I Want to be Phyllis Tickle When I Grow Up

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January 10th through the 12th my home town of Memphis was invaded by heretics, misfits, outlaws, mainliners, emerging, emergent, emergence and assorted Odd Ducks (and I am not talking about the ones in the fountain at the Peabody). They all descended on Memphis to celebrate the life and writings of Phyllis Tickle. They came to hear Phyllis “& Friends” recount our shared history and look toward our shared future. What most of them did not understand, except possibly Phyllis, was that “& Friends” did not refer only to the professional presenters who shared the stage, but to each and every one of those who sat in the Cathedral. In the large, formal, somewhat austere sanctuary the warmth that was generated by Phyllis filled the space with what seemed almost familial warmth.

Now, to the title of this post, “I want to be Phyllis Tickle when I grow up”. There are so many reasons I can think of that one might want to be Phyllis, but for me, the real singular reason may not be as obvious. It is not because she can recite the history of the church with the skill of a storyteller and the passion of one who lived every moment of that history (although I would love to possess such an admirable skill). It is not because she has written so many books, articles and papers that have impacted so many people (while I would love to do just that). It is not that she and her beloved husband successfully raised a pack of children successfully (even though I aspire to finish that task myself) and it is definitely not because everyone listens to everything that comes out of her mouth and critiques it (a side effect of being a public speaker that I am sure even she would give away). Explaining what it is about Phyllis that I admire and wish to emulate is a longer story.

Many years ago, at a time in my life when I was broken hearted, discouraged, idealistic and freshly graduated from Seminary a mutual friend of mine and Phyllis made me go to a meeting of Memphis Area Clergy that I was really not at all up to attending, but I did. Phyllis Tickle was the presenter and she spoke of the church that I had loved and served for so long in ways that rekindled my call, which inspired me to continue, which challenged me to stay and gave me hope for the future. If this were not enough, after the talk was concluded and most had moved on to the luncheon portion of the event, I was able to spend a few moments with this gracious lady who looked in my eyes, listened to my story (even with the chaos of the room), and made me feel heard and cared for. From that point forward I found a way to attend any time Phyllis was speaking, anywhere that I could. I remember sitting in the front row of camp chairs under a tent in North Carolina at the first Wild Goose festival and hearing the now familiar tale of the 500 year yard sale then running into her later on that day, she waving from yards away saying “Hello neighbor, did you see me waving at you in the front row?” What a warm way to let me know she knew I was there. I saw a very plain poster many years ago, that at the time my academic mind thought was cheesy, which read, “They will never care what you know if they don’t know that you care” the longer I know Phyllis, the clearer its simple wisdom becomes to me.

When the chance to celebrate Phyllis’ life and work came around and our smaller local event married the larger national event, I got the honor of seeing firsthand the love and care Phyllis took in sharing her vision for our time together. I saw her desire to do what she does best, encourage others and highlight the wonderful things going on in so many places. I discovered just how many people she kept up with and showed caring concern for and pride in. As the first day of the event rolled around, the Thursday meeting with presenters and contributors, she sat in a big comfy chair and everyone took a turn stopping by for a hug and a chat and the grin on her face could not have been larger. This time of catching up, of sharing visions and hopes was a wonderful chance to set the tone for the larger conversation to be held in the next days with the gathering, which was really all six hours would allow. There was no more of an agenda to chart the course of emergence Christianity then there is a definable “gay agenda” which does not exist.

Thursday evening’s meal started the “Main Event” with the hustle and bustle of 200 people who packed out Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous and Phyllis greeted warmly so many of those in attendance. I was pleased to introduce her to Randy Eddy-McCain from Open Door Community Church, she greeted him with recognition of his work and reputation and let him know how honored she was to meet him. Randy had buried his mother just two days before, and I saw the care that Phyllis gave to him as I watched her focus on him as she had done for me years before. I must say, for a woman who has always claimed to not be a pastor, watching her, I thought that it was an awful blurry line between maternal love and pastoral care. After much time visiting, Phyllis kissed her beloved Sam and headed to rest for the events of the next days.

The beginning of Friday I must say was a blur. Getting people, pastries, coffee, signs, books and everything else where it needed to be took all hands on deck, I even enlisted innocent bystanders at one point (there is a downside to being my friend). But when the show began everyone was in their seats, ready to hear the history of all of us, the storytelling of the master storyteller who would patch together a quilt of common threads which we could all understand. Like all storytellers, the stories were told from the tellers’ understanding, not as a detached academic understanding, but from a life that reveals the truth in the tale. Are there places that our experience, academia and hermeneutics clash with the story told? Yes, but none can question the love and care with which the story is conveyed. Just as our family of origin can tell stories in which we lived the events, yet the story is colored by the perspective of the one telling the story, because they lived the story “behind their own eyes”. All this is to say, that if the only fault that can be found in four hours of church/shared history is one understanding of a pivotal event which, knowing Phyllis, I believe she meant as the moment women were freed, is the only thing that anyone seems to be able to find great issue with, I believe that speaks highly of what she said overall. Like all who heard it, I brought to it my life story, which is one of postponing my “career years” for 14 years in order to be home with my three children, and then beginning my season of life which included a 87 hour master’s degree and a new life as a clergy family which not only changed me, but also my husband and children and shaped us in our faith. As a homeschooling mom for many years, I used every teachable moment, just as Phyllis relayed about young John Tickles’ experience at school. I was intentionally always there….BUT…(and yes I just used all caps) the rest of the story is, when our youngest child was 6 months old, my husband chose a home based business that allowed him more flexibility and time with our children. Our daughter Becca grew up playing under his drawing board, and Dad would insert comments from his office as he listened to the lessons his other children were learning a room away. That is what I remembered when I heard Phyllis’ words, that is my life story. We were able to set my biological clock to 4 years apart, because the best scholarship at the time said this allowed the kids to be babies and move to the next stage of development before a sibling needed that intense care without feeling conflict at the next child’s birth.

I also must admit an aversion to being called a “Feminist”. I do not like the label attached to me because of a long string of images and comments that the title triggers for me. As you can imagine, I was seen as a “traitor to the cause” by many because I chose to stay home, care intently for our children, and for not taking advantage of my “right” to be fulfilled by a career. I also resist the term because of the laundry list of stereotypical assumptions that people immediately associate with the term, so many of which I do not believe apply to me. Maybe it is just being a good emergence Christian that fuels my aversion to being labeled by any term.

But I digress.

Now, the real reason I want to be Phyllis when I grow up. I want to embody the love and care that Phyllis shows to all whom God places in her path. She is the ideal of what a genuine, maternal model of pastoral care looks like. She has enough knowledge in her head to fill book after book with wisdom and observations and that is spectacular, but why is it that 400 people are willing to sit in hard pews for hours on end to hear her? Because they know she cares.

The Half-Assed Christmas and a Lesson in God’s Grace

This has been the weirdest Christmas I can ever remember.  First of all, most everyone in the house has had SOME form of illness since the first of December.  My over achieving highschooler had a record number of practices, performances and even preformed at the nursing home for points towards her Bata Club volunteer hours.  Mom went to spend time with my sister in California from before Thanksgiving until December 22nd.  And I started a new part-time job that was far more demanding then I thought it would be, but I really like it. All of this added up to me dropping some of my more traditional balls I am afraid.  Christmas snuck up on me like the Grinch on Whoville.

I limped through our annual Outlaw Christmas Party with a lot of help and understanding party guests.  I feel like I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted with my two extra sons who came to town.  I had 5 days to clean up and prepare for my mom, sister, brother in law, sis’s service dog AND service dog in training to join our family complete with all 6 human members, 4 dogs, 3 cats, one sugar glider and my mom’s dog and cat we babysat while she was in California…if you are keeping score that was a total of 9 humans. 7 dogs, 4 cats and a sugar glider all under ONE roof…and NO fights broke out!!

Now, back to whose traditional balls.  My tree got up, not well fluffed, not all the lights worked, 3 ornaments, and the wonderful new garland I got was half way on (thanks to my beloved chosen brother who is a professional florist) he left the rest for me to do (I never did…sorry Darrell!). The fixing for Christmas cookies are still in the grocery bag I brought them home in.  Presents were joyfully wrapped in wal-mart bags, Christmas dinner was cooked at 5pm and was homemade chicken nuggets, creamed potatoes and canned black eyed peas, no dessert, no cornbread or rolls.  Charles and I took everyone’s stocking to our room, stuffed them and came out and passed them out.  Between stockings and opening gifts Christmas was done in 15 minutes. WOW.  Brandon left for work at FedEx, Mom, Tracy and Barry went to bed, and the girls ran off for the late showing of The Hobbit. Blink… and it was gone.

Christmas Day itself was interesting as well.  With the threat of snowy weather, Mom, Tracy and Barry, 3 dogs and a cat headed for Mississippi, to try and make it by the cemetery to see Dad’s headstone (that was placed while Mom was in California) before dark. We had offered to help our friend out and supply dinner for Room in the Inn ministry which provides shelter for the night for those without shelter.  So at 4pm, in the freezing rain we loaded 2 pans of dressing, 20 lbs of baked chicken breasts, 2 pans of garlic green beans, and rolls into the Yukon and all 6 of the Waters clan headed for the other side of town.  We got there with time to make gravy, warm the food and to meet everyone.  Then the guests arrived, and you could tell everyone was so very glad to be inside, warm, and with a meal to eat.  So in a small, old fellowship hall, 20 people, some guests, some volunteers, all sat down and ate all they could hold (so much that the pies had to wait til later) listened to Christmas music played on a Smartphone in a glass dish (for amplification purposes) and we served as God’s presence to those we would never have met otherwise.  It was wonderful, it didn’t last much longer than our 15 minute Christmas the night before, but somehow it felt much more like Christmas. NOW…the lesson about God’s grace…God showed up for Christmas this year loud and clear, not in the traditional, Martha Stewart, everything perfect way God didn’t seem to care about my half-assed attempt at holiday cheer, but we saw God’s grace in forgiving us for thinking THAT was more the focus of the season than the time we took to share our Christmas meal with others and to bring for a few minutes a small room full of peace of earth and good will towards our fellow humans.

It isn’t the Journey as Much as the Wisdom Gained from It

I have been a MESS for a very very long time. I think if you want to call it a “mid-life” crisis, then you should call the Guinness Book of World Records, because it has been going on for FAR too long…getting gnarled and unkempt like in the photograph of the worlds longest fingernails. Well, it is time to trim away that introspection that has consumed much of my 40′s so far and let loose the wisdom that has been gained by the Journey. Let’s talk about a couple of famous journey’s and how they ended.

First, I learned (thanks to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) that there is no big shiny place that will be the answer to all your questions, prayers, hopes and dreams.  The Emerald City in the movie was the height of Hollywood Glam, everyone there with the perfect costumes, makeup, making the perfect dance move at the perfect moment, singing the perfect note to blend into angelic harmony yet the whole place was as unsustainable and fake as the Wizard himself…well meaning and not bad people, but artificial, and with no more answers than Dorothy had at the beginning of the journey.  So, as we all know, where did the journey end? At Home, where it all began, with a deeper understanding of what was there all along, but with a new appreciation and love for it.  Had it changed while she had been gone? No, it was still black and white and rather dusty, but Dorothy had changed, She had learned from the stories of others, she had seen what she thought she wanted, and she found that she was much stronger then she ever imagined.

The second lesson I learned was from our dear, beloved Bilbo Baggins.  A blessed little Hobbit who travels WAY far out of his comfort zone, not for personal gain or riches, but for the greater good. And how is the poor thing repaid for his selfless acts?  really, not well, but it re-charted his life and the life of those he loved.  Tolkein’s poem (written by Bilbo) gives me insights into what it is like to have a life of mission larger than ones self, though written about Aragorn, it is easy to extrapolate Tolkien’s Catholic roots and the identity of the true King:

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king

I don’t want to spend too much time on each word and line of the poem, but I do want to acknowledge the tone.  That treasure isn’t always what glitters, that a narrow, wandering path isn’t always wrong or of no use, that wisdom takes time to gain and from the dormant ashes resurrection can come. I have listened and watched many stories, those in books, movies, documentaries, in person and what they all have in common is “home”.  Finding a place, maybe not the physical place of your birth, but the place where your heart resides, a place you would fight for against all odds.

So, here I sit, at home. physically, psychologically and spiritually with a richer and deeper understanding of how important that is, what a blessing that is. Understanding that my journey was never to find the Emerald City and stay, or to leave home never to return, but to step out of my comfort zone, to fight for the greater good and return home from time to time to reconnect with the essence of what it means to belong. Neither Dorothy nor Bilbo returned to a bright shiny home with no worries, no problems, no work or issues, but they returned with the knowledge that it was worth working on, and that work would all be joy, the deep abiding joy of truly being home, because as Dorothy said “There is NO place like home”.

The Blurry Line Between Depression and Grief

About a year ago I went to see my Doc about my ADD…I had been having trouble staying on track lately, just didn’t feel I was getting anything done.  He wasn’t so sure, he asked me some questions about what was going on in my life and within 5 minutes, I was in tears.  I came home with a medication that not only works with ADD but also is prescribed for depression. Things began to improve as I began to deal with the fact that it did seem to be depression and as the medicine began to work…then all hell broke loose…my Dad was hospitalized, there were some professional bumps in the road, and while some good things happened, they were overshadowed by the barrage of Shit that seems to be hitting not only me, but our family day after day. Of course we responded as we always do, we became a tighter family, holding one another up, checking on each other regularly, and “being strong”.

The roller coaster ride continued for a year.  It seemed that when we had a break from one situation, another would rear it’s ugly head and smack us all like a giant, unexpected wave.  But for me, June of this year was the month in which the under toe sucked me into a sea of depression and grief.  After months of health issues, my Dad had finally turned a corner, he was off Dialysis and seemed to be getting stronger. He had even felt like coming to Memphis for his birthday at the end of April, and he and Mom hosted a party for Memorial Day and Dad had had a wonderful time.  But the next day, seemingly out of the clear blue, Dad had a stroke, complete with seizures and physical weakness.  It didn’t look good, the Docs prepared us for the worse, but Dad, being Dad, began to improve…slowly but surely doing the things the Docs said he couldn’t do.  This went on for 3 weeks, we had begun getting ready for him to come to rehab in Memphis, we were readying a room for Mom and preparing for 3 to 6 months of care.  The night after Father’s Day, Mom kissed Dad good night and crawled into the window seat bed she had slept on for much of the last 3 weeks.  At ll:00pm the nurses come in to check on him, trying not to wake Mom up, but they had too, Dad was gone. Mom called me, I heard her words, the ones I had expected for SO long and thank God I went into “pastor mode” knowing what had to be done, clear on each step that must be taken, single minded in knowing that I HAD to get to Mom.  I went into the Family Room where all our children (and an extra, Becca’s friend was spending the night) were watching TV.  I let them know what had happened.  I watched my children’s hearts break and saw the same single minded response from them…they wanted to get to their Nana.  So, at Midnight, with a Yukon XL full of shocked, sad people, we drove, mostly silently, 2 hours south to my Mom, and what was left behind of my Dad.

Have you ever been to a really loud concert? The kind that when the music stops, you feel as if you are wearing ear muffs? Well, the next few days pasted like that.  I felt as if the world was still spinning but it was muffled by the silence that surrounded me, the absence of my Dad’s big, strong voice.  After you regain your hearing from a really loud concert you begin to realize how badly your head is hurting, the same was true once all the events surrounding any death are over.  This nagging headache that has come and gone all summer.  The worst part for me has been the fact that everything that happens, even just a minor bump in the road, brings me once again to my knees, unable to move.  I am frustrated, angry, worried, and confused…I am unable to understand which is the depression I already had and which is normal, healthy grief.

I feel that I am living in a Psalm 69 world.  My Seminary studies of the Book of Psalms helps me to understand that at the end of all Psalms there is hope, hope that God will redeem all pain, all circumstances.  But when you are in the midst of the pain, that knowledge is about as much help as tits on a boar hog! So for now, I cling to the hope, like a life preserver, floating in the sea of chaos that continues to seem dark and scary and pray that a sharks doesn’t grab me from below.  I pray for the strength to continue to hold on while I watch the dot on the horizon that I logically know is a rescue, but also know won’t do me a damn bit of good if the chaos gets me first.

So, at this point, I thank God for the friends I have, the family that grieves with me, the pill I take EVERY single night, and hope. Each day I wake up I try to do a little towards healing. I am reminded of the man who lay near the pool at Bethesda for 38 years until Jesus asked…”do you WANT to be healed” (John 5:1-8) and I realize that I could get so comfortable in my misery that I make no progress towards healing, but I KNOW that I don’t want to stay where I am, I will kick, claw, whatever I have to do to get to healing…and then I realize…I WILL be okay because I am NOT just sitting here, letting my situation overwhelm me, I am not simply waiting on that ship on the horizon to get to me…I am swimming towards it, one stroke at a time, and it may take a while, but I will get there. But I also know the when healing comes, when that rescue vessel arrives, it will NOT be the end of the journey, just the beginning of a new one.  I try to remind myself that I will get tired, I will need to rest for a moment, but that that isn’t giving up or giving in, it is storing energy for the next big push forward.

I am not sure how to end this post, I am not sure there IS an ending yet, but just know that for me, the journey continues, I realize that that blurry line between depression and grief is hope, and I turn to Paul’s words in I Thessalonians 4:1313 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  
Our hope is not only for those who precede us in death but also in all of those situations in life that we grieve, all those loses we face in life we face not with despair but with hope. Thanks be to God.

It’s All Rob Bell’s Fault!!!

Yeah, that is right! I know Rob looks all sweet and kind and pastor-ee but last night, as I watched the video of his talk at The Viper Room, Rob revealed himself to be a mean, pushy, kick you in the gut then kick you while you are down kinda guy!! OK…well, not really…but he sure did “preach at me” all the way from West Hollywood. It has really difficult to hear him directly address our cultural bent towards thinking “commentating” on what others do has become a job that many except as legitimate…Rob calls us to be “more creative than that” to find our message, to do our work, realize that it is the act of writing (and by extension other forms of art) that is where the purpose and joy is found, not in whether or not the work is excepted, endorsed, ridiculed, or rejected. You have to do it for you!

Wow! It was like Rob walked up to me personally, and said “Hey, do you know you haven’t been living up to your potential? You have been letting the voices in your head and the voices of your critics replace YOUR voice” The short way of saying this (not that I can imagine it coming out of Rob’s mouth, but I can sure hear it coming out of MINE) “Get your SHIT TOGETHER and just DO IT” Start somewhere, anywhere, and this time DON’T STOP! Don’t let anything knock you off course…NOT EVEN YOU!

I am afraid that this is where I have to make an admission, I am scared to death that I will die never having done what I need and want to do.  I self-sabotage, I use excuses, I give up, then I hate myself for it…which starts the cycle all over again.  I get depressed easily, stay depressed easily, and hide if someone tries to point it out to me.  But every once in a while, something like this happens, something that feels like new school supplies and the first day of school…a clean slate full of hope and promise for a fresh start.  In the past, I have gotten all fired up about it, ready for the new challenges, but I packed all those wonderful new supplies in the same tired, old backpack I have been carrying around my whole life…a backpack sown together with faulty stitching made of doubts, negativity, and fear of past failures…Rob took my backpack away! And honestly, I hope it stays gone!! Rob’s words released me from caring what the outcome will be and will allow me to focus on those things that make me HAPPY! His wide eyed wonder and energy at the “next chapter in life” was contagious…so THAT is why…it is ALL Rob Bell’s fault!!

If you wanna hear exactly what Rob said…watch it here http://www.livestream.com/robbell/video?clipId=pla_11147604-8464-4c9b-9fea-0547978af7c4&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb Well worth the time!!

Rob Bell

Save the Drama for your Momma…hey, what a minute…I’m the Momma!!

I have been a Momma for 23 years now, I gave birth to 3 kids, and God has seen fit to bless me with many more over the years whom I love and value and watch with pride and worry about on a regular basis. There are a LOT of things I have learned in those years. I have learned that with three kids in the house, they can all have completely different personalities, interests, and ways of doing things. I have learned that they can disagree loudly when trying to persuade one another to see their point of view. I have learned that as the Momma, most of the time I don’t get involved… EXCEPT…There are rules in our home, there is never ever a time when laying hands on one another is ever acceptable, you never say something hurtful about your sibling because that is damaging and they are a loved member of the family, and lastly, always remember that you are not the only child, that you MUST understand that even if you continue to disagree you have to learn to live together cause nobody is leaving the family.

In the last couple years I have learned from my birth kids that sometime kids move away and do other things in life, it isn’t because they left the family, but because it is a natural part of growing up.  I have also learned that sometimes that same child may come back home, cause things didn’t quite work out the way they thought, and that is okay.

I am now learning how to relate to adult kids both birth and God given kids are older now and are living lives the best they can and making big decisions with big consequences.  It was SO much easier when I was worried about a toddler running into a table with their first wobbly steps when I could rush in and scoop them up before impact, or if I couldn’t at least it was all better with a ziplock of crushed ice, a sucker and Barney video watched from Momma lap. The world is hard, and I can not protect them from that anymore.  But I have learned that we can now be there for one another. My birth kids and I have gone through a lot of hard things together, and it has made us stronger. My God given kids and I have buried parents, had babies, ended marriages, cried together, talked about relationships and one of my God given kids has even died. And at the end, what I know is, it is an honor to be the Momma and to get to share the Drama.

Giving Thanks IN all Circumstances

Lord knows I have been through a lot of shit in the past 5 or so years!! Anyone who knows me can tell you!! But I am a survivor of it all, and I know I will survive whatever else happens in my life because all of it has taught me that God walks through it ALL with us. Granted, there are some places God will go with me that I just don’t wanna go! I have always taken strength from I Thessalonians 5:16-18, Giving Thanks to God IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances.  This Thanksgiving has been a true test of how much I believe it! We are in the midst of a move, my father is in the hospital, we are in a financial crisis…you get the picture! We are not a part of any faith community right now, well, that is kinda not true but kinda true, we meet with a group of Outlaw Preachers in Memphis, all of which (besides us)  are active in “churches” but we (my family and I) are not, for us (as for many others) Outlaw Preachers is it! It has done my heart good to have a place on line where I can go to and remember why I am a follower of the Risen Lord. Sure, it has been a broken family at times, but until recently, it was a place that gave me hope!

Today, my hope was tested, my joy was replaced with sadness.  I looked at Twitter and saw a beloved brother in obvious pain (you know the kind that manifests as loud, pained cries?) and I watch another beloved brother add to that pain in an attempt to prove himself a good person (one could make the argument that it was self-defense). This is NOT the first time this kind of thing has happened with the Outlaw Preachers, matter of fact, we have an unfortunate reputation for crossing the line that separates “struggling with what we believe” and “making OUR point” or becoming EXACTLY what we are trying to escape, a judgmental, authoritarian “Structure” that TELLS us how we are to believe if we are going to be the “right” kind of Christian. I have experienced an increasing intolerance for one another and it hurts a Momma’s heart to watch and to be a part of.

I have NEVER given up on this bunch of broken toys who found one another, I have always believed that like working with abused (which we all have been Spiritually abused) folks it takes love, time, effort, and patience…and you do get hurt sometimes, because you HAVE to be transparent and vulnerable until trust can grow. Problem is, sometimes we don’t remember that ALL of us are wounded, and we are ALL working through things and we don’t give each other space to do that.  I have been guilty, we all have if we have stuck around long enough to invest ourselves in this “Community”.  The key words here are Transparency, Community and Trust. I DO NOT believe that we can build this community without total transparency. I do not believe we can build trust if there are things hidden or a man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz reference) because THAT can NOT build trust. We are an open community and we MUST work through things in an open and loving way. This does NOT give anyone the right to start bashing everyone they disagree with, but it does give the power too the community to BE the community.

As I read my favorite words from I Thessalonians, God really asked me to read more, to put it in context this time, and to see what was really being said!!  I want to share that with you:

I Thessalonians 5:12-28

12 We beg you, our friends, to pay proper respect to those who work among you, who guide and instruct you in the Christian life.13 Treat them with the greatest respect and love because of the work they do. Be at peace among yourselves.

14 We urge you, our friends, to warn the idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.15 See that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but at all times make it your aim to do good to one another and to all people.

16 Be joyful always,17 pray at all times,18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit;20 do not despise inspired messages.21 Put all things to the test: keep what is good22 and avoid every kind of evil.

23 May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body—free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.

25 Pray also for us, friends.

26 Greet all the believers with the kiss of peace.

27 I urge you by the authority of the Lord to read this letter to all the believers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

These words come as a farewell from Paul and as a challenge to those he is leaving to live in community even when it is tough. To hold one another accountable, but not without recognizing the need for compassion, healing and gentleness.  Now, I think the question that the COMMUNITY must ask itself is “Who are those who work among us? who guide and and instruct us?” “How do we lovingly encourage those who need to work on things?” “How do we keep from returning wrongs with wrongs?”

If we can not work through this text together, I am afraid we can no longer call ourselves community. Outlaw Preachers was a wonderful idea, a place for people who’s beliefs gave them no place to be but in this little life raft, but if we spend all of our time trying to kick one another off, for fear of loosing our “safe space” instead of helping more into the boat we are punching holes in the raft that God supplied us!

As Paul closed his letter, I wish to close mine, Please pray for me, that I may serve God in all circumstances, greet one another with a kiss of peace (intimate, relational and incarnate) and may the Grace of the Lord be with you.