Happy Birthday, Torch Church!

It's hard to believe it's been a whole year already. It's been a wild ride, and full of God's favor. Here are a few fun facts in honor of Torch's first birthday:

1) 80 people gave their lives to Jesus this year at Torch.

2) We have gone from being a young adult ministry to being a multi-generational and ethnically diverse community in only a year.

3) We STILL have new people coming almost every week. (They don't always come back, but sometimes they do!) We began with a core group of about 40 people - some of whom are no longer with us - and our weekly attendance now averages 70-100 people per week.

4) It has not rained or snowed in any significant way during load-in or load-out AT ALL for an ENTIRE year of Sundays. (What are the odds of that?!)

For all its trials and tribulations, it has been one amazing year. We've all grown up a lot, I think - there was so much we didn't know when we started, and some of the learning curves were tough. We've learned - sometimes by fire - the importance of community, of intentionality in relationship, of sometimes setting aside the never-ending task lists to just hang out and have fun - and we have seen the glory of God on display in our services and in the refining He's done in our lives as we've brought our hearts and our giftings and offered them to Him. It's been a truly incredible year.

Next year looks to be pretty exciting, too... I'm looking forward to new adventures in simply trusting God, and doing the next thing. ;)

reconciling with Oswald

My Utmost for His Highest.

I started reading it when I was in college, but found I disliked it, rather intensely. There was truth in it, but I felt so judged. So short of the mark. So I put it back on the shelf, where it collected dust, until finally I admitted to myself that I was only keeping it because it was reportedly part of any well-read Christian's library. I "wasn't ever going to read it" - so I gave it away, probably to Goodwill - maybe to a friend who wanted it - I have no idea. Either way, it's gone now.

And I'm finally, years later, a little bit sorry.

I listened to an audiobook this spring - David McCasland's Abandoned to God - a biography of Oswald Chambers. I have no idea what on earth possessed me to download it. Likely it was more that Someone in heaven prompted me to do it. It is one of the best books I have ever heard, and I am looking forward to someday owning a print copy to mark up. As the story neared the end, I found myself hoping that Oswald would not die, even though I knew he would. I was sad to come to the end of the book - it felt like losing a dear friend. I think I will likely listen to it again this summer - it was that good.

Oswald and I would have been friends, I think. He had a passion for seeing the arts restored to the church. He loved nothing better than long walks in the country and the company of good friends, talking about the Lord and His great love for us. He wrote some pretty amazing letters. He was funny. He loved music. He loved to travel. He learned to trust God through some very tight financial times. And he exercised his faith. Feeling undeniably called to it, Oswald and his wife once rented an enormous house to serve as a school - before they ever had a single student or a stick of furniture to put in it. Eventually, the Chambers and several of their students would serve overseas as missionaries in Egypt during the war. Oswald died there, of complications from appendicitis - and his wife, who had transcribed almost every message he had ever taught, devoted much of the rest of her life to publishing them. My Utmost for His Highest is actually a collection of short summaries from hour-long messages he preached to soldiers camped in Egypt. Knowing that, and knowing more of the adventurous, kind spirit behind the words, makes me want to read it again - for now I know that the man who spoke those words would never have spoken condemnation into anyone's life.

Oswald and his wife lived their life together by a very simple mission statement: "Trust God, and do the next thing." They dreamed often of what could be - prayed over those dreams, and asked the Lord for direction - but at the end of the day, even when they were certain of what God was calling them to (and when they were not), they left the future in His hands, and simply did what they knew was in front of them to do for that day. This seems to me to be a very wise way to live one's life.

My pastor told me recently that over the past few months he's watched me let go of what seemed at one time to be an almost desperate desire to know the "destination" (where are You calling me, God? and what am I supposed to do with my life?!) in favor of embracing the journey - the life lessons and joys of the here and now. It made me glad to see that what God began working in my life last fall was actually visible to someone else. I still have a lot of hopes and dreams for the future - many of which seem ridiculously unattainable - but I am less concerned than I used to be with how I will get there, or when, or even if - and much more concerned with living this life I've been given well. I do not always succeed at it; I have a remarkable gift for mucking things up sometimes. But I find myself more watchful for what today holds than I used to be. And it is good.

So today? Laundry. Dishes. Picking up a little. Going for a good long bike ride this afternoon. Cooking. Reading. Being at rest. And getting some stuff done for Torch tomorrow. It's our last week of a nine week sermon series, the staging for which involved a great many live plants, which I have been schlepping back and forth weekly. I am giving most of them away to any home that will take them, and looking forward to getting my windowsill back. It's the little things in life.... ;)