Friday, September 27, 2013

The BondFire Initiative

We were sensing a hunger among the people of HMC to return to a real place of personal connection.  We believe that relationship is essential to building a strong and caring community.  There is much to be said for intensive theological study or radical prayer meetings but without relationship it can all fall a little flat.  Ministry can and will thrive when our relationships are vibrant and strong.

We wanted to provide an opportunity to casually gather beyond the walls of our church building, a chance to get to know one another better, an occasion to laugh and play together, and a safe environment to invite others into participation with the HMC family.  

Thus was born The BondFire Initiative.

If you could spend a little time listening in on the brainstorming that goes around our staff table you would quickly learn that naming something - whether it be an event, a series or a sermon - is a massive undertaking of navigating  a circle of seemingly incompatible creative leanings while balancing various levels of 'cheese-factor-appreciation.'  It is a fun and frustrating ordeal that (more often than not) yields great bounty; and, once something is named, excitement seems to overflow around it and we suddenly become a hive of activity working towards making that event happen.  

BondFire happened to be one of the easier decisions (much to the gleeful delight of Pastor Lynday, who is such a fan of James Bond films that she came bubbling into the office on one of her days off just to share that she had timed things perfectly in lining up for Mescha's new dog tag: #007!).  Of course, we had been leaning towards the verb - to be bonded - to be bound together - but Mr. Bond was a happy accident.  And what better way to 'BOND' than around a fire stoked by good conversations and delicious shared goodies?

We scheduled weekly campfires every Sunday night throughout the summer as a low key venue for community.  Congregants offered their properties and fire pits.  They made homemade signs and made space for a port-a-potty.  With everything in place, all that remained was to see if people would invest in such a vision.

And they did!  People came!  Some weeks saw large numbers, others were a smaller group, but they came!  They brought their lawn chairs and their blankets and more than enough snacks and stories to share around and everyone just enjoyed the warm, low-pressure company of one another - out beneath the gorgeous summer skies.  We bonded.  And we are stronger for it.

Long ago, we used to sing this old Gaither chorus and though it's no longer part of our musical repitoire I think it really is part of the heartbeat of what HMC wants to be:

I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God 
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! 
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
for I'm part of the family, the family of God.

If The BondFire Initiative accomplished anything, I'd say it is just this: we are a family.  And as the song goes on to say, "When one has a heartache we all share the tears, we rejoice in each victory in this family so dear."  

Welcome home, weary wanderer, welcome home!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Twelve Step: Are You Ready For Change?

Shared by Heather on Sunday, September 15, 2013:

I love Deuteronomy chapter 30.  If time permitted, I’d read you the entire chapter, but here are two verses:  "I place before you Life and Death, Blessing and Curse. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him".   Deut 30:19-20

I work with teens on a daily basis and I have for several decades.  I love working with teenagers but there is an ever increasing level of openness about dysfunction which makes even a seasoned veteran like me…cringe. It becomes challenging to understand why people get stuck, why they can’t get past things they’ve experienced…sometimes far in the past.

My son once shared that when he was attending a small group, he asked for prayer.  Someone in the group piped up, "What could you possibly need prayer for…you come from a secure home, you’ve had many advantages – everything in your life looks good.” He felt shut down. He wanted to bring his needs to God, but he was supposed to be OK.

Sometimes the things that we need prayer for are not the things that anyone would assume.

Personally, I like to manage people's impressions of me.  Success in the workplace can mask the unmanageability of life at times.  I really struggle with being joyful and feeling free in my spirit.  I am nervous about the fallout of disclosure.  Friendships that I have invested in haven’t always been what I hoped for.  Life hasn’t always been as stable as I thought it should be. So, facing the possibility that there might be some unresolved dysfunction in my own life, I joined Twelve Step two years ago.

Twelve Step is the kind of group – where the assumption is “we all have stuff that we are dealing with”.

There were 60 people in Twelve Step when I joined. However, almost every night we broke into small groups to work through the material and pray. My small group was an amazingly honest, resilient group of people, all humble enough to admit areas of dysfunction and desiring to set the past behind with God’s help and move ahead.  There wasn’t one person around the table that struggled with the same issue, but we all wanted help to get unstuck.

I needed help to see how some of my “justifiable” feelings are actually sin.  Through a multi week process I learned that some of my defects are deep character traits on which I have depended for survival.  To release them means to let go of a way of life.

I learned that I needed to change the way I pray.  For example, I have often prayed for God to heal broken relationships – but I learned that when I do that, I am really demanding an outcome from God.  That is a lot different than saying to God “I have failed in my relationships” because it is that kind of humility that allows us to understand how God sees us.  It is letting go of pride and asking God to act on our behalf.

Two years ago, when I began Twelve Step,  I wrote in my workbook that there were three things I feared.  They all had to do with abandonment. One was my son moving away and one was the death of a parent.

Well, here I am two years later. God knew what I needed to surrender before I did.  I find that God is like that!

For much of my adult life, I had difficulty to just throw my arms around my dad and give him a big hug even though he was one of my very favourite people in the world.  As I worked through some of my stuff – I found myself able to embrace my father and hold on to him in what turned out to be the last year of his life.

In Twelve Step I primarily felt growth from my own process of working through the material to help direct me to God. There is homework and it is important to do it.  But I learned a lot from my group too.  I learned how they had coped with issues in their lives and that taught me some things.  I especially learned a lot by listening to the men in my group – because they shared some perspectives that I needed to hear. I felt some of the edge of my anger and fear dissipate.  Most importantly and unexpectedly, I felt my capacity to love and understand others increase.

So for those of you who are under the impression that Twelve Step is for the Russell Brands of this world - alcoholics, drug, sex or video game addicts…you are correct.  However, if you would like recovery from addiction to resentment, fear, repressed or inappropriate anger, approval seeking, controlling behaviour, fear of abandonment.  If you’d like recovery from frozen feelings, low self-esteem, an over developed sense of responsibility or irresponsibility, or inappropriately expressed  sexuality…. Twelve Step might just be a tool that can help point YOU to the ultimate source of our help.

Twelve Step is NOT easy.  It is a not superficial social time.  There is no obligation to share your intimate details with others.  Your comfort zone might be pushed by some of the dysfunctions that others disclose -  but the stuff that we all deal with is just sin in many different forms.  And the negative impact of sin is shockingly similar for all of us. No one singles you out…..unless Connie asks you to do an announcement two years later!

Twelve step is a spiritual journey…I’m still on it. So, I’d like to encourage you that if this is a journey you are being compelled to take….sign up! 

The Twelve Step kicked off with it's first meeting last night.  If you weren't able to attend, please consider joining in next Tuesday night, September 24.  This will be the last open meeting, following that it will become a closed group to protect the confidentiality of the people taking this life-changing journey.

You can learn a little bit more by visiting the Twelve Step page on our website.