A few weeks ago, my son told me, “I love you more than God.” While this was touching, it also made me think about my heart toward my Father in Heaven. When I first committed my life to him, I wanted all my thoughts, words, and behaviors to be dedicated to him. But that was almost two decades ago. I often neglect to love him as I committed to love him in my spiritual infancy. Edson’s love for me reminds me how I’m meant to love God. I am meant to put all my trust in him, ask him about everything, come to him when I’m in need, and come to him just to spend time with him. He loves all of me, and he knows what I need. He is so wonderful to spend time with, and when I love God like Edson loves me, I’m most at peace.
And as Edson grows and sees more of my shadow, the sin that is invisible to him now, it is my prayer that he redirects his passionate and faithful love toward the father who loves him in ways I cannot. I read something once about the time in a father’s life when he loses his position as a God-like figure in his kids’ eyes. They start to see him as the imperfect human he is, with light but also with darkness. Losing that kind of intense love can feel traumatic. Fathers often reflect on this season as one they have to cope with. Yet if my children don’t lose the ability to love unrestrainedly, but rather send that love to a worthy recipient, then I will rejoice.
So this is my call for this season: to let go of my goals for my life, let go of my anxieties, to rest in him. I think that if I can love God in similar ways Edson loves me, my soul will be transformed and I will bear more fruit. And as my children begin to see me for the man I really am, a pretty good dad who also harms others and often thinks of himself first, I hope to not try to resist the natural change in our relationship, but rather help them see where they can direct their admirational, unconditional, and wholly trusting love. The deserving recipient is God; he will not disappoint.
If you've been around Communitas a while, you know that this community has a history of befriending and serving refugees. Several people regularly volunteer with English Club, a few families in our church have been cultural companions for families who were recently resettled in Spokane, and last summer several people from Communitas hosted a weekly potluck at Polly Judd park for refugee kids and their parents.
A few weeks ago, I got to represent Communitas when World Relief gathered local church leaders together to continue conversations about how local churches can best support refugee families in Spokane. It was a great event where we got an update about the current state of refugee resettlement in our nation and in Spokane specifically, and where we learned a bit more how to best befriend and support the families who are being resettled right here in our own neighborhoods. We also brainstormed as churches about different ways church communities can continue to welcome refugee families. This was clear: local churches are invaluable partners in order to successfully resettle refugees in Spokane.
Over and over, throughout the old and new testaments, God calls His people to welcome the foreigners, for the Israelites were once foreigners in a foreign land and when they finally arrive in what becomes their own land, the Israelites are not to forget what it was like to be a foreigner. They are to care for and incorporate the foreigners among them. I don't know about you, but at times I feel hesitant about reaching out to refugees here. I worry about saying the wrong thing, or having nothing to say, or feeling guilty that I have so much more than they do. But in the moments where I have gotten to meet and chat with refugees, I nearly always walk away feeling incredibly grateful for the conversation and somehow closer to Jesus and to God's people in general.
So here are a few ways you can welcome and serve refugees this summer:
1. Communitas will again host weekly potlucks for refugee families at Polly Judd park. They will be every Wednesday evening, starting July 11th for 6-8 weeks. Mia will have more info for us as we get closer to that time.
2. World Relief has several families who are begging to be connected with a cultural companion which entails befriending a refugee family, helping with adapt to American culture and assisting with some basic language skills. If you're interested, talk with me, Sarah Smith or contact World Relief directly.
Summer is almost here, which means we will be taking a little hiatus from our curriculum Adventures with God. These last nine months, our amazing Sunday School teachers have been diving into this curriculum that “focuses on our relationship with God through the Word of God and explores the entire scope of God’s Story.” We are so grateful for their dedication and support of all of the Communitas kiddos.
Since taking this position as Children’s Ministry Director, I’ve been able to observe the classes as well as teach. The dialogue the teachers and students have about our Savior is pretty uplifting. I was giving a lesson about Naaman and while reading his story to the children, the children had so many questions about why Naaman was so bad? Why did Naaman have “yucky spots" all over him? Why did the little girl who was his slave help him? Why did God heal him? Through the lesson they came to understand that forgiveness is healing to our souls and God is the one that provides that healing.
We also have started a Sunday School class for 5th grade and up. They meet two Sundays per month and the other Sundays, they’re either in service or helping in the other kids classes. We're so excited to see how God has continued to shape both the children, older kids and the teachers through these classes and we look forward to a great summer together.
So a few weeks back Austin helped lead us in a new worship song that we hadn't done before. It had a line in it about how God has a "reckless love" for us. Not sure if you remember that or not. He had asked me beforehand about it and mentioned that there were some folks online that don't like that lyric and he explained a bit more about this issue. Okay so I like the song, can I tell you why?
To start let me tell you why I agree with the folks who don't think that we should describe God's love for us as "reckless." They would say that God does not do anything recklessly. He doesn't do anything without proper concern and in order. I totally agree. I think though that they miss the point here and here's why: when we say that God loves us recklessly we are doing that because we say that he is lavishing incredible love on us in a way that almost seems reckless. It can seem reckless, or even foolish, to those that don't know about the love of God because what is amazing about God's love is that he gives it to those even when he knows that they won't respond in like fashion. I see why you could call that reckless.
It reminds me a tiny bit of a book that Tim Keller wrote several years back called, "Prodigal God." The term prodigal normally connotes ideas of somebody who was gone for a long time but now they are back. But originally that was not the definition. The original definition of prodigal is lavish spender, and at times a wasteful spender. So the guy in Luke 15 is called a prodigal originally because he was a lavish spender. He spent all that he had and then had to come home. So you get used to calling him the prodigal son and you know what happens? You forget why he's called prodigal and you just assume it's because he was gone for a long time. Ok - enough about the drift of definitions. Here's why I bring up the book, "Prodigal God." In it, TK uses a word that could reflect negatively on God if you didn't understand the whole meaning of what he is trying to communicate and I think that it's the same thing happening with this worship song talking about God's reckless love.
My kids absolutely love taking communion on Sunday morning. And last Sunday when Asher invited the congregation to come forward for communion and it took nearly all of my physical strength and patience to get them to wait until it was their turn to file out of our row and walk forward to receive communion. By the time it was finally our turn to leave our pew and get in line, my kids were so ready to take communion that they immediately darted out of my reach and ran forward (cutting off those ahead of us!) to get their piece of the communion bread. I was left standing several people back in line mortified by their behavior.
But then I wondered why I didn't feel the same urgency, excitement and sense of expectation. We take communion each week for several reasons, but at the core it is to remember the life and death of Jesus and to tangibly experience that he can--and does--satisfy our deepest hungers (to be known, to be loved, to be forgiven, to be included, to live a meaningful life) and quench our greatest thirsts (for justice, for reconciliation, for peace). And when I snap out of the routine of walking forward to eat a piece of bread dipped in grape juice, I wonder why I'm not also running forward and nearly knocking people over to experience God in those ways.
To be sure, I will continue to talk to my children about waiting in line and not cutting others off on the way to communion, but my hope and prayer--for them, for me and for us--is that they never loose that sense of urgency and expectation as they come forward to experience God, eating and drinking in remembrance of Him.