Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 6

Truth be told, I didn’t want to write this blog. Not because of some sort of rebellious attitude or because I’m sick of this blog. Well, there is a small part of me that lacks discipline and so both cold be partially true. But I struggled to find stuff I wanted to write about. But I forced myself to go and here’s what I’ve got for you…

As you can tell from previous posts I encounter a lot of stuff during the week or I think about a lot of stuff. This week was a lot of stress and it stemmed mostly from the fact that I had been tasked to manage getting everything ready for the Gretna Days parade that is coming up in a few weeks. I hadn’t endured stress like that since the least school year. I know it doesn’t sound like something that would cause a lot of stress but it was killing me for a while. I didn’t think I could handle getting the float together because I’m really not that great at creating things that are visually appealing. I also freaked out because I didn’t, and still don’t, know if I will have enough people to pull off what I want to during the parade. I was really freaking out at one point to where I said I didn’t really want to be in charge of it anymore.

But I feel better now.

I talked to my parents who were in charge of doing this last year and they gave me some really good ideas. I’ve since had these ideas implemented and the float will be done in the next few days or so. As far as the people, well… I guess I’ve heard it enough times this week from enough people that I really just trust God will provide enough people if this is what he wants to have happen. And who knows? Maybe something crazy and unexpected will happen. I apologize now for being vague but this particular idea must be kept quiet lest the surprise be ruined. You’ll just have to be there if you don’t intend on being a part of it.

So, I finally finished reading The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman. I say “finally” because you have no idea how many times I started and stopped reading that book in lieu of something else. Old Walt can be difficult to read because of his writing style and voice. Sometimes he chooses to use words that I find unnecessary or difficult and I’d get frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t tear through the book like I can when I’m reading a lot of other books. But, after getting into the book again, I really was entranced by his thoughts about many facets of the prophetic ministry. So much so that I presented the information to Ben and we had a pretty long discussion (with the assistance of a marker board) on Brueggeman’s ideas and how we could apply them in our current issues in approaching the culture of Gretna.

There’s no way I can take the time or space to explain the content of this conversation. You can ask me about it sometime if you’re really interested. Or you could go read the book.

What else happened this week…?

I spent a fair amount of time not being home this week. There have just been way too many people and lately it’s felt like I can’t relax when there are 10-15 people in my house taking up the couch, the floor, the basement and wherever else they can stash themselves to hang out here. On one hand I am really thankful that we can be a house where people feel comfortable to come hang out in. But for me the difficulty becomes that, selfishly, I do not like to be around people all day or even most of the day sometimes. And I guess I can’t say that just about my house. I’m around people all day when I work and I have to be around people for this internship. So, there are some days where I am around people for 12-13 hours straight. And, as we’ve learned from past blogs, I do not deal with that well. My mind and body start to tense up and are on edge. To paraphrase Donald Miller I’m like that battery powered drill that needs to be charged for about 24 hours to work for about 10 minutes.

Ok, so I’m exaggerating.

But I sometimes feel like I’m limited by this facet of my personality.

This whole week has been pretty much a blur. Work has been increasingly lame because of how I feel I’m being treated which may or may not reflect how things are actually working. I sometimes wonder if my perception of the environment around me and how things happen are not some how marred by my tendency to see the negative side of my realist (and sometimes more pessimist) bent toward life. And sometimes I have to tell myself it’s just my pride getting in the way. Basically, what has been happening lately is, or at least it feels like, I cannot get anything done right. That, somehow, my knowledge, skill and experience have not been serving me well lately and I’ve been struggling to do my job well. The reality of the situation is that I’m doing about as well as I have ever done but I’m feeling isolated because I get excluded from everything my team does as a whole because of my schedule. It feels like I’m working out in the middle of the ocean on a raft sometimes. Which sounds like something I’d do well at but in my job if I don’t have some sort of affirmation that I belong it’s really hard to see the vision of what the team tries to accomplish. I only get to see the bad side of things which doesn’t do well with my personality and disposition. And I don’t know how to get past that.

Is there anything else?

Ah, yes. I will be going back to York E-Free Church sooner than I had expected. Initially, Jon had told me that it would be about 6 months before he would bring me back. Well, thanks to the providence of God and his use of some communication issues I will be going up there with no support but God to step in front of that congregation along with a visiting group of bikers from the Christian Motorcycle Association. So, I was hoping to do something that was pretty basic and gospel-centered. That sounds pretty easy to throw together isn’t it? I’d been stressing about it since it was confirmed that I’d be going but I then just started praying and really focusing on what I felt would be a good (and hopefully easy) text to bring to these people. I am a little relieved that I have found a text to work from. I’m a little gunshy about the fact that text though.

Habakkuk?

Granted I wrote a 10-15 page paper on this for a class but there’s a lot of content that I can’t or don’t have time to present if I’m going to rip through the entire book in about 30 minutes. I’ve been thinking about it constantly as has proven to be the best way for me to start assembling ideas before, during and even after I’ve finished fleshing out the sermon. So, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to tackle this yet but I intend on holing up in my office tomorrow for most of the day to get that all straightened out. Your prayers will be much appreciated this week going into the weekend.

Until next time, faithful believers…

Music
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
City & Colour – “Little Hell”
Poison the Well – “Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”
Poison the Well – “Opposite of December… A Season of Separation”
Poison the Well – “Tear from the Red”
Poison the Well – “You Come Before You”
Poison the Well – “Versions”
Poison the Well – “The Tropical Rot”
Dead of Dawn – “The Ultimate Shakespearian Betrayal”
B. Dolan – “Fallen House, Sunken City”
Derek Webb – “Stockholm Syndrome”
Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken – “TN EP”
Arch Enemy – “Doomsday Machine”
Astronautalis – “The Mighty Ocean & Nine Dark Theaters”
Grieves – “Together/Apart”

Movies
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Blade Trinity
Blazing Saddles

Books
The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
Jim & Casper Go to Church by Jim Henderson

Bible
Habakkuk
Job

Verse
YHWH, I have heard the report of you, and your work, YHWH, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2 ESV)

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Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 3

I know these posts, thus far, have been a description of what I did with my week as intern at A2. Truth be told, this last week was kind of an off week. It’s not like I didn’t do anything because I did but it all centered around one task and it was something I was done with rather quickly. It was good for me though. Let me tell you about it.

Right around the time this internship started I had a conversation with my friend and pastor of York Evangelical-Free Church, Jon Wymer, about coming to bring the word to his congregation. This is actually a conversation that was a year or so in the making because he wanted me to be part of a bigger story he’s been telling among his congregation about the commonality of Jesus between all types of people. So, when he gave me the date of June 12 I gladly jumped at the opportunity. I was given no restrictions on what I could talk about. I don’t think I need to tell you how exciting this opportunity was.

But we’ll get to that.

Let’s talk about the rest of the week first.

The last few weeks I have been helping and watch the new church location morph into a bigger version of our last space almost totally built on the volunteer labor of the congregation. It is something altogether different to see people devoted to one central idea in several parts and to give it their best. There was painting, dry wall, sanding, mudding, cleaning, curtain hanging, and things I probably didn’t see because I was at work or elsewhere. I came in to check a few times when I was off to see amazing progress being made despite the small number of people who were doing the work. I guess one thing I would say I was confused and maybe even slightly discouraged was the lack of involvement. Even though we had a lot of people help there were nights where, I don’t know, maybe there could have been more assistance.

Maybe I expect too much. Hope too much. I wonder if that’s typical.

As far as the rest of my week was concerned, I was just left to prep my sermon for Sunday. Sounds like a boring week but it was actually pretty enlightening. I learned a lot about the way I communicate and how my thoughts channel themselves into coherent communication. I actually used portion of Hebrews I blogged about a while back but in reflecting and rereading I really felt I needed to shift the focus a little bit. I started applying the process that I learned worked best when I’m trying to write something. It’s an interesting process.

But I have to think first.

I think about all the things I know thus far, the things I need to know and then I do the work. I research, I read and I go back to my brain. I think the most important thing I learned about myself is that I can put everything together if I just go back to thinking about the flow of things and the content I’m studying throughout the day. I made a lot of connections and had a lot of ideas while I was driving to work or wherever else which was almost crucial in my being able to go from being a manuscript sermonizer to being able to channel the flow of my thought process into a workable and useable teaching. This is a point I really wanted to get to because I just find a manuscript to be restrictive and I don’t feel like I’m communicating. It’s just like anything else I do.

I feel much better if I can move.

Honestly, the rest of the week wasn’t all that interesting that I can recall. I spent some time in conversation with Ben about the book “And” which was really just an affirmation of things I already knew or already believed.

Let me tell you about my weekend.

Time brings on a lot of changes some bad some good. Saturday was meant to be a celebration of the completion of a very trying and scary time for my friend Jon and his family. I arrived in York around 12:30 to the Open House they were holding for their young daughter Sophia Hope. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had it removed, and endured chemotherapy. She completed her last round and so they held a party and it was amazing. She’s a little tank now. I remember when she was almost skin and bones during the whole process. I called her a human ATV because she would crawl anywhere. It was mind-bending to see both her and her sister older and more grown up. Sophia was mobile. Jon’s older daughter was actually talking in full sentences, almost conversational.

It’s amazing what time does and how it moves people.

York is in a rural community so it’s surrounded by towns and things that you just don’t see in a suburban community. One of the best parts of hanging out in the area is the little gems and places you don’t expect that almost seem out of place. I was taken to dinner by Jon and his family to a place called Chez Bubba’s Café. The town it was attached to was really small but this was a nice establishment with really good food. I think it was mostly family run. I watched a lot of the people, read a lot of the faces that told me that there were people who didn’t think I belonged there. The wait staff was nice and the food was amazing.

I saw something.

From my seat I could see directly to the server station and the kitchen. I watched our waitress walk back there and I noticed she was wiping tears out from under her eyes and her coworkers trying to console her. My immediate response was to think that God let me see that for a specific, like maybe I was supposed to interject or help somehow. But I asked myself the question, “What?” and realized that I had nothing to offer. And so I asked what the purpose of my seeing this was. And I realized that perhaps I need to learn is that sometimes I can’t fix.

In the driving around the area, I saw something that has been prevalent throughout the last few years. It’s so strange to associate the presence of God with something like this the way I do. But it showed up when I was going crazy in Memphis, it showed up when I was looking for calm when a relationship went bad. It has been a signal of calm in many storms. I think God tells me he’s there in a tangible way based on a story I heard a long time ago about a pastor who was a suicide risk. His congregation followed him to the place where they thought he was going to kill himself. When asked what he was doing there he told them “I just wanted to see something else that was carrying a heavy load”.

He was going down to the tracks to see the train.

I drove past a lot of trains. It’s one of those tangible things which I connect to the presences of God. So, I felt like I was in good hands when Sunday morning came.

But Saturday night we went to a relay for life that was being held in York. There was just so much going on that I don’t feel like i can go into detail. One thing that almost put me into tears was the lighting of luminaries for people who had cancer. They went all around the track they had laid out. There were hundreds of them. So many lives touched by something so terrible. But the people were all in high spirits and I even saw men and women walking around wearing bras over their shirts. They made it fun.
Then came Sunday. I don’t really think that I want to go into detail. I really had a good time meeting the people in York and thoroughly enjoyed talking about Hebrews 12. After I was done I felt more human than I had in a long time. I think it was a confidence that I’d not experienced in a long time. I was even able to maintain conversations with complete strangers which is really hard for me normally.

Well, I’m exhausted. That’s my story for this week. You can check out the podcast with my sermon here:

Which Mountain Have You Come To?

Music
Blaqk Audio – “CexCells”
City and Colour – “Little Hell”
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
La Dispute – “Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair”
La Dispute/Touché Amoré – “Searching For A Pulse/The Worth Of The World”
War of Ages – “Eternal”
The Moment – “Showdown at the Discotheque”
Fear Factory – “Obsolete”

Movies
Last Action Hero
Gone in 60 Seconds
Clerks

Podcasts
The Village Church: Matt Chandler – Colossians (Part 13) When Violence is OK

Bible
Hebrews 12:12-24
Exodus 19:16-12:21
Luke 10:25-29

Verse
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(Luke 10:29 ESV)

Perhaps it is time…

Perhaps it is time for me to put a real post that doesn’t consist of cryptic poetry about how depressed I’ve been lately. And I have been depressed. I’m going to be real about it for once in a venue I assume is fairly safe because only people who care about me enough to tell me I’m being stupid in a loving manner actually read this.

So, that season began back around November. It’s the season where the control of myself that I am almost consistently able to maintain over my emotional states goes completely out the window. No amount of medication or therapy has yet to bring about any sort of solution. I have prayed many times for it to stop and be taken away with no response. I think I can safely say I can relate to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8. Did you know that depression is very humbling? I didn’t really think about it until just now but it is. I have to reach past my pride to tell someone how I’m feeling which is not as easy as it sounds. Telling someone who does not understand what it feels like to the level at which I have experienced it is a lot like talking to a wall. Something I still struggle with, however, is “counting it all joy” or rejoicing. When all hope seems lost in most cases, God feels most silent.

I have been attempting to continue to read but I have found a greater ferocity in my hunger for the word. Even when I’m not reading it I am contemplating it and running it over in my head. Some of that has to do with a sermon I’ll have to prepare in the coming weeks but I have also just wanted to read, learn and understand. Jesus, as he should be, has been very central in this. I have the gospels but there is SO much out there on the criticism and the historicity of it all as well. I believe the gospels are true but to add historical context to a scholarly level is intriguing to me. And I don’t mean the Jesus Seminar because that is not scholarship but skepticism at its lowest. N.T. Wright, J.P. Moreland… these are the men from whom I have sought my information but I keep going back to the Gospels and it just lights a fire I’ve felt before but never understood. I think I do now but one who can never be certain of mood indications. It is similar to that in Lamentations 1:13:

“From on high he sent fire;
into my bones he made it descend;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all the day long.

Or perhaps Jeremiah 20:9

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.

This raises an interesting question that I’ll leave as just rhetorical.  Since God knows us before we were formed in the womb, does it stand to reason that all people or, perhaps, certain people would be given specific names to mirror their purpose?  I only ask because both verses are ascribed to Jeremiah the prophet and they resonate greatly with me.  Just food for thought.

I feel a great sense of purpose being at this school.  My classes are keeping me on my toes, my reading is keeping me engaged intellectually so that I am not getting bored.  I am taking my required course in homiletics right now and I am so excited to start but with no explanation.  By that I mean no basically logical reason other than my belief in Jesus and belief in the word.  And yet I am also troubled by a class that I am taking as an intensive course called Personal Evangelism.  The assignments are all pretty simple for me except the final assignment:

Post-class assignment (Final Project). Each student will be expected to share a Gospel presentation and their faith story with someone who is living their life apart from Christ.  Students will write a three to five page documentation/critique of that conversation.

I’m praying that the methodology in this course explains this better because, I’m sorry, but I’m not the type to just cram the Gospel down someone’s throat.  I’m hoping this isn’t the case, otherwise the professor and I will have to have a discussion.  But we haven’t gone that far.  If you’ll notice, I’m really big on planning ahead.  I’ve been getting homework done early for that very purpose.  I cannot fall behind, I cannot miss sleep and I cannot come as close to failing my classes as I did last semester.  It doesn’t look like it is pointing that way yet but I still worry.  It’s the whole uncontrollable anxiety thing, comes with being crazy.

I worry about her a lot. I can’t help it.  Together or no, I’m not going to talk about that, but I do worry about her and I worry about her worrying about me.  I worry that she won’t talk to me because she is predisposed to staying away from people with my condition having experienced it in her past.  I want her so badly to understand that I am not that way and even if she feels she has to stay with me because that’s what she is being called to do then so be it.  I won’t like it and I’ll worry all the same.  I just wish there was more communication and less of her avoiding problems if we have them like I’m going to treat her like crap and belittle her for what is causing her problems.  I just don’t know, I really don’t know and I pray and I pray and it is one of those things that maybe I have been given the solution but really don’t like it so I’m ignoring it because I also associate it with the mess of problems I have emotionally and psychologically.  GAHHHHH!

If all we have is God then we ought to be more than content.  But, if that’s the case, then why does it hurt like it does?  If we are relational creatures than we should solely rely on God but seek relationships with believers around us.  Shouldn’t we?  Are we not meant to love one another?  It hurts to feel alone.  Most people would seek comfort in those they love and trust.  It does not serve you well to be silent on matters that hurt you.  Unless you’re me and you can only relate it to some sort of imbalance in your brain, you have a cause for sorrow and I think you must give it to God but, in most cases, shouldn’t we be willing to share our sorrows?

I am grieved right now.  Worry has taken my mind away from things.  I shouldn’t be anxious but I am.  I can’t help it.  God be with you and me.  And to all who were kind enough to read this.  May the Father of all things lay his blessings on you.

This servant hurts.