Posts Tagged St Louis
Please join us for the 11th annual Black Heritage Celebration at New City Fellowship on Saturday, February 28, at 6:30.
Our theme for the evening is “To God Be The Glory” based on the Andraé Crouch song, “My Tribute.” Crouch passed away last month and we will be performing a couple of his songs in the concert to celebrate God’s work through him as a composer and worship leader.
In our planning, we the musicians talked about the passage from John 9 about the man born blind who Jesus healed. The question was asked about why he was born that way and Jesus’s response was that this happened that the works of God would be displayed in him. So as we remember the heritage of African Americans, we might ask “why did so much evil and suffering have to happen in our nation?” and we can look to this blind man, his healing and his testimony to see that all people and cultures exist to display the works of God, for his glory alone. We remember the past works of God in Black community and culture because HIS glory is woven into their story for all to see, and we can all praise Him for the things He has done.
Please pray for our choir directors, Michelle Higgins and Noelle Becker who both have stomach flu running through their family this week. (Also, pray for my wife and the other spouses who have to care for the kids during extra rehearsals this week.)
Please pray for the unity and bond of peace from the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of everyone involved.
Please pray for Thurman Williams, one of the pastors at Grace and Peace Fellowship who will be bringing a sermon.
Please pray for the long, slow healing process that our region is going through this year.
I might be entering into a phase of life when the basic work of living life takes up all my time such that there’s no time left for contemplative activities like writing. Living life right now consists of some fun new developments that are part of my calling to follow Jesus. He has invited us into some scary places, but His rod and staff are a comfort and the yoke He has placed on our shoulders is both “the cross” in that it costs everything and yet it is also “the empty tomb” because it gives everlasting life.
Currently, my family is hosting two foster children. One is a 3 year old boy who is a non-stop flow of questions and energy. He has been with us for 6 months now and he is still wrestling with both the trials of his formal home as well as the loss of his former life. The other foster placement which we just received last week is a 4 week old infant who is still a little bit in shock that the womb-home of her mother has been replaced with a loud and crazy home of big kids, dog barking and strange caregivers. Currently, she needs to be held and rocked and swaddled almost constantly when she is awake.
Fostering is a strange life. It’s hard to describe it to people who haven’t lived it. It’s both intensely personal as you become “Daddy” overnight to a stranger and yet it’s intensely impersonal as you are treated with cold, professional indifference by the vast bureaucratic web that these kids are caught up in. Foster parents are asked to love and nurture a child in their home as one of their own all the while knowing that at any moment a phone call could bring an abrupt end to your relationship with this child.
The other thing that I have going on this summer is a little project in the works that a few of my colleagues and I are cooking up. We have called it the “Worship Ministry Workshop” and it’s a kind of low-key conference to encourage and equip our volunteers. I’m working together with Michelle Higgins and Mary Higgins from South City Community Church and Jules Gikundiro and Adina O’Neal from New City Fellowship – South to put this together. The plan is that we will give our volunteers an time to draw near in intimacy with Christ without rehearsal agendas, to receive gospel-refreshment directed at our particular struggles as worship musicians, and then to share some of our vision for what God can accomplish through our teams.
At this time, I am filled with anticipation for what God is doing in his musician servants in St Louis right now. The ground is tilled and the season is approaching for a Spirit-filled movement in this city to see a new thing come into being, a new wine-skin of songs and expressions for a new generation of saints. I mean something bigger than the next flavor-of-the-month music trend. I’m talking about a revival of the Holy Spirit working to heal and restore this broken, fractured city into the family of Christ. Of course, he’s always at work, but I just feel like his Spirit is opening the eyes of my heart to see how vast his love is for this community.
You can learn more and register for the Worship Ministry Workshop here: http://wmw.ticketleap.com/worshipstl/
One of the realities that we deal with in STL is the fear of the city. Many people who live in the greater St Louis metropolitan area are afraid of going into certain parts of the city. For some, the line is north of Delmar Ave. For others, it’s east of Skinker. One person I met in St Charles, once told me that they never cross “the bridge” into St Louis COUNTY!
There are several reasons for this fear being perpetuated in the community. Some of it is racism – this place that people fear is predominantly black (our neighborhood is 98% black). Some of it is class-ism – there’s not a lot of money in our part of town. Some of the fear comes from the myth of a violent and chaotic inner city perpetuated by the media – all the news stories that come from our community are about violence. Sometimes people read statistics about our neighborhood. Statics are not always truth, and they can be used to created fear combined with the false impression that these fears are ground in scientific facts. Its a mess and it breaks my heart to think that these fears are probably not going to go away for a long time.
Honestly, I’m a musician and so I can’t speak with authority on any of the causes of the fear of the city. However, I can tell you about my life in one of the most dangerous cities in America these past 4 years. Basically, it’s been kind of boring. Not that it hasn’t been fun; it’s just that there hasn’t been a lot of action. We’ve had some possessions stolen (pretty typical to living in close proximity to humans). We have some drugs and other illegal stuff on the block – just like I had back at my Christian high school. I haven’t been violently attacked (like I was during my freshman year at the University of Tennessee, on campus, by a white dude in a North Face vest – but that’s another story).
There are some fears that I still have. I’m not that thrilled about walking alone in my neighborhood. I don’t like to let my kids play outside of our fence without parental supervision (we have a lot of pedestrian traffic.) Sometimes, we call the police because of hearing or seeing strange activity (gun shots, loitering, trespassing, drunkenness). Some fears are no longer an issue for me. I have met my neighbors so that I see a lot less “suspicious strangers” and see more friendly smiles. Trust in our neighbors also means that we feel like there are people who are looking out for us and who would stand up to defend us if we were in a dangerous situation. We matter to our neighbors and so the city is no longer a mysterious place of crime and violence, but a home where we belong and we feel accepted.
My blog is called “Worship in the City”. For us, life in the city is an expression of worship just as much as the songs that I prepare every week. The kingdom of God is something that takes our whole lives into service as we live our resurrection life in Jesus. There is no fear of anything when we have the love of Christ who is our peace. I want to emphasize that our life in the city is not some kind of holy martyrdom as if we are making some kind of grand sacrifice to “survive” in the big bad city. Rather, we get to live the abundant life of the NEW CITY expressed in the love and community we share in simply living together as an expression of the gospel. This passage from Romans 12: 9-21 sums up a lot of what I’m thinking and it’s been for Sarah and me a kind of mission statement for our family:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- My kids are completing their 3rd week of school and I have never been more thankful for the work of righteousness being fulfilled at the Freedom School.
- Last week, I was able to share music at the wedding of a former drug dealer and gang-banger who is now walking in faith and living in grace. He requested one song in particular, “What’s Gonna Make Me Long” by my dad.
- On Sunday, my wife had the first of what we hope will be many dinners with our Music Team volunteers. She hopes to have everyone on the team over for dinner in groups of 3 or 4 until we’ve hosted all of them. We are so thankful for the work of righteousness that God is doing through the NCF music ministry.
- On Monday, we met with our friend Emily Nienhuis, who works for One Heart Family Ministries. The Lord seems to be leading us back into the world of foster care. As a family, we have been through a lot of disappointments in the past 2 years. It’s been so hard to trust our Good Shepherd in the “valleys” as well as in the “green pastures”. More and more the Lord is bringing us to a place of complete dependence and trust for daily grace. We are going to get re-licensed to foster hopefully in the next two months. We plan to complete 9 weeks of training in 6 weeks, so there’s that to look forward to.
- On Tuesday, my wife and I went downtown to buy the empty lot next to our home at a land tax sale. This process has brought a deeper sense of community with our neighbors who purchased the other half of the lot. It’s also given me a new appreciation for my neighborhood and the works of righteousness that God is doing in the great city of STL!
- Yesterday, I led a group of NCF musicians who shared their gifts at the St. Louis University School of Public Heath Convocation. We had a great time, and it stretched us all to play our music in a different context. I’ve already said it, but I am so thankful for my team!
- What’s next? Choir rehearsals start next weekend as well as NCF’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.
Watch this video.
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but werejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved byhis life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
In talking about relocation into the inner city, John Perkins talks about how it makes the problems of the city my problems, too. When there’s violence or crime, it’s my problem, too. When there’s fear or sorrow, it’s my problem, too. When the only time people hear about your neighborhood is when something bad happens, that’s my problem too. When the homes in the city become vacant because of foreclosure, that’s my problem, too.
The Messiah gave us an example of how we aught to pursue the kingdom of God. His example was in the incarnation. Jesus entered into the Roman occupation where a claim to be a leader could get you executed. Jesus entered into the world of Israel’s continuing exile where they longed to be reestablished as the covenant people of YHWH where the farce of Herod’s temple would be destroyed.