Years ago, a prominent preacher tweeted 6 ways God answers prayers:
“Yes. No. Not yet. You be the answer. Trust me. Are you kidding me?”
I’m certain that many of my prayers falls into the “are you kidding me?” category.
But as I welcome the New Year, I wanted to tell you about a prayer that I thought was a “no” and it turned out to be a “not yet.”
One night, many moons ago, I had a difficult time falling asleep. I kept tossing and turning, cursing myself for drinking too much coffee. Kept trying to think of mundane things when an idea jolted me even more awake. There was no sleeping now.
The idea (vision?) was for a community near the state college.
It was to be a community for those who were vaguely religious; a community for wanderers to safely explore; a community that was invitational to anyone and everyone; a community that desired to be incarnational. After tinkering with this idea for weeks, I came up with the name: Jacob’s Well.
It was at Jacob’s well, where a woman — who was aware that a Messiah would come — found life after encountering Jesus (the Messiah) and then brought her entire village to meet this Jesus. I felt that story was a great foundation for this community.
I presented this vision to the powers-that-be in one of the most detailed presentations I had come up with in my life (up to that point). It involved a two-point charge where this new community will be a missional church to the one that I was currently serving — both for practical and financial reasons.
(I recently found that proposal and it still seems like a good idea for that city 😉.)
It simply wasn’t meant to be.
At first, I was really confused because I strongly felt that this idea didn’t originate from me. But what can you do?
A couple of years later, there was a change within the powers-that-be and I was beyond restless, so I decided to try my hand once more and pitch the idea. Why not? I had nothing to lose. This time I added a mission statement (to make disciples for the transformation of the world), core values (bold; relevant; inclusive), and a plan for Year One. Figured the more details I had, the more beneficial it would be.
For the second time, it was a ‘no.’ I kinda expected that. I all but let it go and moved on.
Then we moved to Texas.
After getting settled in Texas and weathering through a major flood, a friend of mine launched her church plant in California. She wrote something like they wanted to provide a space to breathe; a space to be.
Apparently that phrase was a trigger.
I instantly thought of Jacob’s Well and thought that it could be the place to be.
I made a real quick promo type video for Jacob’s Well with the phrase “THE PLACE TO BE:” in place while words like “doubtful,” “encouraged,” “faithful,” “loved,” “love,” and “you” faded in then out.
With that video and info on the Fresh Expressions movement (model?), I tried to bring the idea of Jacob’s Well to life for the 3rd time. Ultimately, the church wasn’t able to make it happen. There were things (some legit, some agree-to-disagree) that needed to be addressed first before having a conversation about adding another service at the church. And with that, I shelved the idea away thinking, maybe in another life — only to remember we don’t believe in reincarnation. I mean, 3 strikes you’re out, right?
It’s funny how things play out.
In one of the churches I worked at, there was a framed poster that said, “Wanna make God laugh? Tell God your future plans.”
I did tell God what I thought were decent, solid future plans for myself only to be rejected not once, not twice, but three times.
God had a different plan/timeline in mind. Apparently now is the time to work on bringing that vision into reality. It just goes to show how little control we mortals really have…
The bits and pieces of thoughts/ideas/visions I collected/picked up along the way are now being implemented (granted, a lot of this is taken from a church in Chicago. But shhhhh).
We are working towards a church that exists to make disciples of Christ; that seeks to be inclusive, bold, and embraces community.
Having an opportunity to bring those ideas to life has been thoroughly exciting and immensely frightening. Everyday I feel like I’m oscillating between excitement and fear.
Excitement for the things to come.
Fear for the things to come.
There exists this freedom when starting a brand new community. But freedom is often flanked by fear.
Fear is always inevitable.
What matters is not letting that fear neutralize/paralyze us from doing what needs to be done.
I face this new year with the story of Robert the Bruce and James Douglas in mind.
When Robert the Bruce laid on his death bed, he requested that his heart be taken out to war by a worthy knight.
James Douglas, his good friend, took on that request.
The heart of Robert the Bruce was embalmed (gross) and James Douglas wore it around his neck (first, grosser; second, friendship goals).
In his final battle, Douglas and his army found themselves surrounded by their enemies. Douglas knew this was the end. So he reached for the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce and flung it into the middle of the battlefield and shouted, “Forward, Brave Heart, as ever thou were wont to do and Douglas will follow his King’s heart or die!”
How can people hear what is being said in the battlefield? I imagine it’s something like this:
Regardless of what lies ahead, we move forward carrying the heart of Christ (but not embalmed because we’re not that guy and more importantly, such a thing wouldn’t exist because… Resurrection).
We move forward knowing that it’s going to be risky and, at times, costly.
But we focus on not what we may lose, but what we will gain.
Grateful for all the lessons learned in 2019.
Here’s to 2020.
Forward, Brave Heart, as thou were wont to do and I will follow Christ’s heart or die.
Happy New Year’s to you!
May the peace of the Lord (and the Force) be with you, always.
* I’m not really Barbara Walters.