Quick snapshot – March 9

Aah! It’s been way too long since I last did any updates.  I figured I’d give you a snapshot of a single day to share how we’re trying to be real disciples in real life.

First thing in the morning I ran outside to put out the recycling bin.  I got home from work just before 11 last night and forgot all about it.  I’m sure you know that feeling.  Then I very sleepily tried to be helpful as Leslie got the girls out the door.  Thanks, Les!

I’ve been working part-time at Friends and Allies Brewing Company.  We just got our very first canning line this week, a WGC 250, and one of their installation guys was in town to help us get it up and running.   The assistant brewer and I scrambled to modify a plastic folding table to act as a receiving/packing table at the end of the line.  We’ve worked together on a lot of random projects over the last few months, so we have a pretty good groove going.  We then spent some time learning how to check can lid seals for quality.

I took the installation tech out to lunch at one of my favorite spots, the quintessentially East Austin Cherrywood Coffeehouse.  I’ve met other folks from his company before at Fourth Tap.  It was good to talk Austin and Denver (where they’re located) and go over some canning line maintenance concerns.  Plus – he was a single guy spending a few days in a new city; I figured I’d give him some company.

Back at the brewery, we got ready for our first canning run.  I spent some time at the controls (after the tech and our brewer had pretty much everything dialed in) and suddenly it was after 5pm.  I grabbed a case of beer and Leslie’s blender (that we’d been using to process some ingredients. Thanks, Les!) and drove home.

Busy schedules mean that our poor dogs don’t quite get the exercise that they should.  I took the dogs to run around and play fetch at the green space near our neighborhood mailboxes.  One of our neighbors pulled up to check his mail and I offered to give him some cans of our beer.  We ended up chatting on our porch for about a half hour.  Leslie and the girls got home and Lucy played peekaboo with our neighbor, which is a pretty decent representation of our relationship with that particular neighbor so far.

But hey!  One of the upsides to incarnational ministry is that you don’t have some kind of service or small group program as the end goal in mind behind every interaction.  I have no idea how our relationship with this neighbor will go, but I am confident that faithfulness for me last night meant drinking a beer with him on our front porch.

After he went inside, I watched the girls play out on the driveway while Leslie prepared dinner.  One of our across-the-street neighbors got home (an avid home-brewer himself) and I offered him some beer.  He poured me a glass of his latest brew, we chatted in his driveway, and Leslie and the girls came to say hello to his wife.  It started to rain just a bit, so we ducked in their garage for shelter.  I don’t exactly know how it transpired, but they ended up inviting us in for dinner (some delicious homemade pizza), and we spent the next hour or so eating and talking about stuff like parenting, where we all grew up, and gardening.  We thanked them, talked about getting together more, and went home to get the girls ready for bed.

At 8pm a couple from our missional community came over for some premarital counseling.  We’re using Prepare/Enrich for the very first time (Les and I did our training a million years ago when I was in seminary) and I think things are going pretty well.  We talked about some questionnaire results and relationship dynamics stuff with them before briefly talking about The Five Love Languages.  Good times!

Then Leslie and I chatted about our upcoming plans (e.g. cleaning for a health inspection of our home – we’re working on getting licensed to be foster parents) and called it a day.

Whew!  That was a busy day.  It was also a really satisfying day.  I got to share meals with people (one of our missional living Everyday Rhythms), work side-by-side with folks at the brewery, practice neighborliness with Leslie and the girls, and talk about marriage with some friends.  We didn’t do much that was highly programmatic (just the counseling), but I got to spend the whole day interacting with people to whom I believe God is sending us.

I think the key to yesterday was that we were interruptible (I’m pretty sure that’s a word).  I was tired after a long day at the brewery.  Normally, I’d be tempted to sit and drink a beer in the quiet of our home.  But instead I shared some beer with two different neighbors (which led to a shared meal).  I was doing basically the same thing I would be doing anyways.  Remember how I said that Leslie was preparing dinner and then we got invited over for pizza?  We never ate the dinner that Leslie made!  We’re on the same page: God provided us with an opportunity to connect with people and we said yes.

That’s it for now.  I’ve been stalled out on a 2016 retrospective post for a while now, so I figured a quick snapshot would be a good way to share how things are going.

Thanks for reading!

Dan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Merry

Christians don’t have the best reputation when it comes to parties.

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And that’s pretty fair – we’ve done a lot to earn it.  It’s pretty common to hear stuff like “I used to party every weekend but then Jesus turned my life around” at a student ministry.  Our collective Christian imagination tells us that holiness is supposed to look calm, peaceful, and contemplative.

Scripture tells a different story.  Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John was to save a party.  Jesus, his disciples, and his mother were at a wedding in Cana when the wine ran out.  Jesus transformed water (6 stone jars of 20 to 30 gallons each! must’ve been a big wedding) into wine – wine so good that the chief steward complimented the bride groom, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Later, when explaining the purpose of John the Baptist, Jesus pointed out the double-talk of the religious elite about fasting and enjoying food and drink.

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man (Jesus) has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

The point here is that neither fasting nor feasting is holier than the other – and people, especially the religious leaders, often care too much about outward appearances and too little about real repentance and seeking after God.  The holier-than-thou folks called Jesus a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” in an attempt to discredit him, but I think befriending the tax collectors and sinners is the real purpose behind Jesus’ eating and drinking.

One of our little mantras for trying to figure out how to be real disciples in real life is, “we want to do the same things Jesus did for the same reasons.”  This is really just a longer version of the classic “What Would Jesus Do?” reflective question that has adorned so many wrists over the years.  What did Jesus do and why?  Jesus – in the miracle of the incarnation – came to us on a mission: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

It turns out parties are a great place to get to know people.  When you share a meal with someone, friendship gets just a little bit easier.  Parties are great places to invite just a couple extra guests, to make introductions, and to show people you care about them (“Hey, I made those chocolate pretzel things I know you like!”).  Some folks don’t care too much for small talk, but we have to get through small talk to get to the real stuff – and the din and movement of a good party can help carry us over those first few hurdles of getting to know someone.

Leslie and I have been practicing the art of throwing a good party since we moved into our new home.  It’s a big part of our strategy for church planting.  We want to create an atmosphere where people can celebrate and be thankful.  More often then not, opportunities come up where we can share why we are thankful and to whom.

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Scenes from our “Jingle and Mingle” party last weekend.  We collected donations for STARRY, a local foster care agency, and it was awesome to see how God blessed us and our friends to be a blessing!

Want to learn more about how to throw a party for Jesus?  Check out Hugh Halter’s book Happy Hour: Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment.  It’s available in packs of 5 – and it’s the perfect format for a group book study or to pass out to friends.

Merry Christmas!

Dan (& Leslie & Lucy & Mabel & Ajax & Jules & Tempe)

One year!

Wow, what a year!

This time last year, the Auments were living out in Lakeway with Leslie’s parents.  Fourth Tap Brewing Co-operative had just opened.  The construction permit paperwork for our house was floating around who knows where.  We only knew two of our future neighbors.

Now here we are!

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Our missional community met this last Sunday for the second time.  One of our families just welcomed a brand new baby girl this last Tuesday night.  We’re starting things off by trying to cast a vision for what God is calling us to do – individually, as families, and as a group.  It was really encouraging to hear some similar ideas swirling around.

2016 was a great year for church planting across ECO as well.  I recently attended the first ever ECO Church Planter conference in Dallas, led by our new church planting catalyst, Matt Lee.  He told us that ECO had eight church plants prior to 2016, and eleven brand new ones in 2016 alone!  Matt has been planting churches for decades and his experience includes incarnational models like ours – which is extremely helpful as we try to figure things out together.  We don’t just want to be the “church planting wing” of ECO; we want ECO to be a movement.

2017 is going to be an interesting year.  We just endured the most contentious presidential election of my lifetime, which was probably just a symptom of the deeper anxiety and dissatisfaction that exist in our nation.  Life is better with Jesus – that’s a promise today and eternity.  We started this whole church planting journey because we want to be a part of God’s ministry of reconciliation.

Here’s one of my favorite passages – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

From a worldly point of view, our nation is fractured, our economy is fragile, and people distrust each other.  It’s easy to be cynical – to despair of making a difference in the face of so many intractable problems.  But if we belong to Jesus, God is sharing his message of new life through us!  What is that going to look like for you in 2017?  Don’t be like me and try to motivate yourself through guilt!  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Wow, what a promise!

God is good,

Dan

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Housewarming and Good Times in the Front Yard

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Entertaining 101: Wrap things in bacon

Leslie and I hosted a couple dozen of our friends for a housewarming party this last weekend.  Entertaining is super fun.  We did our usual roll-the-dice thing and chose a recipe that we’d never tried before (carnitas) and it turned out pretty well!  I made some pico de gallo with ghost peppers mostly as a joke, but most everyone gave it a try.

We had a fun crowd with more than a few kids running around the place.  Both Leslie and I even had friends from high school come (shout out to Julie from Kennett!).  Our guests were super generous and brought over tons of beer and wine.  We played some cornhole in the backyard and watched UT football blow the doors off UTEP.

I think my favorite part of having a housewarming party was that we got to make so many cross-introductions.  Leslie and I know people from several different parts of town.  We enjoy their company and it was fun to seem them enjoy each other’s company as well!

Leslie is convinced that the party helped turn our house into a home.  We had an especially sweet and relaxing family day the next day.  I think Mabel even slept past 7am!

Life in the front yard

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As we try to be real disciples in real life, we are working on ways to connect with people.  We loved our home in Nevada and its beautiful view out the back, but one of the downsides was that the house had pretty much no line of sight out the front.  We both grew up with long, vertical windows on either side of our front doors and Westies keeping watch, so it felt weird to never have any idea what was happening on our street.

Our new house has windows in the front door, but lately we’ve been trying to take it one step further.  We have been spending about a half hour before dinner out in the front yard and on the drive way playing with the girls.  We have always spent that time of the day with Lucy and Mabel, but now we’re doing it in a way that helps us meet more of our neighbors.  We end up chatting with someone pretty much every night – a family walking by or someone close by coming home from work.  We’ve even had a couple folks over for dinner so far – just from spending time in the front yard!

We don’t want mission and discipleship to be events or programs that we do. We want them to flow out of our everyday life – in every activity we already do. With that in mind, we are trying to think critically about what we do in our “normal” lives and routines (like eating meals, playing with the girls, exercise, etc.) and how we can do it intentionally with Jesus at the center. Maybe it looks like serving someone else. Maybe it’s connecting to new folks. Maybe it’s inviting someone into one of that activities with us and living life side by side, engaging in discipleship through intentional conversations. This can look 100 different ways for each individual and each life. So how does it look for Leslie Aument and Dan Aument? How do we raise up our girls to live lives of discipleship and mission that reflect who God made them to be?

We believe that’s what faith looks like – giving each moment of real life to Jesus, not just crossing items off some spiritual/religious checklist.

Please pray for us as we get our missional community off the ground!  We’re having dinner tonight with some friends to pitch our vision.

God is good.

Dan

The Big Move

Hello!

Sorry for the delay between posts.  The Auments have moved!

We’ve finally made it into our new home and neighborhood.  Leslie’s commute went from 50 minutes to 10.  We’ve been meeting tons of neighbors.  We’re almost entirely unpacked (kudos to Leslie).  Moving is super tiring!

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Lucy snacks on spinach leaves (her request) while hanging out in our new home.

As we start this new chapter, we’d really appreciate your prayer:

  • New relationships – We’re still meeting people and making first impressions.  Pray that God gives us good opportunities and that our hearts are in the right place to make use of them.
  • Wrapping up moving stuff – Our builder is still finishing little things here and there on our house and it’s kinda dragging on.
  • Fundraising and logistical stuff for church planting
  • Missional community beginning – We’re planning on hosting some housewarming parties and a vision meeting for our new missional community (aka our church plant).  We think we’ve made some good connections with people (Christians and non-Christians); now we’re hoping that people join us as we try to be real disciples in real life.
  • Dan’s blog back-log – I have 5,000+ photos from Iceland to sort through (!), plus more updates on the specific things we’ve been doing.

Thanks for reading!

 

Dan & Leslie

 

This just hurts

The shooting that just took place in an Orlando nightclub has been weighing heavily on my heart for the past two days.  I find myself reading every news article I come across, in spite of the lack of any new information.  And what is the point of learning new details about something like this?

I keep seeing highly scripted reactions by major politicians and so on.  The world news subreddit even has a collection of international reactions.  It’s like everyone has to say something.  I feel like no one wants to be caught without having a public reaction, but that’s probably overly cynical.

I can’t stand the let-me-remind-you-of-my-agenda/platform/etc reactions.  Hillary Clinton released a statement on Facebook and keeps tweeting out snippets.  I mean – a lot of what she’s saying is good, leadership-type stuff – but it just sounds like she’s using a tragedy to promote herself as a leader.  Of course she was no where near as tone deaf as Donald Trump, who accepted congratulations for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism” and used the horrific event to take shots at Obama and Clinton.  Basically, Trump’s reaction to one of the worst acts of violence in our recent history was, “I told you so.”  Mr. Trump, this is not about you.

That’s the kind of reaction I definitely don’t want to have!  I appreciated the reaction of John Oliver – “Right now, this just hurts.”  It reminded me of Jesus when he heard that Lazarus had died.

 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus began to weep.

So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:32-37)

Jesus knows that Lazarus will live again, but he acknowledges and truly shares the pain of loss that Mary and the others feel.  We could excuse him for inserting his agenda in this powerful moment when he has everyone’s attention, but his reaction proves how much he cares about the people, not the opportunity to prove a point.

Real human beings – with as much life and family and love and stories as you or I have ever enjoyed in our lives – have suffered and died because of the hate and callousness of one man with a devastating tool of destruction.  Scores of people – as innocent as have ever been on this Earth – had their lives ended.  And so many, many more family members and loved ones have huge holes blasted in their lives.

People keep trying to weigh the hate crime vs. terrorism aspects of this tragedy.  It’s terrible no matter how you look at it.  The fact that someone hated any aspect about another person enough to kill them is a terrible thing.  There is no justice in that kind of hate – and we would be very wrong to let it live in our own hearts in response.

I was at two bars on Saturday night – one for a birthday and the second with family.  I believe that God wants us to see everyone as family.  God’s power to heal and reconcile – shown through Jesus – means that even though we live in a broken world, we have a greater hope.  Those people in Orlando are our family.  The parents of the gunman – suddenly thrust into the worst kind of spotlight – are our family.  The gunman himself – and everyone else who commits acts of violence out of hate – they are all our family.

Right now, this just hurts.

Be salty

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about how or when to talk to my friends about Jesus, my faith, or spiritual things.  It’s an important part of my life – how do I bring it up in a way that makes sense? Take a moment to think back on all the interactions you’ve had with people this last month. How often have you gone there in a conversation?

If we want to have the right kind of approach to talking about Jesus, we have to come at it from two different angles.

First (and I decided to give the tough angle first), it really is up to you to talk about it.

No, it’s not up to your spiritual power or cleverness; God’s Holy Spirit will take care of that.  But one of the crazy things about God’s plan for the world is that he has chosen to use unreliable, timid, weak people like us to share His good news.

If you have a relationship with a someone who doesn’t personally know Jesus, you have to acknowledge the fact that God can use you to introduce that person to Him.  I’m not guaranteeing anything.  We’re not always in the right position to make that kind of connection.  But think about it from the other side.  If not you – who else?  One of the deeply flawed assumptions of the Christendom era was that we assumed that our culture was thoroughly Christian and Christian-izing.  Any non-believers would clearly hear the message of the gospel from culture – or at least from some other Christian with whom they had a closer relationship.  We became a church of bystanders!  Now – as Christian influences in culture disappear (and how influential were they, really?) – we can see more clearly how our friendships are the places where we can connect others to Jesus.

Second, it’s not that big of a deal.

The priest/lay person split – another great tragedy of Christendom – happened when we took a good idea (different people have different gifts and callings) and turned it into the widespread assumption that talking with others about God is a serious task for serious Christians only (professional, extra saintly, people who only rarely sin, people with a great conversion story, etc.).

This is nonsense, but it provides us with an easy cop out.  When we build sharing our faith into some big, scary undertaking, we give ourselves an excuse to kick the can down the road.  I’ll share the gospel with that person, but not today – I’m not ready/holy/trained enough yet.  Sometimes our traditional understanding of church and specialized ministries completely zaps our concept of what sharing our faith even looks like.  Instead of envisioning ourselves sharing the gospel story, we think that we can just invite the person to read a book, attend a worship service, or participate in an evangelism event so that some other person – some super-evangelist author/preacher/speaker – can do the real heavy lifting.

So, how can we stop making such an insurmountable task out of telling people the good news of Jesus?  What does real life sharing look like?  One of the great reflection questions from Forge (and probably other sources) is to ask: “What is good news to this person?”  Based on what you know about the person on the other side of the conversation (we are listening, right?), what new aspect of God’s story would be good for them to learn or experience as a gift from you?

I’ve been hearing some new terminology for mission lately: our job is to “alert” people to the salvation and reign of Jesus.  I like how this depicts the balance between our agency and that of the Spirit in evangelism.  We share the news; God brings the saving faith.  Also, “alert” doesn’t mean “explain at great length, without distorting any details.”

Here’s an example that should be pretty familiar: your friend has a baby, you bake a casserole and bring it to them so they can have a night off from cooking.  In a traditional church community setting, this was pretty much business as usual.  This act of kindness could happen in any community, really.  Making this an opportunity to share is as simple as connecting your act of kindness with God’s story.  Maybe you talk about your own thankfulness for family.  Maybe you prepare a dish that has some connection to your faith story.  Maybe you cut to the chase and say you felt called to be a blessing that day.

As people who have received the message of Christ, we have something that other people don’t – we are connected to the true meaning of everything.  That doesn’t mean we’ve mastered that meaning, but we really do have something to offer people.  I really like the metaphor of salt and light in Matthew 5:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

And salt again in Colossians 4:

Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Salt isn’t the main ingredient in a dish.  Likewise, light is most useful when it’s illuminating something.  Everyday life is the medium where the good news about God’s love for us in Jesus makes sense.  Going this direction in a conversation takes creativity, real listening, and most of all – a relationship with God in the first place!  That’s the real question that I keep asking myself: am I experiencing the relationship with God that I am hoping to offer to others?

Some final thoughts:

Leslie and I realize that by sharing these posts on Facebook, there’s a chance that some of our readers won’t identify as “Christians” or “religious.”  We’ve all met Christians who were so focused on “converting” people that they never really bothered to get to know or love those to whom God sent them.  That’s not how Jesus treated people, and that’s not how we want to live either. We want to live like Jesus did. Check out this post from November if you want to read more on this very important challenge.

Thanks for reading!  And mega-thanks to Leslie for editing this so that it 1) made sense and 2) is readable.

Dan