Just moments ago I wrote an email and sent it to a few friends. I wasn’t going to share it here, but have changed my mind. The subject line was God’s Back. In the body I wrote:
Believe me, I realize God didn’t go anywhere… that I’m the one who neglected my relationship with Him. The subject/title of this email simply reflects how I feel.
Months before I moved to Corning I felt God wanted me to stay in Redding. I moved anyway, because I was convinced that if I did so my relationship with Wendy would be restored and I’d have a family again. It turns out nothing could be further from the truth. At this point in our lives, Wendy and I can only stand being around each other for a few minutes. Thinking, or hoping, something is going to happen does not always make it happen.
In Corning, my spirit began to die. It didn’t fade completely, of course, but it sure dimmed quite a bit.
It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve moved back to the city I never should have left, and the difference within me boggles my mind. I feel God again. I feel like we’re communicating again. I walk with Him each morning along the Sacramento River trail, and the conversations we have sometimes make me cry. Inside I’m at peace again. Things I’ve worried about aren’t such a big concern.
In Corning, I knew He was there, but just couldn’t seem to reach Him as often or as deeply as I’d like.
Now I’m home, and He’s thrown a welcome back party inside my spirit.
I just wanted to share that with you.
– Donny –
JR Mahon, formerly a Pastor with XXXChurch.com and now the Executive Director for NEOChurch, was one of the friends to whom I sent the email. When he replied I clicked on the link in his signature to visit the NEOChurch Website. I then read the latest blog entry he’d written. I hope you are as touched by it as I was. It’s titled Great First Sunday and reads:
I was reminded Sunday why we do what we do… After a GREAT first NEOsunday service for which we are all very proud of and grateful, we had lunch. In Christian circles thats what you do after church, eat like there’s no tomorrow.
There was a guy sitting at the end of my table at lunch. I had watched this man show up early, help set up NEO and sweat if ya know what I mean while helping. I watched him lift things, move things and generally be helpful to anyone who needed a hand. He looked liked us, acted like us and worked like us. He was a blessing.
There he was again at lunch, at the end of a full table of people minding his own business until I started up. “Hey man where do you live?” I yell across the table. He smiled slowly and quietly made his way over to my chair. Bending down to talk with me he says, “I’m homeless, kinda in between things right now.” Imagine that, a homeless dude helps us move into our new church and I’m yelling across the table were do you live! Idiot!
We talked for about 15 minutes… his life, my life, our ups and downs, the next steps, the faith it requires to conquer sin in our lives. This guy had no air about him, no entitlements, no preconceived notions about us or his situation, he was a part of us and yet knew things most of us would never know or want to know. Like how to get a bed in a mission or simply survive day to day while rebuilding his life and faith and yet he showed up to NEO. He served so the Gospel could hit peoples ears and eyes. I’ve done a lot of church over time but this one moment had me speechless. He brought his faith to NEO. Not his cash. great car, stellar career, influence or great theological knowledge just his appetite to help and serve. He was real and in big need of a God who can and will take care of him every second of his life. I shuttered and looked at myself. Do I have the same appetite?
My new friend showed me faith… faith, that says showing up affords opportunity to serve. Nothing more, nothing less. It was pure in it’s lesson, and smacked of the bitter truth in my life. God is like that John Mellancamp song, “Hurt so Good” or in my life “Sucks so Right”
So… we started NEO on Sundays… all the build up, all the work, all the conversations about lighting, plasmas, children’s ministry, 23 year olds in Jesus costumes, steel things, coffee, greeting, rent for the school and sound systems couldn’t hold a candle to me and a homeless guy sitting at the same table enjoying each-other because God gave us saving grace. Thank God!
See ya all Sunday and thanks for making NEO home.
What an inspiring story.
Here are a few photos, taken with my iPhone, from the Sacramento River Trail, along which I walk at least 6 miles each morning: