Monday, August 26, 2013

On Resting Yet Being Fully Engaged

It's the last week of summer...
School starts back up again for my kids next week. Ministry at church will ramp back up into a fuller schedule and work will pick up volume again for me.

It's been an awesome summer of rest for our family, one I am hesitant to let go of... I relished the lazy and unhurried days, the late mornings, the unscheduled weeks and the take-it-one-day-at-a-time disposition.

There were many things we thought we'd do, yet ended up not doing... because we chose rest, we chose to take it easy, we chose to just be. And, it honestly turned out to be the much better choice. 

Yet, in our choice to rest, we didn't disengage. 
I remember back to the teaching that our Lead Pastor gave us before the start of this summer season. He taught from the passages in the Book of John, Chapter 4, where Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman by the well.

Jesus had just arrived in Sychar, a town in Samaria. Jesus, tired from His journey, sat down by Jacob's well to rest. Yet, in His time of rest, He didn't stop being on-mission. Through His conversation and ministry to the Samaritan woman, her life and the lives of the people in her community were radically transformed.

Our Lead Pastor urged us all to remain fully engaged and be actively on-mission as Christ-followers even during our time of rest this summer. And that is just what our family did! 

We just got back from our summer road trip...
It is the first day back to work for both hubby and me after being off for 10 days. As I sat down at my desk and logged on to my computer this morning, this news headline greeted me... of two teen boys, not much older than my own kids, shot to death. It is a sad and stark reminder that brokenness and hopelessness don't go on vacation, precisely why Christ-followers shouldn't take a vacation from being on-mission. 

To read this story on the CBCNews website, please click here.

This incidence of gun violence particularly shook me to the core because, once again, it happened in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood... where our friends at UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom and Ephraim's Place live!
It is the neighbourhood where our family went to help paint homes with Ephraim's Place at the start of this summer season.
It is the neighbourhood where my kids and I delivered fresh fruits and vegetables to UrbanPromise's Camp Freedom every Monday morning this summer season.
It is the neighbourhood where our church went to help put together an end-of-summer Community BBQ at Camp Freedom just this last week!
It is the neighbourhood God has most sent our family and our church to go and be the gift!
This incidence of gun violence propelled me to the start of our family's summer road trip, just 10 days ago. We started in Wilmington, Delaware... another city where UrbanPromise can be found, where we literally drove past a crime scene... cordoned off with yellow police tape, heavily swarming with police officers, with dozens of evidence markers right there on the sidewalk and on the street.

My girl has traveled there twice these last two years with our church's youth group in order to help UrbanPromise Wilmington with their ministry to inner-city children. She has told us story upon story about her experiences there and wished we could see the city with our own eyes.

So we decided to make Wilmington the first stop on our summer road trip this year!

And, my girl is right... her stories from Wilmington pale in comparison to seeing this city with our very own eyes. Trust me... God has truly gifted my girl with words. She writes with emotion and tells stories with zeal. Yet, her words... both spoken and written, could not have prepared me for what I saw in Wilmington. 

Because I don't think there are words that can adequately describe brokenness and hopelessness. It is something to be seen by the eyes and felt by the heart. 

As we drove through Wilmington's most poverty-stricken street, where the UrbanPromise children live, my heart broke... for the things that break God's heart. I couldn't even lift my camera up to take pictures. I felt that I would be invading these people's privacy and dignity by taking photos.

This one photo, which isn't even from that one street, somewhat paints the picture: people walking aimlessly, pushing empty grocery carts looking for recyclables they can resell, eerily quiet streets, people sitting on porch steps with empty stares, children wandering the streets on their own...

As much as my heart was broken, I gave thanks to God for the ministry of UrbanPromise. We got a tour of their facility from a staff member, Laurie. She so graciously welcomed us even though we dropped in unannounced.

I love UrbanPromise's vision and mission:
Our vision is to be a community in Christ of servant leadership and transformation, seeking a full life for all involved: urban youth, families, staff, and volunteers in the neighborhoods of our city.
The mission of UrbanPromise Wilmington is to equip children and young adults through Christ with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, personal growth and servant leadership.
They are equipping children and young adults, building character and teaching skills, through Christ! Yes, through Christ... which I believe is the most essential ingredient of all. Don't you?

Brokenness and hopelessness is only redeemable through Christ. This is true in the Jane and Finch community here in Toronto. This is true in the inner-city neighbourhoods of Wilmington. This is also true in all of our lives!

As we journeyed on with our summer road trip...
We continued to look for opportunities to be on-mission. Interestingly enough, we found God giving us more opportunities to learn about being on-mission, more than opportunities to be on-mission. We soaked in the opportunities... being fully engaged, and open to learning:

At the Wilmington Riverfront: Learning about our responsibility to care for and not abuse the land
which God has provided for our good.

By the Christina River: I was reminded once again... that "time flows like a relentless river."
We must not waste opportunities to be on-mission for Jesus!

At The Amish Village: Where we were inspired by how the Amish people
live simple and generous lives, in community with fellow Christ-followers.

At The Sight and Sound Theatres' production of Noah: We were inspired, yet again, by Noah's story of faith
and radical obedience to God, even amidst mockery. He lived counter-culturally, as an ordinary radical!

Along the Susquehanna River: Again, "time flows like a relentless river."
Live an abundant cross-shaped life today! Now, today... not tomorrow.

At the Habitat ReStore in Lancaster: Where hubby had an opportunity
to offer some IT help/advice.

Yes, this! "Count your blessings, not your problems." Be the gift.

At an old 1800s school house, where this antique Bible was flipped
to Isaiah 58, "the fast which God accepteth."

Still at the old 1800s school house...
"Open your heart to the poor. Pray to do right."

Target gift cards, left in our hotel room for the cleaning ladies! 

At the Mennonite Information Centre in Lancaster:
"True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant."

Still at the Mennonite Information Centre: Let's pursue this dream, too!

All in all, this summer's been great and we had an awesome time of vacation!
We rested, we spent quality time as a family, we soaked in the learning, we remained fully engaged and on-mission for Jesus, we were indeed, truly blessed... just like what it says in these verses from Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)
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 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 lightly. (The Message)
Now, if summer could linger on for just a few more weeks...

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is always good and who always loves... these are the things I am thankful for this month... #3041 - #3054:
:: The blissful weeks of summer.
:: Time spent on vacation as a family.
:: Our family starting a Kiva account!
:: Some time spent with my entire extended family as part of our vacation in Lancaster, PA.
:: The opportunities God gives to be on-mission with Him.
:: How He loves relentlessly, always pursuing us and never letting go! 
:: Dinner with a young family from our church, and being inspired by their hearts' desire to be on-mission! 
:: Awesome planning meeting with our Lead Pastor and looking ahead into the Fall months and anticipating what God has in store for our church in terms of compassion and social justice initiatives!
:: A Compassion child sponsored!
:: Sleepovers! 
:: A surprise birthday party! 
:: Optometrist, dentist, orthodontist appointments. It is a gift to have access to these medical professionals!
:: The start of a great teaching series at church called "Mind The Gap". Check it out! 
:: This finale, from the previous teaching series at church called "One Church"... called "Live A Salty Life!"... have a watch:
{Please pause the playlist on the sidebar of this blog as you watch this video.} 

Hello Monday!
For true evangelical faith cannot lie dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love. ~ Menno Simons.
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

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Jump in... I promise you will be blessed!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

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