I haven't blogged for months.
There's no easy way to explain that, so I'm just going to start in like nothing happened.
Months ago, we invited a pretty cool fella named Mark Scandrette to talk to our church about his book Practicing the Way of Jesus. His ideas deeply resonated with me because Mark teaches followers of Jesus to DO something with what they already know. (Also, Mark was a joy to have in our home and get to know as a human being.) I am a person who values action. Words don't mean nearly as much to me as actions. So, long story, very short, we chucked our traditional (as if ANYTHING at Vintage feels traditional) small groups and have formed groups that experiment together with an idea that we are trying to grow in. Mark's group in San Francisco, for example, worked together as a group to get rid of half of what they owned to give to the poor. They called it Have 2 Give 1. In other words, if they had two of something, they gave it away. Each week they focused on a particular kind of item like clothes, books and media, household goods, etc. We call these things experiments because there is a possibility of failure in each group as well as the possibility for success. And it factors in the human tendency to struggle with making meaningful, lasting changes. Because the groups experiment for a set amount of time, you have a better chance of making a change at least for that period of time.
Last night was my first meeting with my Experimental Collective. All of the groups at Vintage are experimenting around the idea of authenticity: admitting, owning, accepting who we really are before God, good and bad. One group is meeting to work out the general idea of identifying who they are. One group is meeting to experiment with being silent before God to listen to what He as to say about them. And my group is meeting to experiment with how creativity expresses who we really are. Our group wrote a poem last night at the first meeting and each day of this week, we are to spend 15 minutes in reflective writing. Our experiments will culminate in an art show at the end of our 40 days together.
This morning, I am still mulling over just how different the dynamic was with the Experimental Collective vs. a regular small group. I am also thinking about what I wrote. We had no time to edit, just enough time to spit out our topmost idea. As I think it over this morning (and cringe because I always go back over a meeting with a group in my head and rehash it painfully and anxiously) I realized that my poem accurately reflected my real, current struggles, if not exact reality.
I will be forty in a few short years. Which means that I can divide my life pretty evenly in half. The roughly 20 years I spent as a child, unmarried, not in ministry, on the same plot of land, surrounded by family and a community that knew me before I knew them. The second half of my life has been spent in 5 different states, 6 different churches, married, and in full time, vocational ministry.
My poem devoted 6 stanzas to the first half of my life and 4 to the second half. Three of those four stanzas expressed weariness, loneliness, and depression.
My picture of a life away from my extended family and community, in ministry, is a little desperate. I don't know how to erase that sketch, no matter how disproportionately I've drawn the shadows.
But I did end my poem with this stanza which is much different than the rest of the poem and I think it strikes a more hopeful tone.
I am from fragments of old things,
familiar, every-day things,
quaint and silly and forgettable things,
The good ordinary
clean floors and clean windows and clean ovens
from fresh paint and fresh starts
I am from old places and old ideas
that have good bones but need new upholstery
I am from the here and now
I am from what may come.
I guess I am still in this...ministry and being creative... because I'm still captivated by what may come.