Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Faith

New Stars in the Sky

Lindsey Smallwood
StarrySky

On Sunday, I preached for the first time at our new church home in San Jose, The River Church Community. Our Advent series is based in the stories about Jesus’ birth from the book of Matthew. Last week our lead pastor taught from the genealogies of Jesus, highlighting how the inclusion of women, and marginalized women at that, helps us see a God who is for all.

This week we read the Epiphany story, finding ourselves on the Magi’s journey, looking at the ways God reveals himself to everyone, even those a long way off from faith.

Unlike Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds who all receive visit from angels speaking their language and explaining what’s happening, the Magi merely see a new star and are left to decide what to do about what they’ve seen.

Me, telling a childhood story, because #always

Me, telling a childhood story, because #always

To hear more about faith journeys, paying attention and the stars we must make sense of, you can listen to the sermon here:

Proclaiming a Mystery

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm not doing much writing these days as we get ready to move to California in 3 weeks. But I have been preaching here and there.

Last month, I got to preach in the church I grew up in which was weird and wonderful. It was Ascension Sunday and we read this exchange between Jesus and his disciples from Acts 1:6-9:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Ok, so first off that question!

"Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

What Jesus' followers are asking is this:
Are you finally going to become the literal king on the literal throne of this little piece of land where we live?
Are you going to vanquish our enemies and make sure that
our religion is respected,
our families are safe,
our way of life is protected? 

Jesus, being Jesus, knows what they're asking, that they are hoping to become powerful, to see their status restored. But he doesn't rebuke them, he just answers a different question. 

Oh you're about to get power. 
But not power to rule this little piece of land in the Middle East.
You're going to have power to live out a life of faith,
power to proclaim the good news,
power to continue my work around the world.

Then - mic drop - and he Star Treks himself up to the sky.

After talking about that story, I shared about this power to proclaim, what it looks like to be people who are good at telling God's story. 

Audio:


The next week I was back in Ann Arbor for Pentecost Sunday. (If you're following along, I preached about evangelism to the Pentecostals and Pentecost to the evangelical Baptists ;)

The sermon invites us to live expectantly and embrace the mystery of God - including learning to worship while wrestling with doubt, honest prayer, faith and how to make sense of the phrase "body of Christ."

Video:

Audio:

Actually, Prayer Isn't That Easy...

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm back at iBelieve.com this week with some reflections on prayer.

I grew up hearing it was easy - that prayer is "just" talking to God. And while there's some truth there, the reality is things worth doing aren't usually easy and prayer is no exception. 

When it came time for me to start first grade, my family moved. I found myself in a new school learning lots of new things. They had different ways of lining up in the hallway, eating in the cafeteria, even going to the bathroom. But the most painful difference in my six-year-old way of seeing things was that everyone in my grade knew how to jump rope. Everyone but me.

Everyday at recess, the girls would form lines and play games like Down in the Valley and Miss Mary Mack. I started out watching, trying to figure out what exactly was required to move as quickly and fluidly as they did through the ropes. A few times I attempted to join in, always falling or getting tangled up as I panicked, unsure of what to do with my feet. I remember one of the girls who told me “Try again, it’s easy, anyone can do it.” Still, my efforts always ended with me on the ground.

I came home crying, telling my mom that I hated my school. But she quickly figured out that what I needed was some after-school instruction in how to jump rope. My mom and I practiced every day for a few weeks as I built my confidence and my skill set. Soon I was able to join with my classmates, laughing and singing silly songs as we jumped our recess minutes away.

Many of us feel the same way about prayer that I felt about jump rope as a nervous first grader. It seems like it should be easy, it seems like everyone around us in church, in our Bible study groups, in our circle of friends already knows what they’re doing. In fact, we get advice, from friends, even pastors that tell us things like: “Prayer is easy, it’s just talking to God, anyone can do it.” And while there’s some truth there, the reality is a bit more complicated.

Prayer is talking to God. But if you’ve ever had any kind of meaningful relationship, you know... 

Continue reading at iBelieve.com by clicking here

Just Like Riding a Bike

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm writing over at The Mudroom today, as part of their monthlong theme of Distress, Disquietude and Dread. Sometimes dread gets bigger than it needs to, but it doesn't have to be that way...

Four years ago a teenage boy pointed a gun at me while demanding I give him my money. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oakland, California. I was standing at the flagpole in front of the elementary school where I’d recently been assigned to teach. My husband Chris and I had ridden our bikes there together, trying to determine the best route for my commute.

After he waved it in my face, the gunman turned to Chris, jabbing the weapon toward his chest, repeating his demand for money. Chris slowly took out his wallet and passed him the bills. As he took the money and ran down the block, we got back on our bikes and rode to a liquor store where we called the police.

When the cops arrived, they took down our story, called in an account of the suspect, put our bikes in the trunk of their squad car and drove us home. Riding in the back of that car felt like being secured in a tank, there was hot relief in my chest that nothing could happen to us behind the locked doors and heavy glass. I saw a boy pass on a bicycle and it occurred to me for the first time how vulnerable it is, to pedal around the streets with no walls between you and the world around you. I wondered if I would ever ride a bike again.

I didn’t.

Though I had been a bike commuter and recreational rider for years, I didn’t get back on my bike. I didn’t get on that week or that month or that year. I tripped over it in the garage, demurred when Chris asked if I wanted to ride somewhere with him, not wanting to outright refuse and risk actually having to talk about the feelings of dread that sat heavy in my stomach every time I thought about going out into the world on my bike.

Then I got pregnant and had a baby. A few months later another followed. No one expected the pregnant lady to be tooting around on a bicycle. After our second child was born we moved to Colorado, where most people’s bikes were put away for the winter. But ever since the grass turned green and flowers began to bloom, I’ve known it’s time. Time to face the unsettled feeling I have when I see my bike leaned up on the back fence.

My 33rd birthday was last weekend. I asked Chris to fix up my bike as my gift to myself. Our first family ride was a spectacular failure. I sobbed the whole time, the trailer for the babies got a flat tire, Chris ended up going home via a different route and I panicked we couldn’t find each other for nearly half an hour. But my “I can’t” and “Never agains” died on the pavement in front of our apartment, even as the tears streamed down my face.

Wednesday night after work we tried again. I packed a picnic dinner and we rode to a park in the cool of the evening. It was beautiful, easy, like something we’d done a thousand times before. And as my toddler climbed up the play structure and my baby sucked on fruit in the grass at my feet, I thought about fear.

Sometimes we’re afraid of the wrong things. It’s a lot easier to be afraid of riding a bike and so choose to let it gather dust in my garage than it is to face the reality of living in a world where people threaten each other with guns at elementary schools.

Riding my bike with my family was a step toward deeper trust in a God who holds the whole world in His hands—the whole broken messy world where children die unexpectedly and people are shot at malls and movie theaters and no place is truly safe. I live here and though I feel afraid, I am not alone.

I’m learning again to trust Him with my fears and realizing that in not facing them for sometime, I’m out of practice. But trust is a muscle, the more I exercise it, the stronger it surges in my heart. I’m wobbling toward Jesus and remembering that this has always been the path toward freedom and away from fear.

Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike.

 

This post originally appeared at The Mudroom.
You can see it by clicking here