Tag Archives: mosaic

Lenten reflections

Lent colors
The first Ash Wednesday service I ever attended was pretty sad. Not just sad because we were  thinking about mortality and repentance – sad in the sense of a failure. I was helping to plant a church and while we’d had an exciting public launch – 5 months into it our numbers had dwindled.

I was leading music that night and was setting up the slideshow for projection in our 4th floor attic room. But just before we were to start, some folks from our host church came to take the projector for their own event. So there we were – the 6 of us singing while crowded around an old, donated laptop. We read some prayers and reflected on our mortality and our need for repentance.  We received ashes.

Lent that year was so challenging.  I was fasting weekly and gave up music in the car so that I could pray instead.  It was probably too much all at once, but it made me very aware of my need for God. Take away a little food and my music and I was keenly aware of my how much they were coping mechanisms for me.  At church, Lent was hard too – our numbers were low and we wondered if we would ‘make it’ as a plant.

But that Lent season ten years ago became a powerful time both in my life and in the life of Mosaic.   Something outside of ourselves was at work. Our Holy Week services were incredibly powerful for our small crew.  With Resurrection Sunday there was new light.  Literally.  There was an incident where a candle caught the tablecloth on fire…

Once, my 3 year old niece was upset at being given a time-out saying “This is terrible! I don’t know what’s going to happen next, this is terrible!”  In that, she captured the human condition.  We don’t know what will happen next and we can’t control it.  Lent reminds us of this – time in the wilderness.  Coming face to face with our limits.  Dealing with our dependence on food, caffeine, music, or whatever it is.  Waiting longer than we want to for a dating relationship.  Losing a loved one.  Facing transitions.  Hoping for children.  And we can’t know when the light will come until it does. As Florence + the machine says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

The season of Lent reminds me that wilderness seasons are a part of life.

So as I sit with Lent this year, I come up against my limits and I am at the same time grateful and impatient.  Grateful because I am reminded that I am but dust – I am limited.  I have little control over circumstances.  I can choose to be grateful.  But I am impatient also for the dawn.

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I am using the website http://www.pray-as-you-go.org as a guide for my Lenten prayer times.  It has audio of a prayer and reflection time that I have found very helpful in ‘holding the space’ for meditation and prayer.  

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the most hopeful thing I’d ever done

Two years ago this week I came to the Bay Area to look for an apartment.  I vividly remember Jen driving me across the bridge from the East Bay (where she lives) to the Peninsula (where I would live).  I had this tremendous sinking feeling in my stomach – “What the heck am I doing?” – “Oh my gosh I am very far from home” – “Oh crap, I’m going to live here” – “This is a really long bridge.  I’ve seen pictures of an earthquake and bridges like this!”

Ok, I didn’t really have that last thought then.*  But since Kevin and I moved to Union City, I cross that same bridge every time I go to my office.  It’s normal now – the new normal.  Life has changed so much in the last two years.   I met a wonderful man – now we’re married.  We’ve found a church community we love, and I feel so much more settled in my InterVarsity work here.  I’m almost done with my master’s degree.

Moving to California was the most hopeful thing I’d ever done.  And I knew it.  I kept saying it to myself as I packed up all my earthly possessions.  I said it to myself when I was looking at tiny apartments that cost twice my Austin mortgage. And I tried to say it to myself through the tears when I dropped Carrie off at the San Jose airport to fly home after our giant roadtrip here.

Hopeful because I had a great life in Austin.  I loved my job, my church community, my house, loved it all. And still I sensed my own desire and God’s invitation to pick up and move.  So moving, leaving what I knew to try something new.  I had to be hopeful, or I’d never leave.  I am grateful for all the meaningful goodbyes I had in Austin, they carried me through the darker and colder times here.  A shoebox of affirmations from the IV Regional Leadership Team and a shoebox of sending notes and prayers from Mosaic are still treasures of mine.  Like the writers of the psalms, I got to stretch my faith – remembering the community and good times of the past while looking forward to the new communities here.

Every year we graduate students (and send staff) who are off to new things.  I told the graduating seniors that it takes at least a year, more like a year and a half to really transition.  Leaving their college communities can be really hard.  I imagine they have sinking feelings too sometimes – and I pray hope for them – that they would find joy in these growth opportunities of transition.  Here’s to many more ‘most hopeful things.’

 

*I still have yet to feel an earthquake, though K says that most earthquakes won’t be much worse than when the train goes by our condo

favorites (new and old)

new favorite restaurant: tofu house (for soondubu!)

new favorite accessory: scarves (purple, burnt orange, bright pink, shiny blue, red, and various patterns)

new favorite grocery store: tie between Trader Joe’s and Ranch 99

new language I am learning: koine greek  (jury is still out on whether I know the verb tenses)

what I miss most:

quirky, artsy, every-week-eucharist, and God-seeking family: mosaic*

best anytime food: breakfast tacos the NYTimes agrees with me

crazy cool staff and students: UT Austin

a great gift from God with an orange/red room and a view of beautiful sunsets:  my mueller townhouse

That’s all for now.  I was procrastinating a paper earlier and started this.  Now I’m procrastinating studying the above-mentioned Greek verbs.

*9 years ago tonight I went to a house in East Austin for the 1st interest meeting for a new church.  It was an awkward hangout with the Seays and Vanderslices since no one else came.  I love that Mosaic has so many awkward stories in our history. 🙂

day one

It’s the beginning of a new year.  Advent kicks off the church year with the wonderful season of …. waiting.  Not Christmas, but waiting.  We wait for the Kingdom.  We wait with hope.

A few years back my church did an interactive ‘waiting’ liturgy.  It started with everyone being given a number, and then taken in shifts to a waiting room area complete with magazines, chairs, and muzak to wait for your number to be called.  Inside the liturgy space there was time to sit, and places to write things we were waiting for.  Or at least, that’s what I hear.  I didn’t make it – I was on a business trip and had booked my flight to arrive in plenty of time for liturgy.  But my flight was severely delayed.  I had my very own waiting service in the DFW airport.

I’ve told that story before, and felt clever for saying that last bit about my very own waiting service.  But I was thinking about it again tonight and had a new realization.  At first I was just disappointed –  it was a special experiential night I was missing with my community.  It could not be recreated.  Then I was angry – I had planned so well and worked out the flights in order to make it to church.  And finally I was just tired from travel, and wanted to be home, but was stymied by the airline delay.

But I still knew that I was going to get home.  Yes, I’d miss something that I really wanted to be at.  But I didn’t doubt that I’d make it back to Austin – even if it took longer than I thought it would.  There would be other liturgies and more time with community.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to have the long view of things, and not just focusing on the current circumstances.  It’s hard.  Especially when the long view is long like lifelong, or til-the-Kingdom-comes long.  That is a long delay.  And even though my parents did a good job teaching me the concept and practice of delayed gratification, I feel the disappointment, anger, and fatigue today.

But maybe I need to remember that I will make it home.  And what a home it will be.

If you’re interested in more on Advent or the Christian calendar, here are two resources: I’m again using Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God (by my friend Bobby Gross) as a way to sit in this Advent season.  And I’ve also appreciated reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.  That link takes you to a subscribe page, here is an example – today’s Advent meditation.

now playing:  The Waiting Room – Sixpence

for Mosaic

I’ve had this in my ‘Drafts’ for weeks just listed as ‘for mosaic.’   Since Mosaic just observed her 8th birthday (wow!), I thought I’d finish typing it up.  Just before I moved away, on a night that Eric V. was preaching, I gave a short ‘charge’ to Mosaic (or at least that’s what Don called it).  This is roughly what I said (with a few things added that I wish I had said):

It’s hard to think about leaving after 8+ years.  I love who we’ve become and who we are becoming as a community.  It feels like a lot of pressure to give a ‘charge’ but I’ll give it a shot. 🙂

Someone recently asked me why I stuck around ‘baby Mosaic’… after all the core group meetings of spring and summer and the excitement of our first liturgy – there were some hard times.  Times when there were very few people, or very little money, or both.  We were small, we were awkward, and we weren’t sure this was gonna work.

I stayed because I felt called to our vision and values that we had talked about in core group.  Our DNA was already there – and I knew I wanted to see a church community that believed in the vision and values of justice, art, spiritual formation, and being church here in Austin.  And _I_ was being formed – by the books we were reading and the conversations our little community was having in the Seays living room.  And I was also helping form Mosaic.  I stayed too because people came alongside.  Some of y’all were those…

Don and I in the early days pondering whether the church will make it (re-enacted)

Don and I in the early days pondering whether the church will make it (re-enacted)

At some point, I went all in.  Not in a cult scary kind of way – though it was scary.  I committed to this sort of strange band of fellow travelers – some of whom I didn’t really like.  It was scary to be with a new thing…  Though I bet there’s the same type of ‘scary’ being with an established thing too – with an even stranger band of fellow pilgrims – some of whom you don’t really like or even find downright annoying.

We’ve grown so much since the early days – both in numbers but also in depth.  We’re in an exciting phase of discerning where God is calling us as a community.  The one-on-ones this spring and summer have been our way of figuring out who we are – how God’s gifted us – where he might be calling us to further shalom in our city.  And this week the staff will spend a lot of time looking at that information – sorting it out.  Later, they’ll work with leadership team in prayer and discernment – all leading up to the retreat in November for everyone.  It’s a really exciting place – and I’m sad to miss it.  But I am hoping and praying that as part of this process many of us will go all-in.  I’ll explain more in a second.

The staff are obviously all in.  There are lots of joys and beautiful amazing things about being on staff at Mosaic.  They love us.  A lot.  But there are really tough things too.  They raise support.  They wait extra days before getting paid, because there’s not enough money sometimes to pay our rent for the space and to make paychecks.  Other ‘normal’ pastors often don’t understand what we’re about.  Our pastors are here because they feel called to love and serve the community, but even that sometimes is really hard.  They could all be doing other things and probably getting more sleep and making more money.  But they are called here, and are invested.

If you feel like you’re being formed by being here – or feel called to the vision and values like I did, or just that for whatever reason, you’re here and are a part of this community – I invite you to go all-in too.  In thinking about this, I thought of three ways that might look. One is being invested through prayer for our community, staff, and leadership.  In prayer throughout the week, we remember that we are dependent on God – we bring our concerns about our community to Him.  We join together as a community to sit with God.  We listen.  We ask.  We are thankful.  There have been seasons where I’ve prayed for Mosaic, but lots of times when I’m just not thinking about it.  Especially in this season of discernment, but hopefully always, let’s be praying.

Another way to be invested (haha) is to be committed financially.  To join together in being disciplined in giving. Many of y’all know that I really care how Christians spend or hopefully steward money.  For my work with InterVarsity I’ve raised support for the last 9 years.  I believe that how we spend money is often indicative of our hearts.  I gave a sermon several years ago on the topic and shared my budget and talked about giving.  I shared about giving 10% to Mosaic.  While I give to many organizations on top of that, I want to give where I am, too.  This is not an extravagant place, the money we give doesn’t go to crazy programs – but it obviously takes money to pay our pastors and to pay for our space – to be who we’re called to be in Austin.

And then I’d say that another part of being all-in is taking ownership in being the church – it’s not just staff or leadership.  You don’t have to have been here from the beginning to have ownership.  In fact, maybe it’s better if you haven’t been. 🙂  Those of us who’ve been around have had a shot at it – we need our whole community to be involved, not just old-timers.  We don’t have our parents generation to be the leaders like in many traditional churches.  We’re it!

God has been so faithful to our community.  Many Sundays I come for liturgy and it’s just normal –  this is who we are, etc.   But from time to time, I come in and am struck by how amazing it is that we’re here – as a community – in this space – with these people.  Because in those early days (and even later days) it seemed like we might not be.  Maybe I’m a bad dreamer, but Mosaic is so much more than I pictured back in those living room days.  God has done such a beautiful thing – and He still is shaping and forming us.  Join on in – we need you to participate in the listening and the conversations and the living out of our call as Mosaic.

Then, you know, I prayed for the staff who were headed out to the retreat.  When I got to the part about thanking God for them and how much they’ve meant to me, I had to take a deep breath so as not to cry.  And if you’ve read this far Mosaicians – know that I miss all y’all a lot.

now playing: Chicago – Sufjan Stevens

losses and break-ups

It’s been two weeks since life in California started.  Yes, I got here before that, but those were fun vacation-type days exploring with Carrie.  She left two weeks ago today, so I think of that as the start of my time living here.

Today I finally finished unpacking the suitcase I drove up with (yes, I’m slow), and last night re-adjusted the steering wheel.  I hadn’t realized that all this time it was still set for Carrie’s height from a time she drove it.  I finally picked some new radio presets, and reset my weather bookmarks online (though, basically I just think of the weather as cold).

I’ve been thinking of moving a bit like a breakup – an amicable breakup in this case.  I know it was time to move on, but even the ‘right’ breakups are hard – especially hard if it’s been a longer-term relationship.  So I am in the process of moving on from a 9 year relationship with Austin.  I knew it would be hard but I have still found myself living the cliche  – ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’  I miss my friends.  I miss my church.  I miss the familiarity.  I really miss my church – I miss celebrating Eucharist every week, I miss our people and our music, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to preach at church out here.

There’s an art to post-breakups – you have to have some plans for the day, so as not to dwell too long in all that you just lost.  Keep ice cream around.  Try and be active.  Go for a bike ride.  Phone a friend.

But just like a real break-up it’s the little things that are the most jarring.

I catch myself referring to ‘back home’ when I mean Austin.  Sometimes I wonder what my friends back home are doing (that was unintentional, btw) – picture everyone gathering for liturgy, or type in the wrong city when I’m looking something up online.  I get excited when I see a familiar looking car – but stop myself when I realize there’s no way it could be my Austin friend’s car.  My brain slips – momentarily forgets – just like after a relationship ends.  Those are the tough moments – they take me by surprise.

Lest anyone worry too much – it’s not all losses.  I know I’m on an adventure.  On the freeway the other day I drove past an amusement park.  The rollercoaster reminded me of Don’s sermon on my last Sunday and being sent by a loving community.  And I’m waiting.  I know that someday soon I’ll be able to drive around without a GPS and bike around without a map.  I will find a favorite coffeeshop, a new church, and make new friends.  I will love my new staff and ministry.  It just takes time.  It will be different, but it will be good.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to get a haircut.

now listening: True Love Will Find You In the End – Mates of State (cover of D. Johnston)

highlights

Thought I’d jot down a few highlights from the move thus far… you know, because it’s good to be thankful.

– had a surprisingly enjoyable time packing (most of the time).  Had lots of great help from friends, and managed to have some fun in there too!  One of my favorite parts was making a big to-do about taping up the last box with JBand MF, and then realizing that it wasn’t the last box at all.  There were 3 more boxes upstairs that needed to be taped. Haha!

fun while packing

– felt very sent and loved by Austin folks, especially that last liturgy at Mosaic.  hard to believe it was just a week ago – I really feel like those prayers are carrying me through these days.

– the roadtrip was super-great.  Sherman was wonderful and had no overheating problems.  Here’s what Carrie had to say about it…

Day 1: Austin-Phoenix, lots of loopy video diaries recorded in the car, finale with generous, hospitable Archers letting us stay with them. Day2: Phoenix-Palo Alto, a “short” surprise stop in LA where I accidentally bumped into several dear Fuller friends who got to meet Sabrina Chan, then an incredible drive up the 5. I finished reading all the Mosaic prayers to Sabrina as we exited the highway and made way for her apartment complex. The last one read as we pulled into her new parking space, we both choked back tears and hugged at our arrival to her beautiful new home…

Yeah, it was a pretty great drive, with a pretty perfect ending.

– happy days sightseeing in SF with Carrie…. beautiful redwoods, walking around town, and also winning the $25 tickets to Wicked on Friday night.  It was incredible.  Seriously amazing – we were so close and the show is so good!

fun on cable cars

– speaking of Carrie – best moving buddy ever.  Let me be sad when I needed to be sad, was excited for me at all the right times, and likes driving.  Oh, and lots of other great friend things too. 🙂  It was real tough to say goodbye… but I was so glad she chose to come.

– OK, on to a random thing – a bird sliding down a banister at Pier 39.  seriously.  it was amazing.

– bike rides in Palo Alto – so many people bike here, young and old alike.  Today’s ride was to the Fuller location to test that out – and it was a little over 4 miles.  One route on the bike paths only has 1 traffic light!  And the other route is a little shorter with more stoplights but goes through downtown Palo Alto… and has a tunnel!

– meals with friends – SE and JE, JH and NH, JS, AS, and house, CT and PT… it’s been nice to be with great people.

Well, hopefully the movers arrive tomorrow with my stuff mostly intact.  So I should get some rest before a long day.  More updates soon.