On the Verge…For the Gospel, For the City and For the Nations

The last couple of days, Louis and I have been in Houston, Texas enjoying a lovely visit with my sister and her family.  Tomorrow, we leave for Austin, where we will remain until Saturday.  Austin, you say?  Yes…Austin.  We are attending the Verge 2012 Conference.

2 years ago, Louis and I stumbled upon the Verge Conference on their first year.  Although I was soon to be unemployed, we found the resources to attend….and I am so glad that we did!  Last year The Verge Network joined with Exponential – the largest church planting conference ever – and this year we are back in Austin.  I am thankful for some generous people who have given to us – providing us the opportunity to attend, allowing us to be better prepared (and encouraged) for the work we do each and every day in Southern Barton Heights, in Richmond, VA. I love the ‘church’ – flaws and all.  Admittedly, I love the people more than I do the actual building and institution. But, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water in a typical Sunday morning worship church.  I often leave thinking…is this it?

2 years ago, while attending Verge 2010, I got it.  I had found my people group, my tribe.  People who strive to live out God’s mission EVERY day…at work, at home, at the PTA, gym, soccer field, and coffee shop,  and every where else their everyday, walk-around, work-going, weekend-loving lives take them….not just on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and on missions trips.  Every day is viewed as a missions trip.

I wish you…every one of you…could attend.  Although it is sold out and located in Austin, you do have an opp to attend the Main Sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, at least, through a simulcast.  Check it out and sign up here.  You will hear from folks like Dr. John Perkins, Bob Lupton, Alan Hirsch, Neil Cole, Dave Ferguson, Mike Breen, Jen Hatmaker, David Platt and Matt Carter.  Let me know if you do!  Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

How Rich are You and I?

I, along with a number of my friends and about a gazillion other people, have been challenged by Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I first wrote on it in August, 2010 in my post Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!!!.  6 months later, this book continues to come up in conversations with friends and family.  Platt states things like…

  • Today, over a billion people live (and die) in desperate poverty (less than a dollar a day).
  • Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars a day.
  • 30,000 children today will breathe their last breath due to either starvation or a preventable disease.

How do you and I feel about that?  Do we believe it?  It’s hard to make those kinds of statistics real.  I just stumbled on a a new website…Global Rich List. According to their formula, if your annual income is $50,000 (US$) you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world (yes…I said WORLD!!!).  That means that out of 6,775,235,741 (that’s 6.775 BILLION!!) people in the world….you are # 59,029,289 (that’s 59 MILLION)  At $125,000 (US$) it jumps to the top 1/2 percent; and you are # 29,907,929 (that’s 29.9 MILLION).

So, what are we called to do with all this money?  Buy a bigger house?  Buy a fancier car?  The latest smart phone??  Guilty!!!  I am soooo tempted now that Verizon and iPhone are working together!!!  It’s getting harder and harder to hang on to my stuff; and I am getting ready to give it all away…in a reactionary way….wanting to purge myself of stuff that I feel like just weighs me down.  Not to mention, I have to step over it, dust it, move it to make room for more, etc.  It just makes me tired…really tired!  Thankfully, Louis is slowing me down (so I don’t do something TOTALLY radical!!!) as we continue to pray through what God is calling us to do.  Jumping into the deep end can be scary….so I think we will wade in.  So…watch for us to have a big ole yard sale this spring.  Our goal is to use the proceeds for the community.  We have a small “sock fund” that we use to meet needs in the community ~ treat the kids to ice cream, pizza, or after school snacks, school supplies, Bibles, community meals, hats, gloves, and socks for those in the cold, etc.

On a more practical side…we have already been taking steps to decrease spending, out of necessity…with my corporate job ending and making a move to more community work (which has been a long time coming!).  But, also out of a sense of calling…to be good stewards of what God provides us.  A few examples…

  • Why should we give over $100/mo. to Comcast when we watch only…maybe… an hour or 2 a week?  So…we are now on the basic cable plan!  It meets our needs…thanks to free programs like Hulu and inexpensive plans like Netflix!
  • Got new bids on our home/car insurance and saved a TON of money there!
  • Returning to coupon clipping…altho it seems they are never with me when I go to the store!  Gotta work on that one!
  • Louis continues to drive his ole “beater”. (I’ve called it that after it was totaled by our insurance company after it was vandalized multiple times by a neighborhood kid who acted out at us.) We want to pay cash for a new new-to-us (also known as used or previously owned) replacement.  Or maybe we will continue to share the other car.  I’m learning how to navigate the Richmond’s public transportation system!  It’s been years since I rode the bus!

So…a lot of us are either being forced into reducing expenses due to economic downturn, or are choosing to cut back or do with less, maybe out of an urging from the Holy Spirit.  What steps are you taking?  What ways are you making that move?  Would love to hear from some of you.  Would love to hear more ideas on ways to save and ways to give more or do without.

Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!!!

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This week….5 years ago….I moved into Southern Barton Heights!!!  WOW!  What a wild ride it has been.  If you had asked me 5 ½  years ago where I would be living…this would be the LAST place I would have said.  Actually…I didn’t even know that this part of Northside even existed.  When I first started looking for a new home, I drove through SBH quite by accident….following 2nd Street until it turned to the left and dropped me off at 1st Street.  I was simply just trying to get to the other side of I-95….where you see those houses up on the hill to the right as you come from 64 to 95N.  So…I naively drove through Gilpin Court/Jackson Ward and across the 1st Street bridge and into SBH.  I remember thinking….this would be a great neighborhood…if only it was located somewhere else.  I fell in love with the architecture and the community feeling of it.  But, as I drove through, I just knew it was not for me….and kept looking elsewhere.  Then, I came back…entering Battery Park by way of Overbrook…and seriously considered some houses adjacent to the park.  Friends…both white and black/African-American told me I couldn’t move there….as a single white woman…that I would be a target.  So, I stopped looking in Northside.

Then, I continued to look in other parts of Richmond…and placing contracts on houses…and getting totally shot down!  Remember, this was the height of the housing boom.  Somehow, I ended up back in the SBH area looking for a home.  You can read more of that story in the following posts…  In the beginning…, Daring God and  Our House…..

Something (or should I say…Someone!!!) kept bringing me back to this area….and that was God.  I had NO idea why!!!  Nor did I ask, surprisingly enough.  Walking in blind faith…or stupidity, not sure which I was doing at the time!  Now that 5 years have gone by…I can see why the Lord wanted me here….for serving others….and changing ME! I am not the same person I was 5 years ago.  Only God could have made the changes in me.  There have been times that I have tried doing this on my own…in my own strength and power.  But I have learned that I am not capable of that and sustain it for the long-term.  When I let the Holy Spirit guide me, and allow God to show off….(to use Christianese for a minute…I must decrease, He must increase…..)that is when the real stuff happens!  That is when the impossible happens.  I can name sooo many times when God filled me with His Power…the Holy Spirit…to do His work.  I am so much more dependent on God than I was 5+ years ago!

This week, I’ve been reading this book called Radical by David Platt….and it has really been challenging me.  Some people would ask….why are YOU reading a book called Radical?  You could write it.  What you have done is radical!!!”  Yes…moving to Southern Barton Heights may be called radical…but not nearly radical enough….is what I am realizing.  Platt writes on page 68…

In the Gospels we see how Jesus ended his time on earth by commanding his followers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  The letters are filled with the same emphasis as Paul, Peter, James and John led the church through persecution and suffering to spread the glory of God to the nations.

So…that same commandment is for us….today.  So…what we do here in SBH is really not all that radical to Jesus…this is what he expects of us. Luke 10:1 talks about how while on earth Jesus sent people off in pairs to villages to prepare for him to come…as they didn’t have cell phones, internet, etc to announce it.  In 2007, I prayed for the other ½ of my pair….to prepare SBH for Jesus to come!  And that’s when I met Louis 2½ years ago.  I truly feel like the Lord has sent us here…to prepare the way for Jesus to come.  His presence is already here.  You can see it…feel it…in so many ways.  The revival that will take place will not be because of anything that WE did….but what the LORD did.

Platt also writes on page 46….

The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe in God and to trust in his power.  In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him.

and a friend recently reminded of this word from Francis Chan‘s book, Forgotten God.

God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. ~Francis Chan, Forgotten God

In addition, nowhere in the Bible does it say that it will be easy and glamorous. No one said that it would be a piece of cake.  In fact…Jesus DOES say that we will be persecuted for HIS name sake….that people hated on Him before they hated on us.  The Bible also says that we should find pure JOY in suffering.  That joy part…I am still a work in progress there!  I have a ways to go!

Later, I will share with you some of the suffering, persecution, or discomfort that we have encountered since beginning this work.  Not to point us, but to point to how faithful the Lord has been through it.  Please pray for wisdom and strength as we continue to be the Light on the City Hill.