What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party

 

Why I Get Excited about the True/False Film Fest

Poster created by artist Akiko Stehrenberger with art direction by veteran T/F collaborator, Erik Buckham. More of Akiko’s work will be on display at Uprise Bakery during the festival, with 10% of the sales going towards the True Life Fund.

Columbia is about to explode with the True/False Film Fest, a documentary film festival, beginning Thursday evening through Sunday, March 2. It’s one of my favorite things about this city. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably see a lot of T/F posts in the next few days.

Tom and I had the privilege to be Juggernaut Volunteers for 3 years, beginning in 2010. It was a purposeful decision, prompted by one of our elders at Karis Church, to be involved in the life of our city, by giving of our time and energy to support the welfare of the city. Prior to volunteering, we essentially avoided downtown during the Fest due to heavy traffic and crowds of people.

We just weren’t documentary people.

Wow. We have so changed since then.

After having missed last year due to a work conflict, we are so excited to be back this year as both passholders and sponsors of True/False. We love the crowds, because it’s a community. Standing in line, you compare notes with total strangers about the films, the buskers, the restaurants, and the parties. Everyone you rub shoulders with during the Fest has a great story to share about how they were touched by a documentary they just watched. I love hearing the passion in the directors’ voices as they share how they were led to create their documentary. It’s a thrill to be part of an interactive crowd whose emotions audibly follow the highs and lows of each film.

I mentioned that our involvement was very intentional. Along with friends of ours, we didn’t want to be Christians who stayed in our secure little corner, only touched by and touching the lives of other safe Christians. Tom summed it up so well in his blog post from our first year’s experience:

“…we, as Karis, are located in the downtown area and we feel a close connection and a real love for our City, and when you love something you want to serve it, and serve it well. So what a better opportunity to serve our City by serving at the Festival.

I didn’t really understand the importance of this, or really even think about it, until early Sunday morning. I volunteered to make a couple of airport runs during the festival along with serving on Rob’s team. I got to pick up a film director in St. Louis on Friday evening and I got to take a festival celebrity to Kansas City Sunday morning. So, at 5:15 am on Sunday, I picked up Jonathan at the hotel so he could make his 8:30 am flight to Los Angeles. When he got in my car he immediately thanked me for volunteering to drive him two hours one way at 5am. Then he asked me, “How did you get involved with True/False and why are you doing it?” So I told him about Karis Church and the “Rob Squad.” I told him that we were a group of people who loved Columbia and we just wanted to be there to serve our City. His response was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. At first he just sat there with his mouth wide open. Then he said, “You mean a church is out doing practical things and serving a film festival? No f*****g way! Whoops, I guess I shouldn’t cuss in front of you!” He then went on to tell me about Los Angeles where he lives and how churches there are so self-focused and that there was no way any church there would ever do what we were doing. Now who knows if that is really true, but that is at least his perception. Then he thanked me for being part of a church who was not afraid to step out of our own little comfortable box (Not his exact words, but that was what he said in a nutshell).”

Don’t you love it?

Last week, we were thrilled to hear that the NY Times ran an article about True/False and its partnership with a local church, The Crossing, which also seeks to invest in the community around it. You can read that article here, along with a thoughtful response from The Crossing’s pastor, Dave Cover, here.

I’m excited to live in a community that not only hosts festivals like True/False, but also consists of Christians and churches who are willing to roll up their shirt sleeves and get involved, for the good of the city.

Day 27: A Sort of Coming Home

I sort of thought/wished/hoped that I was done with emotionally exhaustion this month – I mean, at some point you hit the end of your reserve, right?

Emotionally, I felt a little dead inside this morning. I overslept, due in part to an allergy pill taken late Saturday evening (those little buggers knock me out), and arrived late to church, missing the first half section of music.

Part of the sermon by my pastor, Kevin, (based on the text of Exodus 34) focused on the glory of God, where Moses’ face literally shone from being on the mountain with the Lord that he wore a veil over his face.

I was reminded yet again of Revelation 21-22, talking about the new heaven and new earth:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. — Revelation 21:22-26

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. — Revelation 22:5

Our Gathering closed with us singing It is Well with my Soul (which I’ve previously mentioned knocks me over at times). Once again, I am reminded that, however drastic my trials may seem, I haven’t lost all that is precious to me like the writer of that hymn. If he could face heartbreaking losses, and still declare his soul is well (because he trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior), how can I not do the same?

Hayley with me at Easter

Hayley with me at Easter

Still feeling numb after the Gathering, a dear, dear friend came up to me and I realized she was telling me she was moving before the next Sunday and this would be our last chance to see one another before the cross-country move.

My reaction was wooden. “Oh, okay…” *hug* “I knew this day was coming eventually…” She remembered a card for me was in the car. “Don’t move, I’ll be right back.”

I turned to my husband, “Hayley is telling me goodbye.” *light dawns* “Oh! She’s saying goodbye!” And I burst into tears (I did mention I was a little slow on the uptake this morning?).

I was so grateful for that break so I could absorb the full meaning of the moment. When she returned, I threw my arms around her and tried (through tears) to convey some of the depth of all she meant in my life and a fumbled blessing for her future.

How do you sum all that someone means to you and all your hopes for them in a 5 minute conversation? 😕

We reminded each other that as Christians, we don’t say goodbye. There will be a heavenly reunion some day.

As I drove away from the church building, the conversation brought to mind a passage from my favorite book, A Severe Mercy. The author, Sheldon Vanauken, and C. S. Lewis are parting ways, as Vanauken and his wife, Davy, head back to the States.

On that last day I met C.S. Lewis at the Eastgate for lunch. We talked, I recall, about death or, rather, awakening after death. Whatever it would be like, we thought, our response to it would be “Why, of course! Of course it’s like this. How else could it have possibly been.” We both chuckled at that. I said it would be a sort of coming home, and he agreed. Lewis said that he hoped Davy and I would be coming back to England soon, for we mustn’t get out of touch. “At all events,” he said with a cheerful grin, “we’ll certainly meet again, here – or there.” Then it was time to go, and we drained our mugs. When we emerged on to the busy High with the traffic streaming past, we shook hands, and he said: “I shan’t say goodbye. We’ll meet again.” Then he plunged into the traffic. I stood there watching him. When he reached the pavement on the other side, he turned round as though he knew somehow that I would still be standing there in front of the Eastgate. Then he raised his voice in a great roar that easily overcame the noise of the cars and buses. Heads turned and at least one car swerved. “Besides,” he bellowed with a great grin, “Christians NEVER say goodbye!”

Part of life on this earth includes farewells through broken relationships, exciting cross-country moves, parting by death, or the slow separation of lives going in different directions. When we step back from the momentary pain and glimpse the big picture of eternity, today’s parting will feel more like someone stepped out to run an errand and will return in a moment.

A sort of coming home. 

Isn’t that beautiful? I can cling to this while I wait. We can rest in this.

Today is day 27 of the rest series. You can read them all here.

I’m linking up with

The wedding of all weddings

photo credit: Leanna Grove

photo credit: Leanna Grove

Christmas is coming?

True, but there’s a more exciting event happening this weekend. The wedding everyone has been talking about.

Brooke & Nick tie the knot.

What?

You haven’t been following this celebrity couple’s wedding plans? You’re missing out.

But the hoopla about to happen this weekend isn’t just about two crazy kids getting hitched. It’s way bigger. (more…)

Who, Me? Missional?

Karis Church is about to make a radical change in how we handle community and outreach. In just one week we are dropping our current small group model and starting what is becoming known as Missional Communities (MCs).

Quite frankly, I’m freaked out.

Or rather I was, until a conversation with my friends, Kevin and Susan, in Virginia. Let me share their story with you:

For Valentine’s Day, their church usually has a nice dinner and invites all the church couples. They eat dinner, play the not-so-newlywed game, and generally have a good time. Not this year. No, this year they decided to have the same dinner but instead purposefully invite people who could not afford a Valentine’s Day dinner out. Everyone spread the word and a handful of people signed up to attend. Discouraged, they started asking around their city and got connected with a woman who had a relationship with people living in a lower-income neighborhood. (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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