Category Archives: Spirituality

July 4, 2013

Good News

Evangelism.

The word means “good news” but in the minds of many folk, followers of Christ and others, it’s anything but good news.

At City Square we recently asked a group of leaders, some who have been in churches their whole lives and some who are relatively new to this Christian faith walk, what they thought of when they heard the word evangelism.

“People shouting on the street corner about going to hell.”

“People knocking on my front door warning me about impending gloom and doom.”

“Saying whatever it takes to sell people on what you believe.”

Coercion.

None of this sounds like good news.

The struggle with much of traditional Christian evangelism is that in order to get to good news, we first have to convince you of bad news.

“Sorry, but you’re going to hell. Scared? Well, you should be, but don’t worry, cause I’ve got the cure!”

Progressive Christians, who generally are excepting of a variety of beliefs and unbeliefs have a different sort of evangelical conundrum. Without coercion or the threat of hell, what is the good news we have to share with the world? If folk don’t believe they need to be saved then what is the point of the church?

The truth of the matter is, you don’t need to believe in hell to be effected by the brokenness of the world around us. While I may not fear my sin leading to eternal damnation, I know the pain of the Apostle Paul when he writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

I don’t believe that the pain and suffering I see in the world around me is the way the world is intended to function. I do not believe that the powers that lift some up at the expense of others is the way we our communities were intended to function. And I don not believe that my own short-comings, that keep me from being the man I want to be, the man I could be, is the way I was intended to function.

I believe that something is broken.

But I believe that there’s good news: The brokenness of the world doesn’t have the last word! I believe in a God who created and is still creating.

I believe in the kin(g)dom of God, a kin(g)dom of love, justice, health and wholeness that is available to us right now, and that is still on its way, breaking into the world each and every day.

I believe in a savior who came to reconcile me to my creator and free me from the death dealing powers of fear, scarcity, greed, and a hunger for power over others. I believe in a Christ who came to offer me instead security, abundance, love, and a spirit of peace in the face of the fleeting power of the world.

And I believe in a Spirit that works within me, helping me to grow into the person I was created to be , the person I want to be, and the person I could be still. I believe in the Holy Spirit which celebrates with me in my victories and supports me in the midst of my struggles.

In short, I believe that there’s hope for the world, for our communities, and for each of us, not just after death, but right here and right now.

Now that’s good news.

June 7, 2013

Creative Blocks, Car Repairs, and The Search for Meaning

This has been a very strange week for me. Sometime, around the beginning of May, I realized my creativity, ability to generate ideas, and create any kind of sensible workflow was basically non-existent. After trying to push through my funk I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere unless I took a few steps back. I thought it might be a good idea to take a week where I could spend part of my days resting, getting some projects done around the house, and also taking some time to go to different parts of town to explore and work on my writing.

Well, we all know how the good ole “staycation” works out. I’ve put in more hours than I planned with work, unable to pull myself away from the phone and e-mail. But the most frustrating thing has been trying to fix the air-conditioning in my car, something I originally thought might take an hour or two. I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop, near my house, after dropping my car off at the mechanic for the third day in a row. This ongoing car repair saga has not been helpful for my stress level or my bank account.

My own inconveniences were put into perspective the other day, though. A colleague/friend/mentor of mine has been struggling with her health over the past couple of years, but I was still shocked to get an e-mail informing me, and others, that she had experienced a major stroke and was lying, unresponsive, but in stable condition, in the hospital. This comes on the heels of another good friend and colleague who just underwent brain surgery and was diagnosed with a malignant tumor. To be honest, I feel a deep sadness over both of these situations.

Over the years I’ve stopped asking God, “why do these things happen?” I don’t think it’s in God’s nature to give people massive strokes or cancer. Instead, I believe that God calls us to be an extension of God’s healing presence when others are suffering or are in need. I’ve found it far more helpful to be present with those I care about and to do whatever I can to relieve even a fraction of their suffering. Yet, sometimes, even us pastor-types still don’t understand pain and suffering.

In the New Testament, Luke’s gospel tells the story of a mother who was grieving the death of her only son. It’s a story that will be read in many churches, this Sunday. As Jesus and the disciples arrive at the mother’s village, Jesus stops those who are carrying her son’s body and says to the mother, “do not weep.” He then goes over to the man’s body and tells him to rise. Miraculously, the young man rises, speaks, and is reunited with his mother. Those who witness this then rejoice and praise God for what has happened. (Luke 7:11-17)

Normally, I’d probably offer some in-depth analysis on this passage and explain to you the symbolism and meaning of this miracle in the larger narrative of Luke’s gospel. However, this week, I just can’t intellectualize this story. I need the hope that this story offers. I need to believe in the new life that Christ gives us in every moment. I need to know that healing and life will ultimately overcome illness and tragedy.

This week, I need to bring it all to Jesus and I need to hear him say to me, “do not weep.”

May the God of love, healing, compassion, and of the peace that surpasses all understanding be with us now and forever. Amen.

-Pastor Rob

April 18, 2013

Becoming Comfortable With Evangelism

This week’s post is a guest post and comes from City Square Church member, Claire Brown.

A series of events the last few days have taken me back to my thoughts on the topic of evangelism. They came off of a very high moment thinking about the next liturgical season coming up, Pentecost. In sharing a preview with some young people I spend my Sunday mornings with, I reflected on how exciting the energy around Pentecost can be and how I’ve never made that connection. Maybe it was the contrast of how underwhelmed 11 year old girls can be but it hit me like a wave. We at City Square are being equipped in many ways to excite others in growing our faith community and I feel very energized.

Then the events at the Boston Marathon happened bringing another wave of emotion; Sadness, hopelessness. I can easily name these familiar feelings after the fresh traumas of the loss in Aurora, Newtown, Sanford, Tucson and other cities… Intense excitement rooted in pain and fear that seems to keep repeating.

In many ways, the word evangelism tap dances on that emotional button of pain and fear, too. It was never clearly defined by my church growing up, allowing for other experiences from peers at school or by watching TV define it for me. I learned that ‘evangelism’ is a forceful and uncomfortable word that can be un-affirming, shaming and sometimes threatening. It’s not defined in the Bible clearly either. I recently learned, from a lecture, presented by Claremont School of Theology’s professor of evangelism, Dr. Jack Jackson, that the word was used maybe 10 times by John Wesley, though he seemed to be walking the walk and talking the talk.

Dr. Jackson also invited us to think about the Protestant church and its history as it is becoming a thing of the past. Our post-modern lives are not satisfied with ‘church’ as we know it. Where are going wrong? Is being a church just about membership and who’s sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning? Is it because of the decline of the ‘franchise’ church (the standardization of the protestant religious experience: pews, choirs, power points, praise bands, 20 min sermon packed into an hour of God a week) the reason for total chaos unfolding around us? The un-churched are outnumbering the churched so we must evangelize – sinners be damned! Is that the evangelical message of the 21st century?

Dr. Jackson’s lecture reminded me that religion manifests in human relationships. If this is true then we as a church are missing the point. So much so that Methodists (and Protestants generally) have created a culture of unauthentic experiences of God that we are running scared away from the truths that come from being connected deeply with one another. The church and our history cannot survive if we do not own ‘evangelism’ as a part of our own story. We need to name it and define its power as the Holy Spirit – a power that comforts and rests. That uplifts and empowers. This requires us to move out of our comfort zones and own our faith as a collective truth so that others may connect to God’s unconditional love through us.

If you’re wondering what the definition is, here is how I define it: Evangelism is a calling and gift to share unconditionally. To share the Good News of one very inspirational human story of the life of Christ. To share and grow with others so that they may know what kind of message is truly out there together – not in a teacher/student way but in a student/student way that is dynamic and meaningful, something more authentic than what there is offered on a Sunday morning in any congregation. Yes, we know where to congregate but do we know how to talk to one another?

We are called to show up to what is real and happening in a time of personal and national chaos whether it be as joyous and challenging as spending time with 11 year old girls or as horrifying as terrorism on a steady rotation. Evangelism is not comfortable but it can affirm, nurture and heal if we enter relationships with our neighbors and friends who might not trust what’s happening within the familiar four walls under a steeple and cross. In fact, John Wesley modeled evangelism by spending years with people before they called themselves Christians one-on-one. Wesley showed his community what it means to be purposeful Christians by providing relationship opportunities – opportunities to share doubts and receive affirmations from one another. ??Hate is not authentic Good News – do not be fooled. But joy is authentic. Peace is comforting when it’s authentic and love is real. We as City Square Church, as a movement, are being called to reach out with authentic intentions to transform ourselves and the community. To accept the gift(s) the Holy Spirit brings us so that we become a testament to hope for others to share infinitely.

April 10, 2013

Our Limits, and Beyond

Tonight, below the window of my 1st Ave. and Adams apartment I overheard two people shouting at each other. That happens sometime, the (additional) price you pay for living in the heart of downtown, but tonight I heard words that alarmed me: hit, scared, get away, don’t touch me. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who thinks he’s tough enough to step into any situation, but I couldn’t ignore this one so I pulled up the non-emergency police number on my phone and I headed downstairs.

It was ugly. A man and a woman, close to each other and off to one side of the sidewalk, like folk only get when they know they’re being inappropriately intimate or aggressive with each other in public. Their voices were low and angry, escalating into shouting then self-consciously dropping back down into strained, hushed tones. From the street I heard another word that put the whole scene into context for me: drunk. She was drunk. He was drunk. They were clearly drunk.

I’ve worked with enough hard-living folk to know better than to engage people when they’re drunk but I also know that sometimes drawing a private moment of anger out into public can embarrass even drunk folk into deescalation. I asked them if everything was okay.

“Yes, everything’s fine.” Him.

“No, it’s not okay.” Her.

“Do you need me to call the cops?” Me.

“No.” Her.

“Sure.” Him.

“Yeah, go ahead.” Her.

For the moment we were all in agreement. I called the cops and then hung out for about 10 minutes waiting for them to show. He’s feeling pretty smug. She punched him in the face and he’s going to find witnesses. He rides off and she tells me he has her keys and she’s afraid to go home, and by the way, she needs a shot if I’m drinking tonight. I’m not. He comes back. They fight about who’s house it is that he has the keys to. She pays the bills. He buys food. She bought the dog. He pays for it with love. I’m not judging. He rides off again. She asks about nearby bars. I express sympathy for what appears to be a bad night. He comes back and claims not to have her keys anymore. She stomps off toward home. He stays and smugly tells me he’ll wait for the cops. He gets bored, tells me his name and says he’s going home. He rides off. I walk to the corner and can no longer see either of them.

Epic fail.

I stepped out of my house and into other people’s business so I could try to keep a bad situation from getting worse and in the end I accomplished absolutely nothing. They’re both still drunk and angry, only now they’ve presumably gone home to fight rather than doing it where someone my be able to intercede. I feel… awful.

So what do I do? I walk back to my apartment, head swimming with all the ways I’ll intervene more effectively next time (“If you’re scared he’ll come to your house do you have a safe place you could go instead?” “If you think this is all because she’s drunk, do you have a place you can go tonight until you both sleep it off?” The list goes on) and I do the only thing I know to do when I’ve failed. I pray.

Believe me, I’m not the kind of guy who asks God to step in so I don’t have to. I’m not a passive pray-er. I am a roll-my-sleeves-up-and-get-in-the-mess kind of guy but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that more often than I’d care to admit their comes a point where I have to recognize my own inability to effect change in a situation. I hate it, but there it is, none the less. I am infinitely fallible.

If you have ideas about how I could have handled the situation better, I do too. I’d love to hear yours. Also, if you’re in an unhealthy situation in your home and need some support please contact our friends at Sojourner Center (www.sojournercenter.org). They’re fantastic and they’re ready to help. But if you’re just like me and you regularly find yourself in situations where you come face to face with your own limitations, know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, along with every other social worker, nurse, chaplain, paramedic, teacher and anyone else who cares enough to help all the way up to that point where they can’t help anymore. And God is with you too.

It’s a humbling experience, but it’s pretty good company to keep.

April 4, 2013

Giving Away What Really Matters

In my last post I wrote about the difficulties associated with journeying through the darkness to find those things that give life and those things that matter most to us. When we truly discover those things, however, we will still question ourselves. We will quickly look for certainty. Is this who I really am? Is this what I’m really supposed to do?

Faith, is about giving up certainty.

I meet so many people who are looking for work or are unhappy in their current job and just want to follow their dreams and passions. In fact, I go to bed at night thinking about these folks and praying for them. When I wake up in the morning I often ask myself, am I doing enough to help them? But then I doubt. I doubt that there’s anything this terribly flawed pastor, husband and father can do to help others. There’s not enough opportunities out there, not enough time, not enough money. There’s jobs but not the “right” jobs.

Faith, is about giving up certainty.

And then there are the folks who aren’t working, on purpose. Well, sort of. They’ve left corporate jobs, jobs that allowed them to sock away enough savings that, just when those jobs had sucked the last bit of life out of them, they were able to walk away and spend a year or two following opportunities they were passionate about. Yet many of those opportunities don’t exist, they must be created, they must be fought for because our own minds and our world will fight against them. It’s hard to push forward when you start to doubt because you’ve heard “that will never work,” for what seems like the ten-millionth time.

Faith, is about giving up certainty.

Traditionally, the Gospel story that we encounter the week after Easter is the story of “doubting” Thomas. The disciples are huddled away in a room somewhere, heart broken over Jesus’ death and terrified that they may be next. Suddenly, the risen Christ appears to them, only for a few moments, but long enough for their hope to be restored. But everyone wasn’t there. Thomas was out grabbing a bite to eat, or something, and when he returns and hears what should be good news, he’s skeptical. Clearly, his friends are delusional. Thomas must believe without seeing. He must have faith. But he only believes when Jesus reappears, a week later, and Thomas can physically touch him.

Thomas is all of us. We have to see and touch in order to have faith. We have to know something will work, will be successful, profitable or meaningful. We can’t take that first step without certainty.

Faith, is about giving up certainty.

There are days when I’m terrified because I don’t know what’s going to happen a few years down the road or even a few months down the road. I worry about my career, my reputation and I worry about my family more than anything. I want certainty and I want to do whatever is necessary to hedge my bets, to create a safety net and to ensure my future and my family’s well-being in case I fail. I can’t give my time or talents to anyone or anything else because I’m not certain about my own life. Sorry, friends, but you’re on your own.

Okay, so those are my worst days. On my best days I’m that guy who can’t stop thinking about all of those people who just want to follow what they’re passionate about.

The disciples were pursuing what they were passionate about: God’s kingdom made fully known and present on earth; peace, justice and well-being for all of creation. Yet those hopes and dreams were shattered with the death of their leader. It would be faith that would move them forward, faith that is not immune to doubt, but the faith that if we give ourselves away, we will eventually realize the dreams and goals of the kingdom.

Even though Lent is over and we are early into the Easter season, let’s give up one more thing, let’s give up certainty. Let’s have the faith that if we work for the needs of others, that if we help other people follow what they are passionate about, that the rest will be taken care of.

So call that friend, family member or acquaintance and tell them you are here to help. Volunteer at that charity or non-profit that you’ve always been meaning to help with but just couldn’t find the time to (and to read more about the benefits of giving of your time and resources, check this article out),

Give up certainty.

Embrace fatih.

Follow your passion.

Change one life.

Change the world.

March 28, 2013

The Power of Discipline

I really don’t want to write right now.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say (those of you who know me know that I always have something to say), it’s just that I don’t feel like saying it right now. Or, more to the point, I don’t feel like writing it right now. I’d much rather invite you over for a beer and a chat, or get up and share my thoughts in front of a group of people. It’s the writing that feels like a chore. I want to be a writer, and as a pastor without an office of a faith community without a building, writing is an important part of how I do what I do. I know this. I just don’t feel… inspired. Which is precisely why I’m sitting down to write before the end of my Thursday deadline instead of moving into the other room to watch the end of the Wichita State game (go Shockers!). I’m working to develop a discipline.

Discipline. Whenever I hear the word I think of nuns with rulers (whoa, where did that come from? I don’t think I’ve ever even met a ruler-wielding nun!). I think of coercion and harshness and outside expectations and control, all of which I give me hives. perhaps that’s why I’ve pushed back my whole life on being a disciplined person.

The problem is, I want to grow. I am at an age in my life where, though I like who I am, I’d like to learn new things and improve on the things I do now. And, I’m beyond the age where new things seem to come naturally to me. The truth of my life these days is this: it is not too late for me to grow, but it’s going to take work.

It’s going to take discipline. Not the coercive kind, but the kind that involves intentional, methodical practice. That kind that involves developing practices that I do even when I don’t feel like it. Like getting up early to run. Some mornings I feel energized and all I want to do is hit the pavement, but more often than not I wake up feeling groggy and stiff. True physical transformation will only come through running when I really feel like it and when I really don’t.

True transformation takes discipline.

That’s true whether we’re cultivating a skill, like writing or a physical attribute, like fitness. It is also true of cultivating a spiritual life.

Whether it is daily prayer and meditation, weekly participation in a spiritual community, regular service of others, sharing what we have as a reminder that people are more important than things, or sharing our joy and enlightenment with others, cultivating a spiritual life takes regular practice and commitment. If we want to grow beyond where we are right now it requires discipline.

So where are the places you’d like to grow in your life? Are you content with where you are on your spiritual journey or do you believe that there is more out there for you to discover, encounter, become? What practices might stretch you and strengthen you? What disciplines might help grow you into the person you’d like to be?

I hope you’ll share your reflections with us, and consider joining us as we search for the disciplines that are meaningful to our community. I’m excited to see who we might become.

March 21, 2013

The Hard Work of Discovering What Really Matters

I deeply appreciate Holy Week. I don’t think it would sound quite right to say I “love” it or that it’s my favorite part of the Christian liturgical cycle, but I appreciate it. We spend the season of Lent preparing for Holy Week, stripping away those things that distract us and separate us from God and our neighbor. During Holy Week we are faced with dealing with the deep realities of our lives and our world. No longer are we focused on giving up coffee, or social media, or taking on a new spiritual practice, we are pushed to go deeper than that: we must deal with injustice, suffering and death.

The story of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ “grand” entrance into Jerusalem is the beginning of the Holy Week narrative. Jesus’ followers and those who lined the streets for what actually wasn’t such a grand entrance, believed this was a new beginning. And it was a new beginning, however, it was a beginning to a story that had a different ending from the one they expected.

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was a joke compared to how a Roman official would enter a city. Their entrance would have been in true opulent fashion, with armed soldiers in a show of prominence and imperial power. So, Jesus’ entrance is meant to be ironic. He comes in on a young horse (donkey in other gospels) with his ragtag bunch of followers, mocking the roman processional. He’s the humble king, riding into town, not as a military ruler, but as the Messiah, the anointed one, who fights the battles of the world with love, humility, healing, compassion and restorative justice.

We spend so much time in our lives trying to attain that prominence and power, looking to find the next best thing, upgrading, getting a promotion or that big break. The more status we attain, the more stuff we get, the happier we will be; that’s what the world tells us, anyway. However, Jesus’ processional reminds us that it’s not about how flashy our stuff is, but it’s about the values we carry with us.

I’ve been intrigued lately by stories of people and businesses who are moving away from a “profits first, ask questions later” model and are working to build companies and products and cultures that benefit our lives and our world. There’s this story of an entrepreneur and millionaire who, after selling two luxury residences, now lives in a 420 square foot studio apartment because he found it was love, not stuff, that made him happy. Or this story about companies who intentionally pass up higher profits because people and the environment are just as important as making money. These stories are only possible because people were willing to ask the hard the questions and make meaningful changes. Sometimes, you have to walk through the darkness to find the light.

The Holy Week narrative will continue, recounting what happens when love goes up against violence and injustice. Initially love will not win and there will be intense suffering and darkness. There will be questions of God’s justice and goodness. There will be grieving and hope will be a far off fantasy. The Christian story would not be compelling if it ended there because all too often we hear that story, we live that story, where darkness crushes the light, where hate wins out over love.

So we remember that the story never ends there because when we strip away all of those things that we think we need, we uncover something new, things we didn’t think were possible: love, compassion and humility, true meaning and value. It is then that we glimpse the image of God that sits at the core of our being. It’s an image that is buried under so many misconceptions of who we are and what makes us happy, buried under so much pain, suffering and hopelessness. But it’s an image filled with so many possibilities of hope that we find on Easter morning when we discover the tomb is empty. Until we get there, though, we must continue to journey inward, to strip away, to empty ourselves so we can discover those things that really matter.

March 14, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance and the Journey to Becoming

Before I ever went into professional ministry, my degree and my vocation were in Social Work.

I often joke that having a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) is a lot like knowing CPR: you know just enough to understand how bad a situation is and how much worse you could make it by trying to help.

There’s a lot of truth to that statement, But the fact is I learned a great deal in my time as a Social Worker that continues to inform my work as a pastor, including the notion of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our actions are not in keeping with our understanding of who we are. For example, a woman who thinks of herself as kind while recognizing that all of her friends live in fear of her constant ridicule, or a man who thinks of himself as loyal even though he is cheating on his partner are folk living with cognitive dissonance.

As a minister, I often hear one of the most common criticism leveled at church folk – hypocrisy – as an issue of cognitive dissonance. Folk hear the church talking about love and forgiveness while they see it practicing active discrimination and condemnation. Folk hear the church talking about care for those who suffer while we spend most of our time and our resources serving our own members and servicing our own buildings. As a representative of the church I recognize these critiques as valid and well founded. We have a lot of work to do in order to live into the church God is calling us to be.

As Rob and I have gotten to know the vibrant, creative, life-giving community of Downtown Phoenix we have also encountered cognitive dissonance. Every day we meet generous people who care deeply about the service organization in their community but who don’t donate money or volunteer their time. Every day we meet deeply spiritual people who have no spiritual practice, no spiritual community, or no understanding of spirituality that challenges them to grow and thrive. This cognitive dissonance doesn’t make these people any less vibrant, creative, or life-giving – IT DOESN’T MAKE THEM BAD PEOPLE – it just means that they are not living fully into who they want to be in the world.

Think about that for a moment. Are you living fully into who you want to be in the world?

If this resonates with you there’s good news: as a people of faith we believe that it is never too late to grow into who you are called to be. Even better, City Square wants to help you do just that!

See folks, the church has been struggling for centuries with the cognitive dissonance that exists between the ideal God calls us to and the imperfect people we are and, while we’ve yet to get it right, we have gained a great deal of wisdom about what it means to live in this tension that might be useful to you in your own journey.

So if you’re a thinking person think about it, and if you’re a praying person pray about it. Who are you? Are you a kind person? A loving person? A brave person? Are you a person who takes time to care for others? Are you a person who takes time to care for yourself? Are you generous? Are you spiritual? Are you a leader? Are you a person of peace? Would the people around you recognize those things about you? What do you do each and every day to become a little more the person you want to be?

As you wrestle with these questions I hope you’ll share your reflections with us and help us hold a mirror up to ourselves so that, together, we can become more intentional about growing into who we are called to be as a community.

Welcome to the journey. Welcome to City Square Church.

February 11, 2013

February Community & Contemplation

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Gather with folks for a time of singing and reflection on Sunday February 24th at the historic Icehouse, in downtown Phoenix, at 6 p.m. for our second Community & Contemplation service. Our musicians will lead us in singing “secular” songs with spiritual themes. In-between songs will be extended periods of silence. Participants may choose to pray, meditate or make use of provided art supplies throughout the service. The service is open to the public and free professional child care is provided.

RSVP on Facebook

December 19, 2012

We Love Because….

This is a guest post from City Square Church member Jme Willey. Jme and her family attend the Saturday family small group.

My husband and I are “church people,” born into families with 2 Christian parents, raised in the church, attended a “serious” Christian college, married in the church, and have “religiously” attended church as a couple.  We both have testimonies we can share with you sometime. We’ve loved the churches we’ve been a part of, but….

We felt alone – as young adults in the midst of middle aged and older adults.  We struggled to find a sense of community among people who were serious about following God (or at least trying to!) in their personal lives and as a faith community for an extended period of time.  We found institutions more concerned with maintaining the institution than faithfulness to God’s leading.

Then we had lunch with Rob one Monday in September and took the plunge to explore what City Square really was.  At our first small group gathering, we found young people who had experiences both similar and different from ours but who were seeking God and seeking community.  My husband’s first Tuesday night, happy hour, experience helped him find communion. And over the past three months, we’ve had the chance to explore what it means to practice faith together both practically and intellectually with our small group.  In our marriage, we’ve found more opportunities to talk about our faith as we’ve had a chance to be part of a small group together.  As a family, we’ve found a movement that blesses both us and our children.

 As a child, I learned a simple song at church.  The lyrics I recall go:We love, because God first loved us.

We love,

We love,

We love, Because – God – First – Loved – Us.

Our small group has been reading The Awakening of Hope this fall; it explores why Christian faith communities have some of the odd practices they do.  (Other than for a medical reason, do you know anyone who fasts besides a very religious person?  It is a little strange, don’t you think?)  One practice that isn’t covered in the book is the practice of tithing.  Tithing (according to Merriam-Webster) is “to pay or give a tenth part of, especially for the support of the church.” And as followers of Christ, we do this as an act of love with the firstfruits of our labor.  And, we tithe as an act of commitment to and dependence on God.  We do this, as the song says, because God first loved us.

When it comes to tithing, I’m lucky because I started very early, as it was a requirement in my house…My earliest memory about tithing was from when I was about 5 or 6 years old.  I wanted a raise in my allowance, and since we tithed on our allowances I wanted it raised to $1.10 so that I would still have a dollar to spend on other things!  (And yes I now know that wouldn’t have been a true tithe…but it was still fairly good young elementary math!)   Already tithing had become so much a part of my financial practices, that it was simply an automatic response to think about that first 10% as what I gave back to God.  As I grew up, I continued the spiritual discipline of tithing—on allowances, babysitting jobs, part-time jobs in high school and college, and then as a grown-up.

Tithing is something I’ve never felt resentful about, it’s something I do cheerfully and willingly knowing that God asks me to do it. I know all that I have is God’s in the first place, so giving 10% back is really a fairly small offering to make.

We still aren’t sure how God might be leading City Square into the future, but we are excited to see how the Spirit leads our new faith family forward.  We are thrilled to be a part of a movement focused on faithfulness to God but not restricted by the encumbrances of a large institution and bulky “possessions”.  As we become more involved in the movement, we find ourselves not only wanting to attend City Square functions, but wanting to share our talents and our financial gifts too. God has blessed us with City Square and we want to thank God for this exciting new movement.

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If you feel led to make a financial pledge to City Square Church in 2013, we invite you to fill out this form.