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 email@example.com or Johannah@messychurchusa.org for details.
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.”
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.
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.
Our first Messy Church Town Hall conversation happened on Thursday July 23rd. A group of 12 people from Florida, South Carolina, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas, Oregon and Washington met for a time of sharing ideas of how they are connecting with Messy Folk currently and their plans for the next phases of the pandemic.
Priming the Pump for Conversation
Roberta shared a bit to prime the pump for our conversation. We began with a focus on the ‘in-between’ time that we find ourselves living in. Usually we think of ‘in-between’ or liminal time of being a short duration but this pandemic has brought a deeper understanding of what it means to live in the in-between time. Check out Recording Here
Messy Church began as a new expression of church as a way to engage with people who were not connecting more traditional forms of church. Since the beginning, Messy Church has been adaptable so that it can be contextualized. The main constant of Messy Church are the five foundational values of All Ages together, creativity, hospitality, celebration and Christ- Centered. Keeping those five values in mind, what are the possibilities for Messy Church in the various stages of this COVID pandemic?
Possibility # 1- In-person Messy Church when able to safely meet:
Messy Folk who come together get a box of supplies at the beginning rather than having supplies at activity tables
Messy Church Outside
Rather than people moving from table to table, groups remain in place the table hosts move from group to group to lead activities and games
Reservations/ tickets to limit number of people at Messy Church
Possibility # 2- Hybrid (On-line and smaller groups in person) Messy Church)
Intergenerational Messy Church Small Groups meet in homes
Connecting the smaller groups once per month with an on-line Celebration
Pre-recorded Messy Church with lists/ bags of activities for Messy Folk. Activity bags either picked up at church or delivered to homes to have some in-person connection
Messy Adventure from Epiphany Episcopal in NH- List of scripture, activities featuring local outdoor attractions. (insert PDF)
From Dallas Oregon- A Chalk Art festival in the church parking lot- people have their own space to make their chalk art
From South Carolina- On-Line Messy Church starting a week of on-line Vacation Bible School. Have had good engagement with zoom Messy Church. Churches are beginning to meet in person in South Carolina which brings challenges to in-person Messy Church
From Washington- Messy Church team would prefer to be in person but this pandemic has enlivened and brought new enthusiasm to the team. One member has taken over the prayer time and another has become the storyteller for the zoom on-line Messy Church
From Michigan- Messy Church only met twice before pandemic and some discouragement that people are not connecting on-line. However, has had good engagement with weekly Wednesday on-line lesson- using stories and activities from Heifer International that were given to family units. Positive response to a FB ad about an on-line Messy Church- received 31 one new likes and follows from the local community
From Florida- looking for ways to connect and do outreach to community. Group encouraged to build on things you are already doing i.e. weekly pastor chat to include a weekly or monthly chat with messy church community
As always it was good to connect and share ideas and stories. Join us at future Town Hall Conversations. Here is a list of resources to help you in your own planning.
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!
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?
As per the previous blog post, 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 second one-hour session explored a few of the many teachings from what is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ from Matthew 5-8. We began by taking a hike with Jim and his dog Milo to the mountains surrounding Palmdale, CA. Jim shared some background on this important teaching of Jesus before he showed us the lights that began to shine brighter after the sunset.
We explored sharing the light of Christ through pictures, a science experiment, hearing the scripture in another hike in Texas, a story around the campfire and learning the art of making cards to share with others. We also explored ways in which people are reaching out to others during the Pandemic to share Christ’s light. We ended our session with the prayer that Jesus taught his followers on the hillside shared from around the world.
Below is the outline for the Messy Session. The link for the video follows the outline. Be sure to also check out the bonus video from Community UMC that we did not get into our session due to a oops glitch.
Jesus journeys to a hillside to teach Messy Adventure
Theme: Share the Light of Christ
Scripture: Matthew 5: 1,14-16 (NRSV)
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them…You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.”
Hike with Jim and Milo
Science Experiment with Light
Video Montage -Where have you seen Light of Christ during the Pandemic?
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.
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’”
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
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).
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!)
During the Season of Lent many of us engage in a new or renewed spiritual practice. I have re-engaged with the spiritual practice of observing a weekly Sabbath ritual. I am using a devotional guide from the saltproject.org that explores scripture and poems. “Sabbath is a day for delight, for participating in God’s ongoing joy in creation. If we refrain from certain activities during the sabbath, we do so precisely in order to make room for this enjoyment.”I must confess that my natural tendency is to worry rather than stopping work to engage in delight, so Sabbath ritual is helping me to trust and enjoy rather than worry and work!
I discovered the connection between my lent Sabbath practice and one of the foundational values of Messy Church when I read Lucy Moore’s recent blog following a day of quiet. The Messy Church UK leadership team began this year to observe what they call ‘quiet days at a distance’. The goal for these days is to grow together as a team even though geographical distance keeps them apart. They begin the day with a teleconference call in which they read and reflect on a specific scripture before spending several hours in separate quiet reflection. They come back together via teleconference at the end of their reflection time to share with one another what has ‘bubbled up’. Their most recent quiet day of reflection focused on the story of the Prodigal Son which led to Lucy’s blog.
Lucy writes: The celebration in the story is for the father, not for the son – it’s the father’s contentment that leads to celebration: he isn’t even really listening to the son, he just wants to get on and celebrate. The image of the father running towards the son is a very striking one, not least because that would have been a most undignified thing for a man of his age and status to do. For people at Messy Church who may have little sense of self-worth, the idea of someone running towards them because he loves them and he wants to celebrate with them is a very powerful one. (Full blogpost here)
My friends, in the midst of a global epidemic that causes uncertainty, anxiety and fear, a spiritual practice of celebration may seem to be counter-cultural. Yes, follow the recommendations of your local health departments and wash your hands regularly however it is imperative that we share the God who celebrates with each other and with our Messy Church attenders.
Engage in celebration as you greet one another by using the sign language for ‘peace be with you’.
Engage in celebration when you engage in a nature walk looking for signs of new life.
Engage in celebration as a leadership team as you recall meaningful interactions during Messy Church.
Engage in celebration as you share the scripture in participatory ways
I celebrate that Messy Church USA is growing broader and
deeper as both a network of churches and an organization of committed people
who worship the God who celebrates. I
would love to hear how your Messy Church is celebrating!
May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem. May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often. May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you. Amen
~Aaron Jenkyn, Epiphany Messy Church, Newport, NH
Little did I expect that this Advent reflection would still be on my computer three weeks later. The plan was to send it out at the beginning of Advent but December has not gone according to my plan. The goals for December was to confirm Messy Church trainings for 2020, intensively plan the web registration for the Celebrate the Mess conference in October 2020 and to clean up my files that have been out of control since September.
However, life happened and much of my time these past several weeks have been spent waiting. Waiting in an emergency room with my husband for five hours for him to be seen for a worsening toe infection. Waiting to get results of an MRI to see if the infection was included the bone. Waiting for a ‘real room’ in the hospital rather than the no-window dreary observation room. Waiting for the advice of medical specialists for treatment. Waiting for the surgeon to walk through the recovery room doors to give me the results of his surgery. Waiting for the order that Lynn could go home. One thing I have learned is that I am not very good at waiting!
Waiting is difficult. Advent is a season of waiting. Was there some hidden Advent message in all of the waiting these past weeks?
Lynn is at home now and recovering well. Life is beginning to resemble our normal daily rhythm. I now have the time and energy to reflect a bit on what I have learned through waiting this Advent.
God is with us as we wait. The Spirit of God is as close as our breath. When I became anxious and impatient as I waited, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out. Simply focusing and praying with my breath helped to center me and remind me that God was present in all of the waiting. As the Advent blessing from quoted above, “…on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.”
Waiting creates community. We had been sent to the Emergency Room by Lynn’s physician so we thought we would receive care soon after arriving. However, we waited for five hours and created community with all of the patients and families who were waiting. I heard stories and connected with a diverse group of people. We became the waiting community who kept inviting others to join in through sharing their stories as they awaited care. Telling our stories is how community is formed. I wonder how we share stories in our Messy Churches as we form community.
Waiting brings unexpected gifts. I was reminded of all of the many new friends Messy Church has brought into my life through all the global Facebook messages we received. Knowing that friends all over the world were praying for us brought us joy as we waited. We were forced to slow down from our busy lives for several weeks. This new pace has brought a new appreciation of the true gifts of Christmas.
I invite you to take a moment to pause in your busy day as you prepare for Christmas. Breath in God’s love…Breathe out your request.
Pause and once again slowly read the Advent Blessing from Aaron Jenkyn.
May the stories you tell, the people you meet, the ways you fill your days during this season bring you closer to Bethlehem.
May your heart be full of kindness and compassion, may you say thank you and I’m sorry often.
May you find the courage to be brave like Mary, to say yes to God wherever God is calling you, remembering that on your journey, there will be darkness and there will be light, but that God is always with you.
May you experience God’s presence in unexpected places today.
Having God in my life is something I’ve always known. Growing up, we went to church and talked regularly about God and what it meant to be a Christian. As a kid I went to Sunday school, I went to youth group, and I’m doing my best to raise strong Christian men, now, as an adult. However, I can’t tell you how many times, in the last 35 years, I’ve heard people refer to others being Christian in a negative connotation. It usually happens after someone has either made a mistake or a morally questionable decision and they’re met with the reply of, “Can you believe that? And they say they’re Christian.” There seems to be some misconception that stating you’re a follower of God means you think you’re somehow superior to others or a perfect being. But, here’s the thing. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect or anywhere close. In fact, it’s almost completely the opposite. If we were perfect, there would be no need for God in our lives in the first place. God acts as a moral compass for us and we need that compass because we need direction. Although I’m recognizing and outright admitting that I am an imperfect Christian, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like things to appear perfect from the outside.
I am a mom who posts regularly about her kids on social media. I love to see comments and likes on photos I’ve taken of the boys while we’re out and about. What people see? Beautiful photos of my kids always laughing and having a great time. What they don’t see? Me pleading with my kids for one more photo because the 56 photos I took in the two minutes prior didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I love crafting and volunteering at the boy’s schools. I routinely take on more responsibilities like snack day or hand painted Christmas ornaments and hand them in with a smile. What they see? A beautifully crafted end product, that I brush off as easy, and looks like it was crafted by Pinterest itself. What they don’t see? My house looks like a war zone, I have craft paint on my new hardwood floors, and countless burns from the hot glue gun I used to make an applesauce pouch look like a butterfly. And work? I love to work. Writing is my safe place and although writing freely does come easily, it doesn’t come without worry. What they see? A new blog, story, or screenplay. What they don’t see? Hours of research and anxiety, double checking and second guessing my work’s content, and exhausting hope that it will peak someone’s interest. Things aren’t always as they seem from the outside, and to keep up “perfect” appearances, my own insecurities make it so I have a hard time admitting the work that goes into these endeavors. Instead, I act as though these are ““effortless” and non time consuming parts of my day that are completed with unconcerned ease.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect or anywhere close. In fact, it’s almost completely the opposite. If we were perfect, there would be no need for God in our lives in the first place.
Our latest Messy Church was about the wise and foolish builders. The builder that chose to build his house on a rock, weathered a storm without problem. The man who built his on sand, was washed away when the storm came. In short, if you build your house (your life) on a strong foundation (foundation of the Lord), you can overcome any storm. One of the craft stations we had was building a wooden bird feeder. Our messy goers would start with cutting their own sturdy pieces of wood and would then move to a station where they’d assemble and nail the pieces together. As I watched one of the volunteers helping my oldest son nail his together, I daydreamed about where I would hang this cute little bird feeder in our newly landscaped backyard. Then, my dreams were interrupted when he started nailing crooked and I saw a big fat nail pop through the side of the feeder. My need for perfect appearances kicked in and I said, “excuse me, do you think you could fix that?” As soon as I said it, I had an overwhelming feeling of “why?” Why did it need to be fixed? Why does it matter if it doesn’t look like the example picture? Why would I say that this masterpiece, that was perfectly imperfect, was anything but exactly as it should be? It was a huge wake-up call.
For the remainder of the night, I reflected on that moment. Building our lives with the foundation of Christ, means the framing of our journey will be strong and reliable. However, the mistakes we make (and we will make a ton) will look just like that crookedly hammered nail. It’s okay if we have a few chips and holes in the stucco. Our lead contractor will fill those mistakes with love and forgiveness. It’s alright if I post a photo that doesn’t look like it came from a magazine. It’s alright if I drop off snacks that don’t resemble some sort of woodland creature. It’s alright if I write something that no one is interested in except myself. And, it’s absolutely okay to hang a holey, crooked, bird feeder that my seven year old son made with pride. Outside appearances don’t matter. I’ve built my life with a foundation of Christ which means if I make mistakes, I’m backed by the most perfect love in the universe and that’s a pretty incredible feeling. So, I’ll continue to work on my own insecurities and also give myself a break. I’ll try to not base my happiness on outside appearances or opinions of others. I’ll do my best but I know it will take time because after all, I’m not perfect.
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.
Learn more about this webinar and register here:
The Messy Church BRF team needs photographs! As an intergenerational worldwide church they are looking for high resolution photos to use on the Get Messy! magazine covers. Please check for permission to use & send to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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Congrats to Freysville Emmanuel UCC in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, our August Messy Church of the Month! We will be sharing pictures and stories from Emmanuel UCC throughout the month of August but you can also read about their Messy Church experiences here: messychurchusa.org/august-mes…pic.twitter.com/5DVi8rSA7K
Messy Church USA is a newly formed nonprofit 501c3 corporation. Messy Church USA has been formed to provide an organizational structure to support the health, growth and sustainability of local Messy Churches in the USA. In addition, Messy Church USA will assist individual Messy Churches to become an integrated part of the larger national and global network of Messy Churches. Read more.