I love hearing stories on Tuesdays and Wednesdays of people who have dared to minister to people around them: to listen to those in need, to pray with the sick, to encourage the discouraged. On Tuesdays at lunch and Wednesday nights, we have gatherings we call *huddles. If you attended one or two times, you might just think we’re holding traditional small group Bible studies – except that we talk about “shapes” a lot. But if you hung out with us long enough, you might notice a key difference. Our discipleship huddles are aimed at equipping and encouraging people to live out the gospel wherever they are, and to do so in such a way that they can pass it on.
On Wednesdays, we’ve been studying healing prayer. Last week, I challenged the group to look for opportunities to pray with someone who needing healing spiritually, relationally, or physically. And quite a few of us had the chance to do so – and did! Here’s the summary of what happened: Lovingly, patiently, and courageously, we listened to people in their pain. We dared to call out to God on behalf of those we loved for the things on their hearts and on ours. And God showed up. I won’t tell their stories. I haven’t asked permission. And I don’t want anyone to hold back for fear I might tell their story. I’m selfish that way. I really like hearing the stories people tell after they join God in his work and don’t want to do anything to limit that! But here’s one of mine from last week:
I had my hair cut. When I walked into the salon, I met Miranda (not her real name.) Miranda was covered in tattoos. Now, I know it is not unusual for a hair dresser to have tattoos, but she had a lot! Well, as a result of our discipleship gatherings, I try to be sensitive to what’s going on in peoples lives. So I asked the Lord to help me connect with Miranda for the sake of His Kingdom.
One of her co-workers walked by and teased her about her cigarettes. Miranda teased back, “You don’t want a deal with a cranky smoker, do you?”
I piped up, “It can be dangerous to have your hair cut by a cranky smoker…” That got the conversation going. She explained that her co-worker was trying to help her quit smoking… but Miranda wasn’t interested in quitting. Her grandmother got her started when she was a teenager. “My mom could have killed her!” After talking about family, we talked about how long she’d been living in Jacksonville, about where she came from in Ft. Lauderdale, how she loves to go mudding with her boyfriend, how she doesn’t want kids, and how co-workers steal her combs.
The conversation was kind of fun and playful. I was hearing a lot about Miranda, but it wasn’t going anywhere, really, and my hair was getting shorter. Sighing to myself, I prayed, “Lord, I would really like to connect a little deeper here, so I could offer some word of grace to Miranda.” And God impressed on me very quickly and clearly: “Ask about her tattoos.”
So I said, “Miranda, what do your tattoos mean.”
“Oh,” she said, “they are all in memory of people I’ve lost.”
I felt some pain in my heart. I thought to myself, “Wow, God!” And I said to Miranda. “You have a lot of tattoos. That’s a lot of loss.”
She began to explain that where she had come from, drugs were a big problem. Many of her friends had lost their lives one way or another as a result of the drug culture where she came from. She pointed out the tattoos covering one arm. “All of these are for my fiancé. We tried to stop him, but he ended up dying from an overdose.”
I said, “Wow. You have known a lot of heart break. How long ago did you lose your fiancé?”
“About this time last year. His family wants me to come down for a memorial thing on the one year anniversary. But I can’t make it. I have to work. I’ll try to go down in a couple of weeks though.”
My haircut was complete. A little more was gone than might have been cut otherwise. But I was blown away by what she’d shared.
Getting up, I didn’t feel like I could stop and pray with her. Other people were in line waiting for the chair. So I just looked her in the eyes and said, “Miranda, you’ve had a lot of heartache. I’ll be praying that you experience God’s peace.”
And I gave her a generous tip and said, “I hope you can make it to Ft. Lauderdale soon.”
It isn’t always easy to step up and do something spiritual. I felt like I wimped out a bit. It can be harder to do something in the name of Jesus, especially with friends or family members who don’t believe or aren’t all that comfortable with that sort of thing. It is even harder if we aren’t experienced with it. But if we let our discomfort stop us, we don’t get to experience God at work.
The discomfort factor means encouraging one another is a big part of what we do at our gatherings. No, it’s a huge part. We pray for one another, lovingly challenge one another, and follow up with one another (sometimes).
What we are doing can be described this way: we are trying to live 3D lives together. 3D: Up, In, and Out.
- Up – seeking God through worship, prayer, reading scripture, being led by the Spirit, looking for God’s hand at work around us.
- In – investing in others and in one another – doing the hard work of knowing, serving, loving, one another deeply and well.
- Out – going out to meet needs in the world around us in a way that is hands-on and face-to-face.
It’s a simple pattern. We do this because we see those three dimensions on display in Jesus’ life.
- Up: He would engage in worship. He’d pray. He’d look to see where the Father was at work. He’d follow the leading of the Spirit – even if the Spirit took him into the wilderness.
- In: Jesus invested in his disciples steadily over a long period of time. We see that very clearly with the twelve disciples, but we also see it with a few others (women like Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and with family and friends like Lazarus)
- Out: Jesus met needs with love, grace, and the power of heaven as moved through the world. He didn’t have to look hard. Once he got started, the world’s needs seem to come to him. (That’s starting to happen to some of us, too).
So to the extent that we do this Up-In-Out lifestyle together, we find we are beginning to live a lifestyle that looks kind of like the lifestyle of Jesus.
You could do that, too I bet. And I’d love to hear your stories.
* Our huddles are patterned after what I learned from someone who learned them from someone else who, at some point back down the line, learned them from 3DM and Mike and Sally Breen.