Friday, December 22, 2006

PJ'S WISH by Keith Giles

Over the last year, my wife and I have been stepping out of our comfort zone to live missionally in our new neighborhood. One of the main expressions of this has been towards the children who come over and play with our two sons on a regular basis.

This last summer we hosted a five week "Kids Club" and invited all of the elementary age children in our cul-de-sac to join us on Sunday Mornings in our den to learn about who Jesus was, and is.

Because all of the kids showed up and participated, we knew that their parents were not attending church anywhere else on a regular basis. Based on the feeback we received from the children directly, we realized that there wasn't a big faith influence in their lives at home either.

After those five weeks ended, the missional aspect of our ministry to these families continued. In fact, it was beyond the more programmatic format where we discovered the real nitty-gritty ministry was really at.

A few weeks ago, after our regular Sunday Morning House Church was over, several of the neighborhood children ran into our house to play with our boys. One little girl ran over to me and begged me to play those "Jesus Songs" on the guitar for her. As my friend Tod and I began to play "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" and "Every Move I Make", she began to do the hand motions as best as she could and sang along at the top of her lungs. It was sweet.

As we played "Undignified" (which usually degenerates into a mosh-pit of flailing, giggling bodies) several other children ran in and joined us in song.

One of the boys, (we'll call him "PJ"), sat down in front of me and pushed my Bible in front me. "Read to us the story about David when he killed that Giant!" he said. I started to tell them the story in my own words and PJ opened my Bible and repeated his request for me to read the words to all of them. So, I did and all of them listened intently, asked questions and marvelled at how God helped a little boy no bigger than they were to defeat an evil Giant.

PJ made me read a few other adventures from the Bible to them and then he suddenly looked up at me and said, "Do you know what I would wish for if I ever saw a shooting star?" It was an out-of-place question and it made all of us pause to consider what he could be driving at. PJ is probably in First Grade, maybe Kindergarten. From the very day we moved into this house, just over a year ago, he was comfortable in our presence. He always asks the most pointed and direct questions, with little or no inhibitions about anything or any subject. I love it when he comes over and I always have fun talking with him.

I decided to play along with PJ and I asked him what he would wish for if he ever saw a shooting star, assuming he was about to tell me he'd like to fly or shoot lasers out of his eyes or something. He looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, "I'd wish that my Dad would be home so he could play with me more. He's never home. He's always working".

Tod and I looked at each other, touched by PJ's honesty. I had a moment of clarity and said, "PJ, you know you don't have to wait until you see a shooting star. You can pray right now and ask God to help your Dad stay home more often and play with you." PJ looked up at me and said, "OK!", so Tod and I bowed our heads along with PJ and I asked that God would help his Dad to not work so much, and that PJ would be able to see his Dad more and get to play with him more. When I said,"Amen", PJ looked up at me and instantly asked me, "Do you think it will come true?"

My heart skipped a beat. I realized that for PJ this was serious business, not some cute "Kodak Moment" in time. I took a breath and I said, "Well PJ, I think if you will keep asking God about this, when you say your prayers, that God will help your Dad to see that he needs to spend more time with you. I will pray for you too, PJ, and I think if we both keep praying that it really will come true."
That seemed to be enough for PJ and he was suddenly running off to chase my sons with a plastic claw.

Tod and I talked a little afterward. It made me realize that our missional life in this community was more subtle, and ongoing, than an hour and a half program. Our interactions here with these children are making a difference in ways that will have a lasting, even an eternal, impact.

For the first time in our lives, my family is intentionally living a life of faith in full view of our neighbors. We're sharing life with people, no matter who they are and what they call faith or truth, or home.
At the same time, we know we don't always have it all together. We're not perfect, by any means, and the good news is we're not called to be. We're simply called to love others as we love ourselves. It's up to God to do the rest, unless He directs us otherwise.

So, the next time you say your prayers, I'm sure PJ would appreciate it if you would remember to ask if his father would realize how much his son needs him to play with him more often. Say a prayer for us too, that we would have the love of Jesus for the families on our street.

Peas on Earth!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Almost over....

The year of 2006 is nearly complete, soon to be a faded memory in the chapbook of our minds as we awaken to the first wee hours of 2007.

What did you accomplish? What did God teach you? What is it you still hope to discover about Him in the year ahead?

For us, we learned that God really was calling us to leave the traditional church to start a house church. He has blessed our "Mission" gatherings each Thursday to overflowing. Soon we'll have to consider splitting off into a second group, possibly one in Long Beach as several from that city make the trek each week to gather with us.

Our addition of a Sunday morning Mission House Church meeting was a welcome blessing. I always intended for us to meet on a Sunday morning, but honestly wasn't prepared for it coming so quickly.

Now we have two groups meeting each week in our home, with some overlap, but two distinct groups none-the-less. It is still the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" on it!

The year of 2006 also saw my exit from Soul Survivor Ministries and into the world of temporary contract employee job seeker. Since the end of June I've been working various temporary assignments and searching for a full-time position.

As hard as it's been, I know God has been so gracious to us. In fact, the crazy thing is, we have more peace and financial security now than we did the first half of this year when we had a full-time job! God is that good!

I've had several good job ops which didn't develop the way I had hoped, but I still know that God has something for us, in His time. We have heard Him clearly say "Wait" and not much else. So, as He continues to bless us and provide, we will keep seeking His face, putting out resumes and praying for a new job...soon!

I have personally learned a lot about pastoring through our close community at The Mission. Very intense but also very rewarding experiences. I wish I could more fully explain all that God has taught me about myself, about ministry, about His Church through our Mission House Church experience. Maybe I'll write a book?

Speaking of which, I started out this year with the goal of finishing the text for one complete book project. As of today I have two book projects, one of which is about 98% complete ("The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?") and one which is about 85% complete ("The Power Of Weakness"). My goal for 2007 is to publish at least one of them into an honest-to-goodness paperback book!

One of my proudest accomplishments this year has been the [SUBVERSIVE UNDERGROUND] newsletter which started almost exactly one year ago at about 30 people and is now just about 100 subscribers! I'm very proud of the weekly articles that have come out of this experiment and I know that without this weekly e-newsletter responsibility I would not have written most of those (which was why I started the thing in the first force me to write something substantial each and every week of this year).

The new year is wide open to me. I have no sense of what it might hold. Wendy and I are praying that 2007 will be more about stability and gainful full-time employment. We'd love to have things like medical insurance, a savings account, maybe a car that was built in the last ten know, frivolous stuff.

But, whatever 2007 brings, we know that God is good and we place all our hope in Him alone.