This weekend we are embarking on an adventure at fresh life as we begin one of the most powerful and life-changing books of the Bible — the book of Philippians. At several of our locations we are adding worship experience times to alleviate overcrowding and to create open seats for new people. I believe that this fall is going to be a special and powerful season in the life of our church as we go through the Rampart series.
Get details, campus information, send e-vites, tweet about Rampart and more here.
We are in the middle of an annual event at Fresh Life called Rock This City. It all started when we studied the book of Nehemiah and saw his heart to build up the glorious ruins of Jerusalem. God filled us with a desire to do the same in the state of Montana. During this 10 day period we are in a full-on blitz to unleash Christ’s love right where we live. This is now the fourth summer in a row we have done this and it is one of the most special things on our calendar. We have enjoyed it so much that we have opened it up to other churches and it has been awesome to see different churches working together.
Though the “ask” from each person is small — six hours in the course of 10 days — the end result is massive. It is amazing to think that through community service, collaboration with the Parks and Rec departments and partnerships with non-profits we are able to donate thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of work. In some cases getting projects done that a city didn’t have the time or resources to take on. Everyone who serves gets a shirt and so as you drive around town or cruise around Instagram you are seeing #rockthiscity in action.
This year we have ramped up the focus on families serving together. Children have always been allowed to participate but this year we have made it a point to foster and encourage their involvement like never before. Seeing kids in tiny little Rock This City shirts are definitely adorable, but I love the fact that the kids of Fresh Life are learning to love and serve their community while spending quality time with their parents.
I’ll admit that there is a sadness mixed in with the excitement of all of this. Today marks exactly eight months since Lenya’s departure. Approaching Rock This City for the first time without her has been hard. Doing events together as a family is always a blast and it was very challenging to “suit up” and head to our events without her by our side. The first activity we picked was cleaning up a neighborhood park that had been severely neglected. There were so many weeds coming through the gravel all around the playground equipment that you couldn’t tell there were even rocks under it all. As we were getting ready to go and brought out our gardening equipment from the garage there were her little princess gloves sitting there. Deep breath in.
I couldn’t help but think of last summer. Our final event we did was a “choose your own adventure” meaning that it wasn’t planned but one we came up with as a family. We decided to bake cookies and bring them to City Hall, the Fire-station and to local paramedics. The girls spent a long time in the kitchen baking and then we made our rounds handing out boxes with notes saying thanking them for serving us. Even Clover, then a baby, was wearing a custom-made RTC shirt.
A few of the firefighters were super kind. They gave the girls a tour and showed them where the ambulances and firetrucks were parked. None of us could know then that one of those same vehicles would carry her to the hospital in four months. I love that Lenya got to show Jesus’ love to the same people that would heroically try to save her life. I was told by one of the paramedics later on that two of the EMT’s came to Fresh Life on Christmas eve in her honor and responded to the invitation. God works all things together for good. Nothing is wasted.
I have been working out with a heart rate monitor this summer. At first it kind of freaked me out. Watching my heart respond to the stress I was putting it through was crazy, and sometimes discouraging. (I think I might be a hummingbird) The worst was determining my max-heart rate, which is usually somewhere around 220 minus your age but can be higher or lower. I took my road bike up a steep mountain road as fast as I could and three-quarters of the way into the climb found out just how fast my heart can beat. At one point I was convinced it was going to explode.
Usually when I ride I am focusing on speed and cadence. How fast I am going and how many times in a minute my pedals are turning. Now I am not just thinking about my legs and lungs while riding, I am also watching my heart. One article I read suggested that long rides keeping your heart in a low zone are better for you than just constantly riding yourself into the ground. Though it seems counterintuitive, by riding slower you can supposedly become faster.
As a result I have taken a number of rides where my goal has been solely to keep my heart in certain zones. This has been harder than I would have thought. On the flat roads it’s not a big deal as I found my typical riding pace kept me in the sweet spot naturally. But downhill I have to work like crazy to keep my heart from dropping too low.
The most difficult and at times humiliating, has been anytime there is an incline in the road. Since this is Montana (mountain in spanish) that is very often. I love to accelerate and bound up hills but if I do that my heart goes too fast. On steep sections I have to slow down so much that it is hard to stay upright, my heart just one beat away from breaking into a zone I am trying to avoid. On one of these hills I was actually passed by a chick–a soccer mom on a ten-speed. It bothered me more than I care to admit.
Earlier this week I posted about the way a marriage transitions from honeymoon to real life. The emotional high of getting married inevitably fades with time as it becomes normal. Everything is awesome at first because it all feels so amazing, but feelings aren’t enough in the longterm. You must fight to honor God and your spouse even when you don’t feel it anymore.
It got me thinking. Grief is the same way. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Very much like the first few months after a wedding, when you are grieving, there are overwhelmingly intense emotions that seem like they will last forever. They don’t. Facing the death of someone you love is also like getting married in that maybe the hardest part is what happens when things start to quiet down.
In the initial aftermath of grief everything is on fire. There is such wild, extreme, blinding pain that at times you can’t believe it’s possible to feel so bad and it’s hard to imagine you will ever feel good again. This slowly subsides. This is where it gets truly challenging though. Shock and surprise act like an emotional anesthesia, and as they wear off you feel everything. Continue reading…
When you first get married there is a newness to it that causes everything to glow. It is surreal, like living in a dream. No more saying goodbye at the end of the night. No more falling asleep with your mobile phone because after you dropped her off you still wanted to talk as you drove home and got ready for bed, brushed your teeth and drifted off together. (Thanks Verizon.) Now you get to brush your teeth together!
When Jennie and I first got married we didn’t want to leave the house. We had spent our engagement at church, restaurants, other people’s houses and public places in order to avoid being alone in our two apartments like the plague. We knew ourselves and our desire for each other too well to put ourselves in a place of temptation. So once we said “I do” we had no desire to go out. We played board games, cooked, ordered food in, and pretty much became shut-in’s. It was awesome. A new marriage is like a new car, everything is so fresh and magical.
This is a wonderful thing but it is not sustainable. The euphoria and newness of it all has no choice but to give way to the reality and inevitably of life. Goosebumps can’t last forever. Marriage is an endurance sport. You can cultivate those initial feelings by doing the first things but you can’t count on them. Try as you might that elusive new car smell can’t be kept longterm. Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing.