I talk about my Noonday Collection sisterhood a lot… and for good reason. These women pretty much funded half of Sydney’s Kickstarter campaign for her first EP two years ago and they’re quite literally the main reasons we’ve been able to stay on the road for this long. During our devotional time the other morning, Jamie said, “Your Noonday friends have truly been our church.” It’s a beautiful reflection of what this community has been for our family. Most of the homes and churches we’ve been invited to on the road have been through my connections with women I’ve either traveled with to Peru or Uganda, but some of these connections have been strictly through Facebook friendships. That’s the case with my friend Amy.
When I mentioned our family would be traveling through the great state of Mississippi, Amy reached out and offered us a place to stay. It really does go to show you how much the Lord was stretching us. The thought of spending the night at someone’s house we didn’t actually know was NOT something Jamie would have done before this trip. Never. But, the Lord was stripping away a lot of pretenses and pride. We were also longing for a real shower… one where you didn’t need flip-flops when you got in.
One of the things I love about the Stackler family is how genuine they are. From the moment we pulled in and their kids ran out to greet us, we knew they were “our people.” Our prayer from the very beginning was for the Lord to connect us with like-minded people and the Stackler’s have been one of the many families He would connect us with as He began weaving this beautiful tapestry.
And here’s something you should know when it comes to being “like-minded.” It doesn’t mean we agree on everything, or even anything. For our family, like-minded means we understand the need to push into our differences with respect and an honest desire to draw closer to Jesus as we seek out unity, wherever we can find it. We believe in civil discourse (and civil disobedience) and we love a spirited debate, as long as it’s based in truth. But, not everyone is interested in those things. Some people just want to fight and some people, no matter what facts you bring to the table, will always insist they are right. Humility isn’t really in their vocabulary. We wouldn’t consider those people to be like-minded.
But, we still try to love them… as difficult as that might be.
Our visit with the Stackler family happened to fall on a Sunday, which meant we joined them for church. It was our first Presbyterian church (Redeemer Church) and we loved it. The community they have at this church is amazing… and, honestly, I’m not sure too many others have compared over the past six months. After first service, we went to a class on cultivating intentional community. Jamie and I were jumping in at the tail end, but given where we were as a family and how the Lord was putting this idea of exploring genuine, Acts church community… maybe it was the Lord’s way of confirming we were on the right path, with the right people.
After church, the Stackler’s took us out to lunch. One of the other areas the Lord has REALLY stretched us: accepting generosity. I hate to admit this. Seriously. But, it’s true and it’s totally, 100% pride…. which makes it all the more GROSS. There was a season in our life where we could barely make ends meet. We had to choose between paying for groceries and for oil during the winter and people in our church community would step in to help. Their generosity forever changed us.
Years later, Jamie would get his “dream job” as a prosecutor with the Department of Justice. (It was really a nightmare, but that’s a different story for a different time.) And with that dream job came a paycheck that would allow us to give to others in a way we always longed for. But, now there was no job. There was no paycheck. There still isn’t… almost seven months in. We’re living off of our savings. (Dave Ramsey would most definitely not approve… and, for that reason alone, I’m okay with doing it.) But, we’re also receiving financial support from others. (This will be the topic for the next post… and it’s a good one!) Sometimes it’s still hard to accept the generosity of others… ESPECIALLY radical generosity, which we have been so humbled to receive… but gratitude wins out every single time.
After lunch, the Stackler’s invited us to their small group. This truly was a turning point for us. I’m not sure we knew it at the time though. Over the next six months, what was about to take place in this small group would be replicated in homes across the country…. literally. We’re at 38 states and counting. We would talk about real problems facing our country, facing the church in America. We talk about abortion, racial equality, gender equality, politics… that’s always a fun one… along with gun laws and immigration.
The premise is always the same: Can we create a place for healthy dialogue that allows us to push into scripture, and our relationships with one another, for the purpose of creating a witness to the world that underscores our unity, despite our differences.
But, don’t misunderstand me… there’s also a secondary (and tertiary) purpose. Can we look at these issue facing our country and filter our positions and opinions through the Word of God? Are we looking for our government to step in when the church should be stepping up? (I bet you can imagine how “spirited” these conversations can get when it comes to the topics of abortion, gay marriage, and gun reform!)
Thankfully, the Lord was so gracious with us our first time out. This small group was ready to dive in and so humble in their pursuit of grace-filled conversation. We talked about the very real possibility that many professed Christians in the American church might not actually be saved. Many have literally been told they should choose Jesus, even if they aren’t 100% sure, just to hedge their bets. (I’ve heard a pastor even call it fire insurance. I mean, if hell IS real, you don’t want to spend eternity there, right?!?)
As one of the men in their small group noted, “We’ve made the promises of Christ so irresistible, without underscoring the cost of actually following Jesus.”
He went on to say, “Our belief in him is only enough if that belief produces fruit.” (I think James would agree with that assessment.)
These two statements would become the catalyst for so much over the next few months. Our family would be forced to weigh that cost of following Jesus twice: once with a complete change in direction for the ministry of Be The Change Youth Initiative and then again with an unexpected health scare.
Both have had a profound impact on our lives.