Nathan and the Zipline – Bill White


The Zipline (it’s really high!)

Nathan’s one of twenty or so kids who came on the City Church retreat with us last weekend. At 11 years old he’s the man of the house and does his best to be helpful for his mom and two sisters. They attend elementary school where we worship on Sundays, and a year ago he and his family met Jesus through our Kids Camp and were baptized. Now they are all learning to follow Jesus like the rest of us, one faltering step at a time.

Despite dozens of us cheering for him Saturday afternoon, the rock climbing wall didn’t go so well for Nathan. And the zipline went worse: he had made it half way up to the launching station when he lost his nerve. So he skittered down and stumbled off to his cabin in tears.

But Greg, one of the dads on the retreat, wandered into the cabin later and saw Nathan sulking on the top bunk. After finding out what happened, Greg said, “Hey, I noticed last night you were folding your hands and praying up there on your bunk before bed. That was pretty awesome to see you do that. How about we pray about the zipline?”

There’s just something about a man speaking into a boy’s life that can flip a switch.

They prayed together on their bunks, and before the ‘amen’ Nathan was climbing down. “I’ve got to do this with God,” he told Greg as he sped out of the cabin and back up the mountain to the zipline.

Nathan interrupted Patsy (another leader at City Church) as she was putting on the safety harness and asked if he could take her place. She’d seen the earlier failures and could tell this was a crucial moment, especially when Nathan said, “I gotta trust God this time.”

Nathan became a little bit more of a man on Saturday – not just facing his failures and not just conquering his fear of heights, but courageously allowing his community to embrace him and trusting the God who catches us when we fall.

The screams coming from the zipline as Nathan flew down the mountainside were from sheer joy. We were sure of that because he was the only kid at camp who rode the zipline twice. (HERE is the 20 second video of Nathan’s first ride)

Here's the whole group of us on the retreat

Here’s the whole group of us on the retreat



Andrew’s First Prayer — Jason Brown

For the past several weeks the kids who go to our Kid’s Class have been traveling around the world.passport

Well, not literally (I’m guessing you figured that out!) but through the eyes of people who have visited these places and witnessed first-hand what God is up to. They’ve been places like China, Indonesia and this past week, Mexico.

As you can imagine, Mexico is a special place for most of our kids at City Church. So, when Katy talked about the year she spent in Mexico City learning about God and his love through the people there, many of the kids paid special attention.

When Katy finished sharing, another one of the adult leader’s in the class, Greg, invited the kids to pray. Katy had shared a story about the power of prayer and Greg thought, “Well, let’s just give prayer a whirl right now.”

So, Greg asked, “Would any of you like to pray?”

Immediately, Andrew’s hand shot up. Andrew goes to Lafayette Elementary and has been hanging around City Church for over a year now. He came to our Kid’s Camp in the summer of 2014. He’s one of our most regular worship attenders. Most Sundays, he comes with his younger sister, Audrey. He has lots of family in Mexico so he wanted to be the one to pray.

Greg said, “Great. Andrew, you go ahead and pray.”

The kids bowed their heads. Andrew did too. It was quiet. Andrew raised his head, “I don’t know how to pray.” Wow, what a courageous admission.

Greg: “Well, you can just talk to God instead. What do you care about?”

Andrew: “Well, I really want everyone to have enough food to eat.”

Greg: “You can just ask God for that.”

Andrew: “OK. Well, let’s pray. God, would you make sure everyone has enough food to eat? Amen.”

That’s a pretty solid first prayer, don’t you think? Just makes me really, really glad.

The Best Decade – Bill White

Sitting on our piano bench and facing a group of friends and neighbors, Paul said, “My ten years as an atheist were some of the best years of my life.”journey


Perhaps he didn’t know it, but that’s not the right thing to say at a church group. You know that, right? You’re supposed to talk about how meaningless and hopeless and terrible it is to be an atheist. But for Paul, who’s now been following Jesus for 25 years, it’s the plain truth that those were great years for him.

And people loved it. They loved it because it was honest. They loved it because it’s his story, and they respect Paul. And they loved it because, for so many of them, it’s their story, too.

After Paul’s 9 minute ‘story of my life,’ we broke into groups to talk about where it connected with us. One neighbor at my table shared how he’s really thinking about becoming a Christian and that Paul gave him a picture of what it looks like to value the journey he’s been on while still moving forward.

A gal at our table followed that with, “I’m not on a spiritual journey.” I pressed her and pointed out that I know she thinks about God and that she walks over to my home regularly to talk about these things. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’m on a spiritual journey. It just means I take occasional day trips!” We all had a good laugh at that. Then a couple more neighbors, one Christian and one agnostic, both shared their stories. Not a bad table conversation for a Thursday evening!

Later that night it struck me that this is how I want to live. I want to make sure there’s safe space around me for people to go at their own pace on their own journeys (even if that just means day trips!).

That same night, one of my other neighbors summed it up best. Addressing the whole group (which was a motley crew of over 30 adults and kids) she started to cry as she shared. “I just want to say thank you to all of you. This is the first time I’ve been in a community of people who let me be me. And I can’t believe how much joy you all have. It’s really inspiring.”

What made her comments so precious to me was that the first time I met her, six months ago, she told me she was an atheist and asked (skeptically) if she would be welcome in our church. My response: “Of course! If you’d like, I’ll get you a seat next to some of the other atheists.” Since then she’s transitioned from her active atheism to more of a searching agnosticism, and she’s even considered following Jesus and being baptized.

I never had much of an atheist period in my own spiritual journey, but I can say that travelling along with these friends and neighbors has made for some of the best years of my life.

This post isn’t about a goat or pumpkins — Jason Brown

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 3.07.42 PMI was meditating on the meaning of Philippians 2. “Though he (Jesus) was in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” Paul prefaces that sentence with this appeal: “Your mindset should be the same as Christ Jesus.”

What is that mindset?

Here’s a partial (at best) answer. Jesus wanted to see reality through our eyes. He wanted to experience reality as we experience reality. He wanted to step into our shoes, so to speak. He became human. This was a cross-cultural experience – to put it mildly. God becomes human. And we are to have this same mindset.

So, God, may I be willing to see the world through another’s eye, walk a few miles in their shoes, experience the world as they experience the world. In some ways, this requires I not insist that my perspective is the only legitimate perspective – the equivalent of “grasping” (clinging to) God-likeness. I think I am like Jesus when I understand and accept my perspective while letting it go (becoming nothing) in order to sit at the feet of someone else and let them describe the world as they see it.

What are the concrete applications of this thinking? Here’s one. My experience with police has been very positive. I’ve never been pulled over except when I’ve actually done something worthy of being pulled-over. Two police officers coached my sons’ baseball teams this spring (and did a fine job!). Another is one of the generous elder statesmen in our church. I’ve had great personal interaction with law enforcement personnel. When I see a police car, I think, “I’m glad you’re here. Thank you.”

But, this isn’t everyone’s perspective or experience. Do I insist that my perspective is the only true perspective or can I “let go” in order to listen to someone else say, “Here’s my experience – and it’s very different from yours.” Can both these perspectives be legitimate?

Do you think the world would benefit from more people practicing this mindset more often?






Unity vs. Holiness – Jason Brown

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 12.07.39 PMI was listening to a podcast of N.T. Wright this past year. He said something along these lines, “It’s very difficult for a community to be holy and unified at the same time.” At least that’s the way I heard it.

Regardless of precisely what he said, this is the thing I continued to think about. Yep. It’s hard to have holiness and unity at the same time. I’m sure the force of the quote could be diminished by deconstructing the words or playing with their definition – figuring out a way to make them work together seamlessly.

When I talk with younger folks in the church (I’m 43), I get the feeling their primary value is unity. It makes sense to me. You can make a reasonably strong Biblical case for the primacy of unity (Jesus’s prayer at the end that we would be one, and the Hebrew vision of Shalom, for example). But, I think it’s also a response to something they feel: everyone is always fighting, everyone is just so angry with each other.

Perhaps you could call it a hunger. Their experience of so many loud voices, with so many resources to do their campaigning, so angry with everyone else, always dramatically slamming their fist on the table moments before leaving it – well, it leaves one hungry for something different.

I think this hunger for something different is a hunger for unity. If they were forced to choose between unity and holiness, they’d pick unity. Immediately. Why? To my younger friends, all these competing views of holiness – both secular and sacred – just create anger, hatred, tribalism, judgment, and ultimately, separation.

And, right or wrong, their understanding of Jesus is that if he were forced to choose, he’d pick unity over holiness as well.

The more thoughtful ones admit the need for holiness, which might be defined as a commitment to a set of values. But, the only models they have for working out a commitment to holiness lead to division. The sense I get is that they want to call a timeout – could we all just agree to hold our definition of holiness loosely for a day, a week, heck maybe even a year. Long enough to catch our breath, pray, talk when the stakes aren’t so high.

Perhaps spend some time at the table together, eating bread and drinking wine alongside the guy who, as unfathomable as it is, invited all of us there.

Kids Camp 2015 – Bill White


We’ve been having THE BEST time at Kids Camp this week. Over 100 kids have come, and 90% of them are from the neighborhood/school where we worship. There’s been lots of laughter, some needed tears, great praying, and some good conversations. Most of all, the love of Jesus has been on display all around. Enjoy some pictures!

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A Personal Conversation about the Supreme Court Decision – Bill White

My friend Barbara and I disagree on a number of things. We see religion very differently, for example. And I suspect we’ve got a some differences about economics and politics as well. But we’re neighbors, and she matters to me. And I think I matter to her.

Barbara has been very grateful for the recent Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, in part because she’s been with her partner Maureen for 18 years. She has posted about her support of the Supreme Court decision on Facebook and has been dismayed by some of the hateful rhetoric she’s received.

Recently she mades some posts on Facebook in light of the pain she’s experienced. After reading her post below I decided to respond.   With Barbara’s permission (and Mary’s), I’d like to share the conversation.  I’m grateful for these neighbors and these conversations.

Blog - barbara