Last night I had a dream: I'm preaching in a large older church. I'm telling them that what I fear when I wake up on a Sunday morning is not the preaching, that I'll preach a poor sermon or get the words wrong and embarrass myself. What I fear is that I will not be serving Jesus Christ, but instead the organization, giving it what it wants to hear rather than the truth. What I fear is compromising in order to keep my job. This is my greatest fear. Then, this older, well known, rich and established preacher challenges me and tries to interrupt me. He gets in my face. I try to keep going but he gets more and more aggressive, trying to correct me until he finally grapples with me, forcing us to the ground. He karate chops me on the neck. I'm trying to ask for help from those around but no one helps. He finally gets up and starts to leave. I ask why he did that to me. He does not answer me. Tonight our church is having our mortgage burning celebration. This is a big deal! Ever since the devastating church split we suffered in 1997, we've carried the weight of a huge and debilitating mortgage. There have been more times than I care to remember feeling that we weren't going to make it. All it would've taken was one bad Sunday to shut us down. I really wondered if God simply brought me here to crash this church safely into the ground. We've been riding the razor's edge for so long that we've become rather accustomed to it. Now, with no mortgage, we're like calves let out of the stalls in springtime. We really don't know how to handle the wide open space before us. But we're happy to give it a try! Many people have been invited to come, including other Vineyard leaders. I feel awkward. Ever since I was a child I've felt I thought differently. I was different. I kept this to myself. I was the most obedient and compliant child. I never challenged my father outwardly or any other authority. Inwardly, I knew I had my own thoughts... my own way of thinking and being and doing. I've always feared that I would be rejected because of my uniqueness. I've always feared that if I came out I would be discarded. I'm still that way. I know I think differently. I know I behave differently. I know I am different. In fact, I've been called defiant in my uniqueness. But at the same time I have this fear of rejection because of it. I am this strange mixture of defiance and compliance. I feel this way with the other leaders that are coming tonight. I want to be myself. But I want them to accept me. So I'm nervous. I'm nervous for me and for our church community. I feel protective of our uniqueness. But at the same time I feel the temptation to be ashamed of it. I feel defiant that we have the right to be unique, independent and autonomous. But at the same time I feel the need to be accepted, endorsed and loved. I realize this is my issue. It's my stuff. This is an awesome community. I'm deeply proud of them. They are my crown. I love them. I know other communities are coming to share in our celebration and rejoice with us. So I'm trying to relax and enjoy this fantastic day in the life of our community. I'm going to try to frolic in this new freedom that's been suddenly and surprisingly handed to us. The picture is of a large watercolor painting of mine, a self-portrait. It took me forever to paint and is now in the private collection of a local collector. Notice the three trees are actually crosses. I call it "Self-Portrait: Cross Stream". Prints are available here.