I’m sitting on my family room floor watching the premiere of a new series on abc, called The Forgotten. It’s about civilian volunteers that take on cases of unidentified murder victims. The featured group of volunteers is trying to recruit a new guy, an artist who specializes in sculpting people. This dialogue struck me (not a direct quote from the show… just from my memory):

“I can’t do this. I can’t sculpt a dead girl. It’s creepy.”

“Fine. Go back to tagging city buildings. Go ahead.”

“Look, I was just bored… why do you do this? Why do you bother trying to identify these people… like telling their families their kid is dead is really gonna help. They’re already grieving. What difference does it make? Grief is grief.”

“There is a difference, and the difference matters. It matters a great deal. You can go back to being bored or you can help us make a difference. Choose.”

I have been talking to a friend quite a bit over the last few days about church and how one goes about choosing a church to call “home.” It has me thinking about why in the world I have chosen a church home that is 45 minutes away, in a community where I do not live or work (especially since being missional in my own community is a growing passion in my life).

The truth is I was bored. I was bored with programs and clubs and established systems that resist any change. I was bored with worship planning meetings and youth sponsor meetings that felt like they were planning the same events as last year, just renaming them. Honestly, it was more than boredom. It was frustrating! I wanted to stand up and say, “We can’t do every good thing! We can’t pursue every good idea. We need to make choices. We need to decide what our values are, how we can make the most difference in our community and drop the other stuff. There are plenty of churches offering programs and hardly any addressing the hidden poverty and suffering here… the resources of a large church directed at a specific need in the community could actually do something for the Kingdom, something more than maintaining what we have here.”

What I have discovered at Highland Park Community Church is a far cry from boredom. Sure, it also has it’s frustrations. But, wow. They are clear about the fact that they can’t and won’t do it all. They are clear about their values and if something doesn’t line up with the values, they let it go. Not because it’s necessarily bad or unbiblical but because they are crystal clear about what they are about– and it has nothing to do with buildings or campuses or clubs or catering to the particular tastes of the people in the pews. It has everything to do with bringing the Kingdom of God, in all of its justice and mercy and love and grace, into a visible expression in Levittown. That keeps my attention. You better believe it.


a small attempt at missional

I dropped off eleven of these letters today. It was nothing profound or amazing. It may have made very little difference in our community… but I wanted to do it, to make contact and acknowledge that what our family does also affects the other families nearby.

the beginning

the beginning

Dear neighbors,
We wanted to take a few moments to thank you for bearing with us over these months, as we have worked on our backyard. You have been so patient through all the dirt, machinery, noise and activity… and mess. Many of you have stopped by to offer encouragement and check out the progress. We feel blessed to live int his neighborhood, among such gracious people. We hope, as we finish up all the work and the decks are finally built, to invite all of you to stop by some evening for food and fun in the new backyard. That might not be until spring, but it will happen (this can’t last forever, right??)! Thanks again for your patience during this huge undertaking. Blessings, the Swartleys.

the middle

the middle


Emily, at Think.Laugh.Weep.Worship put up another great post today.

Check it out.