A Collision of Visions (Part 1)

tb street view

Tony’s Small Engine Repair, 245 Franklin Street in Clymer

Habakkuk 2: 2-3 is one of the first scriptures I claimed as my own.

Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.

I started this blog in 2011 to write the vision of the homemaking ministry that has been nurtured in the hearts of many women in our rural Appalachian community for nearly twenty years.  But those who know me best realize that my vision of a building, for ministry beyond the walls of our numerous church buildings, reaches back more than twice that long.

In my early teens, I began to imagine a beautiful building where everyone is always welcome and always finds comfort and support.  My first thoughts centered on a dream house for my mother where all her children, and all their yet-to-be chosen spouses, and all her yet-to-be-born grandchildren could stay overnight at the same time.  But when my grandmother died in 1974, I began to think of something more like a super great room, a kitchen-dining-recreation room combo where the growing families of the 26 cousins who grew up on Prosperity Hill could all gather to share meals and visit comfortably on special occasions.

My mind has constructed countless buildings over the past 50 years, but since 1977 when I rededicated my life to Christ, those fantasy buildings all had one thing in common: every house, every complex, every campus in my imagination has been a tangible expression of the unity of the body of Christ in our community. The many and varied buildings of my mind are always used for the many and varied works God wants to work outside the walls of our places of worship.

When Gramma’s House became a legally established ministry of In His Hand, it seemed as though it was finally the appointed time for the vision to speak to our community.  We looked at real buildings in Hillsdale, Purchase Line, Commodore, and Cookport.  But the vision tarried.  Our meetings ended, I went to Texas for cancer treatment, and In His Hand lost incorporation status through a legal technicality.   It was not God’s time to grant Gramma’s House a place and a name in our community.

Though it tarries, wait for it.

During those years, while God burdened my heart with a longing to see the body of Christ united in service beyond the boundaries of our church programs, He was also working in another heart.  Joy was just a child when she first felt the pain of broken relationships in congregations where her father pastored.  As she matured, her desire to see Christians experience the healing of God’s love led her into counseling.  Through her marriage, her motherhood, and her work as a therapist, Joy gained an ever deepening understanding of how God uses relationships to transform us into the image of His Son.  She longed to share the healing power of life-giving relationships with others, especially those in the body of Christ.

In 2013 God brought Joy, Natalie, Jenn, and Lorraine together.  Having bonded at a weekend retreat, they began gathering together weekly.  Through these informal get-togethers, they discovered firsthand how transparent friendships can encourage, heal, and inspire.   With the support of her life-giving friends, Joy’s vision focused clearly into Heart Working Women, a platform to tell other women how God uses relationships in His work to make us whole.  It was the appointed time!

While Joy was bonding with her friends, the vision of Gramma’s House faded into the background of my life.  In January of 2015, I learned that cancer had metastasized to my liver and lungs, and I focused on the rapidly approaching portal of the world to come.  Then last year, totally unexpectedly, Joy’s pastor husband received an invitation to serve in our little congregation miles away from her precious CORE of friends.  She was certain that abandoning the newly launched Heart Working Women ministry and her CORE support would not match up with God’s character, yet it seemed that God was mysteriously working His plan to move her and her family to the tiny village in the center of the Appalachian range.

And our visions collided!

Joy found heart working women in the hearts and faces of women in Purchase Line, and surrendered to God’s evident plan to extend her tent pegs.

I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me —Habakkuk 2:1 

Now we are watching, and waiting, and praying and together about a very real building in Clymer (pictured above) where Heart Working Women can glorify God in Gramma’s House.

We invite you to watch and wait with us as our visions continue to collide.

Advertisements

Blind spots and bias confirmation

For decades I have believed that Christ gives  each member of His body a unique portion.  For decades I have believed that if we separate ourselves from any true believers in Christ because of doctrinal differences on disputable matters, we will separate ourselves from the blessings of those portions meant to benefit Christ’s body as a whole.

In spite of my belief, I have systematically chosen Christian speakers and authors (and maybe even friends) in an obvious pattern of bias confirmation, avoiding believers who disagree with me on points that I consider non-negotiable.  Praise be to the God who used The Veritas Forum to demolish the wall I had unwittingly built around myself in more areas than just the age of the earth.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas my knowledge of the Lord was expanded by Ian Hutchinson (who uncritically accepts evolution), by Tim Keller (whose political views border on socialism), by Peter Kreeft (who converted from Reformed to Roman Catholic), and even by John Polkinghorne (who doesn’t know when a human zygote becomes a human person). However, the deepest impact on my life came through an Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright.  His books Simply Christian, Simply Jesus, and How God Became King have the aroma of heaven about them.  Often while reading his books or listening to him speak, I am reminded of the difference between one who  knows the Bible well and one who walks with the Living Word of God.  Tom Wright is definitely the latter.

Alas at every turn, whenever I have attempted to share the riches I found in N.T.Wright’s wonderful retelling of the old, old story of Jesus and His love, I am warned against him.  With few exceptions, the warning has come from one who has never read his books, but who has simply accepted another’s opinion of what Wright is teaching.

That is how our blind spots and our biases perpetuate the divisions in the body of Christ. Our personal understanding of doctrine (in this case the meaning of justification) becomes the basis of our fellowship rather our mutual relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like the eye speaking to the hand in I Corinthians 12:21, members of Christ’s body say “because N.T. Wright questions the tradition of the reformation, we have no need of him.”

According to my personal understanding of doctrine, I disagree with Tom Wright in at least three significant areas: creation, gender roles, and purpose of government. However, his books and talks paint a portrait of the Lord, high and lifted up and rightfully adored.  I can only thank a teacher who expands my vision of Jesus, even if he challenges my personal biases. That is the only way my blind spots will be exposed, and I thank God for the sometimes painful but always enlightening process.

We are blessed to live in a century when a debate over justification does not result in the bloody wars that ravaged Europe during the Reformation. Yet the spiritual battle is just as real now as it was then, and our enemy is just as determined as ever to divide and conquer the body of Christ. We all need to understand How God Became King, how God is our King now, and how He rules and reigns through His people on Earth.

If we come together in the sure knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, (1 Corinthians 2:2) we can trust the Spirit to lead us in all truth. Whether or not you have been warned about N.T.Wright, I would recommend that you read him for yourself and, like the fair-minded Bereans, search the scriptures to discover whether or not what he says is so.