Read the Signs

Sunday, June 29, 2014  ::   2 important comments

As someone who has been involved in some sort of ministry for almost twenty years, my heart and mind can swim for days in stories of real people's lives I've been privileged to hear. People who know me well tease me about having a "tell me everything" sign on my forehead. It's a gift and a curse. I continue to ask God to teach and enable me to love people well. It is impossible to love if you aren't willing to listen.

Second Mile has been in existence for almost ten years. Not to sound cliche, but it's hard to believe. Time flies. Just to emphasize the major life transition ten years can hold, when we moved to Tucson my kids were eight, four, and two years old. 
Then. Such sweet little cuties!
And now. They are still cuties, but not so little.
During those ten years, the flow of people coming in and out of our church has had its peaks and pits. When you see people who left their former church because of tremendous pain come back to reconcile and grow in a group of like-minded potential friends, my heart swells with thanksgiving that God provides more restitution chances than we deserve or can imagine. However, when people you love must move away because of passions, jobs, or adventure, your heart hurts because of the void they leave in your life and community. 

There have been a few times in the life of our church that someone has left Second Mile out of hurt or anger at us. I've definitely learned that not everyone can/will be happy with you all the time. Community is like a big mason jar full of grapes that has been shaken for about an hour, a big hot juicy mess of bruised individuals that bleed all over each other. In other ministry settings, I watched church staff people do back flips and hula hoop tricks trying to get people to stick around. We aren't in the back flip/hula hoop show biz, so when people find that they desire to leave we seek to have a good discussion, make every effort for peace, and hope for healing, restoration, and growth for them and for us. 

However, over the last few months there have been a couple of people not interested in engaging further in Second Mile for a reason that has burned my prophet heart right up. In searching for depth, they did not feel as if they could find it in the stories of the people of our church. 

On any given Sunday you can come and see people laughing, being goofy, crying with a friend, talking about their week, worshiping with arms straight up in the air, worshiping while sitting quietly with eyes open and heart bowed down. But did you know that you can not tell what a single person has been through or is going through by showing up at our gathering or even having coffee with a person a couple of times? To know a person, at the very least, it takes chitchat that builds in trust, time, patience, true interest in who they are, and vulnerability to share who you are.  

Jeff Foxworthy has a comedy sketch called Here's Your Sign. In it he makes fun of people who ask obvious questions or do dumb things and implies that life would be easier if people wore a stupid sign. Sad, but funny. 

I read an article several months ago that twisted the concept. What if we all wore signs that gave a small glimpse into our history or current situation? My assumption is we would be so much more gentle with people. When I'm talking with someone at the store that fusses at me, I try to not snap back because maybe their invisible sign says they deal with chronic pain. Or maybe the person who just won't return my phone call has a sign with the words, "My child has been up all night for the past week and I'm exhausted." Tragically, the signs so many people could be wearing would make someone like me groan and weep and pray because people's lives contain situations of unspeakable difficulty and pain.

But, here's the thing about all this sign talk. We don't get to know! We have no right to say, "Um, excuse me. You seem a little off today. Could you give me a hint to what you may be carrying today so that I can respond to you correctly?" Ridiculous, right? But can we as humans just assume that life is hard and people have been through crazy junk that would make our brows sweat and our stomachs turn if we truly knew what was or is on the plates of those we encounter?

So, to those of you who do not want to engage with our community or another community because people's stories aren't broken enough for you...
There will be no back flips from me for you to stick around today. I'm actually sorry for you. You are missing out on story after story after story of redemption among the lives of people that God cherishes. He does not measure what we've been through. He's actually looking for broken and contrite hearts (not lives) that desire to prove love for him through obedience. So maybe I don't have a story that the world would critique as movie worthy, but I know that I have been redeemed and my heart is to run after him, and that, my friend, pleases Him, so if it doesn't please you, take it up with Jesus.

To those of you whose signs would express emotional, physical, and/or spiritual pain...
Jesus knows you and loves you! When He walked the earth He encountered a woman at the well and He knew her story. He revealed to her that she could worship Him in freedom! The disciples that were with Him didn't get it. They couldn't read the sign. People will fail. Don't allow it to cultivate bitterness in your heart, but instead, let it turn your heart more and more and more towards Jesus.

To the people who call themselves followers of Jesus, but are unable or inept at reading signs...
Read the gospels every single day to study how the Man you claim to follow loves people. There are so many different kinds of people in the world. People who are happy, sad, funny, hurting, angry, cheer for a different team, dress opposite of what you would choose, vote differently than you (For the love! Can Christians please stop being so politically hateful?!), speak different languages, say terrible things to you at the store, flip you off on the highway, tell your kid they suck at sports, bosses who lead poorly, professors who grade unfairly, and on and on and on. Jesus loves them all so much, whether you are willing to or not. When we refuse to bestow dignity on people around us we are denying that they are made in the very image of the God we serve and love! If you don't believe me, take Him at His word. Here are some links for you. Matthew 5:43-48, John 13:34-35, Proverbs 31:8-9 (one of my favorites), Mark 12:30-31  LOVE! There is no excuse not to. Anything less is disobedience.

To those who seek to love well and pay attention to the lives of those whose paths you cross everyday and to those who want to live this way...
Keep up the good work. I know it pleases Jesus. You are living out the gospel. Ask Him to fill you up when kindness isn't returned to you by people you encounter. Ask Him to continue to give you insight in how to love like He loves.

Friends, if we can't point people to Jesus by how we treat them, speak to them, see that there is more to them than meets the eye, then we can't point people to Jesus at all. Pray for wisdom and read the signs.

How do you pay attention to people around you and respond with love despite how they respond to you? Do you judge a book by its cover or do you seek to know the story? What can you do to love the people you encounter today in a way that honors Jesus? Who is difficult for you to love? What is one step you can take to remedy your lack of love for them? 

Rhythms of Rest

Tuesday, June 17, 2014  ::   3 important comments

Rest -- freedom from activity or labor, a brief pause, peace of mind or spirit, free of anxieties.

Two weeks ago my family set out to rest. Over the past few summers vacation came to us in the form of big trips to exciting destinations. Because of schedules in the shortness of our two month summer, no one had the same weekend open for us to get away. To be honest, I cried about it. My soul so desperately wanted to escape with my family to recharge and refill. 

After deliberating several options, Chad and I had the bright idea to staycation in Tucson. We agreed to completely clear our schedules and engage with our family and our city for two whole weeks. The biggest kicker for me was that we also agreed not to talk about work at all. For the two of us to not talk about what we do through and in Second Mile would be a challenge. My fear was we wouldn't have much to talk about. Sad, but true.

Do you know what? The first two days of being at home with "nothing" to do irritated me like a mosquito bite. I was pouty that I wasn't on the beach. All of the things that I left on my to-do list scrolled through my mind. Fear the kids would think our staycation was lame infested my heart. It took intentional prayer and surrender to allow God to sift through my soul to prepare my heart for the great two weeks He had planned for the Haynes family.

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burnt out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how 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 rightly."

The beauty of this passage comes in our day to day life. It isn't a passage meant to be used as an excuse for vacation, but in the times of setting regular life aside we can be reminded that this is how he desires for us to live everyday, to learn and enjoy "the unforced rhythms of grace."

We forced nothing during our staycation, but we intentionally sought out several things.

  • We played games including cards (Shanghai) and Ticket to Ride.
  • We ate donuts from a 1935 Tucson landmark.
  • We finally went to San Xavier Mission which was a long overdue expedition.
  • We enjoyed the sunset at Kyle's track meet.
  • We went to Mt. Lemmon and split two ginormous cookies from that little cookie house we've passed for ten years, but never made a point to stop. 
  • We went to Guadalajara Grill mainly for the table side made salsa. That stuff is delicious. 
  • We made some pretty fine meals ourselves, many of our family favorites. 
  • We celebrated Father's Day with scones, Miss Saigon, and Ross. 
  • We never set an alarm and slept in every day.
  • We laughed so much, mostly at my expense because moms are pretty easy to make fun of. 
  • I baked cobbler and scones. 
  • I met my goal of getting in our pool every single day. 
  • I read at least ten Psalms everyday and deeply inhaled God's steadfast, unfailing love. 
  • I finished one of my books about prayer which means I was awake in the middle of many nights praying which was pretty fantastic. (I said I wouldn't talk to Chad about work. I had to get out all my crazy thoughts to Someone! Who better to talk to and listen to than Jesus?)
And you, my friends? You were wonderful. This staycation would never have worked if you hadn't respected my family's need for rest. My phone was eerily silent. A few times I wondered if we were missed because my quiet phone made me insecure because any normal given day it goes off 877 times. Your love for us demonstrated in your ability to encourage a time of rest bolsters our desire to serve and love you. Thank you for perpetuating the circle of loving one another. 

One more thing, this staycation came at the best season in the life of our family. I'm praying my kids learned that you don't have to spend money, be extravagant, go some place new to find rest, to enjoy the people you love, to recharge and refill. This season was right. Let me say that if we would have tried this when my kids were little I would have lost my ever lovin' mind! It would have felt like normal, trapped life with piles of laundry and messes and the millionth game of Candyland and another episode of Dora and bath time and waking up at 6:00am. Getting away was necessary when my kids were young, and we did! We went places that the whole family enjoyed. But now, in my opinion, the sweet season of witty, charming, self-caring teenagers was the perfect time for a staycation. Those of you that currently deal day in and day out with sweet tiny cuties that depend on you for everything don't try a staycation just yet, but keep this in a file in your mind for the future. Be intentional now, so that family, relational intentionality grows deeper and deeper through the years. You won't be sorry. 

What are your favorite ways to rest? Are you going on vacation this summer? What is your favorite part of vacation? How does your time of rest include soaking in more of Jesus?