Monday, September 17, 2012

On Seeing the Church Around My Kitchen Table

In this college town, the nations have arrived by plane and train and automobile. I love the mess out of them and find something among them, a taste of heaven maybe, right here in these rolling hills and saturday night lights. I am home. This summer was spent planning a new program at the University called Campus Cousins, after last years life-chainging relationship with my international friends.

This year any American college student/family can connect with international students through the I-Friend program and I love making the connections and seeing the fruit. If you live in NW Arkansas, come out to meet some international friends this Saturday--details here. 

Today I had a lunch with international friends and American friends and American friends who smell food across the way and sit down at my table and eat. There is plenty to go around it tastes too good. I laugh too loud and talk too much but we all do and I love the church a little bit more, right here as we are gathered around this table and laugh hope into our doubts, talk joy into our mundane because it is all sweeter when we meet like this, when we are more then ourselves and it matters becuase there are ears to hear and eyes to see, ears and eyes that have never heard or seen but we don't put on a show.

We are just the church and it is real and it is home. See this, He whispers. Take a deep breath of the joy, exhale the hope because this is my bride whom I am coming for. Remember her clothed like this, sitting at your table.

One next to me, her brown skin, she speaks of the church with fear and frustration and her eyes get small and her lips beg of a new subject. I push a little more as the Spirit prompts and she tells me in her country, if she doesn't go the building to worship and doesn't memorize the bible and if she doesn't do these things, she will go to this very bad place, or so those people tell her. The ones behind the walls of the building called church, they tell her. So she pushes it all away--the building and the bad place and the bible and the relief floods sight to her eyes again and she smiles and speaks and her words pierce.

"And that's why I don't go the church." She concludes and asks me about cooking the meat. 

I drive home from dropping them off and inhale these breaths of fall and I pray that He would give these new friends, friends from Korea and India and Japan and Indonesia, eyes to see and ears to hear. That our words would penetrate and the fear of the church and the religion and the hell and the works would all pass away as loving Jesus breathes death to life right here around this kitchen table. Isn't that the hope to which we have been called? The love for our neighbor we are commanded?

It feels a little hopeless, a little overwhelming—the need greater then the workers. Some days, it feels lonely, time wasted. But today it was right and I smell heaven right here because the church showed up and I needed to know it just as much as they do.

Like this morning we were studying the church at Ephesus and I think of them as I hear her talk about this church at Korea and I just hear Jesus words. "I have this against you--that you have abandoned the love you had at first."

It is all important of course, the the church and the works and the hell and the theology and such. But today I realized it is too important to me sometimes.

Don't abandon the love you had at first, Courtney. 

The church around my kitchen table--that's important too. A simple apology to my friend who hates the church, an apology because we are the bride and He is coming.

Our Lunch Crew
And when the nations come here, right here to this little college town and call it home for a year, I hope they see the church without ever setting foot inside a building that reeks too much of hell and their eyes that can't yet see and the nose just too sensitive to discern the sweet aroma just yet—so we make more.

I hope that we reeked of sweetness today. 

Love them and train their nostrils to smell in the process. Make sweet smells in the kitchen and gather around close and tell stories and talk gospel as much as you live it in the cooking and eating and cleaning and maybe, maybe then the church door won't seem like a really bad place and the working to earn something will cease with the work of Christ that is already complete.

I hope the bride clothed in righteousness can be identified here in this town—at Walmart, on campus, at the park, and around my kitchen table. I hope the church will flood these hearts from abroad with grace, as they preach of the way, the truth and the life because these hearts are so deceived, so cold to the building and the hell it stands for. Good thing He is about redemption, even so in His Bride. 

I don't know the proper ratio of love and wrath, heaven and hell, works and service, sinfulness and redemption. I don't know.

I learn new ways to evangelize and prepare for an afternoon of sports and a night of speaking gospel stories over the fire while eating hotdogs in the buns...I still doubt and wonder and mess up and say too much too fast or not enough fast enough and then she is gone or she pulls away and I still just don't know the right answers sometimes.

But the more time I spend in the company of these internationals, the more I just realize that God is so much bigger then I credit Him and the more I find strength in the church, in my brothers and sisters linked up in heart and vision and then it just seems right, not knowing all the answers I mean.

This morning we worshipped inside the building as one and it was more authentic and heavenly then ever before and it carried right over into lunch and the smell drew in some hungry hearts and I wish I could see it more and more because Jesus, he cast out demons and he healed and he bound up the broken. When the disciples tried this and failed they came to him asking why they couldn't do it and he called them a "faithless and twisted generation" and he cast out the demon and told them they only needed more faith.

I think if John wrote to the church at America, he might just say "Don't abandon the faith you had at first."

So bride, the groom is coming. Let us learn faith to move mountains with a grain of mustard seed, or move hearts with a meal shared around the kitchen table.

Just a single seed, church--then let faith move the nations. 
Part of our lunch crew

new friends!

I made two dishes in the crockpot and tons of rice...turned out so good! Will share recipes soon :)

Cake Balls....delish

Yang Hye and me, my new friendship family student

My boss Mary and her student with me and my student!

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