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So, my friend Lisa and I have been developing a clothes closet type of ministry at Parkrose.  Lisa (who is very cool and peppery) works with homeless youth in Clackamas county and has experience in such things.  We’ve gathered bags and bags of gently-used clothing and blankets, painted the designated room with hip, happy colors and are waiting for racks and shelves to be installed.

We are good to go–except for the fact that we gave away ALL of the clothes and blankets this week!

My Native friend, Chief, told me on Sunday that a fire swept through his reservation that weekend, destroying at least 20 homes.  Without a second thought, I offered him our entire inventory.  Chief gratefully accepted and emptied out our closet.

The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!  How awesome that we were able to bless others in their time of need!  But now we need to restock . . .

If you live in the area, could you take a moment and go through your closets–and pull out the clothes/blankets/shoes you don’t need or wear?   Your donations could wind up blessing a local high school student or family–or folks from the White Swan reservation!

We also need a name for this outreach.  We are open to all suggestions!  Email me or leave a comment if you have clothes to donate or ideas for a name!

shawnalyne@gmail.com

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So, after publishing my last post, I decided a little background info might be helpful for those who don’t know the whole story.

We left Abundant Life about 2 1/2 years ago to serve with a much smaller congregation.  Even though we made great friends there, it was not a good cultural fit for us.  We left that group in June 2009 and have been having and “out of church” experience ever since.

Not that we ever stopped attending services–Greg  actually preached in various congregations on the average of twice a month.  He “filled the pulpit” for 6 weeks at a wonderful church in Walla Walla, Washington–they asked him to come and be their pastor, but God just never gave us peace (and Danielle got slightly hysterical every time we mentioned moving).

So we stayed put, Greg working happily at his non-profit organization.  When he wasn’t preaching, we visited different churches in the area, trying to find a community of believers where we fit and felt connected.  We loved The Well, the church Danielle and Krispin attend in north Portland, but we really felt we needed to attend a fellowship in our own community.

This past June, we decided to go back to Abundant Life. It occurred to Greg and me, almost simultaneously, that our closest friends–the people we did life with–fellowshipped there.    Abundant Life folks came to our parties, invited us over for dinner, made us laugh, prayed with and for us,  loved and supported our daughters and walked with us through hard times.

In fact, we were at dinner with George and Ann–after they’d come to the hospital to pray for Danielle and her unborn baby–when George brought up the idea of Greg coming back on staff as the Parkrose campus pastor.

And it just made sense, in that crazy-cool, God-kind-of-way!  And after several weeks of seeking and prayer, we accepted . . .

One of the questions I asked God during our time of seeking was this:  “Can a highly-organized, mega-church support smaller, organic communities?”  Just watching our different church friends doing life together for the glory of God provided the answer I sought.  Abundant Life isn’t about the building or the programs or the music or even the preaching . . . it’s about the families and friends and small groups who are intentionally trying to follow the Lamb, being His hands and feet–and heart–in their communities.

I’m really excited about the book our small group (led by the Powells) is studying--Radical, by David Platt (subtitled, “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream). Platt challenges believers to live life according to Christ’s example, rather than conforming to the prevailing culture.  I’m looking forward to walking out what we are learning in the context of community.

And, I’m really, really glad to be home . . .

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I find it ironic that I’m writing this post on 10-10-10.  If you are a student of biblical numerology (what numbers mean in the bible), then you know that 10 is the number of God.  It represents perfection, completion, fulfillment.

If I were to rate today, I’d give it a perfect 10!

Today, our time of transition–our wandering in the spiritual desert–came to an end.  Our journey isn’t over, of course, but our season of waiting and watching has passed.  God has answered the cry of our hearts and given us community again.

He brought us back to Abundant Life!

Starting Nov. 1, Greg will pastor at the Parkrose campus.  So, even though we’ve reconnected with our old church family and friends–our ministry with Abundant Life will look a bit different this time around.  We are excited to become a part of that little flock and have the privilege of serving the Parkrose community.  There was such an undercurrent of passion and love there today–I can’t wait to see what God has in store!

The day only got better!  To celebrate our homecoming and the general goodness of God, our whole family (including Greg’s folks) got together for dinner.   As all 10 of us (hmm, there’s that number again) held hands around the table, Greg’s dad thanked God for his abundant blessing upon our lives.

To which we all gave a hearty “amen” before devouring the 10 steaks Greg grilled for us.

What a year 2010 has been!  We married off our last daughter, fell in love with Africa,  became grandparents, made a lot of new friend  . . . and discovered there’s no place like home!

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seeing between the lines


Remember those weird pictures (stereograms) that were popular a few decades ago? At first glance, they appeared to be brightly colored geometric designs. But if you looked at the patterns long enough, slowly a dinosaur, dophin or waterfall would materialize.

At first, I could never see the hidden pictures. I’d squint and strain with all my might, but squiggly lines were all I could see. But then a friend shared the secret to stereogram success–quit trying so hard! Relax and focus beyond the outer design–then the hidden image will become visible.

And sure enough, when I quit focusing so intently on the obvious, the hidden masterpiece finally came into view . . .

I’m finding this principle applies to my search for the Church. Since I’ve stepped back and focused on Jesus–and quit looking so intently at our cultural definition of church–I’ve been able to glimpse God’s masterpiece: the Bride of Christ in all her glory!

These days, when I look at the Church, my spiritual eyes no longer focus on the building, the pastor, or the programs. As I gaze beyond those things, I see a multitude of people, seamlessly unified by their faith in Jesus.

This living stream flows in and out of the institution we often mistake for the church, exalting Jesus as the Head of His Body (instead of the pastor). These followers of the Lamb understand that worship is a continual act of surrender to the Lordship of Christ–not just the handful of songs offered up on Sunday morning. While they may appreciate the practical options a building can offer, they know that the kingdom of God extends beyond the four walls of what many call their church home.

Some have followed Jesus out of the buildings and into houses, schools, businesses and even bars. Wherever two or more of these believers are gathered, Christ is in their midst. And they understand with all of their beings that the Church is who they are–not somewhere they go.

Are you starting to get the picture? If not, just lift your eyes and gaze at Jesus. As you focus on Him, His beautiful Bride will come into view . . .

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