Spiritual Family: Where We Are the Church and Do the Bible.

I was reminded recently that I don’t write as much as I used to. Not sure why, really. Mostly because we are spending time doing life and not writing about it. I was encouraged to write more because people are watching us and are encouraged to live like us, as we attempt to live like Christ. So, I’m going to try and make writing a priority again. First topic – my Spiritual Family. Since Louis hasn’t been pastoring a traditional church since his time at New Hanover, people have wondered where we have attended church.

Following 2 knee replacements and 1 hip replacement in 2013, in February 2014 – Louis, a few other friends, and I gathered to talk about what it would look like to start gathering weekly as an Acts 2 expression of the church, where are not simply going to church and reading the Bible. We ARE the church and we DO the Bible.

Acts 2 The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

So, we’ve been gathering weekly on Tuesday nights at 6:30p ever since. One might ask… “What do we do and how do we do it???”
We focus on 4 main things…
  1. Divine Truth – Where we are focused UP – our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to love God. The creator of the universe wants a relationship WITH US, and that’s pretty amazing. (vs 42) On Tuesday nights, we study God’s Word together – where everyone can offer what God says to them through the scripture. We rarely have traditional sermons. (vs 42 – they didn’t have Bibles back then, so they learned from Apostle’s teaching). Throughout the week, we are reading and discussing the Word with one another as we get together outside of Tuesday nights. Each Tuesday and the rest of the week, we are in prayer for and with one another and our neighborhood and city.
  2. Nurturing Relationships – Where we are focused on being IN relationship with others. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, we focus on building relationship with one another…encouraging and loving in a familial kind of way.  On Tuesday nights, we gather around the table to eat, laugh, eat, talk and eat, but also sharing life throughout the rest of the week – in person, via text, phone calls, etc. – (vs 46). We have traveled with one as he spent 4 months in jail and welcomed his mom and family into ours. We have cried together as family members have passed away and diagnosed with cancer, dementia, and more. We remind one another of the TRUTH and not the lies of the deceiver. We have celebrated marriages, new jobs, and new schools together. We like to party! We sent one to the military and another one on the road for a job. We have pooled our resources to repair homes, yards and cars. We have found new homes for washers, dryers and more! They will know we are followers of Jesus by our love for one another.
  3. Apostolic Mission – Where we are focused on going OUT into the community in our everyday walk around lives. We aren’t meant to be in a holy huddle sequestered away from everyone else. But, called to be in, but not of the world. Sometimes we do this as a group – like at our annual Memorial Day cookout or last year’s National Night Out in Highland Park where we set up a prayer tent. Today, it happened to be with my friend Karen who lives a few blocks away. We ate lunch at a new restaurant on Brookland Park Boulevard getting to know the owner and other employees. We bought and moved a piece of furniture from another neighbor who is moving because his wife had just died of cancer. We encouraged him and prayed for him. I got to meet 2 of her neighbors – 2 young men who said they wanted to come Tuesday night. Karen used her arboring skills to teach me how to trim a bradford pear tree beside the house. And the evening ended with passing on 5 white polo shirts to a neighbor who is starting a new job tomorrow. (Special thanks to friends who lovingly donated them!!!) So, as you can see… this isn’t a project or a specific thing we did. It was in the everyday rhythms of life that we were OUT and about looking for opportunities to love and serve. People aren’t projects. No one wants to be someone’s project. We just love people where they are.
  4. Beyond – Prepare and Equip – We spend our time preparing and equipping others to live a life following Jesus on His mission, who will then prepare and equip others to do the same. We aren’t meant to do life alone, but are meant to do so with others BEYOND ourselves.
I can’t imagine life without this spiritual family, which is growing weekly (vs 47) and we are seeing lives transformed (vs.43). All are welcome to the table. We are quite a motley crew, but this crew loves one another…warts and all.
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Taken 2 weeks ago! Grateful for an open floor plan where 2 folding tables can be added to the end of the dining table & extend into our living room.  The person on the end sits on the coffee table. Phew. 🙂

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Easter – Acts 2 Style

I was in the middle of writing my first draft of my post-Easter Reflections, when I stopped to read Rachel Held Evans‘ post So how was your Easter…really?.  It really got me to thinking differently about my Easter weekend.  Every Sunday for my 48 (soon to be 49) years of life, I have been in the church on Easter morning.  Louis, as a Pastor, is usually behind the pulpit on Easter morning. Now that I think about it, the first time I heard Louis preach was Easter 2008, and I married him December of the same year!

Since Louis and I were both free (in more ways than one!) on Easter morning, we decided to take a different approach to the Easter Weekend.  We found ourselves forgoing all the normal Easter Christian traditions.  We opted for BEING the church instead of GOING to a church.  We decided to ‘do’ the Bible.

We opted for an Act 2 style of worship this weekend…

The Fellowship of the Believers
 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Thursday night is our usual Missional Community, where we eat together, study the Word of God together, and pray together.  We did something radically different for our group.  We had an old-fashioned foot washing and communion together.  Where we commune and fellowship over a meal every week, this was different.  Where we serve our community and each other every chance we can get, here…we washed one another’s feet…literally…while praying and thanking God for one another.  The Spirit’s presence was thick and beautiful.

On Friday afternoon, I got a prayer request email from a friend and a regular at our Thursday night Missional Community – who usually doesn’t usually request prayer for a number of reasons…lack of faith being one of them.  But,  I am thankful that she reached out this time on behalf of a friend.  It was literally a matter of Life or death.  I was weeping as I read the email and cried out to God.  I am grateful that when I called on another friend to help with this prayer request…she answered her phone!  🙂  She gave me great advice to pass along, and she prayed with me right away.

Friday night, still somewhat grieving for the possible loss of Life, our normal Good Friday night service was replaced with dinner with a group of guys from Richmond Christian Leadership Institute (RCLI), where Louis and I are shepherds.  We gladly broke bread together in the form of grilled cheeseburgers, grilled onions, roasted potatoes and cole slaw.  The guys continued their fellowship surrounding the fire pit, as they talked about challenges of health care, education, etc.  I hear they put our friend and visitor, Bill, through the ringer – as a pediatrician in one of state’s poorest counties.  God’s presence was apparent as all the believers were together.  I don’t think we share everything in common, but we did share the love of Jesus as an important commonality.  (I regret….no pictures were taken.  What WAS I thinking?!?!?)

Early Saturday morning, I received a text message.  It was now a matter of LIFE!  The friend of my friend now chooses LIFE!  Death was scheduled for next Friday, but the appointment at the clinic will been cancelled.  Where Life’s heart currently beats in her womb, Life’s first breath will come in 8-9 months.  We are filled with awe as wonder and signs performed by God’s answer to our prayers. Praise God…and thanks to all involved!

This year, Easter didn’t consist of a Sunrise Service or a Sunday morning church service.  We had no new springy clothes or accessories.  We did, however, open our home to our community – Southern Barton Heights – and our community of friends to an Easter Brunch.  Louis, once again, served up his famous pancakes by the order as our friends (old and new alike) came and went.  In addition, we had plenty of fruit, egg/turkey sausage/cheese casserole, country ham and juice/coffee.  After hiding over 400 eggs, we cut the older kids loose in the back yard, while the younger smaller ones were in the front yard.

We didn’t ‘preach a sermon’, but we devoted our time and our home to share the love of our Risen Savior in word and deed as we spent time in fellowship, sharing and praying with one another.  We created deeper relationships with existing friends and developed new friendships with first time visitors to our home.

We ended the day with dinner with my family.  This is the only tradition that carried over from past years.  I can’t imagine Easter without Mom’s lamb and full dinner table. Mom – Thanks for modeling hospitality for me!

I look forward to what God is going to do among all of us in the future…and I look forward to those who will be added to the number of those who believe.

I am blessed in so many ways!  Not to mention…a true blessing in the midst…

A little grief-stricken, I went to bed Friday night believing that Life could be put to death in a week. It reminded me of how the disciples went to bed…laying there awake…after Jesus died on the cross…believing that He was dead.  Or maybe they were pacing the floor….talking to one another…trying to figure it all out.  Not understanding.  Some had even dispersed…went into hiding…facing it alone.  Having to wait 3 days to hear that Jesus is Risen.  I can’t imagine what that must have been like.  The wait must have been horrific.  I am thankful that Life’s heart will continue to beat, Life’s lungs will continue to develop, Life’s cells will reproduce, and what a story…a testimony that Life will hear one day.  Faith is restored.  Life will continue to live.  God has a plan for Life’s life.  I can’t wait for Life to grow up in the ways of the Lord.  I believe. Praise God!

Now…enjoy a few pictures of our Easter Day… Peace.


Happy Easter!

Everyone is dressed up wearing their new easter frock and heading to church, and that’s not your deal.

Maybe getting dressed up and heading to church on Easter IS your deal…and you can’t imagine Easter without heading into church like you do every week.

Or…maybe this is one of your 2 visits a year. You go ’cause your parents want you to. Or out of guilt.

We don’t care. Come hang out with us. Come as you are. Shorts, Jeans, Dresses, Suits. It doesn’t matter, as long as you wear something! 🙂 We just love to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with our friends and family.

Lou-Dawg’s Cafe will be open serving Pancakes and Egg/Turkey Sausage Casserole. It would be great if you brought something with you…fruit, cooked bacon/sausage, juice, etc…but it’s not required.

Easter Egg Hunt will be held at 1pm for the kiddos.

Please RSVP by Good Friday, 4/6/2012.


Family and Friends

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There has been a ton going on!!!  We’ve been so busy that we really haven’t had time to blog about it!  So, I will get you caught up….but in no certain order!  Just random posts about what has been going on the last month!  Although our calendar has been full of serving our community (and a few persecutions by some who don’t necessarily like what we are doing in the name of Jesus!), we had a awesome time relaxing with our family.

My aunt Pat (I call her Aunti Patti) came for a visit from Oregon in early July and stayed with us.  On Friday night of her visit, we had a bunch of friends over so Pat could see them all at once.  It was a wonderful time to catch up with long-time (note… I did not say OLD!!!) friends (and their kids who have grown up soooo fast!!!) who I haven’t seen in too long.  Although, I hope that we will all do a better job of staying on touch! I didn’t get nearly as many pictures as I had hoped to!

In addition, my sister Rebecca and Nat, my nephew, came to visit!  It was a great time of catching up with family!  Louis and I even managed to take Nat and Madison (my local niece) to Water Country USA on one of those 100+ degree days! And…we managed to make it to our first Squirrels game….we won!!!  And…we had chill time with family in Mom and Dad’s back yard. I can’t believe I didn’t get a pic of my sister!!!  Argh!

Last Sunday, we also had a wonderful time of fellowship with The Walkers, who are long-time friends of Louis’ and missionaries in Panama, Brenda’s home country.  We, again, had a gathering to provide Chris and Brenda an opportunity to share the work they are doing in Panama and Chris’ online ministry, Evangelism Coach.  We had a great time meeting some new people, as we welcomed their friends into our home.  We also had a special time of prayer for the Walker Family as they serve the Lord in Panama.  (This time, I realized I got no pics of the kids…dag.)

OK….the last family/friend night….was in Charlotte, NC, Louis’ old stompin’ grounds. Right after he wrapped up his Math Degree (yes…I said MATH!!!) at Davidson, Louis served in a church across the street from Piedmont Court, one of Charlotte’s project.  He and a friend, Richard, bought a house together and lived and served there for about 5 years.  Richard lives in that same house and until recently, continued to serve that same community even though the projects had since been torn down and replaced with mixed income housing.

While assisting with his mom as she continued to heal from her knee replacement, Louis was able to reconnect with Richard.  And on our last trip to Charlotte, I was able to meet his long-time ministry partner who I had heard sooo much about.  Meet Richard…a man I have grown to love and respect….and appreciate for his sound advice. (And, Ladies…he’s single!!!!

We are sooo blessed to have friends and family who love us…and whom we love!  Being in ministry can sometimes be tough…and discouraging…but, God has blessed us with wonderful, loving, and caring family and friends with whom we can fellowship…and just chill!  We are glad to have done that…a lot…in July.


The 1% Solution

Revised…6/22 – Provided the report. Click the image below to be taken to the full report.

I was invited to attend the Second Annual Family and Fatherhood Forum at the Crown Plaza on Friday, June 18 at the Crown Plaza here in Richmond sponsored by First Things First, Richmond Healthy Start, Virginia Department of Social Services, Richmond City Health District, and the Virginia Department of Health. It was a well-attended follow-up to the meeting held at the same time last year….the Friday before Father’s Day!

Click for access to the full report.

We were welcomed by Byron Marshall, CAO for Mayor Jones. Brian Gullins, Family and Fatherhood Initiative Coordinator for the Richmond City Health District, reviewed the results of a Study called the Cost and Solutions to Family Fragmentation and Father Absence in Richmond, VA.  There was a panel discussing alternatives to incarceration consisting of Michael Herring, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney, CT Woody, Sheriff – Richmond City, and Philip White, Fatherhood Program, Henrico County.

The keynote speaker, Roland Warren, President National Fatherhood Initiative, spoke about the Pillars of Culture that impacts our view of Fatherhood….Business, Entertainment/Pop Culture and Government. We were charged with finding ways to connect kids with more than their father’s wallet. Once you get to the heart, the wallet is a short reach from there.

The moral, social, economic, and spiritual costs are outstanding FOR US ALL! If you sit in the suburbs, don’t think this doesn’t impact you! If you are white and saying it’s a “black” thing…think again! If you sit in Windsor Farms, the Fan or the county, this too impacts you! Although this report was about the City itself, its impacts are far reaching. I’d dare say that it was a problem in the counties as well, or Henrico wouldn’t have Fatherhood program of its own. Family Fragmentation and Father Absence is rampant throughout the Metro Richmond area.

This report was calculated based on the work and methodology of native Richmonder Benjamin Scafidi, PhD. From the Georgia Family Councel. It states…“The link between poverty and family fragmentation has been well researched and is widely accepted. Family fragmentation and father absence has caused an increase in taxpayer cost to antipoverty programs, justice system costs (courts, police, prisons, jails) present the most likely source for redirecting funds into preventative, alternative and reentry programs as those presented in the Solutions portion of this report.”

Looking at just one aspect of the study – Percent of Non-Marital Births around Richmond City, VA Residents, the percentage hovered around 10% from 1917 with slight increases in the 50’s. Then, HUGE increases over the years until we landed at nearly 65% in 2007.

• 64% to women who are single at time of birth
• 75% of those non-marital births are to women 20 years or older (leaving 25% as teenage pregnancies)

The report goes on to say…“Based on this methodology we estimate that family fragmentation in Richmond costs taxpayers at least $205 million each year or over a billion every 5 years.” However, with slight decreases come large increases! The report also states that with just 1% reduction in family fragmentation would save US taxpayers $1.1 billion each year, bringing nearly $2million savings in Richmond each and every year.

So…how can we not think that this doesn’t deserve our attention? that SOMETHING must be done? that these statistics aren’t startling? 1% isn’t that much! We CAN do this! But, how?

The report went on to summarize the 1% Solution with action items under each of the following solutions.

• Community Mobilization
• Social Marketing
• Resource Development
• Policy Development
• Workforce Development
• Alternatives to Incarceration and Re-Entry

I hope this gets you…

thinking…

and pondering…

and praying….

how can I get involved?

And…as the church….what is our role?  how and where should WE get involved?


Easter @ M2H

We had a great day with friends and family on Easter!  Louis’ church has a lovely tradition of decorating a cross with flowers.  We brought it home to bless SBH by placing it on the front porch for all to enjoy!  Some neighbors invited us for a cookout of all kinds of goodness!  Ms. G (Frank’s mom) came by for a visit and my family came over for traditional Easter dinner consisting of Lamb with lots of tomatoes and onions plus all the sides of mashed tators, green beans, etc.  I’m thankful for all of my neighbors, friends and family!