This is life.

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I came home last night around 10pm. My wife had told me that our daughter was still up, which is unusual for her.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened when I opened the front door. My 7.5 month year old daughter saw me, and before I could take another step in the house she squealed. A toothless, dribbling laugh that arrested all my worries, and incarcerated by concerns. Then she started to jump ecstatically on my wife’s lap, and beckoned me toward her newly created euphoric space, with her plump little hands.

I breathed in every last drop of her sweet happy dance, and burst into a smile. After exiting the stage of the days events, where I am judged on my performance, and critiqued on my output, it is soul restoring to slip behind the proscenium, and be anointed by the rich adoration of my daughter. Not because I performed, but because I exist.

In that moment she transformed ordinary life into a eucharistic act, and became a faithful witness of God’s unfettered love to me.

This

Is

Life.

Friends In Church. Do or Die

In 2007 I packed my bags and was driven to Keele University in the midlands of England. I arrived with no friends, zero. I didn’t know anyone who was going to the same university, much less anyone who was pursing the same degree as I was. I quickly started to interact with my suite mates, and faces that were nameless in my 200 strong Law class started to have stories and experiences attached to them. We also debated in labs made up of 15 or so students, and we rubbed shoulders in social activities that most remembered through the fog of a rabid hangover, “the morning after the night before”. I listened, slept, missed and suffered through dozens of lectures each semester with the same people. Yet our shared experience of listening to a talking head for two hours at a time, for two years didn’t magically draw all 200 of us into intimate relationships with each other. The same is true in church family, our shared experience of listening to a sermon, may lift our spirits, but it doesn’t magnetically draw us to each other.

Paul in Romans 16 is getting ready to “land the plane” as it were, he is no longer navigating heady theological concepts, rather he is wrapping up his book with greetings to friends and family. Paul’s greeting reveal the church in Rome consisted of units ( affinity groups if you wish) that he acknowledged and addressed : v16:1-5 Phobe, Priscilla & Aquila and the church that meets in their home, v14 Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, v15 Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints.

The church that Paul was writing to was not a single thumping entity, but rather an aggregate of families, and groups. There were congregations meeting in homes, and some were bound by blood ties as well as spiritual bonds. Additionally Paul mentions by name his relatives v7 Andronicus and Junia  v11. Herodian  v21 Lucius, Jason and Sosipater. Lastly Paul sends a heartfelt greeting to individuals that he was especially close to through shared experiences.

Acts 2:42-47 is sometimes hijacked to mean “the church must be a commune of people with no property rights, sharing daily potlucks and bank accounts.” Another train of thought goes like this: “if this church was really Christian then we would all be friends, one big happy family and everyone would know if I was sick and didn’t come to church. My church isn’t like that, therefore it is full of uncaring hypocrites.” I can understand the frustration of being a young person in a church, and feeling utterly disconnected with the larger body. I know what it feels like to debate going to your local church or visiting “bedside Baptist church” for the third time in a month. I get it, really, I’ve been there got the t-shirt, and taken the instagram picture.

The problem with this expectation of church being a grand perfectly connected organism of happy people is that it’s not even biblical. Paul’s greetings are to groups of people who constitute a body. It is not sinful to be drawn to people in church who share similar passions, interests or jobs, and we shouldn’t begrudge such natural groupings. Of course if they intentionally and systematically segregate themselves to the exclusion of others, that is a problem. So please, if you are a young person who is drifting from church to church, looking for the congregation that lays out the red carpet for you and where every family and group invites you home for lunch – good for you, keep looking. I mean that sincerely, we should aim for welcoming atmospheres for outsiders, but the day will come where you have to mourn for your dead expectations of homogenous friendship groups. Unless you intentional set out to make friends, connect, and attach you will be continually disappointed by your 11am Sabbath experience. On many levels if you want a satisfying experience on Sabbath, you need to cultivate the ground before you can realistically expect seeds to flourish. Do not begrudge those who naturally form groups within your church if they are loving Christian people, they have the right to do that, and they are not being “worldly” by doing so.

Friends

What can you do this week (at church and outside) to meaningfully connect and build a relationship with some one?

5 Non-negogtiables. The Results

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Relationship Results

Thank you all for voting!

It seems that those who voted are looking for someone who is, the same denomination, honest and ambitious. This is wonderful! What I find very interesting though is that finding someone attractive is 4th on people’s list of non-negotiables. I was certainly not expecting that! The joint fifth most popular were financial stability and liking children.

Of course this little exercise was far from scientific, but it confirms to me that those who are looking for a relationship are not interested in shallow or superficial traits. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to finding someone that fulfils your 5 non-negotiables is impatience. Like Easu who sold his birthright for a pot of lentils. Impatience can cause us to sacrifice future blessing for temporary gratification. If you are with someone or considering being with someone that only fulfils 1 or 2 of your non-negotiables then you should really reconsider if the benefit of temporary loneliness, outweighs longterm misery. I submit that it’s not.

Habakkuk 2:3 (CEV)

3At the time I have decided,  my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting–   it will happen!

Relationships: 5 Non Negotiable’s

Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe not. But I’ve had quite a few conversations since the turn of the year concerning relationships. It seems to me that if you don’t know what you’re looking for then you leave yourself wide open to a lot of junk. I think it’s important to spend time thinking about what really matters to you. 3 years ago I was asked a question, and I want to throw it out to you, and get your opinion. Here is the question: In choosing a partner, what are your 5 non negotiable’s?

Feel free to leave comments below or add additional categories.

Bone Collectors

I spent hours on the phone, skype, tango, viber, vtok, gmail sending messages and speaking with people. I spoke to my aunt all the way in Ghana and struggled through the Twi  New Year’s Greeting.

Afehyia Pa! ( this means “good year”)

and the response is

Afe nko mbo to hyen (this basically means “may this year go and meet us again”)

After we spoke and laughed, and wished each other the best for 2012, my aunt caught sight of my wife walking in the background (I was on a video call.) As they were speaking my aunt said something that was cutting and profound. She said that she was glad I had found my rib and she could tell how happy I was (awww). Then she said “yeah because sometimes people chase the wrong bones and become so unhappy” (wooow.)

Guys if you are looking for your rib, wait on God. Don’t go into 2012 with a bag of bones. Let go of that elbow, or kneecap, it just pokes or kicks you anyways.  Stop being a bone collector. Drop the bag, and ask the bone maker to bring you your rib!

Genesis 2:21-22

Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs[a] and then closed up the place with flesh.22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib[b] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.