Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

love thy neighbor

yesterday, i made a giant batch of food, packaged it up, and left it on my neighbor's doorstep. that felt really, really good. caring for + loving friends is the best. 

but, BEING cared for, or taking care of myself? not as much fun. and not easy.

i've been thinking a lot lately about the complexity + weirdness of Jesus's words found in the bible:

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?” Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” --Mark 12: 28-29 (MSG version)


love others as well as you love yourself. those words are so odd to me, given that most of us don't love ourselves well. why would how we love ourselves be the standard for how we love others?

#low #bar. 

most of my therapy appointments end with my counselor saying, "take care of yourself, Amy." to which i respond, "you got it! good idea! and, how should i do that specifically?" because i'm so self-care deficient, when she tells me to take care of myself, i don't even know what's she referring to. thankfully, she's kind, and reminds me EVERY TIME: sleep, work out, eat healthy, have fun, invite friends into your worries, cook, throw parties, try a new restaurant with your husband, cuddle the puppy, all the things that make you feel good and are good for you. right.

so, back to Jesus math: 

the greatest commandment (includes): loving myself well in order to love others well. 


loving myself well = letting others care for me. 

Queen Brene Brown says: if you're great at taking care of everyone around you, but you can't receive care when you're most in need, you really aren't as great as you think you are at giving care.  


my new emerging theory is this: one of the great evils running through our world today is our willingness to not take good care of or love ourselves. to put our personal needs, health, emotion, growth, joy on the back burner, making it less priority. because the less we love ourselves, the less we're able to authentically love others. and really, what a fantastically, effective, evil plot. 

at sunday supper church, we've been going through matthew 25 -- in which Jesus describes His location {if you're looking for Jesus, here's where He'll be}, and how we're to treat others:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

this sunday, we'll focus on the sick. in preparation, i keep thinking about how i can't authentically visit the sick {and follow Jesus} unless i'm willing to be visited when i'm sick {which i'm usually not}. and that in order to follow Jesus, we must love otherselves well by being vulnerable when sick, and allowing friends + family + neighbors to care for us. this then turns our love + care for each other into authentic acts of love + grace. 

ok then.  



practice phase {reflections}: Sunday Supper Church

at the end of may, we concluded our practice phase of Sunday Supper Church. for five months, 25 of us journeyed together to practice creating a new type of church: a table-based, dinner environment that seeks to find the beauty, diversity, humanity and image of God in each other. 

we had a vision in our minds, but weren't sure exactly how it would play out, so we practiced creating a church together {!}.  we tested everything: the location, the food, the order of the gathering, the teams, the children's activities, the budget, EVERYTHING. and, WOW, what a journey it was! the vision in our minds came to light in the most beautiful, sacred, special way. we had church together on sunday nights around a table, and it worked!

of course, there's SO much more to say, but for now, a few initial reflections on my mind: 

everyone is spiritual. over the last few months, i've had a million conversations with folks outside of the Sunday Supper group who were curious to learn more about what we were doing. and, in almost every conversation, i noticed a spark and connection in people's eyes as they heard about our values: diversity, beauty, transparency, equality, Jesus-centered. i was both surprised and encouraged by this, that even as i continue to read articles about how the western church is in decline, faith and spirituality are ever increasing. 

new expressions of church are desperately needed. for many people, i noticed that the traditional, modern format churches weren't working in helping them grow in faith. many had expressed giving up on going to a building on sunday mornings because they had felt hurt, left out, oppressed, and overlooked in the past. and yet! they still wanted meaningful, loving friendships and genuine spiritual experiences. this was actually the most surprising thing to me! folks burned by church, but not by Jesus. {tweet that, baby!}. 

this is THE time for brave pastors and communities to evaluate their current ways of doing church, abandon things that are harming their congregations, and take bold risks in creating new expressions of church. there's never been a greater need, or a better time! many people i heard from (our group included), weren't convinced that church could be defined by gathering on sunday night, eating a beautiful meal, sharing communion in the kitchen, talking vulnerably about faith, doubt. oh! and also, there would be no 40 minute sermon from a stage with bright lights, no long worship sets, nor a passed offering plate. and yet! in our own new expression, we were church to each other. 

everyone has something to teach us about God. this is the core belief that SSC was built on, and as we practiced, it was a joy to see this prove absolutely true. when we gather around a {diverse} table, share our unique experience of God, and bravely listen to others' experiences, our faith is expanded as we see God in others. the highlights of this experience, for me, were when folks at my table shared how they experience, hear, see Jesus each day, and it was VASTLY different than my experiences. if we have eyes to see and open hearts to receive, the potential of our faith is limitless. 

everyone is desperate to be seen, named. a beautiful thing emerged during our practice phase--something we're calling "food share." we started making beautiful meals for not-for-profits in Chicago who are doing really hard, important, love-based work. we made lunch and served them at their staff meetings. each time, as we shared the food and said a few words about how important their work was and that our desire was for the food to remind them of this, i noticed a similar look in their eyes--as if it had been a very long time since they they had been seen or thanked.

and then, at the end of each of our Sunday Supper Church gatherings, we stand in a circle and name the ways we've seen Jesus in each other during that night. again--that look. each time, i'd look around the circle at friends and watch as they came to LIFE hearing how someone else had seen Jesus in them. again, again, again, reminded that every one of us share a common humanity, and that we must see and name the beauty in our humanity as often as possible. 

church should be enjoyable! this seems like a silly or petty reflection given the others, but i've been thinking a lot about just how fun and enjoyable gathering each month has been! for so long, church work has felt hard and burdensome, and i wasn't sure it could ever be different. the work of SSC is hard and tender, but also light, and fun, and really lovely. 

last week, a pastor friend said to me: Amy! do you know how lucky you are to be leading and creating a church that you'd actually attend if you weren't the pastor? oh RIGHT! even if i weren't leading SSC, i'd be cooking meals, setting the table, and participating in brave conversation around the table every single time the church gathered. and, i'll never take that for granted. 

so, we're taking this practice phase and moving forward. this summer, we're inviting our friends and family to experience what we've created {and, also so we can practice a few more things with/on them!}, and then in september, we'll open to the public. i seriously CAN not wait. xo, friends. 


God, our Mother


this Mother's Day, i'm practicing gratitude for the feminine, mother-side of God. feeling worn down by the chaos in our country, i'm looking toward God, my Mother, for comfort, care and guidance. 

God, our Mother 

she is wise, protective, unstoppable. 

she is caring, creative, gentle.

she collects her babies, holds them close, never lets them go. 

she anticipates needs, always one step ahead, ready to give her babies the best. 

she works hard to give them food, often sacrificing herself to provide. 

she is Mama Bear, on guard to fight the harm that comes to her babies. 

she is Auntie, lavishing gifts and attention so her babies know they are loved and special. 

she is Grandma, generously giving wisdom, guidance, unconditional love. 

Happy Mother's Day to us all --- on Sunday, give thanks to God for Her unconditional love for you. and, be sure to recognize the image of God displayed in the women all around you. 


the order {Sunday Supper Church}

guys. we're really doing it {!!} we're creating a table-based, dinner environment that looks something like a new kind of church experience. 

a lot of people ask me what a night at Sunday Supper Church actually looks like. this is a really great question --- it can be hard to picture exactly what goes down when we gather. most people assume it's a type of dinner party-small group experience in which we eat and chat. yes + more!

keep in mind: we're in month 4 of 5 in our practice phase. meaning: we're following a similar gathering order each time as we practice so that we can tweak and edit in hopes of a public launch.  

Sunday Supper Church /// Practice Phase 

5-5:20: Prepare

Guiding Value: Expect to Experience Jesus and Engage with Others

during this time, we put a beautiful plate of fruit and vegetables around a common gathering table, and encourage folks to chat. it's fun and lively, and feels like the start of a great dinner party. we also have a babysitter onsite who helps gather the kids into the playroom during this time. 

5:25-5:40: Gather 

Guiding Value: Jesus is Present + Alive in Each of Us 

the gather time is one of my most favorites. we stand in a circle in the kitchen area as the host welcomes and gives an overview of the night. then, the communion leader passes out the bread and juice as we are reminded that Jesus' presence is near, and that He is alive in each of us. the kids join us for this time, too, which is absolutely the BEST!

5:45-6:15: Eat 

Guiding Value: Jesus is Beauty, Abundance, Goodness for All 

after the gather time, the food leader presents dinner and we all ooohhh and ahhhh over the meal. we take our food to the tables (3 tables of 8 people) to eat and discuss the first guiding question. at each gathering, we have a guiding theme that centers our time together. last month, our theme was the divinity + humanity of Jesus. the first question we discussed at dinner: what is the image of Jesus to me? at Sunday Supper Church, we believe magic happens when we eat a beautiful meal together and share our unique perspectives of faith around a diverse table. 

6:15–6:45: Discover 

Guiding Value: Jesus is found as we learn from others, and share our unique perspectives

after dinner, we stay seated at the tables, and hear a 10-minute sermonette that gives common language for the group centered around the guiding theme. last month, i did the sermonette and spoke on Jesus showing us who God is --- love, joy, peace, fixes what's broken, heals, calls out hypocrisy, creates beauty, forgives, and participates in community, and, that Jesus as human shows us our potential --- to be all of these things. following the sermonette, we engage around the table in the second guiding question that builds off the sermonette. last month: what is broken in my humanity, and what is my potental to become like Jesus?

note: leading into the question, i encouraged the group to take a risk as they answered the second question at the table. to consider the table safe + sacred by saying something new + brave. 

 6:45-7:00 Celebrate

Guiding Value: We’ve seen God in each other, and declare His goodness

we end the night by gathering again as a group in the kitchen. we do a naming activity in which we say, "tonight, I saw Jesus in you when..." and then, we conclude with the cake benediction, in which we raise our dessert and declare a blessing over each other. i love, love, love this part, and not just because i love cake, but because it reminds us that in the midst of our pain + heavy-hearts, God is good and love and abundance and beauty for all. 

after we say the blessing, we play a fun song and dance a bit, kids included of course! and then we clean up while chatting, kissing babies and saying goodbye. 

the night FLIES by and i'm always sad when it's over. in my opinion, church should be enjoyable and inspiring, leaving you feeling a little less burdened and a little less alone in the world, and a place where you know you'll see Jesus and your friends. and for me, this is church.