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“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV).

Dear Reader,
Side by side, doing life, sharing joys and sorrows, bypassing the need to be in the know because you are known and you know others well. That’s community. It’s where others know your name and what your favorite food is. They know your stories, and they show up not only when things are good; they show up when you are hurting. It’s where they don’t care if your house is a mess or if your furniture is new or old. It’s where you can be real. It’s where people pray, really pray, even if they don’t know the details—because God knows the details. It’s where you can cry and someone just listens and lets you lay your head in her lap. We were created for relationship. First, we were created to be loved by God. He loved us first. We are swept away by his mercy and grace, and then we find that we just can’t keep all that joy to ourselves. And so we love him back, and we love others in the way that he has loved us. It gets messy and it takes time, but it’s worth it. We crave the reaching out and being reached for. We need community—the doing of life, together. We have listened to what you are asking for and have prayed and planned for a new year filled with opportunities to experience growing together in a community of faith and friendship. We got off to a great start when the women’s Bible study was filled FULL for four Tuesdays in January. There is more to come! • More opportunities to experience the richness of the generations coming together for Bible study in both the spring and fall. • A new session of women's Bible study begins April 9th. • Our annual conference on October 19 featuring the warmth and candor of Melissa Bishop, wife of our senior pastor. • The popular Summer Smorgasbord small groups will be back again for a new summer of learning and making great connections with other women. The Journey team also goes on the road to share out of the overflow of what God is doing here at our church. In doing so, our community stretches beyond our walls, and we grow richer for all the friends we have met. It’s always better to travel with a buddy, especially when you are headed Home! Love to You,

Mary Ann
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Between the Lines is a magazine of the Journey, a ministry of Christ Church Fairview Heights, IL. © 2013, Christ Church. Graphic Design by Michelle Sweeten

Between the Lines • Winter 2013 • Volume 3, Issue 1

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In the next issue: Seasons – there’s a time for everything. This Issue’s Theme: Community Verse of the Season: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in
unity! (Psalm 133:1).

Meet the Contributors
Amy Armstrong is wife to Grant and mommy to Lily (8) and Clara (4). The Armstrongs are also expecting their third child, a son from Ethiopia, sometime this year. An extrovert by nature, Amy enjoys being in community with others, especially if it involves shopping or sharing stories over Diet Coke. Emily Climaco, Ph.D., is a Journey Team member and the volunteer editor of Between the Lines. The wife of Phil and mom of Caroline, she spends her “free time” being silly with her four-year-old daughter and writing on her blog, Nancy Dwyer lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her husband, Jeff, and their chocolate Labrador, Cocoa. They own and operate The Falling Rock Café and Bookstore (www.fallingrockcafe. com). Nancy has also been an RN for 25 years working in pediatric intensive care, teaching nursing students, and home health and hospice. She enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her two stepdaughters, Amanda and Rebecca. Lindsay Tallman is a freelance writer who writes about family and faith. Her work has been featured in Thriving Family and Family Fun magazines. When she’s not busy writing or tripping over toys, she enjoys reading, traveling, and playing with her quirky kids. She and her family live in O’Fallon, Illinois, and worship at Christ Church. Mary Ann Turner is the leader of the Journey Team at Christ Church. A former elementary school teacher, she is the wife of Mark, mother of two grown children, and grandmother to two precious little boys. She enjoys great conversations, hiking with her family, and encouraging others to grow in their Christian faith.

For more information on the Journey ministry or to sign up for a free subscription to this magazine, please take a look at www.

Surrounded by a Community’s Love
by Nancy Dwyer
A sunny day at our lake, my husband’s delicious grilled white fish, and laughter with new friends. Then, CRASH! Our friend Tom leans on a shelf, and our collection of pottery is now a circle of broken pieces on the floor. I’m not one to be attached to material things, and I reassured Tom that it was ok. Kneeling near the broken pottery pieces I noticed that right in the middle sat a tiny glass vase that had also fallen off the shelf. It was perfectly intact. This tiny glass vase had been given to us six months earlier after we delivered our stillborn daughter, Hannah Grace. This little vase had survived the crash without a single scratch! It was unbelievable! I looked around the room and felt thankful for this community of new friends. A few years ago we moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, renovated a 100-year-old building, and opened a café and bookstore. We had been married not even two years. Our lives came together over our shared values and love of community. He had spent the past few years building a community of successful colleagues and researchers and had an open door policy at his office and home. In my own living room, my blue and white striped sofa was the favorite place for friends to crash. My faith life was fulfilling as part of a community of believers where I served as a sponsor for the newly baptized who were joining the church. Our lives blended perfectly together, and now we were fulfilling the vision of a community-centered shop in a small

town. We had grown to love this little

town and its friendly people. With Jeff’s idea of a 50-cent Mug Club, our cafe quickly became a place for people from all walks of life to gather. The mugs were even being used as a place to leave notes and goodies for friends! We started scheduling live music on Saturdays, and before we knew it we had book signings, art classes, and other groups making the café their second home. On a typical day I have a dozen or so regulars sitting at the counter discussing the latest politics, weather, and their grandchildren. A steady flow of tourists and passersby stopping in for a sandwich or local souvenir quickly become part of our family. The broken pieces of pottery are to me like these familiar faces. They bless us every day at the café. I see God’s love in their faces, in their greetings, when they order their coffee or sandwich, when they dance with us during live music Saturdays, when they share the stories of their families and their own good and bad times. They surround and protect us as they did during our grief, and they rejoice with us when when we rejoice. God has blessed us so much through these friends, and on that day he showed us one of the ways he loves us best—through our community of friends and the love they surround us with each day. g

On our son’s wedding day, at the hotel, somehow we all ended up in the elevator together. Just me, my husband, our married daughter, and our son, the groom for the day. There we stood with door closed, laughing and talking together, the four of us. For a precious moment time seemed to stand still, and then we realized we weren’t moving. More laughter. One of us pushed the button, and off we went into the future. In that instant and again later I thought about the pressing of the button to release the elevator as a defining moment. God’s flashlight lit it up for me. It was as if he said, “Do you see? Look! This is what you have prepared for.” The moment had come when we would release our second and last child from the nest for the final time in order to build his own nest. The family nest is the first place where we experience community. It’s the place where we learn and grow and start the process of becoming all that God created us to be. When we welcome a child into the world we don’t think about pushing them from the nest. We hold them close and keep them safe. As the years go by, little by little we release. A small flight through

The Family
by Mary Ann Turner

the doors of pre-school or kindergarten. A little longer flight for the first sleepover. Then, the first week-long mission trip with the youth group or the traveling baseball teams. Then comes the driver’s license. Did I mention that as the years go by mom and dad are learning too? Year by year, we release a little more until the day they will fly completely on their own. What about the years in between? What does a Christian community look like within the family nest? It begins with a covenant. Two Christians are joined together in marriage with Jesus Christ at the center. Ideally this begins at the altar when you say your vows. Sometimes the circumstances are such that the understanding of a covenant relationship comes later as one or hopefully both receive Christ as Lord. It’s not too late—with love and forgiveness and time, the nest loses the broken branches and is filled in with new growth. God makes all things new. Either way, the Christian community at home begins with a covenant. Then, the couple purposes to love the Lord with all their hearts, all their souls, all their minds, and all their strength (Deuteronomy 6:55 6). They purpose in their hearts

to teach this to their children. They intentionally “talk about the things of God when they sit, stand, lie down and walk along the road” (Deut. 6:7-9). What does this mean for us? It means that we talk about the things of the Lord in everyday situations, while driving in the car, when out to eat, or in the garage or backyard together. We seize the teachable moments to show the love of God, to say sorry when necessary, to say “I forgive you.” When we fall, we pick each other up. We dry tears that are permitted to flow freely. We laugh loud and long. We teach manners. We share. We don’t give them everything they want, and we pray for God to provide for all that they need. It means we allow room for children to grow into their God-given gifts. We become students, watching and learning to see how God made our children. We learn how they love, what their gifts are, and what needs to be nurtured. We pray with them and for them and guide them with gentleness and love. It also means we won’t be perfect. It means we will make mistakes. And that’s another way that communities grow—by getting do-overs and doing the hard stuff to make it work. While birds have a natural instinct for building their new nest when they fly away, our children have to acquire that skill. It’s in the nest, their first community, that they are tutored with love. Just the four of us have not been together in an elevator in over five years. My husband and I have visited the new nests often, and we feel welcomed there. We see two new covenant communities settled in new nests with Christ at the center of it all. Isn’t it great that someone pushed the elevator button so that life could go on? g

Further Thoughts on the Family-Nest “Network”
If you have released your children already, you are in a position to be a good friend to a younger parent. Who might God be placing in your life to be encouraged by you? Pray for God to allow you to interact with others and to be real with them, knowing you have some successes and failures—all resulting in acquired wisdom. You may have the opportunity to share it. Do so with love and discretion. And it’s best to remember that we were young once and had plenty to learn. We still have plenty to learn. If your children are still at home and you have questions or just need a perspective from others who have been there, look around at the people God has placed near you. Then, just take that chance and reach out. Enjoy the wisdom and friendship that he will provide for you. Remember that you will have something to offer as well. Relationships given by God have a way of being 360-degree relationships. It’s a wonderful give and take—a sharing of lives in community. Recommended Resources: The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent You and Your Child by Charles R. Swindoll Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates

What Does Community Mean to You?
Community is such a gracious gift from God, and I am so thankful for it. It would be very lonely and very difficult to be the only believer. We need one another to pray with, to study God’s word together, to hold one another accountable, and to be there for one another in every part of life. My fellow believers encourage me as I’m headed home. We all need one another in the body of Christ, which is by God’s design. What a joy it is to share the same faith with others. -Maggie, Troy

Community means surrounding oneself in a setting similar to that of Jesus and his disciples. We read in the Bible example after example of how to create community. To me, such a setting includes teaching (Matt. 21:21-22), serving together (Luke 9:1-2), praying together (Luke 9:28), and sharing in fellowship with one another (Matt. 26:20). I have found a fruitful community on the Journey Team. It has changed my life in profound ways. -Marcy, O’Fallon Community means to me giving and helping others in our church, on the job, or in our neighborhood. It’s the opportunity to encourage others or help out in a time of need. One person can only do so much, but when we rally together in Christ we can accomplish much more. So as sisters in the Lord we can do mighty things together and bring more people to Christ by just being available in our community. -Linda, Collinsville

Community means being part of something larger than myself. It is through community that God provides strength, support, and encouragement in my faith walk and in life. -Theresa, Swansea


Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.
-Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1939)


I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone. I had the same best friend from preschool through college. So when I got married and moved to the East Coast a year later, the culture shock was, well, shocking. Suddenly I was alone with no friends, and not even the grocery checker would respond to my attempts to be friendly. My husband began to travel, and I knew I needed a friend in the worst way. My husband introduced me to another new pilot’s wife. I was Midwest casual. She was Texas chic. It was a most unlikely friendship. So I was surprised when she called and asked if I could help her make some roll-out sugar cookies. I kept my expectations low. After making cookies, we laughed as we tried to figure out how to use all the kitchen gadgets she had received as wedding gifts. Turns out, we weren’t so different. We were both clueless newlyweds who were desperately homesick and struggling to find jobs. It didn’t hurt that we shared the same odd sense of humor. Over the next five years, we weathered deployments, celebrated births, and mourned losses together. I couldn’t have done it without her. Looking back, my time as a military spouse was like basic training in com10

munity building. So five years ago when my husband separated from active duty, we were excited to establish ourselves in a community permanently. There was only one thing we hadn’t anticipated. Many of the close friends we had made here were active duty military, and they moved on. I figured I could either be lonely and complain or do something about it. I prayed for God to create a sense of community and grow deeper friendships for us here. The results came in slower than I would have liked, but through the process God reminded me that he was guiding my steps. So what can we do to create community and grow meaningful relationships right where we are? Here are a few principles to get us started:

1. Be

understanding. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” The Bible reminds us that we should listen more than we speak and to put others before ourselves. By showing a genuine interest in knowing someone, we will find that friendship becomes a twoway street instead of a one-way soapbox.

2. Be

authentic. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Being a military spouse taught me never to waste time putting on a show. If you need help, ask for help. Nothing says you don’t need friendship like being completely self-reliant. Be yourself and you will connect with others. accepting. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Ann Voskamp writes in her book One Thousand Gifts, “Expectations kill relationships.” Be careful to have realistic expectations and allow room for relationships to surprise you. hospitable. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” How often do we hesitate to invite others over because we think our house needs to be perfectly clean or we need to cook a gourmet meal? Some of my favorite memories of our military days include sharing meals thrown together at the last minute because our need for fellowship outweighed our need to feign perfection. Order a pizza and invite someone to join you. brave. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “is not rude, it is

not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” All of us have been betrayed by a friend or group at one point or another. Don’t let your scars keep you from seeking out new relationships. Some friendships are just for a season. Others last a lifetime. Embrace both and keep trying.

3. Be


Be patient. Psalms 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” Searching for community and friendship can be lonely and discouraging at times, but God is always at work. Trust in his timing and provision. We always have a friend in him. It is better to be alone for a season than to rush into unwise friendships.

4. Be

5. Be

I’ve learned over these past five years that, even though military families may seek out community and friendships with more urgency out of necessity, everyone longs for a support network where they are loved and accepted for who they are. God has brought some amazing people into my life right where I am. I’m so thankful. As I write this, we are packing for a trip to China to adopt our new little girl. It’s been a hard journey, but I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been without the tribe of good people God has so graciously surrounded us with. Near and far, they have carried our burdens and lightened the load. I couldn’t have done it without them. g


by Emily Climaco

Wanted: Unity
I must confess that I’ve invented excuses to leave an event early if I predict that it will end with hand-holding and long corporate prayers. I once attended a jam-packed event in a large sports arena, and it was a wonderful time of learning about the Bible. However, it ended with the teacher asking each woman to turn to her neighbor, hold hands, and stare deeply into each other’s eyes while repeating affirmations. I’d rather eat my own toenails than stare deeply into the eyes of the woman on my left. Taking these things into account, maybe I’m not cut out for this stuff. Maybe I have a hormonal imbalance that makes me cringe at unity-building exercises. Maybe I’m too invested in my idiosyncrasies to truly experience unity within the body of Christ. Maybe; but I have learned a few valuable lessons about unity over the past few years. When my daughter was born, a beautiful bouquet arrived at the hospital. The doctor commented on how nice it is when friends send their good wishes; I agreed and added that they weren’t just friends but prayer group friends. I didn’t elaborate, but there is a difference. When we got home from the hospital a wonderful friend from church, unasked, arranged delivery of delicious meals to our house, night after night. A few months later, I had the privilege

of joining Mothers of Preschoolers, a group that actively takes care of its own through sharing resources, time, and expertise. A couple years later, I got in on the ground floor of Women4given, a non-profit that supports women and children, and I get to learn from women who enjoy being generous to others. A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of starting a book club with women around my age, and we chat over halfprice appetizers; sometimes we even get around to discussing the book. I offer this list in order to explain that God gives us what we need—whether we realize it or not—and, truly, what we need is each other. Prior to having my daughter, I’d asked God to give me a good friend, imagining someone to go to the mall with now and then. What I got was an unexpected motley crew of friends that resembles the body of Christ in its diversity of gifts: a retiree with expertise in fundraising, a former kindergarten teacher, an Army wife, a driven freelance writer, a delightfully fastidious administrative assistant, a creative photographer, and this list barely scratches the surface. While I may not have picked these individuals out of a line-up to be my “mall friend,” together we share a common kingdombuilding purpose, or unity. And I can safely say that we don’t hold hands and recite affirmations to each other.

Unity: that’s what Jesus wants for his people. When he prayed for us— those who would believe in him after his ascension into heaven—he asked God to unite us. I like Eugene Peterson’s version of Jesus’ prayer, arranged as verse:
Then, raising his eyes in prayer, [Jesus] said: I’m praying not only for them But also for those who will believe in me Because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, And give the godless world evidence That you’ve sent me and loved them In the same way you’ve loved me (John 17:1, 20-23, The Message).

This radical unity, this “beloved community” (Dr. Martin Luther King’s apt phrase), is impossible without Godbreathed agape love. Envy, competition, selfishness, arrogance, and pride are forces that dissect the body of Christ like a biology-lab frog. If we are to avoid being rendered purposeless, irrelevant, ineffective, cold, or dead, we have to put aside petty self-interest for the building of God’s kingdom. Jesus told Peter that “the gates of Hades will not prevail against [my Church]” (Matt. 16:18). Indeed, the Church will stand: the question remains whether we will stand together. While I’m still not big on hand-holding, I’ve become comfortable with hugging. But the good news isg everythat one is welcomed into the unity of Christ, even someone slightly allergic to the warm-and-fuzzies, like me.


What is the Body of Christ?

“This ain’t no disco. It ain’t no country club, either. . . .” This old Sheryl Crow song came on the radio, and it reminded me of church. Not because we sing it on Sunday morning—that would be weird. Specifically, it made me think about what people expect from the Church—not any specific church, but the Church universal, the body of Christ. Some people are looking for a disco. They want to be entertained and have fun. The body of Christ is way more than that. It’s not just a temporary cure for your Saturday night fever but a necessary dose of eternal hope. Some people are looking for a country club—an exclusive place to belong. Jesus limited his inner circle of disciples to twelve, but I get the feeling there was nothing elite about them. Jesus chose them from the riff-raff, ignoring the smell and seeing the heart—kind of like he chose every one of us. See, God chose you before you were born, and he invites you to trust him. It isn’t complicated, according to the

Bible, God’s word: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10). Here’s an example of how you might pray to trust God. Dear God, I know that I’ve sinned, and I’m sorry. I believe that your son, Jesus, died on the cross so that I can have your forgiveness and eternal life. I give you my life and ask you to take the steering wheel for me. These things I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. When you choose to trust God, you become part of an enormous family that spans history and geography. This ain’t no disco; it ain’t no country club, either. This is the Church, the body of Jesus Christ. We’re not perfect, but we’ve got each other. And we’ve been waiting for you. -EC g

by Amy Armstrong
During times of entering a new season of life, I’ve experienced the benefit of finding people a stage or two slightly ahead of me for guidance and encouragement. When I was a first-year teacher, I greatly valued collaboration with my mentor teacher who could help me navigate new experiences with students and parents. As a new mom, I looked to moms with slightly older children to be the light at the end of the tunnel, assuring me that my daughter would eventually sleep through the night and that she would not go to college still in diapers. I remember one year when a lot of change came for us and I embarked on several new stages of life at once. We moved to a new town that was much smaller than I was accustomed to, my husband was beginning his pastoral career, and I was switching from being a full-time working mom to a full-time stay-at-home mom. I was essentially thrown into three new, unfamiliar communities: the community of a small town, the community of pastor’s wives, and the community of stay-at-home mommies. As I traversed these somewhat rocky roads (sometimes with sure footing and sometimes with a lot of kicking and screaming), I learned some things about building community. First, I learned that community takes work. It’s exhausting and sometimes overwhelming to look for ways to plug in, make invitations to others, and pour into relationships that may not last, but anything worthwhile takes effort. I also learned that community takes confidence. If we truly believe that we are part of the Body of Christ, then we have to understand that we are important. By following Christ, we add value to his Body. We can step into a new community in confidence, knowing that God can use each of us to make it a better place. Through all the ups and downs of living with others, community is worth it. Living in community is God’s idea, so that means it’s a good one. Of course, I sometimes feel like I would be better off by myself, not having to interact with others whom I can’t control, but in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that we as Christians are all part of the Body of Christ. We are designed to work together to help and encourage each other to further God’s kingdom. When we need each other, we better understand our need for God. In community, we can reflect Christ to each other and work to build God’s kingdom. g

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