Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable Because God Might be Teaching You Something


By Maggie Bartlett

For several years during and after college, I worked for a nonprofit based in Kenya. There’s a conversation from my time living there stays with me for many reasons and I come back to it often, exploring that moment with the Lord wondering if he has something new to reveal to me from it. 

This is where change happens—in the discomfort and the tension. That’s when the Spirit finally gets some space to move


These moments can’t happen if we’re afraid of discomfort and change or if we become so busy, we don’t make room for God to move in our lives. 

Here's what happened. One of my friends and I spent an afternoon in Jikaze, the village our nonprofit partnered with. We were in Grace and Harun's home—a 200 square foot mud hut that slept six people—talking about the cost of food in Kenya. We mentioned how shocked we were that avocados only cost five shillings ($.05), while at home they cost closer to 300 shillings ($3). This naturally led to more questions about what things cost in America versus in Kenya (a dangerous conversation). Regrettably, I explained that my Chaco's cost about 10,000 shillings and learned the shoes they wore cost only 35 shillings. Then Grace, after adding up all the numbers we told her, said we could be walking around wearing close to 20,000 shillings worth of clothes. Remorsefully, I was thinking probably more.

In that moment, my excess was rudely exposed. I’d always known I lived lavishly in comparison to most of the world, but it felt like I was sitting under a great big blinding spotlight. I was sitting in a home that was literally made of mud, sticks and nails (and that’s it) with people who wear the same clothes every day, sleep in the same room they cook in and don’t eat fruit of any kind because it’s a luxury they can’t afford. Meanwhile, we’re discovering that my white tee from Target cost three times as much as the t-shirt Grace was wearing that she probably bought from some roadside stand.

This conversation is a slippery slope and quite frankly, it’s stressful to think about. But, what are those cheesy sayings we see on signs outside of churches? “God never promised us smooth sailing, but he promised us a safe landing.” Is that the gist? Whatever it is, Jesus didn’t promise me any of this would be easy. I was so painfully uncomfortable that day—and it didn’t go away in an hour. I still think about it. Even as I write this, I feel my jaw clenching and embarrassment brewing. 

When he finally has some wriggle room in our crowded lives, he shows up. I whine about not hearing God, frustrated by my assumption that he’s not working in my life, but the issue really is that I don’t give him the space to do so. I get distracted from the point so easily in the whirlwind of schedules and meal planning and buying stuff, that I forget to even look for God, let alone make room for him.

Now let me tell you how the conversation concluded. Harun, Grace’s husband, asked about people in America who cannot afford things like clothes and food. I started to explain homelessness and what poverty was like back home when Harun suddenly stopped me. His brow was furled, and his eyes deeply distressed. You know what he said about homeless people? "That is not good. That is not right."

After all that, me kicking myself with every word that slipped out of my big mouth about how much money we spend on stuff—that is how the conversation ended. He was so deeply concerned about the homeless in America that his easygoing, goofy demeanor quickly became seriously overwrought. Homelessness and poverty in America rattled him even though my perception of his poverty rattled me. 

I am still shaken by these people to the core. As I was stewing in my shame, Harun swooped in and gave me grace he didn’t know I needed. Shame was shackling me on the spot. But shame wasn’t going to transform me and carry me from that moment into change and freedom. With Harun’s breathtaking compassion, the Lord quickly unshackled me. He didn’t leave me where I was but instead drew me deeper into his faithfulness and lavish love. 

I was grateful for Harun’s words that saved me from self-criticism. Through Harun, God revealed a new angle. Because putting myself down isn’t the appropriate response in tough, uncomfortable or hard moments. 

Often the Lord uses those moments to teach us something new, and he shows us how to pivot and journey deeper into faith. 


It’s easy to distract ourselves from the truth, but it’s a mistake because we miss out on his magnificence and majesty. In a moment of discomfort, the Lord swooped in and showed me the way in—deeper into faith, trust, and grace—and reminded me to leverage my gifts and blessings for his glory.  




Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. 
She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.







Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sharing Life Together

Women who started businesses with microloans from Musana Community Development Organization in Iganga, Uganda.
 Judith is on the far right. 


Judith stood beside me as I smelled a little white flower on small tree. In broken English, with a bit of a British accent, she said, “That’s a coffee bean flower. Have you ever seen one before?”

“No,” I answered. She showed me the little coffee bean next to the flower on the shrub and explained how they pick the beans and then roast them. Then she took my hand and said, “Let me show you some other things.”

I was part of a small group visiting the Musana Community Development Organization in Iganga, Uganda. On this day we were touring Buwongo, a small village where some of the kids who go to school at Musana come from. 

In addition to providing education for more than 1700 children, Musana provides small loans for hundreds of women to develop small businesses so they can provide for themselves and their children.


I had lagged behind the group to take some photos and Judith hung back with me. Then she gave me a little tour of her own. First, we walked over to a sweet little mud hut with a few mounds of dirt beside it and plants growing out of the top of the mound. “That’s a sweet potato,” she explained. “Do you grow those?” I told her no, but I love to eat them. Then she asked, “What do you grow where you live?”

How could I possibly explain that I don’t really grow anything? I don’t need to grow my own food for my three boys to eat. And most of the people I know garden as a hobby. I decided to tell her where I live we grow lots of corn and sometimes strawberries. She understood corn but not strawberries.

Then she showed me a chimney-like structure surrounded by red bricks and told me about Solimo, a mother of seven, who started a brick-making business in her own backyard from a Musana loan. She now employs several men and even rebuilt her own home with her own hands (and bricks). As we continued walking she pointed out the trees all around us. We were walking through a banana plantation, also locally owned by a woman who was providing lots of jobs for the people in their village.

After that, we walked over to a hut with a woman sitting outside on the ground surrounded by baskets filled with what looked like peanuts but smaller and purple. They call them groundnuts or g-nuts. One of their favorite local dishes is mashed plantain with these groundnuts on top like peanut butter. The woman smiled and handed me a generous bag of these nuts. I learned later that groundnuts are one of the most important legumes grown and consumed in Uganda.

I realized we had wandered in a totally different direction than my team. I mentioned to Judith that we should rejoin them. She smiled and proudly said, “Don’t worry, I’m the chairwoman of the women here. I know where they are.”

She asked me questions and I asked her questions. She told me she had 10 children and five grandchildren. 

I’ll forever treasure the short time Judith and I shared as we walked, talked and laughed together. 


Later, I learned from the staff at Musana, that a few years ago Judith would have been too shy to talk with me. Now, her confidence had grown and she is a strong leader for the women. I have to mention we visited this project on International Women’s Day giving me a whole new understanding of the significance of this special day.

These women, by the way, combine their earnings and if a woman in their group hits a hard spot and needs money, they help her. Once a year they “break their box” and divide up their profits. A woman needs about $20 a month to provide for her family in Uganda. To me, this is a beautiful example of a true community of women doing life together and sharing their possessions as we’ve been learning about in recent messages at Flatirons Church based on Acts 2:42-47.

Judith then led me to a piggery where I rejoined my group and we watched piglets play in the mud. We learned about and met the woman who had started with two pigs and now had grown a successful business of raising and selling livestock. 

I listened in awe on this tour as I saw the resourcefulness of these women and realized how just a small loan can make a huge difference in their lives, their children’s lives and the impact on the whole community.

Musana is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year! 


What started with the hope of rescuing 80 children from dire circumstances in 2008 has shifted into a movement transforming the community of Iganga, Uganda. With the gracious help of so many, Musana is breaking the cycle of dependency in Uganda through sustainable solutions in education, health, and skill development, impacting more than 130,000 people annually.

To help or find out more about Musana visit www.musana.org or email info@musana.org.

☀☀☀

Fun fact: Musana means “sunshine.” This became the name of the organization because the college girls who attended CU Boulder, and who started Musana in 2008, used to sing "You are My Sunshine” to the 80 orphans they originally rescued.


Jeannie Blackmer is excited about her newest book, Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer, and hopes this book will ignite a desire for a deeper, more intimate prayer life for readers and help others see how relevant the Bible is today. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Zane, and their three sons. For more information visit www.talkingtojesus.com.











Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Take My Toaster, Please



The toaster has been missing for several days now. My first thought was that we really should start locking our back door. My second thought was, who would steal a toaster? But then I remembered that I said something hospitable to some guests recently and I hadn’t thought through all the potential ramifications of it. I told them to take whatever they needed. I guess they needed a toaster.

Don’t get me wrong. I could care less about our toaster. 

I think the best guests are people who actually take me at my word when I tell them that if they need anything just rummage and take it. 


But guests like these are rare. So when they show up I’m still a little surprised. It takes me off guard. While I give nearly everyone who arrives permission to treat my home as his or her own, only a few people actually do. And when people do, that’s when they begin to feel like more than guests, or friends of friends. That’s when they feel like family. And I like having family around.

We’ve had a lot of this lately. We’ve put the commune in community around our place. We’ve had one boarder, one extended houseguest, and a handful of friends of friends taking turns staying in a room in our garage for months. By my count, we had an all-time high total of 12 people on the commune grounds one day last week. It was a flurry of piles of shoes at the door, dishes in the kitchen, and chatter. Friends took up every bed, couch, towel, and chocolate chip cookie in the place. And while a spot on the chair with the cat, and her hair, isn’t exactly the most welcoming of guest accommodations, I hope all these folks did, in fact, feel welcome—because they really are. 

My particular challenge in this commune environment is usually finding a way not to let things get in the way of opening my home—which for me is so close to opening my heart. Often my heart is sad, and I don’t feel like opening it. But being with people is usually the best remedy for that. And if I can remember that it feels good to commune, I push through and have company. More often company pushes me. And I thank God for them.

We began to open our doors again last summer, after a long season of not being able to extend much hospitality. 


We had been dealing with trauma, a family member’s major depression, and hospitalizations. So it felt strange to welcome people. It felt strange to smile, to listen to funny stories. It felt like a betrayal to have laughter in the house again. But it also felt refreshing. At first, I was terrified. But turns out that not everything goes horribly wrong. And the people we’ve had staying here have brought more people. They come to eat, to watch games, to have beers on the patio, and to soak in the hot tub. And so I get to do all those things, too, or at least to watch other people enjoying life—which gives me hope that it can be enjoyed again.

I get the idea from my commune that I don’t have to sulk in a threadbare sweater of sadness. I can wrap a metaphorical blanket of hospitality around a friend’s shoulders and share it together. And then, especially then, I can understand what people are talking about when they say that God is always right here with me. Because when I find a stray glass on a bookshelf, then I remember where God is. He is right here. He’s sending all these people my way so we can commune. He wants me to feel connected, to love and be loved. 

Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

He is Risen!



"Lord, You loved this world so much, that you gave your one and only Son, that we might be called your children too. Lord, help us to live in the gladness and grace of Easter Sunday, everyday. 

Let us have heats of thankfulness for your sacrifice. Let us have eyes that look upon your grace and rejoice in our salvation. Help us to walk in that mighty grace and tell your good news to the world. All for your glory do we pray, Lord. Amen."






Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Circles

Have you ever argued with God? Have you been angry with him? Or asked him hard questions and heard nothing in response? Or did you hear him respond loud and clear, but it was a different response than you had hoped?

Well, this is a very recent occurrence for me and I’d like to share with you a little journey that Jesus took me on last month as I wrestled through a change in vision regarding community here at Flatirons.

Recently you might have heard Jim Burgen talk about a new vision for the church regarding community all based on the Bible regarding spiritual formation and the first church.
The goal of the first church was to spiritually form believers into the kind of people who had the character of Christ and shared Him with the world. This is the same goal God has for us now. So, we can use that model to find out how the first Christians pursued spiritual formation when the church first started.

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."  (Acts 2:42-47)

So, you had several thousand people who had nothing in common except they bumped into Jesus and He was changing them. They were gathering together in a big group to learn more. Then, leaving the big group, they opened their homes to one another. We heard Jim unpack this concept first coined by Andy Stanley:

We learn in rows.  We grow in circles.


We learn and take in the words of Jesus in rows, our weekend experience at Flatirons.
Then, we grow and see real change in smaller circles, in houses or around tables, taking place outside of the weekend experience in every-day life.

So, this vision asks this question? What if we had thousands of people at a Flatirons campus on a weekend and sometime during the week, all, or most gathered in a circle around a kitchen table, or a campfire, or a booth in the back of a pub or coffee shop and worked through a truth that Jesus taught us.  If MOST of us did meet in smaller groups would THAT make a difference in us individually, in this church, in this world?

The answer is YES! To accomplish this, the pieces of ministry that will be resourced and promoted by Flatirons will be the weekend services, (rows) so we can learn the teaching of Jesus. Then small groups (circles), so we can have a group of trusted people where we can take what we've heard on the weekend and unpack what it means for us daily. 

I don’t know about you, but this makes me excited. The MOST frequent emails I receive ask, ”How do I get connected at such a big church? How do I find a small group? How do I find a place where I fit? I feel invisible. How do I get to know people?” With this new vision of community, we will have something intentional to offer everyone this fall at all five campuses.

So, I was on board. All in…

But, what does this mean for current Women’s Ministry programming at Flatirons? It means May marks the end of our large women's monthly programs of the IF Gatherings and Mom's Day in Day Out (DIDO). 

I'm going to be very honest and vulnerable with you. When I first heard this news, I was sad and angry. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Some stemmed from anticipation, relief, pride, a sense of failure, loss, excitement. You name it. I felt it. I wanted to hold tightly to programs I believed God had his fingerprints all over. I started asking God, ”Why did YOU allow these programs to be created, only to have them end in their current form? Was it all for nothing?” I have been on my own little journey trying to make sense of all this change. And I want to share with you what God clearly said to me about a month ago.

As I was reading Acts 1:7 at a planning retreat up in the mountains, I experienced one of those moments where Jesus was holding my face in his hands, looking straight in to my eyes, not reprimanding me, but gently making it clear that I was NOT trusting him. I was arguing with him.

“He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own Authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in all of Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7)

I felt Jesus saying to me, “Lara, it is NOT for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own Authority!” My role is to trust Jesus and the Holy Spirit and be his witness. Not to control and question and overthink and be fearful. He was asking me to trust Him! But, I wasn’t quite done arguing with him. “But Jesus, I LOVE the women of this church!” and his response was, ”Lara, I LOVE them more!”

Then, he wasn’t quite done speaking to my heart. He spoke very clearly to me that this model creates an opportunity to become more like Jesus, to practice being disciples, to get far away from being consumer Christians, to truly experience Biblical fellowship, to have relationships with others so we can hold God up to the world. It can provide us a safe place to grow. And it can be replicated and it is sustainable.

I felt tender and honestly, honored, that God would speak to me in those moments, because he is NOT always that specific. It was clear that for this season I needed to trust Him and trust the leaders that he has put in place to lead us.

I believe all God has done in years past in Women’s ministry at Flatirons, was laying a foundation for what’s to come. Many of you reading this blog are women who have prayed, supported, encouraged, served, dreamed and helped build integral portions of community here at Flatirons and we are so thankful for you!

I am asking you ladies to join us and link arms with us. We want to do TWO things really well. We want to gather together for weekend services to learn in rows the teaching of Jesus. And be a part of circles, so we can grow and connect. We already have successful and vibrant Flatirons Connect groups, IF tables, IF discussion groups, and Mom’s DIDO groups that are meeting together. My hope is that ALL the facilitators will bring their groups and be a part of this new structure and adventure for the fall launch. We will provide tools and training and care for those willing to lead their circles. So, the programs will change, but community will continue, multiply and thrive. 

Sometimes God asks us to trust him, even if we have a hard time making sense of the process or outcome in our human brain. He welcomes our prayers and our arguing. He wants us to come to him, even in our anger or sadness or confusion.
He is faithful and gracious and he can be trusted.

Lara is the Women’s Ministry Director at Flatirons Community Church. Lara and her husband Eric have been married for 17 years and they are parents to three teenagers. As you can imagine life is busy at the Veve household, but they embrace the beautiful chaos of life during this season.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thankful for Friends Who Accept Me Even As My Messed Up Self



A couple months ago, I was so angry I just left my house. 

“Bye.” I said. No “I love yous.” No, “I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” No anything… just “Bye Felicia.” Without the Felicia.

I didn’t know where I was going.

And I don’t even remember what specifically made me so angry. 


But I know it was irrational. To be fair, I have Chronic Lyme Disease. It’s been really well-controlled for the last 2 years, but a major drop in temperature and barometric pressure (yay Colorado!) triggered my arthritis to flare and my joints to lock up, which tipped off my anxiety, which spiraled into medical bills and I can’t go through this again. My doctor said it was over. 

Regardless, I had gone off on my husband and kids about something completely unrelated, and they had no clue what was going on in my body/mind, and I didn’t have any words to explain it. (Another weird side effect of Lyme—the words can’t seem to get from the place in your brain where you know what you’re trying to say, to the place that makes your mouth say them. Kind of like a word firewall). So, it just came out as a rage. And instead of continuing to wreak havoc on my family, I left.

As I drove, I thought, I can’t even go out in public right now. I can’t be around my family, and I can’t subject the general public to my attitude right now. I know I have a person I can go to, but I can’t think of who that is… (Oh the joys of Lyme, I couldn’t even remember my best friend’s name.)

Eventually, I broke down the firewall in my brain and called Jess. 
“Are you home?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“Can I be at your home and not at my home?”
“You okay?”
“Nope.”
“Of course you can come over.”

Because of course, she will have me when no one else would have me, even if I couldn’t remember her name five minutes prior.

Because, for some reason, she’s my person, and she can accept my own personal brand of crazy.

I went to her house and she was like, “Hey. I’m working on some stuff, but you’re welcome to keep me company.”

And you know what advice she gave me?
None.

You know what she said?
Nothing.

She wrapped me up in a blanket, fed me dinner, and made me some tea. Then she sat there and worked on her projects and listened to me as the words fell out of my mouth and sometimes got stuck in my brain.

And it was the most blessed nothingness in the world.

Her offering me a place to be not okay for a while was the greatest gift. But the best part is that she offers it to me all the time. Her friendship means that I can be not okay when I’m not okay. And her friendship means that I can celebrate when something awesome happens. 

Finding that is so rare.

Because, when faced with meeting new people, we wonder, Will I be accepted here? Will people love me here? Am I okay? Is it okay with these people that I look/act/am like this?

And the only way to know whether or not they will really accept you is to show them your messed-up self.

And that’s the really cool thing about Jesus. He is always our person. 


He is always the place we can be not okay. When we aren’t fit for human consumption, we are fit for Him. Because, "God proves his love for us by this, that Christ died for us when we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8

All we have to do is just keep getting to know Him better by being with Him as our messed-up selves.



Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time.