Wednesday, December 14, 2016

eXperimental eBook eStudy


So everything is online these days... Our lives are busy and so our schedules are tight. Trying to find a day and time to study together that works for more than one person at a time is increasingly difficult.

Recently, I've been playing with some different online "team" tools for work and it occurred to me that they may be an ideal way for AC3rs to interact together through a book study.

Regarding exactly how it might work... I currently have more questions than answers - but I'm looking for other AC3rs who would be interested in experimenting with the online study format and maybe helping to refine it a bit.

It wouldn't be a huge commitment of time, perhaps just a few months of occasional online interaction - at your own pace. We can carry on from there if it is working out for everyone. I would like to take away some learnings about the online study experience as much as from the book study itself - what made it awesome!?! what made it suck!?! etc. I am open to suggestions for the book(s) we take on as a group - perhaps we can vote on some ideas once formed?

Any interest in trying the experiment with me? eMail me at my name at spare wonder .com (don't want to post my actual full email address... spambots... you know...)

G&P,
Shea

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

AC3 VB127 Are You Creative?


How are AC3's services planned? Check out this weeks video blog to find out and how you could get involved. Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

AC3 VB126 It's Christmas Time

Check out this weeks video blog with Rick and Dan as they talk about the upcoming schedule in December around AC3. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

#Advent2016 Day Eight

Lori's Reflections



Pre-dawn glory
inching in.
Secrets invite.
I always taint, 
but this is stronger than I.
This dark sky,
holding promise,
is not the dark of my nightmares;
it is kind.
Sleepy, I let my eyes fall shut again.
And as I have done so many times before,
I waste this invitation
To dance
With the Divine.


Some of the best and worst things happen under cover of darkness. In the wee hours when much of our world is silent and distractions lose their steam, we are free to let our minds, bodies and spirits roam.
The shepherds watched the sky and the magi knew the signs. They studied the heavens and no doubt philosophized about the one who was to come. Still, no amount of knowledge or consensus put them any closer to the Messiah. They could only understand the idea of Jesus without really knowing him until they met him face to face. There is no substitution for proximity.
And for those whose minds and hearts were set against him, nighttime brought fear and paranoia of being dethroned, or of losing power to him. How Herod must have worn a pacing path around his bedroom as he schemed to prevent prophecy’s fulfillment. Nighttime offered him runaway obsession without a single speedbump.

In the silent, holy nights of Advent, we have opportunity to commune with the divine or indulge our fears over politics, war, or our neighbor. We can revel in the promise or stew in the disappointments life has no doubt dealt. We can even go to church or talk about this Messiah, but again…there is no substitution for proximity. We have the chance to meet him directly in the silent nights and enjoy his presence. We can talk to him instead of about him, we can worship instead of discuss theology, and we can pray rather than plan. And with this, he is pleased. And the angels watch in wonder at this kind of love.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#Advent2016 - Day Seven

Lori's Reflections


I would like to trade in some of my old things for new ones this Advent season. Some of my stuff is worn out and tired, and it just doesn’t fit anymore. I’m ridding myself of some things that have been cluttering up my space.
I’d like to trade comparing for gratitude.
I’ll give up my worry for peace and tranquility.  
I’m happy to chuck busy-ness for being still.
I’ll trade in half of the time I spend learning about God just to commune with him.
I’m going to give up telling God who He is and let Him tell me.
And I will unclasp my hands to let loose so many baseless answers I have accumulated along the way to make room for the wonder and mystery of my Redeemer.

I have a feeling that these Christmas trades will be the best presents ever. And because I am part of the bride of Christ, He will gladly give them to me. In fact, He already has if I will only let myself experience them. I am definitely marrying up.


#Advent2016 - Day Six

Lori's Reflections


When I was a child, I made a promise to God. To be honest, I can’t really remember what it was. All I remember is that I broke it. And I was devastated. It took some time before I got up the courage to ask our pastor if God could ever forgive me. Of course the answer was yes, but it took still longer for me to believe it.
Promises are a big deal to me. I am dead serious about them. Still, I have broken many more since then. Sometimes out of negligence or weakness, sometimes because of circumstances outside of my control, and sometimes because I had no business making it in the first place. If you were to make me a promise, I would like to believe you but I wouldn’t stake my life on it. Unfortunately, I know myself and you all too well; we have an exceptional ability to fail ourselves and each other.
It seems so improbable to me that God’s chosen people believed and held to the promise of the coming Messiah for so long. I mean, it took hundreds and hundreds of years and many generations before Jesus showed up, and all they had to go on was God’s word on the matter. Yet they held fast, and they taught their children to expect Him. God’s promises didn’t devolve into folklore or old wives’ tales, but they were held as fact.
Today we find ourselves in a similar limbo. God has promised the return of Jesus and that He will gather us to him forever. And we have been waiting a long time. Still, this is everything to us who follow Christ, and the bedrock of our faith. Why do we still believe after all this time? The Holy Spirit, who can touch the depths in us where mere words or understanding cannot, whispers to our soul and we know it is true. Because God’s promises are bigger than what we can understand a promise to be. God could no more break his word than I could become six feet tall. It’s just impossible.
So I challenge you to take a minute and read all the promises God has made to you in the Bible. They are very personal. And know that they are absolutely set in stone. Tell them to yourself so you better understand who God is and how he feels about you. It will change you, I promise. No really, I do.


Shea's Reflections

"If the tender yearning is gone from the advent hope today there must be a reason for it; and I think I know what it is [...] popular fundamentalist theology has emphasized the utility of the cross rather than the beauty of the One who died on it."
~Tozer

Pragmatism is defined as "an approach that assesses truth or meaning of things in terms of the success of their practical application." Pragmatism is evil. Or least, it is when mis-applied. The saying... "When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail." is helpful here - pragmatism sways us to judge everything, and everyone, in terms of whether they are useful to us. 

As Janet once sang... "What Have You Done For Me Lately!?!" - and I fear we ask the same of Christ in these days of wide-spread ADHDeity. We don't often intently seek the inherent goodness, the innate beauty, the intrinsic truth - we look at squirrels instead. And if something isn't "working" for us, we toss it like slightly stale cookies rather than holding on to hope for which we were called by our Creator and Savior - the Almighty. 


But at the same time, please be aware that we are victims as much as we are offenders here. Nurture and Nature have been stacked against us in this regard and so I will not ask you to rev up your power banks and just "do better", nor will I ask you to pick up your swords and slay the pragmatic beasts as they come at you one by one. I only encourage to you see them for what they are, and then lift your eyes to your Champion - the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith - the One who will arrive in glory.

Friday, December 2, 2016

#Advent2016 - Day Five

Lori's Reflections


How palatable we like our meals. As a country of affluence, we become bored eating the same thing too often, and our taste buds have grown accustomed to being assaulted with flavor enhancers lest we find it bland. We need our sustenance fast, hot and flavorful. We are a culture of short attention, short patience and short memories. Our entertainment becomes paramount, and our bellies demanding.
Likewise, we have taken the story of Christmas and bedazzled it to our liking. We have replaced silent reverence with Black Friday, traded holy anticipation for decorated merchandise, and created the most selfish of environments out of the most selfless act the universe has known. We post our designer decorated trees, expensive presents and price tags on Face Book with pride.
In the midst of shopping, ordering and accumulating, the question of Christ at Christmastime is uncomfortable for those who don’t know Him. With nativity scenes and songs boldly proclaiming the Messiah, it seems a strange thing how easily the two are divested one from another in our culture. It is easy to distract with eggnog and gift receipts, and summarily dismiss the big question hanging in the air: the validity of the trembling truth of the Son of God.
As followers of Christ, we are no strangers to distraction. To be fair, I have nothing against the perfume or slippers my husband is going to gift me from my wish list. Further, I’m a huge fan of pie and Christmas lights. But to trade the wedding for the reception alone simply leaves you with a hangover and solo future. Don’t squander the sacredness of this time. Cook your Christmas dinner, but don’t forget to dive deep and swim in the mystery that has changed everything.


Shea's Reflections


My advent devotional read today was non-striking. Or perhaps that is really on me. Oh well - no poetry will flow regardless.
Lori asked me what my favorite Christmas time films were, and which we should be sure to add to our video queue this season. Well I'm quite certain she regretted the query immediately because I started singing "Father Christmas!" from my most favoritist Christmasy films of all time - Scrooge!
This is not, mind you, the Bill Murray fun-guy Scrooge, nor the George C Scott or Jim Carrey, or even the Patrick Stewart Scrooges... (although they are all quite Scroogey). This is a 1970 musical with Albert Finney - the Scroogeist Scrooge eva... gov'na!
I think the whole thing is actually uploaded to YouTube so you could watch it for free - and you would indeed if you cared to take my advice, which you won't - I can live with that though. I would also suggest you purchase the .99 cent kindle version of A Christmas Carol by Dickens and just read it through this year - it is not that much of a commitment to make honestly.
Chances are good though, that you will spend some time with at least one of the renditions of Scrooge over the next month and I wanted to remind you why the story has been told so many times, in so many ways... because it ventures truth. It is also an early Horror Story... except that the monster and the victim are one and the same.

I dare you (I Triple-Dog-Dare ya! to quote another favorite Christmas film) to invite Dickens ghosts to visit you this season. Take a trip back to Christmas' Past, to times of joy, or sweet sorrows if they be there. Allow the Ghost of Christmas present to shove your nose against a frosty window to see the needs that call out today. And then tremble before bony finger of Christmas future - and awake to find there is still time to begin again!

(btw... Full film is here: https://youtu.be/y7Pk1jcaLDI)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

#Advent2019 - Day Four

Lori's Reflections

What a big job for a baby…

To be the promise to every person the earth has touched.

To be a big enough container to hold the full love of God.

To be the only bridge that can span the chasm between God and his creation.

A baby was such an unexpected vehicle for all of that grace.

Still, he was right on time in just the right way and just the right size to break the barrier between us and

God. Once broken, the power that brought him to the earth in this most fragile of ways is big enough to

keep the barrier destroyed for good.

This baby was strong enough to save us and vulnerable enough to weep with us, for us, about us.

Because babies don’t stay babies, because God cannot be defeated, and because Love always wins.


Shea's Reflections


Lost but not abandoned
so says the coin in the corner
so says the sheep far afield
so says the son eating pig slop
Lost... but a Seeker has come
from the skies to seek and to save
to restore, to heal, and to gather together
as a hen gathers her chicks under wing
Behold! There comes a knocking, a rattlin' at our door.
Behold! There is a staff raised high, calling to our eyes.
Behold! There is a name, which when spoken, displays power.
Behold! A mere garments edge, which when grasped, heals.
Lost... Broken... Bitten... Bleeding...
But not abandoned

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#Advent2016 Day Three

Shea's Reflections


Sit still for a moment and give your full attention to the moment.
Expand your chest and abdomen and realize the profound result - a breath.
Now imagine yourself suddenly transported, naked into space - expand your chest now mortal
- where did your breath go?
Somewhere within the frame of countable seconds, you will die.
Realize this as a result - you live with drastic need.
You might assume you somewhere somehow did something to deserve the need be met
You might also assume you would do just fine providing for yourself
You could conclude you are just as much an accident as the air around you - and never give it a second thought
but this Christmas season has arrived to provoke you to think about the needs you have and the gifts you receive
We are reminded of Love and it's work - “He did good to you and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness"
We are reminded that it is only by grace that we live and move and have our being
We are confronted with needs beyond our physical body
and we will sing "Jehovah Jireh!"
The Lord God Provides




Lori's Reflections


Daniel 6:27
“…he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth…”

Beyond the border of my power,
Past the end of my plans,
Above my eyes and below my fear.
You are there.
You, with your Breath
                Waving wonders with your sweeping hands.
Revealing signs with your words, speaking being into emptiness.
Not bound by time and space and gravity, your work goes on in other realms.
Sometimes I think I can sense the great movements in the heavens-
                Sometimes I am dumbed down by my physicality.

Always – you are moving.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Lori's Advent Reflections - Day Two

How jaded I become to the supernatural. What a ridiculous thing it is to tell the story of God and man with the same voice and breath I use to ask my husband what he wants for dinner. Oh, we are a species of frail spiritual constitution.

Yet if my mind could see a photograph of the exchange between father and son on the Mount of Olives, I would be able to see in frozen time the captured anguish. My eyes would sense the disturbance in the creation around him as the full realization fell on him of the coming days. Spiritual beings would be seen comforting him, mourning with him.

And we humans didn’t see any of this coming. This wasn’t at all how we ordered things to go, and we became shaken from our sleepy story.
Still now, I am unable to comprehend and absorb the weight of this story, from fragile beginnings to triumphant end, so I sometimes tell it with the inflection and reverence of a bored sixth grader. But when I can stop and visualize a photograph of Christ and I exchanging love, looks, intentions... I am moved to awe. I can see the bright beauty of both gift and giver in an extreme contrast. And when I picture a photograph of the people long ago waiting and watching for his coming, I wonder if they told their children the promise with beautiful anticipation around the fire at night, or hurriedly as they were cooking dinner or tending sheep. Thank God his faithfulness is not dependent on us.

#Advent2016 Day Two


I believe the Hallelujahs 
heard from the hills just over there
I believe the magnifying soul
the rejoicing spirit of a young girl
I believe the oath sworn
to father Abraham - and to his far-flung families
I believe the magi three
which traveled from strange places to worship here
I believe the dreams of Joseph
promising a guide to great escape
I believe the voice of Ramah
the screams, the despair, the evil in play
I believe the one calling in the wilderness
'Prepare the way of the Lord' - 'The kingdom comes'
I believe in the Word made flesh
born into our darkness by the light of a great star


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lori's Advent Reflections - Day

Waiting feels negative. It feels like being put out, impatient, frustrated and late. It feels like someone else dropped the ball and you are the one paying the consequence: waiting for your appointment in the doctor’s office, waiting for your friend who is late, waiting for the light to turn green, waiting to finally understand the electoral college.

Yet, Advent is a time of recognizing the waiting. Not in the negative sense, and not in the “Waiting for Christmas sales!!” sense, but a bit more sacred. Like sitting vigil with a sick loved one who is hanging in the balance. It is on holy ground that we wait. And it feels differently, as though we are created for it. As if we have a part of our soul that was molded to this quiet anticipation. We don’t pretend the timeline is within our control. God’s people once waited for generations for deliverance, for the promised land, for the Messiah.

Now we wait for his return, and to put things right. We wait for him to finally bring justice and healing and perfect love. And just as sacred as this waiting is, remembering the waiting of our ancient people is to identify with the soul’s longing for its creator across different times, cultures and hairstyles. Still, just as God’s early chosen people thought the Messiah would come with a sword and an army of Navy Seals, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve got this second bit of waiting wrong as well. Still, I trust the answer. Still, I anticipate the mysterious good.


#Advent2016 Day One

Adam and Eve, along with their children, lost the one thing they were ultimately designed for... The very presence of God.
God would still visit from time to time; in a whisper within a dream, from a burning bush, as a pretending Angel (accepting worship whereas no real angel would dare), as a pillar of fire, as a promise in blood.
God would tease out his presence because it was all that was left open to him until the promise made to Adam in the garden found it's time among the humans... 
Immanuel would be The Name.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9th


It's the morning of November 9th and the wind still blows, the water still flows and the sun is rising...like it did yesterday, and it will again tomorrow.

We have air to breathe, water to drink and light by which to see because we have a King who commands it - and he is NOT off his throne.

Some followers of Jesus face today with despair. Do not despair! Regardless of our circumstances, God calls us to abundant and transforming lives. In Jeremiah 29 God tells the Israelites (who have been dragged off by force into exile!) that they should:

"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

If you're candidate or important initiative did NOT win the day...remember: your dog still thinks you're the most amazing person ever....oh, and you have a KING.

Some followers of Jesus face today with hope. Do not hope in what you can see! Regardless of promises made and even promises kept, they too will pass. God calls us to hope in what we cannot see:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." - Romans 8

If your candidate or important initiative DID win the day...remember: the garbage still needs to be put out on the curb tonight....oh, and you have a KING.

For those who today on November 9th are not followers of Jesus, whether you find yourself in despair or filled with joy: you have a KING too! And he calls to you to enter his Kingdom! Everyone is welcome! Bring your joy and your despair. Bring your doubts and your convictions. Bring your brokenness and hate, your dreams and your desire...bring it ALL!

...and then lay it all down. You need not carry it any longer, for your new King's yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

Monday, October 24, 2016

AC3 VB122 Part 2 (Investigations)


Great Leadership Lesson From Hawks Brutal Tie


AC3, 
Many of you watched the game last night.  Brutal, I know.  Both teams’ kickers could have won it, and missed chip-shot field goals.  If you’re sports-nerdy enough, you not only watched the agony unfold, you also watched the post-game press conferences.  Something struck me about how the two coaches handled their two kickers - what an interesting contrast.

Then this morning this article picked up on it:

Coach Arians, Coach Carroll

Leaders, when our people fail (and they will) there’s a million ways we can throw them under the bus.  Not reassigning them, without telling them why.  Silent treatment.  Gruff verbal response.  Even trying to ignore a big mistake can be a way of diminishing them.  But coach Pete showed me again what it’s like to have someone’s back when they fall.  The game was a disappointing tie – picking up someone you lead when they’re at their lowest?  Total win!

-R

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

AC3 VB121 Part 1 (Foundations)

Hello everyone! Check out part 1 of our 2 part video blog. Learn some great things about Ricks "Lead Foot". Enjoy :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Racial Degradations

It’s unanimous.  In light of the disputed shootings of blacks by police, caught on video and debated on social media, combined with the subsequent protests and finally the retributive police assassinations, race relations are worse now than they have been in a long time.  In light of that sharp decline, I thought, “race degradations”.  But just as I thought I might be coining my own clever term for the current lack of ebony and ivory harmony, I came to realize that I wasn’t the first to use those words together.

Flip the two words around and you get: “Degraded Race” which happens to be a term they used a lot in Early America.  Here’s someone editorializing in a local newspaper about the use of the phrase “Degraded Race”:
Our sensibilities are often offended by the above, too frequent and misapplied phrase.  Nothing is more common than for the minister, the lawyer, the demagogue and the philanthropist, when speaking of colored people, to say, ‘Degraded race’ – ‘Degraded Nation’.  God has made but one race of men, and all Americans within the United Sates both white and colored, constitute one nation.  The degradation of any particular part of whom, is rather relative than real, virtue, in the sight of God, exalts – its absence degrades and debases.  When we maintain a conscience void of offense, toward God and toward man; we call no one ‘master’, save the adorable Jesus.
That was written in on October 27, 1838.  About 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln.  And what it shows is that Christians have always had at their fingertips vast spiritual and intellectual resources to combat the insidious evil of racism. 
  •  Which is why such abolitionist editorials were written, mostly by Christians. 
  • Which is why English and American evangelicals were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement.
  • Which is why just 5 years before this little paragraph was printed, William Wilberforce had already seen the enactment of his Emancipation Act into law in England. 
3 days later, after his lifelong struggle against the racist ideology aback of slavery ended, Wilberforce died.  The impulse for his crusade?  In his own words:
"In the Scripture, no national crime is condemned so frequently and few so strongly as oppression and cruelty, and the not using our best endeavors to deliver our fellow-creatures from them." – William Wilberforce
In the Scripture”.  Scripture and the Gospel it reveals, were his inspiration and impulse.  Yes, there has never been a greater defeater for racism than the Bible.  Say that again, slowly and repeatedly, until like a cleansing shower, the thought washes you clean of these slanders:  “Christians were spurred by the Bible to sustain slavery”, “Christians are encouraged to be racists by the Bible.”

Whatever biblical arguments the slave traders may have used, anyone can see (even then) that they were very bad exegetes (See my blog about the Bible and slavery here).  For they did what bad bible students always do:  Import into the text your own desires and prejudices.  

Of course this is true, since they completely ignored the most obvious truth revealed in the Bible about race, namely that we are all long lost cousins.  Literally!  Not figuratively, not esoterically, not in a Hallmark-gift-card kind of way, but actually and genetically related.

Besides the slavers, early biologists also ignored this.  Many, like Agassiz, maintained that God must have created the races separately many others said they evolved separately.  Some, like Darwin used the term often, “degraded races” and (while himself an abolitionist) thought blacks less evolved.  Meanwhile, the Bible’s narrative boringly remained unchanged by these ‘modern’ sentiments:
Acts 17:26-27 “From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth…”
 The Bible said it first: there is only one race, the Human Race.  It took 60 more years of scientific progress to reveal that the human race is so young, and so related, that outside your immediate family, you are just as likely to find a genetic match for an organ donor in India as in Indiana.  We interbred easily.  We are all – shock! – the same species!


How could you read the bible and miss the implications of the narratives of Adam and Noah?  Namely, the brotherhood of all human beings?  The fundamental equality of our special, Image-Bearing person-hood before God?  The answer is pride and greed, of course.  But let’s not suppose the slavers missed it because it was too obscure, or not repeated or clear enough. 

Right from Israel’s inception the people of God are told to welcome the ethnic outsider because of the golden rule:
 Ex 23:9 “You must not oppress a foreign resident; you yourselves know how it feels to be a foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”
 And by the time the gospel of Jesus begins to be preached to “every nation under heaven” the multi-ethnic call of racial unity under the grace of Jesus is a veritable trumpet blast in scripture after scripture:
Col 3:11 “Here [in the Church] there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”
 Gal 3:28-29 “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
 Eph 2:11-19 “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. …so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.”
Oh, the beauty of this vision!  The Church is the answer to racism, for in the Church, by means of Christ’s sacrifice, he tears down dividing walls of racial hostility.  Your ethnic pride and looks may remain, but your old in-group loyalty dissolves in baptism waters, replaced with your new name. “Here” we are His family.

In Christ, I learn to see a person, not through the lenses of historical divisions, broad abuses against my “kind” or ridiculous physical or ethnic stereotypes, but rather as a potential member of my redeemed family.

In Christ, we learn to judge a man, as MLK instructed, “By the content of her character, not the color of her skin.”  The 1837 Blogger said as much, “virtue, in the sight of God, exalts – its absence degrades and debases”.  Notice degradation is still possible.  But what degrades me, he claims, is not my ethnicity, not the amount of melanin in my skin, nor my cultural baggage – it’s the lack of virtue in my life.

When you look at the recent racial disharmony in America, no one is saying the most obvious thing.  It comes back to a lack of virtue.  Our country is having a crisis of character before it's having a race crisis.  If there are “bad shoots” by policemen, caught on video, and this is proved by due process, what was aback such tragedy?  Maybe fear, maybe lack of good training, but almost certainly, it was a lack of virtue.  A lack of character.  A lack of courage or humility.  Fear.  Or worse, a seething hatred built on prejudice.  What else would cause you to shoot an unarmed man running away from you?

If suspects are increasingly challenging authority, resisting arrest, what’s behind that?  It might be fear of abuse, or the fight or flight instinct, but probably it starts with a lack of virtue.  A lack of humility.  A lack of law abiding goodness or penitent submissiveness when caught.  What else would cause you to fight an officer for his weapon, discharge it in his vehicle, try to run away and then charge him?

With virtue (character content) in mind and not race, it’s good to remember that we don’t waste our time chasing boogeymen, non-specific charges against persons or the culture or groups.  If there’s a racist cop for example, we prove it first, and refuse to justify and let justice run its course.  If there’s an unequally applied law, we name the specific law, and agitate for reform.  Painting with a bigger brush than that (all cops are racist, all laws are racist), is inherently as prejudiced as the very thing we’re fighting.

Maybe more importantly for small people like us, is not about changing national debates.  It’s about showing off our Gospel inclusiveness by engaging in regular conversations across racial lines, asking questions, sharing life, seeking to understand; and about challenging the not so subtle racism of peers and family members, both the “you know how those people are” racism, and the “one race is inherently more racist” racism.

Here’s how this translates for me:  In private relationships, everyone, no matter your race, is a potential brother in my spiritual family and so I’m your friend, automatically.  I may not “get” you, you may not “get” me – I don’t care.  You’re a son of Adam, you bear Imago Dei – you are a holy thing, and virtue exalts you.  And the requirements of virtue are written in hard Stone, not in soft skin or the amount of melanin it contains.

So in a world of increasing racial degradation, I’ve decided that only the absence of virtue degrades, and only in individuals, myself or others – there are no “degraded races” - for the Bible tells me so.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

AC3 VB113 Current Events

Check out this weeks video blog right here as Dan talks about the Pause and other things going on in the world. Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

AC3 VB112 Dunce

Check out this weeks video blog as Dan discusses a little more about the upcoming Pause this August. Don't forget we have a new app that makes it easy to view our blogs and everything else AC3! Search "Allen Creek" on your device app store. Enjoy! :)

Friday, May 6, 2016

And another thing....

It's not unusual to finish a sermon and feel like you didn't get to say everything you wanted, or at least feel like you didn't say it right. Last weekend was no exception for me. I preached on the topic of Humility; how it is the antidote to a culture which espouses control and power as the way to happiness.

I tried to convey the insidious, wide-spread nature of control and arrogance in today's world but I didn't feel like I caught it just right; I "topped" the ball; it was just a little "out of tune"; it needed a "little more salt"...

But this morning as I walked to work it hit me - well, ALMOST hit me.




My commute covers 2.5 miles along Grove Street (a busy thoroughfare in Marysville). As I contemplated my failure to convey the danger of self-importance last weekend, I began counting the number of drivers passing me who were texting (or otherwise engaged with a "device"). I was surprised and troubled when the number passed 10. I was really bothered when on at least three occasions, the drivers were weaving well into the bike lanes that I often occupy on the days I don't walk, and two of these incidents happened inside a school zone while elementary school students were arriving for class.

It's worth noting that texting and driving is illegal in Washington State - but these drivers (some of them behind the wheel of mini-vans with kids on board) did not believe the law applied to them.

This is a razor sharp example of the lack of humility we have come to expect as normal in society and the illustration I wish I had used last weekend.

I do not believe for a minute that a person who caused a fatal accident while texting and driving MEANT to do so. In fact, we often rhetorically ask, "What were they THINKING!?"

The fact is, they were probably not thinking at all, or at least something like:

"I'm a really good driver - this law is for people who can't drive"
"Just this once."
"It could never happen to me."
'I'll be extra careful."
"I can handle it."

The irony: These are exactly the same thoughts of the people who didn't kill anyone on Grove Street this morning.

Exactly.
The.
Same.

Exact same thought process. Exact same behavior. Just no fatalities today. Why the different outcomes? I don't know - but it wasn't a difference in the arrogance of the drivers.

The neglectful death of another human being begins with hubris like this. This "the rules don't apply to me" thinking has lead to everything from grocery stores having to pay someone to return lazy patron's shopping carts, to children dying of neglect and abuse at the hands of petulant parents.

Humility reminds us that we are not immune. We are unique, and God has a unique purpose for each of us - but we are in fact not "special" and in charge of creating our own destiny. You can't be anything you want to be (including a better driver than you actually are) and you are not in control...

...ask the bicyclist in the hospital.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

“When Is It Time For The Church To Defect From Culture?”


Rick came up with that title. 

We’ve been talking about this kind of thing off and on for a while now. I say this kind of thing because it would not be fair to characterize all our conversations (or even most of them) in such stark terms. But maybe because of the frequency or the intensity of these kinds of subjects popping up in our weekly meetings, it has become that stark.

The tenor of the conversation has mirrored the subject: It’s been like creeping awareness; like slowly rising flood waters. But what does it mean? What is to be done, if anything? At what point does the situation change from a “really rainy day” to a “flood”?



Is it when the water reaches a predetermined (but ultimately arbitrary) depth?
Is it when it spills over the threshold of your house?
Is it when you can no longer drive your car through the water or when property is being damaged?

If you declare a “flood” too soon you end up wasting untold resources and creating panic. If you wait too long to declare a “flood”…well, you could lose everything.

I’ve been watching the water rise for years now. But it’s tricky to determine exactly how dangerous it is because there are so few fixed points of reference. Everything from politics to art, technology and philosophy have been moved by the rising water. I find myself feeling a deep, growing anxiety: “the water seems like it’s getting deeper…I can feel it…” but when I look to the measuring sticks that the world provides – they seem to be rising too, sometimes it seems, in a direct effort to maintain the illusion that the water is in fact NOT rising.

You’ve probably heard it before: We have more free time, but we’re more busy, more anti-depressants but  we’re more depressed, we have more freedom but we feel oppressed, more of us have access to more money, but we are deeper in debt…children are suffering in greater and greater numbers, homelessness, divorce, child abuse, malnutrition, crime, hate, bigotry and greed remain largely unchanged or are on the rise despite the best socio-political engineering that Washington and Hollywood can churn out. It appears that the absolute best America can muster in this election cycle is a choice between buffoonery and cronyism or varying degrees of fascism disguised as either “progressive” or “traditional values”.

Really?

Changing magnification to a global scale, the news is no better. I won’t take the time to enumerate the issues beyond the following list: migrants, North Korea, ISIS, famine, global warming, trade deficits, EU, over-population, MRSA, Ebola, IMF, desertification…

What’s a church to do?

“Trying harder” may be necessary but it’s not going to stop the rising water. In some of these cases we’re leading the charge in reducing the suffering caused by these evils. In some cases – we’re even eliminating the evils but only on the scale of one human or maybe a family or small group at a time…so there’s no way we can keep pace with an exploding population. In addition, it has never been the church’s mandate to deploy change on that scale.

In other cases, we’re simply in there with everyone else opening up spigots, fire hydrants and breaching dikes. In other words: adding to the problem. Sure, those of us who become aware can do what we can to reduce our contribution but the changes we make will, in the big picture, only be emblematic. And even if every person who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ suddenly gained the knowledge and motivation to stop adding to these problems, how many would have the means? Can the starving Christian peasant in Brazil simply stop feeding his family by clearing the rain forest? Can the Pakistani or Syrian Christian simply move to safety or surrender his loved ones to the mobs? Can the American Christian eliminate ALL personal contributions to the cancer-like growth of a selfish, consumerist empire?

The flood is coming.  

And we’re not going to stop it.

So the question becomes, “What DO we do?”

Many of our Christian cousins chose to separate from the flooding world hundreds of years ago. Hutterite, Mennonite, Amish and others embraced the Biblical admonitions compiled in 2 Corinthians chapter 6:14-17
14 Do not be joined to unbelievers. What do right and wrong have in common? Can light and darkness be friends? 15 How can Christ and Satan agree? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 How can the temple of the true God and the statues of other gods agree? We are the temple of the living God. God has said,
“I will live with them.
    I will walk among them.
I will be their God.
    And they will be my people.”
17 So, “Come out from among them
    and be separate,
    says the Lord.
Do not touch anything that is not pure and ‘clean.’
    Then I will receive you.” 

The issue here, like so many issues we encounter as a church, has to do with majoring on one portion of scripture without taking ALL of it in context.This passage is compelling, and it is clear that we are to live differently from the culture around us. But there are countless passages that command us to live in PROXIMITY to that culture too!

We simply cannot establish “Christian ghettos” and still claim to be the church. We cannot build life boats and then row away singing our favorite “Third Day” songs while our neighbors drown.

So are we just supposed to drown along with everyone else?

You see the conundrum right?

But, you may ask why the question is coming up now. Hasn’t it always been a conundrum?

Yes. But the scope of the conundrum has never been this huge. Every generation of Christian from literally the FIRST has found itself asking, “Is this it? Is this the end that Jesus predicted and should I be preparing for it?” But in all cases since about the 3rd century, the question has been asked from the position of socio-political power. For the last 1700 years, the church has either been the power structure that drives change, or it has been a partner to it. The church (for good or for ill) has been asking, “is the ship sinking?” from the helm. Over the last 150 years, we are asking the same old question – but we’re not at the helm anymore.

…right there…there is a partial answer to the question: We have already moved (or we have BEEN moved) from a former place of cultural authority. We’re already separating.

Maybe the issue is what we measure movement against. Movement is relative after all.

Are you moving right now? Relative to your computer screen, you are not moving. But relative to a fixed point in outer space, you’re spinning at 1,000 miles per hour. Relative to the Sun, you are rocketing through space at 67,000 miles per hour and along with the sun, we are orbiting the center of the Milky Way at 45,000 miles per hour.

Am I moving away from a drowning culture or is it moving away from me?

Perhaps the best question, the eternal question, the question that Jesus Christ put to us 2000 years ago should be: “Are you moving toward The Kingdom of God?”

If the answer is yes, then your relative position to the culture is moot. 

Not to overstate it, but one might say, “culture be damned.”





Tuesday, March 22, 2016

AC3 VB106 Elder Selection


Check out this weeks VB as Rick and Dan talk about the Elder selection process that is going on right now. Enjoy! :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Church Without Walls



If you've ever been in the position to teach, then you know that preparing to teach is the best way to learn yourself. Even material that I have taught many times before speaks to me afresh as a student when I engage with it honestly and diligently. This is true right now as I lead a group through our "Just Walk Across the Room" class on Tuesday nights. It's speaking to me again about being a "church without walls" - and it brought to mind this quote, where I first heard that idea:



"Don't build walls for the non-Christian to climb over. 

This conversion business becomes a higher and higher wall that they must climb over - Christians, in reinforcing their argument, have unconsciously built it so high that their non-Christian friends question if they have the strength or desire to get over it to the other side. Yet it is the Christian who can reach through the wall and be with their friends, if they dare. 

A lot of good sharing of experience just doesn't happen simply because Christians develop an attitude of "oh, but you wouldn't understand that."

Non Christians are not creatures of some lesser or different species, but are people with one sense not yet developed, their Spirit's dormant like a balloon waiting to be filled with the Breath of God. Their other senses may well be utilized more fully and properly than the Christian's; they may be more diligent and earnest in their pursuit of truth or more compassionate and self-sacrificing. 

Don't have ulterior motives. 

We must be prepared to love someone as they are, not in the hopes that eventually they will become a Christian. The choice is ours to come out from behind the walls and make friends with those around us. If the life in us is genuine, it will affect those about us, not in any self-conscious way, but as salt flavors everything. We must care, not with any ulterior evangelistic motive, but as an expression of our identity in God if indeed it is genuine. If the church walls come down we will be known for who we are, and if that is not the presence of Christ to all around, then it is time we got sorted out so it can be." 

-Andy Raine, The Northumbria Commuity

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Who's Your Legacy PAL Connection?

There has been a growing desire at AC3 to partner with and encourage families to grow and walk out their faith in Biblical community. But how?

Wendy Fahrney, a fellow AC3'r, has felt the nudge to be part of the answer. She's been wanting to do something that can help connect, encourage and grow AC3 families; young and old. Something that requires a minimal time commitment, is easy and focused. Something with a 'Secret Pal' element in it to keep it engaging and fun. Something like Legacy P.A.L. Connections 2016!

Legacy PAL Connections was born out of a desire to help nurture a  growing culture of PRAYER for the next generation in an ALLIANCE of adults, parents and youth who want to LIVE OUT their legacy of faith together.

There are a couple different ways to get plugged into Legacy PAL Connections 2016:

1. Become a Legacy PAL. (PAL Info Flyer) Legacy PALs are individuals who care about the next generation and come in many different shapes and sizes.  Some PALs may be young adults, while others are older. They may be single, while others are married. Even high school students who want to pray for, encourage and surprise a younger child at AC3 may be a Legacy PAL.



2. Nominate your child to have a Legacy PAL. (PAL Info Flyer) At the following link, you will find an easy and fun application form to fill out with the child. It will help your Legacy PAL to get to know your child and your family better so they can personalize their letters.  Please complete and turn applications in at the Kreek Kids Check-In Desk promptly and no later than March 31st. PALs will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis starting in March.
Imagine the impact a Legacy PAL might have on each child by praying for them regularly.

Imagine
the curiosity and wonder a child might feel as they envision who their Legacy PAL might be.

Imagine
warming the hearts of AC3 families and creating rich soil where the seeds of friendship can grow in biblical community at AC3.

Imagine
you,  yes YOU, being an agent of change by saying yes to the nudge God may be giving you:)
If you would like to join us in this venture, be sure to download your application. The plan is to launch our Legacy PAL by April 1st, 2016.

Legacy PAL Coordinator: Wendy Fahrney 425-761-1021
Kreek Kids Director: Twila Crain 360-659-7335 EXT. 202
Youth Directors: B&B Crain 425-231-2364
Graphics used by Permission Kellie Ade:
http://jumpseatpixie.blogspot.com/

AC3 VB103 SuperB Bowl Youth Fundraiser



Did you hear that Rick and Dan got a pie in the face, an ice bucket dumped on their head, hair dyed and legs waxed? Why all this? Check out this weeks video blog to find out! Enjoy :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meet Kathy!

Meet Kathy.

She is not just the smiling face behind the counter at Creek Espresso, she manages the whole operation, trains and leads the baristas, buys ingredients, manages the till AND she represents a milestone in AC3’s long running Community Center plan…



How you ask?

Lemme ‘splain.


When the Community Center vision first emerged almost 8 years ago, central to the concept was that it be a self-supporting ministry. In other words the cost of the activities undertaken by the Community Center should be paid for with money earned by the Community Center. We imagined rental income from various community groups which used our buildings, we talked about a furniture manufacturing company that would double as a job training program, and other ideas were floated and tried.

We call this concept: B.A.M. (Business As Mission) and the purpose is to create a revenue stream while serving the community and that revenue stream is invested in other Community Center Programs. As of today – under the B.A.M. banner we have:

The Marysville Farmer’s Market (beginning it’s second season on June 4th!).  The first year of the market was great. But being a brand new endeavor – we’re still investing money from last year’s market into making this year even better.

Creek Espresso. Every weekend, (and some weekdays!) Kathy and her other volunteers man the steam wand and the bean grinder turning out lattes and Italian sodas for AC3’rs and visitors. Quietly, at the rate of a couple of bucks / drink, Creek Espresso has put almost $1,300.00 into the Community Center bank!

Here’s the milestone: There is enough “profit” from Creek Espresso that we can, for the first time, use that money to help fund a Community Center project!


A portion of those Creek Espresso “profits” will be used to support the Market Mentor’s Program this summer! Last year, Market Mentors was funded almost entirely by funds from Seeds of Grace (AC3’s benevolence ministry). But this year we see the first step toward a Community Center Program being funded by a Community Center Program!

BAM!!

Thanks Kathy for you and your team!

Thanks B.A.M. Board for overseeing this loooong process!

Thanks Farmer's Market Team...GO GET 'EM this summer!

Thanks coffee drinkers at AC3! Keep it up J



Does this stuff get you excited? (then you’re what we call a ministry nerd) but ALSO you can get involved!          

Creek Espresso is always looking for more help!
Contact Kathy: kathha@hotmail.com

Marysville Farmer’s Market WANTS YOU! Lots of cool stuff to do!

Market Mentors could your expertise in sales, management, customer service and more!
Contact Twila: twila@ac3.org

B.A.M. Board / Community Center – interested in finding out more about ANY of this?
Contact Dan: danxp.ac3@gmail.com