Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I Talk Too Much

What can I say? I love to share my ideas and be understood, just as I love to have discussions that give me a better understanding of others. Some might say it’s a healthy exercise in the philosophical quest for truth. 

...some might say I’m a loud-mouthed jerk.

I was faced with this harsh reality last week when a very close friend of mine, practically family, blocked me on social media. He had been sharing articles and thoughts on a variety of things related to the recent civil unrest and racial tension in our country. And I had been sharing my own thoughts and asking questions in the comments of...well, too many of them.

When I realized he had blocked me, I quickly experienced a range of emotions from anger to betrayal. “What a coward!” I thought. “He’s unwilling to support his ideas and try to help me understand his position, and instead just cuts me out?”

I started furiously typing a number of different text messages to him before God tapped on my heart and asked me a simple question:

“Is your rhetoric more important than this relationship?”

You see, it’s easier than ever to share our thoughts, ideas, and opinions with the world. And harder than ever to share authentic love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]. Because the former only requires a platform or a megaphone, and social media is maybe the tallest platform and loudest megaphone ever conceived. But the latter requires something much less immediate; something that costs us more than just a few disposable words.

I decided to text my friend just three words that in the moment were hard for me to say. I texted him “I love you, bro.” Ok, so it’s four words. But you know what? He texted four words back. He said “I love you, too.”

And I realized, the years of life and real friendship we’ve shared together were not suddenly over. He was just tired of hearing me talk. And I can’t say I blame him.

There’s an idea being presented in our culture today that “silence is violence”. I understand this seeks to mirror a great Edmund Burke quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And I agree that we must be willing to speak up for things we believe in, and speak out against evil.

But I’m also reminded of a great Winston Churchill quote: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” And I can’t help but feel many of us are doing too much speaking and not enough listening. I know I’m guilty of it. 

If we want to talk about what really brings about hurt and does damage, it is more often the use of words than the absence of them. You’ll find dozens of verses in the Bible that confirm what a powerful and destructive thing our tongue can be. Here are just a few if you want to look them up: Proverbs 10:19; Matthew 15:11; Proverbs 17:27-28; James 1:19; Proverbs 12:18

So my encouragement for myself and whoever may be reading this is simply to remember this: I can have my opinions and ideas. But it’s not my job to convince people, it’s my job to love them. And when my words get in the way of that, it’s my job to shut up.

So with that I’m going to take my own advice and leave you with this excerpt from James chapter three, verses 3 - 18:

We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Bryan Vickers, Worship Pastor
Koinonia Church

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Hard feelings and Big things.

My family and I recently purchased a home and, as we excitedly await the end of escrow, we are also diligently prepping our home to sell. We decided that before we pack a single box, we would need to put in some serious time purging our current home. We’ve been in our current home for six years and it is amazing what you can accumulate in such a short amount of time! Today, we began and spent hours in dusty forgotten cupboards clearing out spaces and deciding to keep, donate, or trash items. After hours of purging and hauling off items, we returned to satisfyingly clutter-free spaces. "Wow," I said to my husband. "Why didn’t we do this years ago?" Why did we let the excess accumulate until it was absolutely necessary to take care of it? We could have been enjoying all of this beauty all along!
As I considered this more I began to think about how the same can happen with our hearts; in the dusty forgotten corners of our thoughts. So often we shove a feeling away and tell ourselves we will deal with it later. Instead of facing it head-on and confronting the mess, we shove it in a drawer or behind a closet door. Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our lives were not meant to be trouble-free but we can make peace with our troubles because of He who overcame the world!
Lately, we have been faced with big things – big feelings, big obstacles, big opinions, big issues. It would be so much easier to ignore that it is all happening and neatly tuck the feelings away to deal with later but at some point, we will need to dust off that box and deal with it. Why not make that time now? Let’s live in the fruit of the hard work it will take to work through the hard things and find peace through the big things.

Justine Medeiros, Children's Ministry Director

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Keep Jumping!

A few years ago, my husband and I spent a week on vacation together in the beautiful
Dominican Republic. We were able to go on an adventure-themed excursion where we climbed
a mountain (it was a long trail; I am not a mountain woman!) and then jumped off various rock
points into the flowing river. It was thrilling, gorgeous, and terrifying. One by one, we would
line up in the group and when ready we would jump into the water. The guides made it look
easy. They had been jumping into those waters for years! As I approached the edge of the first
rockface, I realized, I was not ready! Everyone was encouraging, both behind me and those who
had already jumped into the crystal-clear water below. I kept asking for more time. “Can I get a
second? Ok, let me count... No, I’m not ready! Is there another way down?” The self-talk, while
looking back, is actually pretty funny. In order to jump off that cliff, I needed both my own
encouragement, and the backing of these near strangers to tip me from fear to bravery. If I was
alone, I can promise that I would never have jumped.

During this season, the nation, and even other parts of the world, has reawakened to
the need for more work in the area of racial restoration. There are many areas in our nation
that need to be addressed to treat people with justice and love. I am so encouraged by the
work of many to identify and rectify their own implicit biases. I, too, am looking at my own
language and source of certain fears to make sure they are appropriately placed. Jumping into
this work takes a lot of bravery and emotional effort.

In the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:7 guides how we take care of each other. It teaches
us that “[love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” There are
several other verses to look at during this season when asking HOW do we grow and process
together, but for the sake of brevity, we will just look at this verse. As people, who live with
faith in Jesus and love for people, we are instructed to protect, trust, hope and persevere. As
we champion continued restoration, we love each other enough to protect them, trust them,
hope for them, and persevere for them.
  • Protect- Do we engage in conversations that ultimately grow division between groups of people? Or do we decide to elevate our speech and actions?
  • Trust- Do we trust that people who have not spoken up might deserve a conversation before negative thoughts are assumed about them? Do we trust that people who look or sound different than ourselves are children of God, deserving of utmost dignity?
  • Hope- Do we have a vision of what restoration would look like in our own lives? In our schools? In our justice system?
  • Perseverance- Can we keep running the race towards Jesus’ kingdom here on Earth?
Can we keep having loving and challenging conversations? Can we keep advocating for
change for the next generation?

While on that rock jumping adventure, once I jumped the first rock, and swam to the next
enclave, that same fear returned. But because of my survival of the first jump and the
continued support of the people around me, I was able to make it down the mountain. Jumping into the area of racial restoration will require your bravery, your work, and the love of people
around you.

I am praying that we keep loving each other through it all. If we lose the tone of love, we
may not have the courage to make a second jump.

Candace Cortez • Executive Pastor

What Do We Do?

The world has been turned upside down by COVID-19. Stock markets are swinging wildly. The economy is reeling. And the yeast that I need to bake sourdough bread is sold out until who knows when!

Many people are fearful, anxious, and worried. Others are angry and letting everyone know about it. Some people are just plain bored and have watched everything there is to watch on Netiflix, Hulu and Disney+. 

So, what do we do?

Everyone has something they are suggesting for you to do in this season. From workouts to movies to crafts to gourmet meals—there are more than enough activities to go around.

But I’m not interested in telling you how to fill your time. I think we need to do something with our time. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are to make use of our time for we live in evil days.

So here are some things I suggest we need to do in this season:

First, become prophetically aware. This pandemic is not just about the pandemic, it is part of the larger story of a broken world that is on a crash course with destiny. God is using this moment to move history forward. We should never forget that He is drawing the arc of history to a completion point. This is a moment of shaking and there will be many more to come. Don’t get caught up in the noise and miss the message of God calling people to draw near to Him.

Second, become spiritually responsive. This is a time to get close to God. It is an invitation to create space and listen to His still quiet voice. Are you making space? Are you reaching out? This is a season when He is visiting all those who are willing to turn off the noise and tune in to Him.

Third, stay emotionally engaged. Too many are tuning out to what is going on inside of them and is what is going on in their family. When things are out of our control, we will often try to escape by numbing out. Some numb out on media, some on painkillers or drugs, and some on mindless games. Don’t go down that route. Fell the feels, talk to your kids about what they are feeling, and then encourage one another rather then leaving each other in silence.

Finally, do get ready for a marathon. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone is yelling for it to be over. We need to be ready for it to take a while. Don’t put dates on things. Instead, put your expectation and hope that God is going to take us through one day at a time.

If we do these things, we will see that God is actually at work and doing some pretty good things!

Andrew Cromwell • Lead Pastor