

I resonated with a quote Richard shared that he had heard the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams once share that helped to guide him as a leader of BRF and for the team of Messy Church…“Go where the ground is already tilled”.  I pondered that quote for several days. As a leader of Messy Church, I was inspired by the quote that speaks of trusting God to do the work of preparing the way but as a farmer’s daughter I wondered how I was to discern ‘how we as an organization was to know where the ground was already tilled… how are we to find those places where God has prepared a way forward?

Several days later, at 36,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, I had one of those God moments when I was journaling about this conversation. I remembered that several years ago, Lucy shared the parable of the soils at the first Getting Messy in the USA conference.  I realized that our task as Messy Church USA is to scatter the seeds as liberally and recklessly as the sower of the seeds in the parable when the seeds fell on rocky, sandy, weedy and good soil.  It is God’s work to till the soil but it is our task to scatter the seeds.

We scatter seeds by sharing the stories of how lives are changed in Messy Church through workshops, social media, and videos. We scatter seeds by engaging in leadership development for Messy Church teams. We scatter seeds by sharing dynamic best practices training for those churches wanting to start their own local Messy Church.  Some of the seeds will fall on the good soil which will be the place where we are led!

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You will continue to hear stories from the USA delegates to the MCIC 2019 conference.   Check here to read an interview with Leyla Wagner that has already been posted. Hearing stories is important for the work of Messy Church.  I want to hear your stories! How are you messily scattering seeds of good news at your Messy Church?  

Messy Blessings, Roberta

We are on this messy path with many others

Messy Church International Conference (MCIC) 2019 Reflections

Part 3 of 4

By Roberta Egli 

Over 200 delegates from 13 different countries gathered at the High Leigh Conference center in May for the second ever MCIC. Seven came from the United States and several of us met one another for the first time!  For the three of us who attended in 2016 it felt a little like coming home to a great community of people passionately serving God through Messy Church!

How High can we go???

 At every plenary session, workshop, Messy Church experience and even at the crowded meal tables, there was a palpable joy present in the gathering of the delegates.  Over the course of three days plus an additional day for international leaders (60 people in total) from outside of the UK, we shared our ideas, stories, delights and challenges.   What a delight to be reminded that we are not on this path alone but there are many different people all over the world experimenting and  messily creating new paths of being an intergenerational church. 

We heard stories from Australia of an experiment of several weeks of Messy Camp where families came and camped having fun together. On each weekend, there was a Messy Church to engage all and through the week, there were crafts available and a movie each night chosen by the children of the families.

We heard from Neal from Canada regarding the joys and challenges of creating a fully bi-lingual Messy Church.  

Messy Church Canada Delegation (Neal is on the far right)

From the UK, we heard joys and challenges of preparing Messy Church for the families of prisoners who were waiting to visit their loved ones.  Finding ways to create a welcoming space in a dreary setting and the relationships that deepened over several months was extraordinary.  We heard from Johannah Myers from South Carolina about how she created intergenerational companion groups based upon the five foundational Messy Church values.  We heard from small rural Messy Churches as well as large urban Messy Churches. We learned of an experiment of Messy Churches in a housing development in the UK.

Messy Church has many resources yet we learned that in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, Christmas does not occur in the cold of winter but in the middle of summer?  How does one translate the Christmas story into all of these different contexts?

We can learn from those who have been doing Messy Church much longer than we have in the States as well as those who are just beginning on this path.  We are not alone, we are among many and that is inspiring!

The Sticky Star created at the closing worship of MCIC 2019
“What is the angel of God saying to the global Messy Church Movement?”

Messy Church is a gift…

Messy Church International (MCIC) 2019 Reflections

Part 2 of 4

Roberta J. Egli 

Lucy Moore, Founder of Messy Church
Opening Session MCIC 2019

A big takeaway that I came home with came from the opening session of the MCIC 2019 conference.  In reflecting on the past, present and future of the Messy Church Movement, Lucy shared the idea that…Messy Church is a gift that is given to the universal church. The gift is given freely to be used in small and large churches, rural and urban settings, from a small village in England to the large metropolis of Los Angeles. Messy Church is a gift!

Looking back, we are a very young movement. In April 2019, Messy Church turned 15 years old…we are a teenager and very young in the long life of the Christian church.  According to Lucy, from the very start of Messy Church, there has been a common value of listening…listening deeply to God and to one another. 

For today, Lucy challenged us to stop using the term ‘just’.  I am ‘just’ a volunteer at Messy Church…I am ‘just’ a lay leader…I ‘just’ help with the meal at Messy Church, etc. She effectively banned us from using the word “just” for the weekend. Rather than humbly saying ‘just’ we were to boldly proclaim that we are all instrumental in re-imagining what church can be.  We are using our unique gifts to build on the past to be the church for today and to become the church of the future.

Ban the word “just” from your vocabulary…rather than saying “I just sweep up after Messy Church each month, boldly proclaim the gifts that you bring and use to make Messy Church what it is.

Lucy Moore, Opening Session of MCIC 2019 (not a verbatim quote but shared in the spirit of what she said)

As for where we are going, the idea that Messy Church is a gift to the universal church is a message of hope.  In my years of leading a local church, I have attended a variety of church conferences where we have commiserated over the doomsday predictions of the death of the church. How inspiring it was to engage in conversations regarding the gifts of Messy Church for today and for a joyous future. 

I wrote in my notes– “it is not about competing with the traditional church but about blessing the traditional church with the gift of Messy Church.”  What a wonderful way to view Messy Church!   What are the concrete ways Messy Church is blessing the universal church? 
Throughout the weekend, these are a few of the gifts that I discovered: Stories of hope where relationships were built through simple table activities, in the analysis of the 2 year research project completed by Church Army titled, Playfully Serious,(look for more posts about that later),and  through listening, asking and discovering new ways to be an intergenerational movement filled with joyful abundance.

At the end of her talk, Lucy placed a simple wooden cross that was created at the closing worship at the first international Messy Church conference three years ago  at the center of the stage and asked shared these final reflections. 

  • The horizontal arms of the cross point outward…How are we being called to resources of hope reaching outward to the broader church and the greater world?
  • The vertical cross points upward reminding us to be open to God’s Inspired Breath that has brought Messy Church into a movement. How do we as a movement continue to listen to God, listen to one another and trust God in Messy Church?
  • The vertical cross points downward reminding us of the call to deepen our lives of faith. How is Messy Church being called to plumb the depths of intergenerational discipleship?  How is God leading us into the depths of re-imagining the church for today?

Much food for thought!  My question for you—How are you sharing the gift of Messy Church to your local community and to the broader universal church?

Messy Blessings, Roberta

Messy Church International Conference Reflection: What Now?

Part 1 of 4

Roberta J. Egli

 

Exploring London via google maps
L-R, Marty Drake, Roberta Egli, Lynn Egli, Leyla Wagner

Leyla and I looked on a bit helplessly as the train we had just boarded to Broxbourne station; the stop for the conference center of the (MCIC)  2019 event, left the station with two of our traveling companions (Marty and Lynn) left standing on the platform.  We had navigated the labyrinth of the London tube from the airport to the hotel, we had gotten lost while following the directions of google maps through London the day before, we had found our way back to the tube station the morning of the conference where it took several attempts to add money to our oyster cards, (btw- we added way too much money!) and had successfully made tube line transfers to the train station where we got separated when the door of the train shut after I got on the train and we could not get the door back open.   

What now? Yes, I admit there was a brief moment of panic but after a few text messages, we realized that Leyla and I simply needed to proceed to the Broxbourne station and then wait for Marty and Lynn to catch the train. When they arrived about twenty minutes after us, they had already made friends with another MCIC delegate from Scotland with whom we shared a taxi to the conference center.


I have now returned home following an inspiring four days with over 200 delegates from all over the world. The conference was filled with excitement and we heard many stories of how Messy Church has changed individual lives of the leaders of Messy Church and the communities of faith where they serve. I find myself asking again…what now?


The idea of Messy Church USA was birthed at the 2016 MCIC. Over three years we have worked together to create something new. We have formed a Board of Directors and became a separate nonprofit entity with a signed agreement with Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) to be the home for Messy Church in the USA.


We have developed strategic plans and three year goals for our future. However, as I was reminded by our travel experience, I know there are and will be times when our reality will not follow our neatly drafted plans. Rather than panicking or doubting our plans, we are called to trust the leading of the Spirit and adjust. Discerning the leading of the Spirit is an adventure to live into. I pray that we will have the grace to move forward with a sense of curiosity, discovery and a sense of play. My question for you… How have you trusted the Spirit at your Messy Church within the past two months as you have needed to adjust your plans?

Look for three more reflections from my experience at MCIC over the next two weeks.

Messy Blessings,

Roberta 

Burning Bush
Messy Church Experience, Messy Church International Conference

A Messy Interview- MCIC 2019

Blog post by Lindsey Goodyear who interviewed Leyla Wagner, Messy Church USA Board of Directors, California Messy Church USA Regional Co-Coordinator. 

Messy Church USA (MCUSA) Delegation at Messy Church International Conference 2019 with Messy Church/ Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) Leaders
Front row L-R: Jay Elliot(BRF), Maureen Carey-Back (VA), Leyla Wagner(CA), Marty Drake(CA), Steve Kim(NY)
Back row L-R: Lynn Egli(OR), Crystal Goetz(WA), Canon Richard Fisher (BRF), Roberta Egli(OR), Lucy Moore(BRF)

Last month, some of our Messy team members attended the highly anticipated Messy Church International Conference in London. Because I was unable to attend, I decided to pick the brain of one of my favorite Messy friends and see just how much fun I missed out on. Please enjoy this interview with Leyla Wagner from Community United Methodist Church (CUMC) in Huntington Beach, CA!

Lindsey: This is your second trip across the pond for Messy Church, how was this time different from the last?

Leyla: Three Years ago, we had only been doing Messy Church for three years when we went. There weren’t really any other Messy Churches around, and, it was before MCUSA was even a thought, so our CUMC team was really on our own. We were drawing from training and using print and online resources in figuring out Messy Church. It was amazing being around the energy and excitement of others hosting Messy Churches and realizing we were part of a bigger community. We learned so much and realized that our joys and challenges were similar to many. This time I didn’t expect as much excitement. We’ve had Messy Church at CUMC for 6 years now…and the oldest Messy Churches in the UK are celebrating 15 years! I was amazed because the excitement and energy was not only still there, but it was just as high. Rather than just talking about the nuts and bolts of Messy Church, this time conversations focused on sharing stories of seeing how Messy Church is transforming the lives of people who are attending and how it is making an impact worldwide.

Lindsey: I’m sure there were familiar faces, were you able to network with any new Messy friends?

Leyla: It’s funny…I only saw a couple of people that I had met the first time even though I heard many times from people I was in conversation with that they had also been there for the first conference….we hadn’t connected. So actually, this time I feel like I made many more Messy Friends than before. I even met two more people from the US. I felt a stronger connection to people this time and I think it’s because we were sharing deeper stories, not just nuts and bolts stories…and many were part of leadership teams for their countries so it was interesting to learn more about their experiences with the bigger church, as well.

Lindsey: You’ve mentioned to me that this convention was rejuvenating. What do you, personally, feel fueled your passion for Messy Church the most?

Leyla: I was rejuvenated by so many things! I loved hearing the research that supports what we are what the leading Messy Churches are seeing…that what we are doing is making a difference, making disciples and that Messy Church is church! We are re-imagining church…possibly changing it to be something God can use to reach people today. I also liked hearing the journey of the past 15 years and realizing how much has been accomplished from this “Grass Roots/organic” movement in such a short time. Lastly, I feel called to be a part of Messy church but often worry that I don’t have a background or enough bible/theological knowledge to be “leading” Messy Church. During one reflection, Martyn Payne told the story of Moses and the burning bush and we sang a wonderful Fischy Music song so I left feeling that I have everything I need to do what I’m being called to do because God is behind me, beside me and in front of me.

“God is at the Center of this Messy Church journey”

Leyla Wagner

Lindsey: What was your favorite activity at the international conference?

Leyla: Again, there were many activities I really liked. I loved the key speakers, reflections, prayer stations and, I enjoyed meeting people and sharing stories. But, my favorite activity was the add-on day (Monday) that was only for leadership teams from all the different countries. We broke into small groups being made up of representatives from all countries there and gave input on questions Messy Church BRF asked. It really felt like an International experience and I liked hearing perspectives from all over the world.

Lindsey: Anything you’re planning on using at our own Messy Church that you learned while there?

Leyla: Andrew Roberts is the author of a book called Holy Habits. It’s based on the passage written by Luke in Acts 2 42-47 and focus’ on creating deep and committed disciples by practicing and living out the 10 Holy Habits. These include: Biblical Teaching, Breaking Bread, Eating Together, Fellowship, Gladness and Generosity, Making more Disciples, Prayer, Serving, Sharing Resources and Worship. These Holy Habits align with the values of Messy Church, and are applicable and easily accessible to all-ages. This year the Get Messy Magazine, which provides monthly curriculum resources to Messy Churches, will be focusing on a different Holy Habit each month. We will most likely use these and the other supplemental for deepening the quality of our own Messy Church.

Lindsey: I know Steven Fischbacher founder of Fischy Music  was there rocking and rolling! Any new Fischy Music that’s a must have?

Leyla: ALL Fischy Music is a MUST HAVE!  (Note from Roberta Egli– Check out a video of Steven leading our final song at the conference Here)

Lindsey: What was your biggest takeaway from your experience in London?

Leyla: That God is at the Center of this Messy Church journey.

Lindsey: Do you think you’ll attend the next overseas international convention?

Leyla: Well, I would love to be able to attend the next International Conference in 3 years. So much has happened in the three years since the last International Conference it’s hard to imagine where we’ll be in 3 more years. Marty and I met Roberta and Julie at that first International Conference. We came home and hosted the first National Messy Church Conference a year and a half later while working with Robera, Julie, Lynn, Nicole and Lucy to start MCUSA. Anyway…..I think attending an International Conference helps us as local Messy Church leaders to feel connected to the bigger Messy Church organization and share in the excitement. But, it’s also helpful for our roles in Messy Church USA.

Lindsey: We will host one in the states before then. Is there anything you particularly loved that we will see incorporated into out next convention?

Leyla: Yes, we are hoping to host a National Conference in the Fall of 2020 and there are definitely things that we will incorporate but those will be decided by the MCUSA team and Conference Planning Team. One thing that came out of this International Conference that will be incorporated into our National Conference, and highlighted even more in training across the US, is the best practices for starting a sustaining a Messy Church…which starts with training. (Check out Messychurchusa.org for a training near you!) Haha!

Lindsey: I was so sad to miss the trip so, just for fun, what was your favorite meal while there?

Leyla: Ah, we were really sad that you couldn’t make it, too. My favorite meal was the last one of the trip. Roberta and I both had Fish and Chips. So good! (She has a great picture of them.) Hey…just wondering…will YOU make the trip in three years?

Lindsey: Given how much time I spent stalking the conference on Facebook, I think it’s a definite yes!

Last Meal in UK! Fish and Chips with peas! Yummy!

Sign up today for the upcoming May Events

There is still time to register for the Kingston, New York and Waterloo, Illinois Getting Started in Messy Church Training Events coming up SOON! 
Attending the Getting Started in Messy Church Training as a team increases your effectiveness in starting you own Messy Church. Although the title is about ‘starting’, your team will find this training valuable even if you have been leading a Messy Church. Connecting with others who are starting or continuing their Messy Church is a strong indicator that you will be successful in this exciting way of being church.

Kingston New York on May 11th: This training on May 11th will be led by Julie Hintz and is at Kingston United Methodist Church in Kingston, New York.  Click Here to register.

Waterloo, Illinois on May 18th: Roberta Egli will lead this church at St Paul’s United Church of Christ in Waterloo, Illinois. Waterloo is only 30 minutes from St. Louis. Register Here.

  • Upcoming Training Events
    • Williamsburg, Virginia on June 29th
    • Michigan City, Indiana on August 10th
    • Mt Dora, Florida on September 21
    • Huntington Beach, California on October 12th
    • Your Church……When!
Are you interested in sponsoring a training at your church? Contact
Roberta Egli at roberta@messy Church USA for more information. Learn more about hosting a training here.
The Mission of Messy Church USA is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect with other Messy Churches in the United States.

Easter Poem

by Lindsey Goodyear

iStock

When we hear the word Easter, we think bunnies and joy,
An egg hunt and candies for each girl and boy.
But is that really what this whole day is about?
Come along on a journey and you may just find out!

Jesus, our savior, lived so long in the past,
And if you had a question, well, He’s who you asked.
As the one son of God, He was the king of the Jews,
And spent most His time, by spreading good news.

Healing the sick, and feeding the poor,
He gave all He had, and then He gave more.
While most people loved Him, the leaders showed doubt,
They didn’t like Jesus, or what He was about.

And instead of just listening and believing in Him,
They arrested Him starting a scene oh so grim.
They beat Him and hung Him up high on a cross,
Made fun of His teachings, showing Him who was boss.

As He hung up in pain from His head to his toes,
The guards placed their bets to see who’d get His clothes.
He showed love through their hate, it was all that he knew,
“Father, please forgive them, they know not what they do.”

As His friends stayed and wept, the Earth started to shake,
The sky filled with clouds and mountains did break!
Jesus said, “it is finished” then bowed down His head,
A Great sadness came on, their savior was dead.

His friends took him down from the cross to a tomb,
Wrapped Him in cloth and walked out in gloom.
The tomb was still opened, so a boulder was set,
His friends left knowing, Jesus had paid our debt.

And three days after the Lord paid our price,
Three women set out to anoint Him with spice.
On the way they discussed ways to move the huge rock,
But when they arrived, they were met with a shock!

The tomb was now open and up on the stone,
Sat an angel that glowed like a jewel on a throne.
“No need to be frightened” he said to the three,
“He’s not here, He’s risen” come look and you’ll see.

Amazement took over once the women went in,
There was only a cloth, where once Jesus had been.
“Go tell the disciples He’ll be at Galilee”
“He’s alive and He’s back! Our savior is free!”

They went on their way, preparing their story,
When they came across Jesus in all of His glory.
They fell to their knees as they worshiped their king,
And heard the great news that he asked them to bring.

Tell the others you’ve seen me and I’ll see them as well,
Until God calls me home and in Heaven I’ll dwell.
God raised His son despite our sins,
In the end Jesus proved that love always wins.

See Today isn’t about what the Easter bunny gives,
But a hefty reminder that He is risen and lives!

iStock

Lindsey Goodyear lives in Huntington Beach, CA with her family. She attends Messy Church at Community UMC in Huntington Beach. She writers regularly for Messy Church USA and is one of the writers for the curriculum for the Get Messy! magazine from April 2019-March 2020. You can reach her at Lindseygoodyear@gmail.com.

Lindsey Goodyear

Messy (and Muddy) Easter Blessings!

A blog post by Roberta J. Egli, Executive Director Messy Church USA

iStock photo

When I was a young child, Easter Sunday began before dawn.  My father would wake us up in the dark of night to gather with other members of our church family to hike up a hill to watch the sunrise.  It was a tradition for this community of faith to gather as young and old, huddled in our rain jackets as we sang familiar songs and listened once again to the scripture proclaiming that Jesus the Christ was arisen! 

It was always a muddy trip both up and down the hill in the soggy Pacific Northwest and most of the years; we could only tell that the sun had risen, not from a glorious sunrise but that the clouded skies were getting lighter from the sun that we could not see. I have to admit that the most fun as a young child was to race down the hill to get to the hot chocolate and donuts that awaited us in the farmer’s barn.

I have thought of that all- age experience of a muddy and messy Easter of my childhood as I have seen the wondrous pictures of Easter being celebrated at Messy Churches all over the world.  What a gift you are giving to your Messy Churches as you creatively share the story of the good news of Easter.  Although I have not seen muddy pictures, I have reveled in seeing all of the chaotic mess and joy of people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to share in the love of God made alive through Easter.  

Happy Easter to you all,

Roberta

Pictures from the first ever Messy Church at St James United Methodist Church, Kingston, New York. Congratulations for a great start!

Pictures from the first ever Messy Church at St James United Methodist Church, Kingston, New York. Congratulations for a great start!

The Messy In-Between

A blog post from Roberta J. Egli

March 20, 2019

Winter? Spring? It is the In-Between

Several weeks ago we experienced a snow storm…it was an oddity for us in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where I live. We woke up to 11 inches of snow on the ground and over 48 hours an additional four inches of snow fell. We were not ready for this snow…the small daffodils had already begun to bloom. The unexpected snowfall brought the whole area to a standstill for several days. We were ready to celebrate the arrival of spring rather than dig out from a record breaking amount of snow. For several days we lived within the Messy in-between.

How are you living in the Messy in-between as you finalize plans for your Easter Messy Church while also inviting your Messy Churches to walk through the season of Lent? This topic of observing lent while also preparing for Easter has been discussed on the Messy Church USA Team Leaders FB group page (click here to join). Messy Churches across the US live in the Messy in-between by having a prayer focused Lenten messy church or a Journey through Holy Week with activities focused on Palm Sunday, the prayers of Gethsemane, the walk toward the cross with feet or hand painted to create a colorful paper cross. Sharing the story of the weeks leading up the big Easter Celebration is vital for our families who are new to the story of Jesus.

Jenna Reinke shared this lovely altar piece created at her Messy Church in Crowley, Texas. She writes that creating the altar decoration helped to build connections between their Messy Church and traditional ‘Sunday Church’ communities. 

Picture from Jenna Reinke from Crowley, TX

Another great idea of incorporating prayers into both Messy Church and traditional church is illustrated by Heather Johnson, a pastor from Minnesota. Check out these beautiful paper Lenten paraments created by written prayers on strips of purple paper that are pictured below.

May you find ways to enter deeply into the season of prayer and preparation this Lent as you also live in the messy in-between of looking forward making detailed plans for your Easter Messy Church! We celebrate the joy of the resurrection by preparing ourselves and our Messy communities. I know that Easter is the largest Messy Church for many communities so prayers for patience and happy volunteers!

Be sure to share your stories of your Lent and Easter stories on our Facebook page, the team leaders group or better yet, send a story or a short video to our Messy Church USA Communications Team lead Robin Cannon from Ohio.

Messy blessings to you as you live in this Messy in-between time. Love and blessings, Roberta

Our mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA.

Giving Love

A Blogpost by Lindsey Goodyear

iStock. used with permission

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”

Luke 6: 35 (NRSV)

February is known as the month of love. So, like others, I’ve been hard at work making kid’s Valentines, pink heart-shaped pancakes, writing my feelings in love notes, and various other pink and red related activities. When I look around, I feel so blessed to have so many people in my life that I get to show love to. Also, it’s so easy to show them love! Having people that are close to you means knowing exactly what makes that person happy. I’m delighted to see faces light up when I’m able to give those I’m close to something that makes their day. However, this month of love also brings another thought to mind. While it’s fantastic to show affection to those we see on a regular basis, God wants us to show love to everyone (including strangers and those we don’t particularly care for). The reality is, it seems like much more of a daunting task to come up with ways to please people we don’t know. It’s much more rewarding to stick with who and what we know. So just how important is “loving thy neighbor” and what is it God expects?

It’s not an easy task, but God calls us to love one another without expectations. But, what does this mean? When you send a gift, don’t send it expecting a “thank you” card. Do not help a friend move while keeping in the back of your mind that they will in turn “owe you” when it comes time for you to pack. Give generously to those in need without awaiting praise. Quite simply, give to all those around you, whether you know them or not, and do so without personal animosity building up when nothing is returned. This comes easy for some of us, and for others, it feels like a lot of work. We are busy with our own lives so trying to come up with ideas to make others feel loved can feel like a struggle. However, just like anything in life, if you want to build a habit so it becomes second nature, you have to have a routine and work it on a regular basis. Doing so for those who are already in your life can be easier than doing for those who aren’t. So how can we send some neighborly love to a complete stranger, not have it feel like a job, and still fulfill God’s wish?

iStock. Used with permission

One of the many popular and reoccurring craft tables we have at Messy Church is the “service table.” One of our invaluable volunteers works a table with arts and crafts dedicated to others. In the past this has included letters to community helpers (police, firemen, mail men, etc.), thank you cards to our service men and women, and making toys for the animals at the local shelters. This last Saturday we had a service table dedicated to Meals on Wheels. Messy attendees were given a card that was previously printed with the phrase “Remember…you are a beloved child of God.” They were then given watercolors and asked to paint the opposite side of the card. We were able to make 39 cards, all of which will be divided and sent with each given meal to surprise an unsuspecting recipient. Our congregation didn’t know the people receiving the cards, nor would they see the look of surprise when they were received. They’d also collect no appreciation from said receiver. Yet, they sat and worked with smiles on their faces to make the day of a total stranger.

So why’d they do it? Why did a selfless act for someone they didn’t know come easily without complaint? Well, quite simply put, because it was fun! Because we made it fun! We’ve already established that it’s more enjoyable to give to those we’re familiar with (because we know what to do) but the reality is, an unsuspected gift of love is always a blessing in someone’s life. So, make it fun for you too. If you enjoy painting, paint a picture on the outside of a bagged lunch and give it to someone that needs it. If you love to write, write a few words of inspiration on note cards that you can keep with you to hand out to random passersby. If you enjoy cooking, bake some goodies and bring it to the neighbor you’ve been meaning to say “hello” to. I promise the effort, no matter how small will not go unappreciated. Do not let the idea of giving love weigh you down. Because if all else fails, we can fulfill God’s wish if we simply roll up those sleeves, get messy, and get to giving!

Lilndsey attends Messy Church at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, CA. Contact her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com