Key thought from today's post: This church (First Presbyterian of Brandon) didn't turn into the vibrant, joy-filled, "City on a hill" kind of a place it is today just because a few people believe... it has moved from possibility into actuality because people have had the courage to live out loud - living every day in the truth of what they believe!
Yesterday evening Rebekah and I had dinner with some friends, people we haven't seen since we left Pensacola 13 years ago!
Jon B. was the music director at Trinity Presbyterian back in those days; now he runs an Internet business in Kentucky and plays keyboards for the praise-band and the choir a big Methodist congregation in Bowling Green. Marcella, like me, was an exceptional education teacher - she still works in the field.
The first thing we all noticed was how none of us have aged more than a couple of years since 1996!
We talked a lot about our children, the currents that have steered our lives, the dynamics of working on a church staff (like Rebekah, Jon was not a neat, predictable, cut-out model from the "church staff catalog"!), our extended families and what is important in our lives...
And we talked about the undeniable fact that - more often than not - life is not easy. Life comes at all of us hard, sometimes - some more than others. But the pressing question - as Rob Bell pointed out so eloquently the other evening - is not "Why?" so much as "Now what?"
I've got to think that Rob Bell has been reading the same Bible that Rebekah has! Rebekah's big, over-arching, question is always this... "So what?"
"So what?" takes what happens, the scripture we have read, the facts that we know, the disappointments that sometimes cascade, and the pain that comes our way despite our faith or our belief or our confidence - and it asks this: "What are we going to do with all this?" and "How does our faith equip us to move forward and to live abundant lives?"
Because, here's the thing: Even if we could understand the "why?" behind the difficulties, we still have to live in the here and now. And this is where my mantra comes in. "Live as if we mean it; because God most certainly does."
And we all talked for over two hours, and we shared some of all that, and we were encouraged and refreshed by our time together.
So today, reflecting on the good time with friends and all the memories, I've been thinking about the 13 years (this week) that Rebekah and I been here in Brandon. And I'm realizing that, sometimes, it's not enough to simply believe, we have to live in the truth of what we believe.
In fact I'm convinced that's one of the key reasons we've seen so much happen here that is positive and authentic and encouraging. This church (First Presbyterian of Brandon) didn't turn into the vibrant, joy-filled, "city on a hill" kind of a place it is today just because a few people believe... it has moved from possibility into actuality because people have had the courage to live out loud, living every day in the truth of what they believe!
And the same is true in our personal lives. There's a chapter in my new book titled "We can't sit on this Gospel." Gospel means "good news." Believe me, it's better news when we begin to live as if we believe rather than simply talking about it!
There's a lot of room for more abundant living - both in church and in the way I deal with my day to day. But I feel like we've got a good running start. It's really kind of exciting!