The Power of the Church

“Church.”

It’s a word that has the power to evoke many different emotions.

Sadly, a lot of them are negative.

For many people, the church is a symbol of repression, discrimination, and boredom. I get it. There is a lot of bad history there and I’ve fallen asleep in church a bunch of times.

Despite the negativity, the history, and the bad stereotypes, I have a different story to tell.

A story of hope, a story of generosity, a story of love.

That is the church Jesus intended.

That is the church Jesus loved.

That is my church.

A family at our church has been going through some really tough times. The unwanted trifecta: medical issues, unemployment, and the loss of their home. They asked for prayer, so a lot of people prayed. However, I felt like we needed to do more. These folks have amazing spirits, are always willing to serve, and their church should be there to help in their time of greatest need.

It was.

In a way unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

Last fall, one of my good friends, Teddy, and I went out to a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. We once lived in the same small town in Texas about 25 years ago and so we both have a passion for Mexican food. Work, technology, and to-do lists occupy so much of our time, so it was priceless to just sit down, eat tacos, and talk with a friend face-to-face.

We invited more guys from Capital City Church to join us for Mexican food the next month. We’ve gathered together every single month since last November. I started to call it “Dude Date.” About 25 of us hit up a local Mexican joint, bond over tacos, give out a coveted “Dude of the Month” award, and raise money for a different charity each month. We usually raise about $125. We also raise a lot of eyebrows when we roll into a local taco joint 25-deep on a Monday night.

The Church

Dude of the Month

These two separate stories converged last week. Instead of raising money for a charity, I decided to use this month’s Dude Date to raise money for the family at our church who needed some hope. I emailed the group of guys and asked for help. I thought we’d raise $300. I was really hoping for $500.

We raised $5,160.

(drops the mic)

(picks the mic back up because there is more to say)

I’ve never seen such unbridled generosity, enthusiasm, or love from a community. I was moved, I was shocked, I was honored to call these guys my friends and this church my home.

Most of these guys didn’t know the family we were helping. It didn’t matter. One guy said God was pounding on his heart when he heard there was a need. He gave $1,250. Someone mailed me an anonymous $800 money order. Another guy paid for everyone’s bill at last week’s Dude Date and encouraged the thirty other guys to donate to the family what they would have paid for their meal.

I gave all that money to the family today. It has felt like the week before Christmas since Monday. I was so excited for that moment. It was priceless. It was powerful. That money will be used to make sure this beloved family has a place to live.

That is the power of the church.

The church Jesus loved. The church I love.

Lost and Found

In case you didn’t notice the creepy bunny at the mall or the absurd amount of yellow candy at CVS, Easter is almost here. I’m really excited about Easter this year because we’ll actually be able to go to church. It’s been five years since we’ve been to an Easter service because we were either gallivanting through Thailand or Hungary or visiting my brother in jail. I’m also really excited about Easter because I have a new pair of teal and orange shoes I want to wear.

Oh, and because I have a new appreciation for the story of forgiveness that is central to the message of Easter.

Like every human being ever, I am my own worst critic. I magnify my mistakes and replay the memories of my stupid decisions over and over again like they were Katy Perry songs on my iPhone. I’ve struggled with a lot of the same issues for so many years. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating. I feel defeated, I feel like a loser, I feel condemned. Thus, if I feel that way, then God, OMG, must really feel the same. It has to be a horrible movie for Him to watch me screw up again and again (but it is still a better movie than Cloud Atlas; that was a waste of three hours this week). I feel like the weight of my mistakes is so heavy and my shame so great that I am unworthy of God’s grace.

And then Luke 15 slaps me all up in the head. In this chapter, Jesus tells three stories:

The first is about a sheep that got lost from the herd. Jesus emphasizes that a single sheep is so valuable to the shepherd that he will leave all the other sheep to find the dumb one that went astray. After he finds it, the shepherd invites all his friends over to celebrate the return of his lost sheep. I’ve been to a few awkward parties over the years, but a “I Found My Sheep” party sounds like the worst. Despite that, I still love this story.

The second story in Luke 15 is essentially the same as the tale of the lost sheep, but it is about a lost coin. Thus, there is less poop and fleas, but still the same awkward party at the end to celebrate finding the lost coin.

Finally, there is the story of the prodigal son. I like this one the most because sometimes it is hard to relate to a sheep or coin. However, a dude who lived it up, made some poor life decisions, and found himself full of regret and laying face down in the mud, yea, I get that. Although the prodigal son blew a bunch of his dad’s money on booze and prostitutes, the dad still welcomes his son back with open arms. Yep, the son screwed up. A lot. Yep, he hit rock bottom. Yep, pops still threw a rocking party to celebrate the fact that his son came home. It didn’t matter that the son was filthy. He was home.

I love these stories because they remind me (1) that we should throw more parties; (2) that God isn’t up there excitedly waiting to smack me down each time I screw up; and (3) my mistakes will never be too great for His grace.

I am the sheep.  I am the lost coin.  I am the prodigal son.

I am also hungry for some McDonald’s breakfast. BRB.

Everyday Heroes: Ron DMC

2013 has been a really special year.  I turned 30, found out I was going to be a babydaddy, later discovered I was having twins, and I finally got to see the Rolling Stones in concert.  Most importantly, I got a bunch of new Jordans.

Oh, and I met this incredible dude named Ron.

Everyday Heroes - Ron DMC

You may recognize him:

That video has gotten more than 4,000 hits on YouTube.  That sort of scares me.

In addition to his beautiful “falsetto” T-Swift voice, I love that Ron wears boots every single day.  If you try to put Ron in a box, he will use those boots to break those walls down.  He loves Jesus, but he also loves tattoos.  He rocks out to heavy metal music, but never misses an episode of “Gossip Girl.”  Ron is a tough military guy, but he spends more time fixing his hair than any other guy.  Ever.

Ron SelfieRon is also a veteran.  While movies and video games are the closest most of us will get to experiencing the horrors of war, Ron has witnessed it up close and personal. He’s lost friends.  He’s also struggled with depression, drugs, and divorce.  Less than a year ago, he tried to take his own life.

Now’s he the lead guitarist at Capital City Church’s new Kingstown site and one of my best friends.  Sadly, he’s leaving DC for music school in a few months.  Although I’ve only known Ron since April, he’s already meant so much to me.  We have a pretty sweet bromance and I will miss him.  A lot.  Ron has seen the best of life, but he’s also seen the transforming power of redemption, hope, and change.  When I have doubts about my own faith, Ron’s story reminds me why I believe.

He’s hilarious, he’s energetic, and he’s a perfectionist.  Both with his hair and his guitar game.  Ron makes everyone around him better.  In fact, he makes the entire world better.  Although I didn’t have a chance to interview all seven billion people on Earth, here’s what a random sample of eight really smart people had to say about Ron:

Eileen (@eileenwild): “What I appreciate about Ron is that he does life with his heart ‘all in.’  Whether it is meetings, music, or friendships, nothing is done halfway or without his contagious joy.  This one thing is for sure:  when Ron walks into a room, everything just got better.”

Ron Sky

Gio (@gio32r):  “Ron is a perfect example of God’s love.  His heart came in a box full of gift and talents.  His heart is big and willing to serve.  Mi amigo Ron eres el mejor.  You are the best, my friend.”  

Hannah (@lovehannxoxo):  “Ron is the coolest.  He is not only literally a rockstar, but he also has an incredible heart to see people connect to God and is willing to do just about anything to see that happen.  On top of that, he’s fun, can sing Taylor Swift (and everything else!), and can save your life if you’re choking or fall off of a curb.”  (Ron is also an EMT.  And Hannah is kind of clumsy.)

Jeff (@jefforzo):  “Ron is very inspirational in his tendency to dive in headfirst when he’s involved in something.  He puts himself in places where God can activate his passion and creativity, and it’s awesome to witness.”

Ron and Orzos

Ben (@benevans01):  “Ron’s a hero because he’s not just one person. He’s a talented musician, God-loving citizen who cares for everyone.  He’s also a friend who will do anything for the ones he loves and calls friends.  Doing those things aren’t easy in today’s negative-minded society, but that’s why he’s a hero!”

Alicia (@aliciaorzo):  “Ron is an encourager.  He is always working to get people excited and he is the first to “like” everything!  He brings the mood wherever he is!”

Ashley (@ashmichelley):  “Ron keeps me in stitches. And when I’m not laughing at/with him, I’m just feeling honored to call him a friend.  He’s a true worshiper who has a great head on his shoulders!” 

Amanda (@ajmccormick1):  “He’s cool.”

Ron guitar

Ron has survived life’s toughest and darkest challenges.  When I see Ron singing and playing guitar, I’m reminded that life is a miraculous and precious gift.  It is also remarkable to watch Ron play guitar and see someone doing exactly what they were born to do.

If you want to learn more about Ron, his guitar game, or his sweet hair, you should follow him on Instagram at @imronmillward.  Seriously.  Do it.

Bittersweet

I’ll admit it, sometimes I have a hard time moving on.  I’ve barely come to terms with the fact that I’m no longer in college.  I still miss “LOST, “Battlestar Galactica,” and “Gilmore Girls.”  April is the saddest month of the year because McDonald’s stops selling Shamrock Shakes during that terrible month (no offense to my wife and her April birthday).

Another important chapter comes to a close this Sunday.  Amanda and I have been going to Capital City Church in DC for the past four years.  No longer.

Bittersweet

Nope, there’s no exciting scandal (although I do occasionally steal donuts from the music team on Sunday mornings). Rather, we’re helping launch a new Cap City site in Kingstowne, Virginia on October 20th. Like the ninth inning of a close baseball game, we’re incredibly excited and nervous about this new adventure.

Before making the big move, I wanted to reflect on some of the things I loved about going to Cap City DC and the things I’ll miss the most:

1. I will miss the white hipsters of H Street. I normally feel out of place when it comes to fashion, but y’all are weird too.

2. Without the support and encouragement of my church family, I might be divorced now. This means that Capital City Church is largely responsible for the fact that Amanda and I are having twins.  Thus, we expect all you DC folks to make the trek down to Alexandria to babysit our kids.  Every weekend.

3.  I will miss having to hide all our valuables in the trunk so no one on H Street breaks into our car.

4. I will miss all the college kids who make me feel older than John McCain.

5. I will miss all the amazing restaurants on H Street.  Thanks for making me fat.

6. Specifically, Sticky Rice. I used to think that Britney Spears was God’s greatest creation.  Nope.  Sticky Rice introduced me to a metal bucket full of tater tots covered in Sriracha sauce. That, my friends, is God’s masterpiece.

7. We learned to become more generous people, both with our finances, and more importantly, our time. “You only get one shot” at life.  I want mine to be full of passion and generosity.  And tater tots.

8. I will miss Adam’s logic-defying white boy curled afro. He was the first person to greet us at Cap City DC in 2009. We’ve been coming back since then, mostly because of Adam’s hair.

Bittersweet

9. I’ve had a lot of friends and family join me at church over the past four years.  They were all different ages and all different races.  Some were gay, some were straight.  Some dudes, some dudettes.  All felt welcome.

10. This.

Bittersweet

Bye.  TGIF!