Hey SPV Fam!
This week I want to offer a brief follow up to the word I gave this past Sunday after our time of worship and communion. For those of you who weren't there I read the following passage from Matthew 11:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
There is so much in these words of Jesus but a few things that I would emphasize are:
1) Life is meant to be enjoyed. If you find yourself getting stressed out and critical about every little thing then "get away with Jesus and learn from him." This may require many of us simplifying our lives a bit in order to make more room for the better, more cherished things.
2) And even more specifically, if your faith journey is causing you anxiety then maybe, just maybe you're doing it wrong. If you find yourself feeling constant condemnation or that God is barking at you like a tyrant boss then trade in your "burned out on religion" for the "living freely and lightly the Jesus way". If you find yourself bothered by every theological idea that doesn't align with your own or have criticism for every other song sung in church then please pursue the real rest that Jesus is offering us all. The unforced rhythms of grace and real rest that Jesus offers is so much greater than the alternative, not to mention the fact that life is just too dang short to live it out finding fault with everything and being stressed all the time.
Much love to you all,
My heart is racing. Oh my god I'm going to pass out. Why are my palms so sweaty? I feel like I'm in an Eminem song. Ok...This isn’t going to kill me. I’m going to be ok. I'm going to be OK.
"Babe, you ready?"
"Uh...I think so."
"Ok. Let's go."
They've always been a fear of mine. While my friends spent their summers at top speed, flipping upside down, twisting around, and having the time of their lives, I stood with my feet firmly planted on the ground, clutching their purses and the lie that I was having as good a time as they were. I was scared. And I let fear control me.
And there I was, almost 30 years old, faced with the decision to conquer my fear or wimp out and walk away from another opportunity.
This is not a rational fear. Hundreds of thousands of people ride roller coasters every day. I'm going to be ok.
"Babe, you ok?"
"You're going to be ok."
For years, I avoided all the things I was even slightly afraid of. Roller coasters. The high dive. Difficult conversations. The doctor. All good (but not easy) things.
Let me make something very clear: There was nothing standing in my way except for me. No force of nature, no person, no law. Just me.
"Good! Cause this ride is nuts."
A wise, bearded man (yes, it was my husband) once said that "The thing you need to learn is on the backside of what you’re scared to do." It hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe my fear was just an emotion and, like all emotions, deserved to be analyzed and processed. Fear is not always a bad thing! It's what keeps us from petting wild animals and trying to fly! But unhealthy fear will keep you from things; joy, opportunity, life.
So ask for help. Confront injustice. Apologize to your friend. Take a trip. Go to the doctor. Stand up for yourself. Whatever your unhealthy fear is keeping you from, run at it full force.
Maybe you'll learn that the thing you're scared of isn't all that scary.
And might actually be super fun.
Peace, love, and full speed ahead!
SPV Kid City Children's Pastor
In the spirit of hearing from different voices in our church family, this week's post is written by staff member, Stacy Henderlong.
Hey there SPV family!
We all come from varying backgrounds and spiritual/religious experiences. I grew up in a tradition based on fear of the end of life (hell). My church experience as a kid was quite boring and not very "spirit-filled" and led me to seek out the opposite when I left home for college. I ended up in some very charismatic churches for quite some time, and I became comfortable, always expecting a wild ride with Holy Spirit. Then I entered into a season of working for a more traditional and liturgical church, that seemed a bit lifeless at the time. Then I came to SPV just 5.5 years ago. At first I was craving more of the charismatic and pentecostal feel and felt slightly disappointed that it wasn't a bit more exuberant in worship and prayer.
Now that I've been here a little while, I'm been stretched in my thinking, in my faith, and feel like I'm getting to a good place of balance. I'm now craving times of silence, solitude, and reflection and actually miss those times of liturgy - seeking it out online. I still enjoy it when the band gets rockin' during worship, but I'm also love those times when we can just sit or stand in God's presence and not a sound is made - and we just are.
My prayer life has also gone through this change - from crying out & begging God for things for myself and others - into more of a contemplative, peaceful time. I no longer feel like I have to pray for a certain amount of time or come with a list of requests, but just to sit and meditate. To be still. To listen. And to not be afraid of the quiet.
May we each find those times of solitude. May we seek them out, to just sit and listen.
Peace to you,
Hello SPV Family,
So I sat down today to type up the weekly email & came across the following post from my (virtual) friend Rob Grayson from the U.K. & was really blessed by it & thought maybe you guys might be as well. I also feel like this captures the heart of our theology at the SPV so take a few minutes to read it over & even meditate on it:
"God is like Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Let's see how many ways we can say it:
- Jesus is what God has to say.
- Jesus is the Word of God.
- Jesus is the Logos of God.
- Jesus is the one who, if you've seen him, you've seen the Father.
- Jesus is God fully revealed, for all to see.
- Jesus is God's self-expression.
- Jesus is the one in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells.
- Jesus is the express image of the Father's person.
- Jesus corrects our misunderstandings about God.
- Jesus is God enfleshed.
- Jesus is the full revelation of the Father's heart.
- Jesus on the cross is the glory and the love of God.
Shout it from the rooftops: Jesus is perfect theology!" (Rob Grayson)
Much love to you all,
I hope you are all doing amazingly well! Our theme the last several weeks regarding the Jesus Revolution and then followed up by the Easter Revolution is the incredible change Jesus has brought to the world through his teaching, death, resurrection, & the commissioning his church/kingdom people to continue on and advance this New Creation that He has initiated. We often think of a "revolution" as some huge event but one of the beautiful things about the kingdom and what Jesus is actually calling us to, is to engage the smallest of situations, opportunities, and circumstances in revolutionary ways. The world's trajectory is always towards fear, division, self interest, accusation, etc., but as we follow Jesus may we be revolutionaries who choose love, inclusion, hospitality, grace, hope, generosity, peace, etc. at every turn!
I pray that we, the faith community of the St. Pete Vineyard would be found faithful to this Revolution of love even in the smallest and seemingly most insignificant of ways.
Much love to all of you revolutionaries and dreamers out there!
Hello SPV family!
1 Peter 4.9 states: "Show hospitality to one another" & Hebrews 13.2 says: "Do not neglect showing hospitality to strangers." I've been thinking about these verses the last few weeks & how we at the SPV can do a better job at practicing this. We have a pretty laid back approach at the SPV with our "come as you are" & "do whatever feels comfortable to you" philosophy but with one very important caveat: "...so long as it doesn't distract or impede someone else's worship experience." I desperately want us as a church family to consider the impact we might have on others (positively or negatively) regarding where we park, showing up on time to serve, stepping up to serve, praying or singing in an overly demonstrative manner that might make a new person uncomfortable, not using the nursery if your baby is particularly restless or noisy, having conversations with your friends during worship or communion... These are all things that we've received feedback on recently & some have even chosen to worship elsewhere as a result, which, if I'm being honest, breaks my heart. We work so hard preparing the building, our greeters, breakfast, music, videos, communion, the message, prayer team...so we can minister to people as effectively as we can so when all of that hard work, effort & preparation goes out the window because people are so distracted they can't even hear the message or focus on worship or connect with the Lord in whatever way you can hopefully understand the frustration of concern. Now I have no desire of turning the SPV into a "police state" where we all act like Barney Fife on patrol but let's all take some ownership of Heb. 10.24 "let us consider how we might encourage one another towards love & good works." I'm just asking that we all pull together to take some personal inventory of how our actions might affect others & encourage each other to do the same (all without getting offended). So silence your phones/ iPads, use the nursery when your baby is fussy, be cognizant of loud conversations...I just want to create space for us to have & give others the best worship experience possible & I hope you want that as well.
Much love to you all,
Hello SPV family,
I hope you are having a great week thus far. There is a lot going on so please check out the various links on this page for all of the necessary information.
I am excited to celebrate Mother's Day with our church family this Sunday & then start a new sermon series on The Gospel of the Kingdom the following week (that may or may not be the actual title by the way). I feel like it's important to go back to some of the basics & remind ourselves what the gospel/ the good news is & at the same time remind ourselves as to what it isn't. On one hand we are challenged with the notion as to whether the "good news" is really all that great after all (or "what's so good about it?") & then there is such a huge temptation in the church culture these days to keep adding things to the Gospel that were never intended to be a part of the central message. I hope you will join us on this journey these next several weeks & invite some friends to join you!
Much love to you all,
Hello beautiful Saints!
Despite the constant reminders of the brokenness of this world (earthquakes, riots, loss of loved ones, people breaking into our building & stealing things...) I hope you all have your eyes fixed firmly on Jesus who is the author & finisher of our faith. I've become increasingly aware & convinced that radical love is the greatest way to grasp our identity, our greatest source of motivation, our greatest strategy to reach people & change lives as well as our greatest form of spiritual warfare. If I start to sound like a broken record with this message please let me know. I'm not promising I will do anything about it but feel free to let me know anyway. God is love & IN HIM there is no darkness at all & Jesus is the fullest most crystal clear image & understanding of the radical love we have or ever will have. So why would we fix our eyes on anything or anyone else?
Much love to all, Chris
Last week someone asked me why I believed in & followed Jesus & I want to use this email to share with you the "readers digest version" of my answer. 1) In John 6.68 Jesus starts to get a little too radical & people begin leaving so He turns & asks Simon Peter if he would like to leave also & his response is: "Lord, where else should we go? You alone have the words of eternal life. We have believed & have come to know that you are the Christ, the son of the living God." I believe that life, health, forgiveness & wholeness (in this life & the life to come) is found in Jesus & in Jesus alone. 2) I firmly believe the evidence we have (testimony, history & especially scripture) concerning what he taught & did to be incredibly reliable & 3) I believe following His teaching is the very best way we as humans can live life. Jesus did so many things but one of the main things he did was to show us a new way to live, a way of life rooted in love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, generosity...if only the world (not to mention the church) would listen & follow.
Post Written by Emily Muñoz, Outreach Pastor
Something's happening in Williams Park. A shift has occurred. I can't explain it but I can feel it. People are experiencing love. Not just any love. The love of the Father. Not only that, but they're demonstrating love!
Yesterday, I went to the park alone, my car and trunk packed full of lunches for 150. Before I had swung my door completely open, a gentleman was crossing the street to help. As we began pulling boxes from the car, more arrived to help. I was pleasantly surprised when Doc asked to help. Doc is a regular at the park. He's an older man, tall, dark, handsome, clean cut and well-dressed, and...well... (how do I say this?)... he comes across as rather arrogant and maybe stand-offish sometimes when interacting with me. He doesn't often have anything to say to me. For a long time he was downright cold to me. It was months before he would crack a smile. So yesterday I was carrying a light-weight box of PB&Js into the park and as I passed him standing with his bike, he asked if he could carry the box for me, wearing a big grin. I was a little bit shocked. It wasn't heavy, but I wasn't about to miss out on this opportunity so I handed him the box and I walked his bike up into the park. When we got to the bench where we serve food, Doc took charge. He organized the food, appointed servers, and managed the line. He made sure that the line didn't begin until after I had spoken to the crowd and prayed. He ensured that no one took more than one bag. My three gentlemen servers were so gentle and kind to each person they served. It may have been the best behaved crowd we've ever had. And I just stood back and watched. It really blessed my heart! The people receiving food are always so appreciative. While I took the wagon around the wall for the trespassers, my servers remained at the bench until the food was gone, and then neatly packed up the supplies to go back in the car. When it was time to go, another crew, my drunken misfit friends, helped carry the supplies to the car.
As you know, the main reason that we take food to the park is so that we can spend time building relationships with the people there. My friend Cassie calls it dripping, well, drip marketing. Each week we drip the love of God on those who we meet. For some people, a few drips from us is all they need. They've probably had other people dripping on them, too. For others, like Doc, it may take a year or more of consistency and reliability before a trust is formed and he can finally crack a smile. But now the park is so saturated by these drips of love that you're guaranteed to get your feet wet when you walk through! I know how sappy that sounds, but man, if I could count the expressions of love... the belly laughs, the warm hugs, the big smiles, the numerous "we love you's"... So, I want to share just a couple of stories of individuals who made my heart leap with joy yesterday.
One of the most beautiful girls in the park is just a mess. She's in her twenties, a severe alcoholic and I suspect drug addict, she comes from a family of alcoholics, she sells her body, and now she's expecting a baby. She has a reputation in the park for being out-of-her-mind crazy. I see her as being painfully broken. For months now she's either avoided me, mocked me, or rolled her eyes at my attempts to love on her. So a few days ago I was (again) pleasantly surprised when she came up from behind me and said, "Hey! It's you!" and greeted me with a smile as I turned around. I don't know what caused such a sudden change in her opinion of me, but we spent about 30 minutes chatting and laughing. Yesterday when I passed her in the park she was on a mission, but she stopped and gave me a big hug. I looked her in the eye and said, "You are beautiful." She looked at me and replied, "You know, people tell me that all the time, but it's different coming from you." I told her that her Father God thinks she's beautiful, too. Please pray for her and your precious child.
A couple of months ago, Timmy lost his partner of 9 years, his name was Happy. Yesterday Timmy stopped me to show me a tiny picture that someone just gave him, less than 2" square and the only picture that he has of Happy. I just stood there and listened as he talked about how much he misses his friend. About how he wouldn't wish that pain on his worst enemy. About his plans to honor Happy on his upcoming birthday. His heart is still so very tender. Timmy recently told me that he'd like to visit our church one day. Not yet. He's not quite ready, but soon, he says. (I hadn't even invited him but I can't wait for him to come!)
The last person I want to tell you about is a man who I see now and then at the park but haven't gotten to know. He's strikingly handsome and just flamboyant and well-dressed enough to erase any doubt of his dating preferences. He gives off the vibes of someone with a hardened heart, and to be honest with you, while he's never really said anything to me, his presence is very intimidating to me. Yesterday evening I dropped by the park for 5 minutes to drop something off for someone. I quickly walked past him and a few others, and then I heard him call out, "Hey, aren't you the Christian lady that was here earlier today?" With some trepidation, I stopped, turned around, and returned to him, preparing to be chided and mocked. "Yes", I answered. With a stern face, he asked what church I attend. I short-answered him. "Tell me about it.", he said. His voice was hard and slightly demanding. I asked him what he wanted to know, having no idea where he was going with this. If he was wanting to argue theology I was prepared to make a quick exit. "Well, where it is to begin with." That caught me off guard. "You want to know where it is?"
"Yeah." (Looking at me as if I'm a dork.)
He pulled out his planner (from his "European bag") and wrote down the address, asking for specific directions, a phone number, and the service time. Now, so that you understand, this man knows NOTHING about my church. He didn't ask about the denomination or the theology or whether or not we welcome homosexuals...
I told him that I'd love for him to visit and to give me a call if he needed transportation.
"I like what you said earlier when you were talking to the people in line for sandwiches. And I've been watching you. I like the way you treat people. I'd like to visit your church."
Bam!! That certainly wasn't what I had been expecting! Before serving the sandwiches I had asked the crowd how many of them had a fear of God. I then shared Jeremiah 29:11 with them (for the umpteenth time) and reminded them that our Daddy God is not a God of wrath, but a good father who loves and is pursuing a relationship with them. How Christ came to introduce us to the love of his Daddy.
Because we hadn't formerly met, I asked his name and gave him mine.
"Emily?? You're Emily?? Oh, well I've heard all about you from my friend Eric!"
Haha! Eric, the one who used to avoid the "Christian Lady" until he realized I wasn't going away, so then he tried using vulgarity to offend me, thinking he could disgust me or intimidate me into keeping my distance. He couldn't offend me but he disgusted me into truly and deeply disliking him. The one who had a change of heart when the Christian Lady visited him (against my will) in the ICU. The one who looked me in the eyes yesterday after I gave his new girlfriend a pair of gently used socks (more than a year after that hospital visit) and said, "Emily, I don't know why you love us the way you do." It's pretty cool the way that God bring things full circle. I am confident that it won't be long now before Eric surrenders to the extravagant love and grace of his Savior.
This sounds like a lot of talk about me. The thing is that while I only know how to give a good and accurate account of my own testimonies, we have a whole team of people with similar stories of people with different names and faces, stories of people that God has given them to love. And when our team is not in the park, I am confident that the Lord sends others. And in others parts of our city and our country and throughout our world, He has called others to share His love. Just as He's called YOU to extravagant love!
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - John 13:34