Pastormac’s Personal Pilgrimage July 7: That is the way of it.


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I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. —Paul to the church he had once planted and served, to whom he was unable to return due to circumstance such as being in prison.

Think of the words in this verse, words like “serve, remember, tears, long to see you, filled with joy.”

It must have been very hard for Paul to plant church after church, and after just a few years to leave that church to move on and plant another.  Acts is so compressed and comments so little on this struggle that we forget jut how much Paul poured of himself  into each of these churches. But he tells us himself, in letter after letter, he pours out his heart, his tears, his longings, his melancholy joy at their love from afar, his fatherly pride and his motherly concern when they turned astray.  So much love, so many friends in Pauls’ life…and so many good byes.  There is another verse and a different feeling where Paul describes pouring himself out for saints as a drink offering even if in vain.  This is a noble struggle every pastor also experiences at some point.  The sense of pouring your life into people who sometimes take all you have and leave because you didn’t have enough.  But this is not that.  This is a separation born, not of failure, or disagreement, but born of  living in a fallen and temporal world where partings happen.

My wife posted a quote from Muppet Christmas Carol on her Facebook (yes I said, Muppet Christmas Carol..that’s how we roll here at the Megill house..we’re into multiple versions of Dicken’s excellent story here)

“It’s all right, children. Life is made up of meetings and partings. That is the way of it….”

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That’s how it was today for me.  For five years I’ve poured my life, my ministry, my heart and my soul (so far as I understand what that is) into this community and this church.  And today was our last service in the Elementary School where we often meet.  Today was a parting for many of us.  I don’t know what’s to come, and how many of us will continue to travel the journey together, but that this was a parting for some is likely true.  It was at least a parting from our five year home, Cielo AZul, and Principal Archuletta, Vice Principal Mike, and our faithful help and companion Ritchie, who opened doors for us every week, cleaning up after and serving us in so many ways.   Today he closed those doors for us, for the last time.

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Today we had a worship without trappings, not because we had already packed things up (we hadn’t) but because we wanted to.  It’s something we’ve done occasionally when it seemed appropriate.  Acapella, sitting in a circle, campfire, hippy sit in style.  (Except no fire, and we had chairs and no one wanted us to leave. 🙂  After that I shared some scripture, which included this verse

24 I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains [just one grain; it never becomes more but lives] by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. (John 12:24 amplified Bible)

I believe  this about Lifesong.  This amazing community has too much to offer to stay huddled inside Cielo Azul.  We tried inviting people to come, we tried meeting them halfway in the park, we tried and succeeded serving them in their houses and neighborhoods, but God did not bring people to us.  Alright then, we’ll go to them.  We’ll go to the churches and neighborhoods God leads us.  We will allow Lifesong to die in order for the seeds to blossom and spread elsewhere.    I know not everyone in my church sees or believe that yet.

In fact, after I shared we spent about 45 minutes just letting Lifesingers share what they were feeling, thinking, most of all what they were grateful for in God’s work through our community.   Some are angry at God, at those they perceived didn’t support us, at me even; most are just grieving.  Some are confused, but all are grateful and all quickly admit they’ve been changed.  Really and truly changed.

The bonds are strong and the family is real, so I don’t doubt that some of those seeds will be gathered up together and fly on the wind  to blossom somewhere.  It makes me smile to think of what a tremendous surprise blessing these faithful, serving, joyful, loving, risk taking, loyal seeds will be for some church.  Others will perhaps scatter, but only in bodies, like Paul we will always take a melancholy joy in our family no matter how distant we are.

On my own personal pilgrimage I had pretty much decided not to return to our mother church RWCC, but something today has caused me to at least revisit the possibility in my own mind.   My deacons want to discuss the possibility of starting again, creating not Lifesong 2.0, but something different, something new.  We will continue to meet for our own discipleship and to discuss these plans.  (One of my deacon’s wives today said, “You guys are going to keep meeting right?  It’s been so good for {her husband}, I hope you keep meeting.”   Me too, me too.

Many of my children shared what they were feeling today and I’m very proud of all of them and pleased with what God has done in their life over the last five years.  My oldest daughter could not make it because she is in jail…

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Well, actually it’s a prison, so sort of like Paul…

Ok, so it’s a historic Irish women’s prison and she tells me she’s just visiting this prison as a tourist, and that these doors don’t actually lock.  Nonetheless she was unable to be at Lifesong and she posted on the Lifesong website.  Her words moved me a great deal, more so as coming from my own daughter, but also because it encapsulates so much of what our vision in starting the church was.  If we capture the restless mind and heart of a 15 year old, so that she became the 20 year old who says the following, then I know our five years were not a detour or a roundabout (which we don’t understand here in New Mexico–exactly when do you get off!?) but a definite and important part of the journey for all of us.

I’ll close with her words this week as saying it better than I ever did.

Lessons learned from Lifesong:
I learned how to serve, setting up chairs, slicing apples, plugging in mic cords, they were all important and they all needed to be done by somebody.
I learned that being in a church is more than just coming on Sunday and sitting through the service, it’s active, it calls you to think, do, and love.
I learned that faithfulness is important, no matter how “small” what you’re doing may seem. I watched the same people come in every Sunday morning and unfold chairs, run the sound board, and all the other things that had to be done for a church service to happen. Those people were so faithful to their tasks no matter how many people showed up to service, and it has made a difference in my life.
I learned that sometimes we measure success incorrectly. While we would have loved to see greater numbers, what we did see at Lifesong was God working in lives, leading people to do things they wouldn’t normally have done, pulling them into a deeper relationship with him, changing perspectives and hearts.
I learned that families help one another, love one another, and create safe places. I can see this both in my immediate family and in my church family. This church family has been incredible, they have allowed themselves to be used by God as conduits of his grace and his love, and I will forever be grateful to Him and them.
I’m sorry I couldn’t be there these last two weeks, but I’m thinking of Lifesong, and I am confident that the good works the Lord began will be carried on to completion.
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