Joy and Frustration

Mike Morrell pointed me towards this very interesting post over at Practically Christian.

Mike quotes this paragraph:

“I have all of these new, great, and powerful ideas floating around within me, but in this presentation of the Gospel of the Kingdom I can’t help but notice a gaping hole. Where is the Spirit? It isn’t as if these folks don’t believe in the Spirit, or that s/he/it (who knows?) is never mentioned, but it I only seem to find it in passing, or mentioned in such an abstracted context that there seems to be no method of approach or interaction with this very real facet, or hypostatsis of God. I’ve been to a couple of emerging churches and new monastic communities. I’ve enjoyed authentic people who love Jesus and are pursuing his Kingdom. I’ve admired the community, participated in group expressions of our experience(i.e. art projects), fed the hungry, taken communion and heard words of encouragement and good news. But still, I’ve wondered… where is the Spirit?”

In the comments of the post I add a reply suggesting that these latter activities are the work of the Spirit. In fact, as I read this paragraph again it’s so striking how what he notes so perfectly lines up with the chapters in my book.

And it makes me frustrated. Why? Because of how he ends it.

“Also, if you know of any good emerging literature that does speak on this seemingly neglected topic, please let me know.”

If you’ve clicked on the links in the post below and read my comments you’ll know where this frustration comes from. I have a book that entirely and absolutely addresses this topic. For the life of me I can’t seem to get it noticed, or talked about, or sold in bookstores. So that, eight months after it has been published, with a lot of interest in the Holy Spirit and emerging churches around, it is still entirely off people’s radar. I’m not a good salesman, so I admit I’ve not done what others have done in pushing their books in an extreme way. But I got a note from my publisher the other day saying I stood out in how much I was doing, and so I feel like I’ve done my part in some ways.

Which leaves me a little flummoxed about what else I can do.

Yet, God has brought good friends in along the way. Folks I’ve met online. Almost all of whom I’ve never even met face to face. Sonja has stood out in this, as has Kerry, and others. They have been amazing to me, encouragements beyond encouragement, in helping me to see that the part I felt God has led me towards is valid and needed and real.

The last few weeks have had more joy. I spent some time in the Portland area visiting Amy; Amy who I met online as I tried to promote my book and she tried to promote her CD.

We struck up a friendship, she read an early version of my book, and was immediately excited about sharing about it. Someone I just met was significantly more helpful than those who I had known before. I don’t know why that is, even as I wonder about the past and celebrate those who God has brought into my life.

What I do know is that the calling of God in our lives leads us not to celebrate the people the world celebrates but to look around us, to be boons to those we know, as we can. To give a helping hand or an encouragement, or a bit of a promotion rather than jumping to support the already successful and the already famous and the already encouraged.

As an outsider, yet with insider qualities, these last ten years I see people with new eyes and have counted it my joys to see how God works in their lives, outside the spotlight, in bringing them new ministries, or growth in theological insight, or profound changes in their church affiliation. My frustrations become joy because it has cleansed my eyes and teaches me to walk more among those who Jesus would walk with. Not to minister down to them. But to learn from them, to share what I know and hear what they know, coming each of us to a more thorough wisdom.

Amy, who I’ve grown closer to over the past year as we became best friends and more, has helped me discover this even better. She has been amazing in her encouragement when I’ve struggled with discouragement over the lackluster reach of the book. Not only in words. In action too. I spoke at her church in mid-April, giving a sermon on the contents of It’s a Dance and on the topics of the work of the Holy Spirit. In the past weeks she opened up more opportunities. Her amazing pastor Rob Classen at Two Rivers Church invited me to speak again. Not as a sermon, but as a conversation.

He gave me some basic questions earlier in the week for me to consider and to help start the conversation. I didn’t have much time to work on them and so only wrote down very basic comments and some fitting verses to help guide my thoughts. The key to it was that it wasn’t about him and it wasn’t about me. It was a conversation. Not the kind in which two usual suspects chat while others remain quiet. Rather, Rob was wanting to have his whole congregation participate. And so that Sunday morning consisted of using the basic questions as a framework, but having others ask their own questions, add their comments and otherwise participate. And I loved it. Brilliant comments and questions that made me think and got me excited again. Rob, someone I didn’t even know, became a way of encouraging me and encouraging others by letting me share what I have discovered, and letting others respond and ask and become involved. It was a true conversation in which I was truly blessed to hear and share and learn and teach.

Apparently, others thought so as well because Amy and I were invited to join two small groups that week who were meeting together over a potluck. After eating delicious food the conversation continued. I had nothing prepared and just joined in again with questions and some answers and general sharing and learning and growing. They invited me to share what God was doing and teaching me, which is really about helping others discovery what God is doing and teaching them. It was a profound time for me.

And so I’m really frustrated today. Not knowing how to promote my book more or how I could get it more attention. But, I’m also feeling the joy of undeserved participation and attention by the wonderful men and women who contributed endorsements. By the few bloggers who not only accepted a book from Barclay Press but also actually wrote a review. By those who have read it and shared with me what it means to them. I can’t express how much Amy has encouraged me in word and action by not only reading but also responding and inviting and sharing and promoting.

I celebrate the ways in which the Spirit has opened up new directions of participation and encouragement.

I linger a bit in confused frustration about what to do. But that’s not the end. Because I have a hopeful thanksgiving, encouraged by my immediate family and by the wonderful select men and women who God has put into my life.

I’ve found a church made up of men and women all over this country–in Portland, in Virginia, in Northern California, in Wisconsin, in Florida, and other places near and far, in church traditions near and far–who pray for me and I pray for, who support me and who I support, who dance with me and who I dance with as we together dance with the Spirit. And in that is the encouragement of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit who is not bound by time or space.

[edited slightly for encroaching whinning] 🙂

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