Do stories of life change inspire you?
Well, here is some good news to brighten your day!
Thanks to the generosity of ordinary people like you...
Remember when the world gets darker, Jesus shines brighter in and through you.
Learn more and let's continue loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus when it comes to helping hungry people in our own communities at oslc.com/b4k.
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating an unprecedented rise in mental health and substance use issues, leaving many of us asking how we can better support our friends and loved ones.
In June, I completed my training and certification to become a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and I'm excited to lead an online training on November 13, 2021 from 9am - 3pm, Online
The course offers relevant and powerful training and resources you need to answer questions and have conversations about mental health. You will leave with a broader understanding of the mental health crisis we face and how together we can be helpful as a community and as individuals.
You can register at oslc.com/mhfa or you can give our office a call at 253.531.2112.
Mental Health First Aid, an international, evidence-based program that teaches people to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.
I think you’ll find it’s an extremely helpful program that’s well worth your time and investment.
All fall and into the spring, we want to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus by:
So, I want to take a moment and share three points of unity that are fostering a culture of care and belonging as we embrace being a church (a people!) both onsite and online.
What do you do when everybody has a preference? When it comes to wearing face coverings, each of us has feelings, reasonings, and understandings of what they do and what they mean. ...and that's normal and very much OK.
Right now, perhaps for reasons only God really knows, the State of Washington requires all people regardless of vaccination status to wear a face covering while in public spaces.
As Jesus followers, we choose to come together in unity not over our preference of wearing face coverings, but in the unity of faith which honors the authorities God has placed in our lives (Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2:2). We also choose to honor each other's preferences over our own (Philippians 2) by wearing a face covering while on-campus. If you need a mask, we have plenty onsite as you enter any of our campus facilities.
Where else do you see honor promoting unity in your life?
"Be" the Church
The unified church is seen wherever people are gathered together around God’s Word and promises - wherever they are.
Jesus followers are never satisfied with only “going” to church onsite or online - we want to “be” the church everywhere we go. That’s why most everything we do onsite can be translated into an online or at-home experience.
For example, we worship as "be" one united church in how we worship.
Another example of "being" the united church is Faith in Action. While the context or location of faith in action may change, you are choosing to be united as once church by living generously and living your life on mission - wherever you are... which happens onsite when people gather for a variety of service projects and can also happen right where you are - with the people in your life (even those who may not know Jesus or go to church).
You may know something your local neighborhood needs - you can give Kristi a call or send her an email at email@example.com to figure out how best you and some friends can make things happen. That’s faith in action.
While the context or location of faith in action may change, you are choosing to be united as once church by living generously and living your life on mission - wherever you are.
One last example: We grow in unity through Youth and Adult Life Groups and Bible Studies which help you become the intergenerational body of Christ. While some groups meet onsite, others find growth opportunities in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and wherever else they find themselves.
Again, Jesus’ church is wherever people are gathered around God’s Word and promises. That’s why most everything we do onsite can be translated into an online or at-home experience - right where you are.
We are united in our care for each other and our community. This unity flows from the love of Jesus who cares for each of us - right where we are.
So, let's continue to be unified in honoring others, "being the church", and caring for each other as we move into October and November - onsite... online... right where we are.
I’m praying that you stay healthy and that together we continue to make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus - everywhere.
Would you agree that human relationships were complicated - even before COVID?
Expectations. Preferences. Feelings. Insecurities. Fear. Personal Histories. Past Experiences. Hopes. Dreams. Passions. Convictions. And then there are beliefs about mandates, economics, politics, and religion - whew!
If you put all of this together, even the most simple person can become complicated.
Add another human with the same complexities into the mix and we discover that some of the most significant earthly relationships we may ever have - our spouses and significant others, can be incredibly complicated.
Here are three ways you can build a deeper and stronger bond with anybody - especially your spouse or significant other in this complicated time and life.
1. Embrace your fear.
Connecting with ourselves on an emotional level is an important place to begin building deeper and stronger bonds with other human beings.
Relationships are scary. We become exposed, known, and vulnerable. We so want to be seen, heard, and belong. At the same time, we’re afraid of rejection and being alone with our thoughts and selves. That’s why isolation is such torture.
You can begin building a deeper and stronger bond with someone by saying it’s OK for you to feel the need for love and feel the fear of being hurt, rejected, and alone if it doesn’t work out.
Jesus reminds us that He is always with us (Matthew 28:19-20) and that we are never alone (Romans 8:31-39) - which means we can be wrong without the fear of rejection from God or the grace of others.
2. Learn to dance.
Right after we were married, Beth and I gave ballroom dancing a go.
She excelled at it.
I have two left feet.
The point is, we learned the awkward moves together. She was better than me and I had to swallow my pride of looking foolish and messing up and trust her lead.
In our relationships, at times we need to trust each other’s lead because the other person has insight that we need to hear and consider or we have two left feet and need to simply learn something from the other person.
I remember that in order to learn the moves, I had to just be quiet and move with her. . . which required trusting that she knew the moves (which she did).
This principle helped us both on the dance floor and in our marriage.
As Jesus followers, we are given both the example and power to not live in our own pride, but trust in both the Lord and the grace God gives to each person.
There are certainly situations where sin has broken trust and amplifies pride to the point where we need much more than a dance instructor. Realizing that there are people all around us who want to help us dance together is a huge confidence booster to say, “let’s get help” and continue dancing.
3. Practice Jesus-Centered Empathy
Right now, our culture is all about empathy. And rightfully so - we need more of it!
Brene Brown defines empathy as “connecting with people so we know we're not alone when we're in struggle. Empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn't require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through” (BreneBrown.com).
Here’s something to consider - human empathy alone may connect you with someone else’s emotion in a particular moment or situation. It’s needed. And it’s a way that God has created us to be in common unity (community) with each other.
However, human empathy only provides a greater human experience. In other words, we can only empathize to the point of where our human emotions allow us to go. That’s Human-Centered Empathy. It’s good and necessary. And it’s incomplete by itself.
Jesus-Centered Empathy places Jesus (the human of all humans) as our shared empathizer - not only ourselves.
When Jesus centers our empathy for each other, we can grow deeper and stronger beyond ourselves - more like Jesus.
I think that deeper and stronger bonds or relationships with other people are challenged when overwhelming emotions take over our thoughts, words, and actions.
This is why we admit that “we have sinned in our thoughts, words, deeds and cannot free ourselves”. Asking God to “forgive us, renew us, and lead us so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways” to the glory of God and the blessing of others is a wonderful place to begin building deeper and stronger bonds with anybody.
Why? Because the strongest and deepest bond that we share with each other is the bond of peace through the unity of the Spirit which we have in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism - one forgiveness, one hope, and one source of truth and love (Ephesians 4).
Do you find yourself making assumptions about people, places, situations, and circumstances?
"Judging a book by its cover" or drawing conclusions on little (if any) factual information is dangerous stuff.
I'm so glad that Jesus didn't draw an assumption about me (or you) and acted upon it. Instead, Jesus sees all of the facts and lives in reality and hope - not the fear that comes from uncertainty or making a judgment based on a sliver of information.
Here are three ways we... or, I can get beyond personal assumptions and love people like Jesus loves me.
Ultimately, Jesus leads us beyond our assumptions. He is not only the model - He is the only One who can judge... and He was judged... for us!
The only One in the entire universe who could make an assumption about us chose instead of making an assumption based on half-truths and partial facts, chose to love us unconditionally.
Here's the point: whether it's giving people the benefit of the doubt, praying for others instead of judging them, or choosing peace over war - Jesus' Spirit is the source of our power when it comes to living this out.
How has Jesus taught you to go beyond making assumptions like He did for you? Drop me an email and let me know.
The leaves are turning. School is starting. Traffic is increasing. The Fair is swinging. Football games on my TV are streaming.
Fall is here.
It might be autumn outside, but what season is it in your soul?
I want to share four seasons your soul might be in - and Jesus’ promise for you in the midst of it.
Martin Luther once said, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and the storms of desperation and blasphemy against God.”
That might be the season your soul is in right now. Pain. Fearful. Shaking. Feeling abandoned by people and God. Desperate and Depressed.
Here’s some great news for those in the season of anxiety: Jesus is with you!
The brokenness of our world and our lives weighs heavy on our souls. God’s Spirit who lives in us knows that this world is temporary… and that God’s world is eternal.
Could that be one of the reasons we experience seasons of heartbreak, anguish, and suffering?
We see people who are innocent, hurt. People who are oppressed, abused. People who try their hardest to do the right thing, punished.
Injustice, suffering, and oppression weighs heavy on us. And if you’re in a season where your soul is just heavy, Jesus is here to encourage you.
There are seasons when our soul is working hard to restore that which has been lost. Whether it’s a relationship that seems to be on the mend, something you have felt God has been calling you toward gaining traction, or you simply feel like your relationship with God is on a growth curve - you’re in the process of being restored.
This is an exciting season! My encouragement is to remember the words of Simon Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
And, trust whatever God is restoring in and through you is God’s work for His glory and He wants you to use it to love and bless the people around you.
Need I say more? Sometimes, we find ourselves in times when our soul is content and happy.
This is God’s work, too. . . His work of giving you a new heart and spirit.
It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. However, it does mean that God is growing you up.
For sure, there are more… What other seasons of the soul have you experienced? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
Let’s end with some hope: in every season of the soul, God is with us and wants to grow us up. Through every season of our lives and souls, we are being stretched, strengthened, and sustained by Jesus.
So, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Indeed, walking with Jesus through every season of life and faith with others is worth it - wherever you are!
We've received input from both a group of members, Backpack 4 Kids volunteers, Board of Directors, and staff - and our Board of Directors and Ministry Team have had an opportunity to see this exact information and share their input, too.
Psalm 107:9 says that God’s heart beats to satisfy the thirsty and fill the hungry with good things.
I believe that God wants to fill every hungry soul and belly. In fact, if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t have the ability to fill your soul without filling your belly, first. That’s just a human reality… the way God made us.
Now, I don’t know how that will literally happen. But, I know that God chooses you and me to be part of it.
Here in Central Pierce County, it looks like echoing God’s truth and promises face to face and through the internet waves. It also means that we get to be a big part of the solution of eliminating food insecurity in the Franklin Pierce School District by helping families gain access to healthy food.
Currently, we provide 300 weekly food bags to school district families. This project would over double our capacity. And, we know that there is a massive need beyond even that...
Today, I’m thrilled to share that we have been presented with the opportunity to expand West Campus to both over-double the weekly impact of our Backpacks 4 Kids program and provide incredible space for people to experience the unconditional love and timeless truth of Jesus.
This project would accomplish:
So here it is... the initial "reveal" of a potential space where people's souls and bellies can be filled with good things!
I've also linked a Project Summary Update to the end of this post which points out some massive highlights!
Will you pray for this potential project, everyday with me? Lord, give us wisdom to know how best to love and serve him and others with this potential opportunity.
Let me know what you think of the concept. Send a note to email@example.com.
Join me at our Town Hall Meeting on August 17 at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall to learn more about the project. No registration is necessary. The meeting will also be online at oslc.com/townhall.
God’s heart beats here… and I’m so excited that we get to experience it all together!
Fun is a part of how God has made us “to be”.
Through fun and play, we renew friendships, care for our minds and souls, and experience a side of our Creator God who laughs and enjoys what He has given to us… life, creation, and people.
Here are three ways you can experience God’s presence by having fun this summer without spending a penny.
Find Your Inner Child
Kids experience the world and learn through play. So, grab some toys, play make believe, or go out and run through the sprinkler.
As we “grow up”, childish fiction becomes somewhat immature. We become realists, jaded, and scarred by being bullied, fighting our own skeletons when it comes to what other people think about us, and being told that some things are “just for kids”. Through these hurts, we build walls of protection around our heart, mind, and soul.
That’s not “growing up” - it’s insecurity.
But, Jesus talks about how even our faith must become childlike (Matthew 18:2-4). Simple. Secure not in ourselves, but in what God has done for us in Jesus.
When we become secure in that God made us to be childlike when it comes to experiencing His never-ending love for us, we can relax. The bullies are silenced by Jesus’ promises. The skeletons are buried in Jesus’ grave. And other people’s opinions are unarmed with the words, “I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
It may sound juvenile, but finding your inner child by finding some toys around the house, imagining life happening in a fantasy world, or just giggling in your front yard might just be what you need to re-engage your inner playful side that God created and you might have stuffed it down and away.
Best of all - it probably won’t cost you anything!
Take an Unproductive Walk
We say, “God made me”. We don’t always live like we believe it.
If God made our bodies (which He does), then God gives us the responsibility to care for them (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
So, go take a walk… wherever you want! Around the block. Explore the city. To the grocery store (instead of driving!). You don’t need an agenda. You don’t need anything to talk about. Just be together… and walk. You might end up laughing because it’s so un-American to be together without a plan, agenda, or reason. I mean, it’s so “unproductive”. And yet, God does His best work out of nothing (Genesis 1, Psalm 139).
Even if you walk in familiar places, you may notice new or different things when you're taking an unproductive walk.
Better yet - find somebody to go join you on the walk!
The only thing a walk might cost you is the lemonade or iced tea you’ll enjoy when you get home.
Oh... and leave your phone at home.
Draw a Picture and Share It
I think the older we get the more self-conscious we are about what we produce. Whether it’s a project at work, a meal that we cook, or the words that we choose to use in our conversations - our minds often overthink everything. Anxiety increases which leaves us drained and exhausted.
So, let’s try reversing our self-conscious thoughts!
Find a friend or someone else in your family and share a bible verse together. “Jesus wept” is totally fine. Then, grab some paper and markers, pencils, crayons… whatever you can find - and draw a picture of whatever the passage makes you think about using your non-dominant hand. Then, exchange the picture and guess what each other drew.
You’re engaging God’s Word (one of the places God promises to be present!) and if you’re so-not-a-Picasso, like me, you’ll share some good laughs!
Do you have a favorite way to experience God’s presence through fun and play without spending a penny? Drop me an email and let me know!
After 244 years, many of us continue the traditions of celebrating with food, friends, and fireworks to acknowledge the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaling our country’s freedom from King George III and British rule. I know that my family will be celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a cookout, hanging out with friends, and enjoying all of the colorful fireworks around us.
It is good and honorable to celebrate our nation's freedom. Our country (and every country) is a place and system that God is present in and works through. Indeed, we are citizens of our world, today.
As Christians, we value freedom and are able to express it in many ways. There aren't that many ways we can go wrong with celebrating freedom. And that’s a really great thing! Indeed, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
However, national freedom (while important) is distinct from our spiritual freedom.
Let me explain (in brevity... this is not a complete explanation and I know there is so much more to this than a paragraph in a blog post. I'd love to talk more, if you'd like!).
National freedom is partially (perhaps, mostly) rooted in a love for a specific civic system. Typically, it’s because the system either benefits us or it seems to advance an agenda that we share with others. As a nation, the two seemingly most prominent (but not only) civic systems have historically been democracy and capitalism - though this ebbs and flows from time to time. Most conflicts that we experience on a wide social scale (and we certainly have them) can probably be linked to one of these two “loves”. Just study the events that have happened throughout US History and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Spiritual freedom is the freedom that the Apostle Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:1, is altogether different. It’s not rooted in a love for a specific civic system, rather, spiritual freedom is centered on a love of a specific person: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who sets us free from all which eternally holds us back from being the people God has created us to be. Our past sin can be forgiven (even while we don’t forget it). There is grace in our guilt and shame. There is respite from our grief. Ultimately, it’s because of the freedom that Jesus gives to the world and more specifically, to all people, we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (Great is Thy Faithfulness, Verse 1).
As a naturalized citizen of the United States myself, both national freedom and spiritual freedom are very important to me. I believe they can coexist - but that doesn't mean that they are equal.
National freedom is not bad or inherently sinful in and of itself. It's just different than spiritual freedom.
The challenge for us as Christians is to distinguish between them. From Jesus being wrapped in American flags to prominent voices echoing that America is the “City on a Hill” (Matthew 5:14) throughout our media waves - it’s easy to understand and reasonable that Christians today are challenged in distinguishing between national and spiritual freedom. For sure, they are separate and distinct from each other. And, they are certainly not equal.
Here are two key distinctions:
National freedom tends to lead us toward greater individual autonomy. We are our own people with individual freedoms and rights - which I believe is to be true... and spiritually dangerous. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom invites deeper dependence on God.
National freedom often wins by fighting for or against ideals, issues, platforms, and systems. While important, what we tend to become emboldened for and passionate about are more or less ideas and models than real people. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom wins by fighting for people’s relationship with God, others, and the world around them.
This is what Jesus followers believe that has already done for us on the cross… Jesus fought the war for our hearts against our greatest enemies - the judgement of our sin, the threat of eternal death and punishment, and the root and author of all deception - the devil. And, Jesus won.
You are God’s treasure. You are so valuable that while we didn’t even know we were slaves to ourselves, our judgement, and others - Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
Earlier I said that national and spiritual freedom are not equal. The Bible points us to Jesus, not any one particular nation or civic system. And while it may be difficult to separate the two - especially in a climate where church and country seems so intertwined, we must remember this one thing:
Jesus followers love God more than their country. Compared to God, there is no equal. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says that all things are garbage (literally, poop) compared to Jesus and the freedom we have in and through Him (Philippians 3:8).
Anything and anyone that has equality with God becomes a covert idol that captures your heart and is relentless in requiring your loyalty to pay it back with everything you have.
God doesn't require or demand repayment or your loyalty at all. You're free! And if Jesus set you free, you are free, indeed! (John 8:36).
And what happens when we prioritize and celebrate God’s freedom over any one nation's freedom?
I’m taking a few weeks away from the blog to rest and plan the next season.
My next blog will be July 23.
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.