When the Spirit Moves

It simply does not get any better than this.  Seeing someone come to Christ, watching them catch the fire of the Holy Spirit, experiencing their excitement as they find peace with decades of questions … it is the height of joy.  
One of the sweetest and deepest accounts of salvation to come out of ten years of ministry at Mosaic is the story of Julian Hutcheson.  With his permission, I share his story here for those who might still be wondering if this faith is for them. I share it also as a word of encouragement for those in the battle.  
Here is one man’s transparent account of what it means to move toward Christ:
I had some connection with Christ in my early teen years, but drifted away – for about 35 years.  I could describe myself as being a semi-believer in God, but mostly was tangled up in objections to faith, on the sidelines with a very weak and strained experience of spirituality of any kind.   The past year has been a transforming time of reawakening, renewal, and regaining a connection with God.  

For a couple of years I had been attending Mosaic occasionally just to pacify my wife and “support” her attendance.   I attended the day she joined the church and, I found that to be unexpectedly moving for me.   Somewhere around that time I began to feel some deep emotional stirrings during the services.  There were several times I thought I would cry during the singing.  I clearly felt that my soul was kind of reaching up and pushing aside the entanglements, so I could connect with worship.  I realized I needed to worship my God.  It became clear to me that praising God is affirming the connection, just like saying “I love you” to another person.  A powerful experience also came when one of my sons was baptized, and I went out to our van afterwards and wept. 

I met with Carolyn and told her what I had been experiencing, and she helped me understand this was the Holy Spirit working, kind of opening the “pores” of my spiritual membrane.   She asked me if I would be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow where God was leading me, and I said I was, not really knowing what that might mean.   I was feeling more connected to God, but not yet a follower of Christ.  That came a few months later.   Again taking the cue from my deeper self, I realized one day that my rational hesitations about being a Christian had essentially disappeared.   I felt free to move toward Jesus, to include him.   The transformation then went to another level as I opened up my heart to Christ.   I had several more moving experiences that made it clear to me that I was a believer in Christ. 

I met again with Carolyn, and after that joined the church and was recently baptized.   I have increased my involvement in Mosaic, joining the worship team and attending the Men’s accountability group.   Looking back over the past year, I see the fruit of many seeds planted from (the Sunday) messages.  One of the strongest themes that helped me was that God knows my real self, loves me for who I really am and is willing to meet me where I am.  The worship music also played a strong role, and I felt that (our worship leader) was essentially reaching her hand out to me, pulling me up spiritually out of the hole I was trapped in.

My wife Judy is continually doing a double-take.  To hear me talk about my Bible readings or to see me moved to tears in worship and to proclaim my Christianity, this is all coming from a context of 29 years of marriage in which I have been a non-believer.    My transformation is of course a great answer to her prayers.  I am also comprehending, in stages, how much of a burden I have been on Judy in pursuing her faith.   I have had several powerful moments of repenting and asking her forgiveness and God’s, for so many years of turning away from Him, and so many years of being an obstacle for Judy’s relationship with God and in recent years, with Mosaic.   I was lost for so many years!  I now know what cleansing repentance is.

As for the worship team, it is an honor to be a part of it.  Learning these powerful songs and helping with the guitar playing.   I sang the song “What can I do” for the Christmas eve services, and was moved to tears several times when rehearsing it at home.  “What can I do but give my life to you  – Hallelujah!”  It was the perfect song for me to be singing.    Connecting with worship, helping others to connect with worship is a privilege I thank Jesus for.

The men’s accountability group has given me a group of mentors.  All have been Christians for many years, and I’m the 52-year-old “kid” in the group.  It actually feels like that at times.  I have a lot to learn and a lot of catching up to do.   I’m laying down my life for God’s service.   What that means is not entirely clear for the long run, but I will take it one step at a time. 

I’ve reached a comfort level at Mosaic – comfortable being vulnerable in spiritual growth, knowing I’m surrounded by people who are striving for their own unique relationships with Christ.   I’m continuing on the journey and I when I have challenges that pull me off track, I take them one at a time.   I don’t want to go back.  I want to keep going forward with Christ.   
Julian Hutcheson

2/6/14

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Imagine a place …

Imagine a world where there is radical grace and radical forgiveness, where transparency is the norm.  Everybody is honest, giving and loving, even when no one is looking.  Imagine a place where everyone involved works from a place of integrity, innovation and ingenuity.  This is a movement, not an institution. 
Imagine a place where no one wonders what’s on anyone else’s heart, because everything is shared without shame.  There is a bedrock humility that allows people to hear each other, really hear each other.  Imagine a place characterized by deep compassion – a preference almost – for people in the margins  No one gets left behind.  People tend to each other like treasure.

This place we’re dreaming of is known for the way people love each other.  Even the conflicts are handled with grace and generosity; peace seems to multiply.  No one gets written off.  In fact, we end up praying for and going out of our way for the ones who ought to aggravate us the most.  Somehow they become more important by virtue of their thorns. 

There is a river of holiness flowing through this world we’re imagining, a hunger and a thirst for God that drives us.  We move and shake, not to earn our salvation, but because of it.  It is the grace that gets us going.  The mercy.  We can’t get over it.

Imagine a place where everyone is grateful … and acts like it.

Did I mention that in this world, we are all really generous?  We don’t hold back.  Imagine a place where the priorities are all clear and in the right place, so no one throws good energy and good money away on bad ideas and impulses.  Everyone thinks with the good of others in mind.  We are not protective of ourselves or our stuff so everyone is giving, which means there is more than enough and never any sense of need.  Or at least not neediness.  Our giving isn’t forced, like some kind of communism, nor is it a contest.  We just can’t seem to help ourselves (it must be something in the water).  We give and give because we are just so grateful.  For everything. 
In this world, we don’t worry.  Can you even imagine that?  Anxiety and stress are not part of this culture.  We are not passive; but there is a kind of flow to this life without tension.  Peace is prevalent. In this world, there are no houses built on sand. 
And the person in charge?  He’s the king of compassion, the prince of peace, the God of generosity, the Lord of love.  Everything great about this world we’re imagining, he invented.  He loves in crazy ways; it always seems new.  Pure and holy and strong.

This Person-in-Charge is really sure of himself, in a good way.  Humble but solid.  People who don’t get him don’t phase him.  He is not threatened because he knows who he is, which makes the rest of us feel more safe.  It’s almost like we are safe by association; this leader of ours is bold and courageous and good.   The ultimate in trustworthy.

This world we’re imagining is the Kingdom of God, the way Jesus describes it in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7).  He paints a picture there of a whole new way of being.  Not a return to better days, not a tweak of what we have, but something that will change everything.  What Ford did with transportation and what Apple did with communications is what Jesus did with community.  He cast a vision for something that would make what we have seem like the rotary phone.  With a cord.
Buckminster Fuller, a systems theorist and innovator, once said, “You never change something by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  When Jesus stood on a hill one day and spread the Kingdom before ordinary people, he was giving us a glimpse of what could be.  A place rich with grace and holiness.  A place with heart.

This is the in-breaking Kingdom and this is the character of our King, and when I set my face toward that world, I am a better person.

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