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Last 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 3)

Last 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church

 

We continue this week with the last installment of a three-part series on healthy Christian churches. The goal of this series is not population growth in a church but to give our churches a “check-up” to see if they are healthy or suffering from dysfunction: toxic dynamics, wrong teaching, or unbalanced leadership.

The first 10 signs can be found at 5 Signs of a Healthy Christian Church and 5 More Signs of a Healthy Christian Church (Part 2).

At the end of this list is a “bonus” sign listed, but really it is essential in the same way as Number One (Christ is the center of conversations, preaching, teaching, programs, prayer, worship, and all decisions.) Be sure to check it out because we begin and end with who God is, and really, isn’t that upon whom our faith is built? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Love Knocked: It’s Time to Answer

I opened the door to find her standing there in thepouring-down rain, hand outstretched toward me with a Peppermint Mocha and Salted Caramel Square just waiting to delight me inside a paper bag. I greeted her with bedhead, three-days-worn pajamas, and a defeated face. Not sure when I had last showered. She doesn’t even drink coffee from my café of choice, but she had the barista handcraft a beverage just for me. She didn’t come in. She took her soaked self back to the van, having delivered friendship in a cup. And it was the real deal in every way:Love Knocked

friendship

and

good coffee.

Before that knock came, I got an email:

“You home right now?”

Me: “Yes, upstairs resting.”

Nothing mattered to me right then. I had tried to drag myself out all day to get a coffee just to be somewhere and exist outside my own grief, but I couldn’t. I listlessly made three breakfasts, packed three lunches, sent three kids out the door to three different buses, and went back to bed. All I knew was that Dad was dying several states away, and that phone call was coming in any minute. I was in some kind of nightmarish limbo—stuck and free-falling.

Then, that knock!

I wanted to but could not in any way will myself to answer it. I simply couldn’t leave my bed. I didn’t know it was raining. I wasn’t even sure who it was. But the knuckles rapped a bit stronger and then my phone burped. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Thankful Changes the Atmosphere

When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereShe had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:

“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”

Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.

It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.

And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.

Counting blessings—

—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.

I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.

And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Light Shines Out Dark

When Light Shines Out DarkWe walked hand in hand down Wright Avenue headed toward her home after a visit to the Five & Dime. I treasured my visits with Grandmom. Her hand was gnarly and warm, securing me somehow in decades of wisdom and life lived that I would not understand for many decades of my own. I guess on some level I knew her street of row homes was unsafe now, that her longtime homestead where she raised her family had become a place that sold dark—filled with poverty, broken families, addictions, violence, racial tensions, and a lack of hope.

But when Grandmom walked down that street, heads of all colors looked up and spoke reverently: “Hi, Mrs. H!”

And her response? She’d know them by name and say: “Hey, Willis, how is your mother doing?” She showed them respect.

From what I remember, she absolutely felt confused and disheartened by the changes on her street—maybe at times even a little scared (she’d been mugged twice in her elder years). But she absolutely chose to stay, to not tremble or cower, and…

…to love.

As we started approaching a scene of a young teen couple arguing, and the boyfriend was punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach, I remember my grandmother not shying away from it. She didn’t move to the other side of the street. She walked us right past them. I honestly can’t recall if she had words in those moments or not. She may have. But as she approached, the Light of Christ she carried with her was enough to settle down the violence going on. He looked as though he had been caught in something and wore a look of shame. I had never seen anything like it. I was not more than a 10 year old child at the time, but

that scene has never left me.

I have no idea what happened after we passed. He could have gone after my grandmother for witnessing that, but he didn’t. He could have justified his own behavior by continuing to beat his girlfriend. I really don’t know. What I do know is that he could not keep offending when my grandmother was on the street.

Could not.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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