Bike to Worship 2016

Lighthouse will observe the Bike-to-Worship event on May 22, 2016

Lighthouse will observe the Bike-to-Worship event on May 22, 2016

There is nothing like the camaraderie of a group bike ride. You take the road en mass and suddenly you are flying along on the city streets but not with the cars because they make room for more than one cyclist. 

Sunday, May 22nd is your chance to join the "2016 Walk & Bike to Worship” on two levels:
Bike or walk or “roll” to worship on that Sunday. Like in years past, San Francisco Lighthouse will make special provision to safely park the bikes. If you do, look for me or Steve and we’ll give you some free goodies (bike map, etc) and enter you into a free drawing to win bike accessories.
At 1pm right after worship, join us for the 2nd Annual Interfaith Bike Ride, an event sponsored by the San Francisco Bike Coalition and the Interfaith Council. All levels of bikers are encouraged to ride! See here: 

The Interfaith Bike Ride will be a short, flat circuit starting from Duboce Park near Steiner Street at 1pm, then all the different bikers will ride over to the different churches in the Mission Dolores neighborhood. It’ll be a tour that includes stops in different churches, with different faith leaders giving the history and vision of each stop.  Steve led that ride last year and will be leading it again this year. Pray for him as he preps each stop and coordinates with other leaders. 

We want to make the Interfaith Bike Ride an SF Lighthouse family event. This is a major opportunity to apply the sermons and the blessing we hear every week “to be courageous ones, building His Kingdom." This is a chance to show up and live out our “OUT" relationships to people of other faith communities, to reach those who don’t know the Good News yet, and to have our hearts burn for them!. You might remember last year when dozens of Unitarians, Buddhists, Jewish Rabbis showed up at San Francisco Lighthouse’s doorstep to begin the bike ride. Here’s what happened a year ago

If you live across town and you've had enough after that, take your bike home on a Muni rack! 

Get your bike ready or rent one from San Francisco Bike share!  Or borrow one from a friend (like me 😊). Any way you can think of . . . Join us! 

And don't forget to put on your helmet of Salvation! 

See you there SF Lighthouse! 


Lil' Peeps Community (through Woody Miller's eyes)

First of all, Sunday was great!  Pastor Stephen (Dallas) inspired me. I really loved the analogy of him planning the Disney trip for his kids, and them not knowing the awesome plans ahead for them. Needed that reminder that God always has good things planned for us, when we can’t see or don’t know what’s coming. It hit me this morning.

Actually, my whole day was pretty emotional. Kids’ class was mostly business as usual, but there was a spirit of love a little more than normal. Some form of togetherness and opening of relationships that isn’t always there. 

Jess and I brought Ruby (Ryan and Ness’ oldest daughter) with us to church and she has felt like a daughter to us in the few short weeks we’ve known her. While downstairs, her and Julianna hit it off over the last three weeks, and today Julianna had a little breakdown when it was time to say goodbye. I don’t know why, but there was a moment downstairs today when the community happening really struck me.

Julianna was crying because her friend was leaving and she won’t see her again, for 2 years at the minimum. But the bond they made was powerful to me, and it really made me feel we are doing something right. I often feel like all we do is babysit, and it seems at times like we come, we play with the kids, say hi to parents, and that’s it. But as I talked with the parents today, and watched them all getting to know each other, and Julianna and Ruby’s relationship, and Esther, Sid, and Becky leaving, it was a great moment. A time of community, of people opening up. Although bittersweet, I am proud to have created a space where these little people can be vulnerable and give love. Where they learn to love, both those they relate to and those they don’t. 

It was a strange feeling, that we had welcomed the Keating’s into the class as our own family, and they felt comfortable, and they will be missed. At the same time, that we have this great little community downstairs. All I can hope is that the kids feel they are loved and they know God loves them. That throughout their lives they remember the love we show them. With so many kids leaving, I really just hope the love we try to give/teach them each week goes with them.

Just to facilitate the space for that is a joy. I know that what I do isn’t what is important, or that my efforts alone can only have a small effect. But to be a part of the awesome plan that our Father has for us is amazing. Seeing small pieces of redemption, peace, and understanding grow in the kids (and their parents, who often learn more than the kids!) is amazing. I don’t know if or when we will get to Disneyland, but I do have hope that we are on the way!

Jail Ministry

We wanted to highlight SF Lighthouse's Jail Ministry this week. Currently the ministry for both the men and women meet on Friday evenings. 

Women's Celebrate Recovery  
(San Francisco Women's County Jail)

We bring Celebrate Recovery (CR) groups into the San Francisco Women's County Jail on Friday Evenings. We currently hold two different CR meetings and sometimes minister God's love to up to 25 women at a time. It means a lot that these women inmates come to this group during their only daily free time. This is our fifth year in the women's jail and we thank the Lord for helping many women inmates find God and spiritual breakthroughs through this program.

Men's Discipleship
(San Francisco Men's County Jail)

The purpose of the Men's discipleship jail ministry is to share God’s love with inmates through Bible study. We don’t just want to talk about the God in the Bible, but we want them to know the God who exists and loves each and every one of them. We want to see every inmate in county jail experience God’s love and share it with one another.  We want to see every inmate become a disciple of Jesus Christ, talk about God within the cell-blocks, and start living as He did. We need fellow Christians willing to visit the jails and share God’s love. We need disciples who are willing to serve once a month, or as often as God calls them to.  We gather the men for bible study on Friday evenings. 

Volunteer Opportunities: 

There are opportunities for you to bring your spiritual gifts to the Men and Women's Jail -even if you cannot join us on Friday evenings. There is a great need for 1:1 spiritual mentors as well as literacy coaches.  Please contact Vivian Roman to talk more about how you can volunteer with the Jail Ministry.  

Practical Needs:

We always have a need for Life Recovery Bibles (NLT) and Composition Books. If you would like to donate these, please also contact Vivian Roman or bring these items to the Celebrate Recovery Meeting on Tuesdays at SF Lighthouse at 7:00 PM.  

For More Information or to discover how you can get involved:


Seeing My Way Out of Illegitimacy

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said.  --Jesus's followers reacting to a prodigal daughter returning a gift to Jesus. | Matthew 26:8

I wonder if she heard what they said.   I wonder if it colored her self-view and if she questioned whether or not her expression was appropriate.   I wonder if for a split second she felt shameful, wasteful, a foolish steward of a costly gift.   If this unnamed woman had seen herself through Simon-the-Pharisee's furrowed brow she never would have acted so lavishly and extravagantly.  She never would have pressed her way into Simon's Almshouse for the poor and sick, for even here she was an outcast, at least in their eyes.  This prodigal daughter would still be standing out on a dark street corner looking for unconditional love in some cheap wine, a dirty hotel room, and on the conditions of turning a one-hour trick.  If her vision to break the box, spill the perfume and waste $65,000.00 (2015 San Francisco currency) depended on disciple approval this story would be untold because it never would have happened.   If, as some scholarship concludes, Simon the Pharisee-Leper House was an Almshouse for the poor and sick, the disciples were being politically correct and strategically winsome in their critique and the woman and Jesus were politically incorrect and at risk of jeopardizing a much needed ally.

Whenever I talk with people I tend to see myself through their eyes.  Or through what I perceive to be their eyes.   I often find that I am responding and interacting with others based on how I perceive them to perceive me to be.  For example, given the negative stereotypes that pastors have in a post-Christian world and given the broad brush strokes that televangelists and reality TV preachers have graffitied on the clergy I will take on the world's view of me when with the world.   I feel illegitimate.   In those moments when I feel I am not looked at legitimately I behave differently.   I act and speak from a slouched posture of illegitimacy.  

Here is a conversation that happened over five years ago that illustrates this.

  • "Jeff, thank you so much for praying blessing for this cafe.   Look at how prosperous we have been.  Anytime you come I want to give you, your coffee for free."--Owner of a reputable San Franciscan cafe.  
  • "S., No thank you.  I can buy my own." (Me attempting to legitimize myself).
    "I want to bless you, let me pay or I will feel awkward coming in here." (Me attempting to be humble and a servant.)

Whenever I am with someone who I think perceives my occupation as an illegitimate career choice I may emphasize a 60 hour workweek, my doctorate from Gordon-Conwell (Boston) and if feelings of illegitimacy still pervade I may be tempted to mention that between my Masters and Doctorate I received a 4.0 (summa cum laude).   If none of that works I may slouch into awkward self-deprecation.   I have a friend, who is a surgeon and I mentioned this to him and he acknowledged he does the same thing.  We both confessed that there is this constant quest to legitimize ourselves.   I surmise that this is not isolated to the two of us, but that this is a human thing.   Young mothers feel as though they are not legitimate moms.    Teachers feel the need to legitimize themselves through perfected lesson outlines and producing high achieving students.   Even lawyers, who of all people, you would think, would have a sense of legitimacy, having graduated with their J.D. and passed a bar exam, question their legitimacy from time to time.   

 I think this stems from the need to have Eternal (external) affirmation.  That is, it's not enough to affirm ourselves but we need someone external to us to look us in the eye and say, "You are legit."

Wednesday Kimo and Leon called me out on this tendency in me to act and speak in undeserving and illegitimate ways.  They asked me where that came from.  And I mentioned the media, the City, and the fact that 'the world' doesn't include clergy in an 'honest days work', and therefore I find deriving an income from this as illegitimate and undeserving of "an honest day's wage."   Then Kimo asked why I shared the same values on this that the world shared.      

I remembered sitting with a billionaire a few weeks ago and the whole time we had breakfast together I saw myself through his eyes, or through how I perceived that he was seeing me.   As I looked at myself through his eyes I saw a beggarly pastor of a small congregation, not deserving of C-Suite time.  To be sure, I do not see myself as some spiritual hack, I have a healthy view of myself through God's eyes.  Its just that there are times when that vision gets preempted and I begin to behave and speak through the eyes of someone else.   

For several weeks now I have been praying for a new vision.  But the answer that came was not one that I expected.  I expected God to show me something, like a goal or an idea, to mobilize and organize his church toward.   God misunderstood what I was asking for and sent me something else.  I almost missed it.   God wanted to give me a new vision of how he sees me.   I can say in the humble confidence of my heart that I have a healthy vision of God, not full-orbed, but healthy.  But I do not, at all times, see myself through his eyes.   I am too undisciplined and lack intentionality in this.    I wonder if the prerequisite to seeing what God has in store for us is coming first to see how he sees us.  What if our predominant self-view is defined by whoever is sitting across the table from us, could that false-self, faulty-vision sabotage divine blessing?   I think God is showing me that it can, and often does.  

When I look at Kimo I see a strong mighty Samoan, he should have been cast in 300.  When I talk with Kimo I see myself as his pastor and his family's pastor, but I tend to define that in more of a  supporting role in his life.  The great work that he directs through the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice is exhilarating and redemptive.  I see myself cheering him on.  But that all changed on Wednesday.  Kimo's eyes got all watery and he shared how he sees me through God's eyes.  It came out so powerful, so real, "God has put you in my life to lead me.  I don't see you merely supporting me, but leading me.  Lead us.  Lead us.  Lead us.  I see you this way because God sees you this way."

Those words were freeing, convicting, and empowering.   

With some people God sees me following, learning, submitting, and I need to see myself that way.  With others God sees me leading, guiding, caring and serving, and I need to see myself that way.  

I began role playing through different scenarios in my Thursday prayer time, closing my eyes and looking at the face of God.  In one scene I was preaching on a Sunday, in another scene I was at a cafe meeting with a land developer, in another scene I was collaborating with other pastors and leaders , and in yet another I was sitting at a table with CPMC CAG group.   In each case, I role played those scenes out envisioning how I see myself through the eyes of those present.  Then I re-envisioned those scenarios seeing myself as God sees me.   I imagined my conversations and how different they would be, my demeanor, my attitude and my decisions.   

As I write these words I think about us as a church.  I see us wasting the fragrance of our lives over Jesus's feet.  An illegitimate way of stewarding our lives by the world's standards... now I see Jesus looking at what Simon saw as a prostitute but Jesus sees a prophetess, she is prophesying about Jesus's mission.   And she does that because she is not distracted with what she perceives other people's perception of her to be.   Jesus sees her and calls her a prophetess, she is anointing his body for burial... 3 days before it happens!      


Not All Worship is Equal

When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
— C.S. Lewis

ThursdayI reread the story of the first worship ceremony leaving no commentary unturned in my quest to excavate the origin of worship.  The Cain and Abel narrative shows us the genesis of worship--what it is, what it looks like, how the Creator receives or disregards it, and how its counterpart masks itself.   The story establishes what it is about worship that connects us with God.   As I read the account again I was drawn to these two verses: 

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.--Genesis 4:4-5

The Origin of Worship as Sacrifice.  The words " firstborn" and  "fat portions" bleated like a firstborn lamb and thudded like a slab of fatty meat on my soul.    I could hear, smell, and see worship.   The Creator meant a heck of a lot to Abel--more than his prizest of flocks and fattest of herds.  As he laid these items on an altar his heart was postured in this way, "God, you come before what is first.   God, you are weightier than what is heaviest in my life."   The Creator regarded this, noticed this.  Abel's worship had two qualifiers:  firstborn and fat portions.   And first and best defined this moment as an act of worship.

Abel sets the standard for worship.  Worship is alive.  The sacrificial element keeps it authentic and is a fitting token of just how much he loves and honors God.  He is not thinking about life and worship in terms of the neediness of the creature (that was Judas's rationale), but in terms of the honor of the Creator.   Abel shows us that worship is worship when it embodies what is first and best.

Seven Deadly Sins

Wealth without work
Pleasure without conscience
Science without humanity
Knowledge without character
Politics without principle
Commerce without morality
Worship without sacrifice.
— Mahatma Gandhi

The Origin of False-Worship as Sacrilege.    "Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground."   Cain's offering lacks definition and qualification.  In fact, there are no negative or discrepant qualifiers, it's simply undefined.   Only when its offered next to Abel's does it take on definition and meaning.    Cain made worship gestures and motions, symbolically offering a token bereft of passion, weight, value, and meaning.   Yes it was a gift, yes it was put on an altar, yes it was given to the same Creator, yes he brought it at the same time, but it was anything but the same.  It was different in every way.  Abel's was qualified and defined.  Cain's was generic and undefined.  Therefore, it wasn't worship--it didn't meet the qualifications of first and best.   The offering was what he had left over at the end of the harvest season.   There was no faith, no risk, no 'skin in the game' for Cain.       

In the beginning we are told what worship really looks like; it's costly.  In the beginning we are told what false-worship looks like; it's deadly.  And every page thereafter we are told that everybody worships--some falsely and some faithfully.  Some worship at the altar of God and some worship at the shrine of self.  But everyone, absolutely everyone worships.

The order of that which is given to God clearly defines His place in your life.
— Mike Hayes

Why does God favor one offering and not the other?   The word 'regard' means God noticed, received, and accepted.   Think of when someone does something for you out of obligation or coercion, how difficult is it for you to accept the 'gift' if it comes from a joyless or obligated space.    Not only was the offering not acceptable but to accept Cain's would have been an injustice to the real worship ascending from the altar of Abel.   It would have been unjust to Able for God to value both equally when both were not equal.

What I am about to share is personal and part of the Garner oikos.  Your view may be different from mine, I only share this because of how sobering the thought was to me in light of the first worship story.  

A couple years ago Julie and I had switched banks and shifted our family budget roles around.  She thought I had taken over the responsibility of worshiping with 10% of our income and I thought she was doing this.  Several months went by and we received one of our giving statements and I was both ashamed and heartbroken to learn that my negligence had led to us not giving for several months.   The most important decision Julie and I make with our money on a monthly basis is giving 10% right off the top to God.  We both realized we needed to automate this so we set up recurring payments with Lighthouse.   Worshiping God meant first and best and we didn't want to risk missing this so we automated it.

 C.S. Lewis said, “When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.” 

I realized as I reread Cain and Abel that God was calling me to evaluate if he was still first in my life; If my distracted worship was related to a displaced worship.   I thought about what Pastor Mike said and wondered if the second things were being suppressed because the first things weren't first.   I used the following guide below to challenge my heart and thinking.

Firstlings and Firstfruits.   Who am I in the story?  Cain or Abel?   Do I give God the first cut of my income?   When the direct deposit hits my account, is my first thought--God?  When someone offers me a gift or when there is an income from an unexpected source is my heart eager to run and share it with God?  Or do I wait til the end of the month and see what I have left over?  Do I nickle and dime God with the spare change littering the bottom of my purse and pockets?

Fat Portions and Choicest.   Who am I becoming most like in the story?  Cain or Abel?  Does my worship come from a place of joyful obedience?  Am I eager and delighted to sacrifice?  Am I offering it cheerfully and excitedly?  Or do I look around and see my brother giving and because I don't want my image to appear stingy I reluctantly slip some money to the offering attendant?  Do I have reminders in place that keep me from forgetting or neglecting worship?

What this led to.  After evaluating my heart I realized that I was distracted in worship because the things that were vying for God's place in my life were beginning to mean too much to me.  It felt freeing and hopeful confessing and admitting this.  I then logged on and increased our recurring giving.  After I hit the 'process this schedule' button I raised my hands and closed my eyes and said, "Father, I worship you." (I meant it and I felt it.)

Here's where I increased my automating the important.

I've also included our faq page in case you have some questions and would like to join me.