Thursday, December 23, 2004

immersed in emerging

I’ve been thinking a lot about this last year and so in this season of last-year/new-year ponderings I wanted to take an audit of my encounters with the “emerging” brand-name-label-noun-verb. I’m inspired by Will’s musings about emerging as an attitude. I would like to think that of the many directions the EC might head, it must be into the heart of mission. That is, I believe a missional attitude will save the EC from some potential pitfalls (eg. Being/becoming – just a fad, a commodity, another exclusively Evangelical [white male?] sub-culture, a talk-fest for religious insiders).
(There's More)This past year Sherry and I have had the great pleasure of attending several Emergent events (May convention in Nashville, September forum in Atlanta, October Gathering in New Mexico). We have been given the opportunity to spend time with some of the people identified as important (leading) voices in the “emerging church friendship” in the United States. We were also very pleased to meet with a few Alt. Worship peeps from the UK. As a result, this Communality blog was born (thanks Jonny and Gareth for the encouragement).

Preceding this more deliberate involvement with Emergent-US, I participated in a Forge intensive in Melbourne, Australia (October ’03). Alongside these ‘live’ experiences I have been a blog-maniac, spending (too many?) hours trying to find the balance between information-overload and feeling like I just can’t read another post. I have read the bulk of the Zondervan/Emergent-YS catalog and have kept up with the recent press about emerging in CT and CC.

Finally, I have the unusual pleasure of serving as a missionary among a beautiful group of people committed to the missio dei alongside the marginalized in our city. Suffice to say, there is always plenty of day-to-day action to accompany the reflection.

“So what?” I hear you mutter….

Well, I am increasingly excited with the broad-based interest in re-imagining the church. The conversations in the books, articles, blogosphere, pubs, coffee shops, conventions, gathering, and (even) churches are energizing.



Here are some distilled hopes from this year’s experiences….

* This is a time for asking questions that require a renewed examination of ecclesial/theological/missional ideas and practices. The tiresome (and straw-[wo]man laden) debate over the relative/qualitative difference of this age over any age past seems to get us nowhere. The church has not always existed and it is my understanding that it will cease to exist when we enter into the fullness of the Kingdom, “on earth as it is in heaven.” It seems to me that the church is by definition a temporal agency and when it ceases to be born of mission, it ceases to be the church. It’s always time for an ecclesial revolution/reformation/re-imagining.

* I hope this friendship/movement will (continue to) be rooted in mission. I hope we discover that the EC has mission in its DNA. To this end, I am going to follow the lead of Alan Hirsch (from Forge) and call this collective of ideas-communities-individuals-attitudes the Emerging Missional Church. (Alan says all this much better than I just have in this newsletter). Language is important and perhaps this slight modification will more deliberately move the conversation in the ‘missional direction’.

“But what is mission?” I hear you ask. If it is everything, then it is nothing….right? This is the million $ question. In my view, it requires a collectively-lived-out response to the hope that all of creation is being reconciled to God. It will be bound by the twin commitments of community and place. (Wendell Berry beautifully describes community as "a placed people"…..see his essays on community, sex, and economy).

* I hope the EMC conversation elevates the value of contextualization. We can’t overstate the importance of self-theologizing missional communities. Mission (as service/proclamation) and theology (as poetic, rigorous, biblical imagination) will be so tightly wound together in the life of a collection of people we might someday wonder why people ever went away to seminary for ‘training.’

* I hope the EMC develops an explicit love for the world and for the ‘common good’. I would like to see the EMC incubate concerned-activism relating to the environment, politics, and social justice. Such activism would reflect an urgent awareness about the fact that there is continuity between “this world” and “the next world.” Enough talk of who’s in and who’s out of the discussion…a concern for the common good means 'it' is all for the all of us. The divisions drawn between “the churched” and “the unchurched” (or “the church” and “the world”) is dualistic in the worst ways and seems to me a misreading of scripture and culture. In this spirit we will better participate in the co-creation of the whole world, not just a “conversation/revolution in the church.”

* I hope this will lead us (as the people of God) to Reclaim the Margins (Rodney Stark's The rise of Christianityis a potent lesson in Kingom-marginality). We need to repopulate the edges of our culture, never assuming we can engage in the power-plays so often associated with being effective…YET we need to be ready to make a difference in every layer of our various contexts, from the street, down to places like the White House (upsidesown Kingdom!) I would be happy for others to worry about Reclaiming the Center.

Here ends my rant. I'm not suggesting these things aren't already happening, I'm just hoping they take the attention away from the (real or unfair) caricature of the EMC as just a subculture of Evangelicalism....with fancy-facial-hair.
We are excited about the coming year and hope we will have the grace to walk in the Jesus-ways of Justice, Love, Mercy, and Humility.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

No Suitable Title..............

Though doubtlessly punctuated by many profound and uplifting moments, I think it is safe to say that the last month has been a difficult time for many people within our community. We've continued to see God miraculously open doors for us to walk through together, but we've also experienced a lot of heartbreak and loss, and have suffered within our very bodies the pain and anguish of loving people who are difficult to love or who don't love us. And we've also had to go to very frightening places within ourselves or hand in hand with others in our efforts to express an authentic and lasting climate of compassion. And these are things that have only multiplied my awe for the people that God has assembled in this time and place, and named Communality. So, I would simply like to say thanks to every saint who puts an eye to this page, but even more importantly puts flesh and blood upon the gospel. You are an amazing group of people whose love for Jesus becomes more apparent by the day, and only shines the brighter for the doubts, questions, struggles, and turmoils that you regularly bring upon yourselves in your efforts to love. (there's more)

I've been reading the Psalms a lot lately, particularly the Psalms that tradition ascribes to David as he was fleeing for his life from Saul. And one verse from Psalm 39 (as translated in the New Living Version) really struck a chord within me as I was reflecting on the struggle to love against all odds. It says:

"Hear my prayer, O Lord! Listen to my cries for help! Don't ignore my tears. For I am your guest-a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me."

I am the "guest" of God as I journey through this life? What an amazing thought it is to imagine ourselves as God's guests! And what I took from David's bold petition to God to literally be his host in this life, is a sense of how profoundly important it is to be grateful for life no matter what the circumstances may be. The psalms that David penned during this period could never be described as unduly rosy or naivelly optimistic, but nonetheless speak with incredible power to the goodness and faithfulness of God and how it ultimately transcends every hardship. But without an attitude of gratefullness to God for giving us life, it seems impossible for us to see the bigger picture. And for us the bigger picture is the resurrection of our Lord. It's the reality that Jesus is here in our midst through the power of his Holy Spirit. He's not awaiting resurrection, even though in many ways I still act like I'm awaiting resurrection! The scriptures say that just as Jesus was raised, we also will be raised. And that is something in which I take great comfort and security, because it means that I don't have to wait until heaven to make a difference in the hell that I so often see here and now. I don't have to be passive toward the evil that I see in the world, and I don't have to let it overwhelm me when it so often encroaches. We are living by a new reality, and that reality is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And although it doesn't mean that things are going to be perfect here and now, it does mean that perfection exists and that we will one day share it with our Lord. And this belief is something that we've got to carry with us every day as we seek to wage peace in a world torn by war, by all of the things that we so regularly see.

David admonishes us to not spend too much time fretting over the evil that men and women do. Instead, he points us to the hesed, the loving faithfulness of the God who hosts us in this life. And if we give him the chance, he longs to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies (within and without, real and imagined) and anoint our heads with oil...........

At any rate, so ends my reflection, or at least my attempt to offer some measure of hope or encouragement from the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within me........and my thanks to all of you for helping to host me in this life (and in the new life that Maria and I are going to be entering)! May we all have faith to demand along with David that God be our host in this life.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Mary Cassatt, the Child's Bath, 1893

A synchronicity of thoughts and images: the reading from Luke about Mary, Elizabeth and maternity, children & mothers at High Street, Billy & Maria's news. Lastly, something about Ya'el (especially with her mother) particularly reminds me of this painting.Posted by Hello

Saturday, December 11, 2004

new citizens

Today I experienced the honor of witnessing the swearing in of naturalized citizens at the U.S. Courthouse downtown. Some friends from Bosnia stood with 48 others to pledge allegiance and swear to an oath to become U.S. citizens. To my surprise, it was a moving event. People from Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Venezuela, Lebanon, and more likely places such as China and Mexico were present. I was impressed by the remarkable diversity gathered in a small city like Lexington.
(There's More)

Addressing the group of citizens-to-be were a group of women from several Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapters, and all but one must have been over the age of 75. I listened closely to what they said because one, I thought it odd to have this particular group present in a court room setting, and two, I could qualify by my own family lineage to belong to such an organization. They greeted the newcomers kindly. From them I heard phrases such as - “the greatest nation in the world,” “prosperity and the pursuit of happiness,” “bright future,” “the promise of your children as American citizens,” and “honor and privilege.” One woman even invited them to participate in the Christmas season and she finished with “God bless you and God bless America” (which unfortunately lacked religious sensibility - at least a quarter of them were Muslim, including my friends). The residing judge went on to present a brief speech that focused on “evildoers” and the United States’ commitment to national security. The language was full of national pride and a certain brand of morality that reflected a fixed black and white worldview.

I felt proud to be a part of a country that opens its doors and receives people from all over the world. In part, I was hopeful for the opportunities and possibilities I trust they will have as American citizens. But more importantly, I thought about being a Christian and the chance to welcome people from across the globe. I thought about the difference between the power and vision of people belonging to a civilization of such strength and wealth and that of the kingdom of God. Then I was reminded of these words of Jean Vanier from his book, “Becoming Human” –

“Civilization is, at least in part, about pretending that things are better than they are. We all want to be in a happy place, where everyone is nice and good and can fend for themselves. We shun our weaknesses and the weaknesses of others. We refuse to listen to the cry of the needy. How easy it is to fall into the illusion of a beautiful world when we have lost trust in our capacity to make of our broken world a place that can become more beautiful.”
As I was recognizing my nationality (good or bad) and all that this nation has to offer, I sensed more deeply the call of hope and the whisper of faith in another vision. As a citizen of the kingdom of God sitting in that courtroom, I encountered a gentle reminder from the Spirit of God’s upside down economy and redemptive work of wholeness – shalom – which brings together broken and fragmented parts and makes something new. And this new reality of grace coming in our midst outstrips any potential of a new nationality or any prospect of “making it” socially or economically. Simply and unexpectedly, I left with a much-needed, regenerated passion for mission and a reminder of the power of God’s kingdom above all things.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

brian mclaren

some of us had the pleasure of meeting with brian a couple of weeks ago when he was visiting Asbury Seminary. we were limited to just a few hours together, not nearly long enought to get to the 'nitty gritty' - but it was a rich blessing and we hope to keep talking about how our community can serve the wider emergent conversation. anyway, along with the feature aticle in the recent Christian Century is this interview/review. whether you were able to join us or not, it's a great primer on where brian sees the emerging church headed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

St. Nicholas Day, emerging, and waiting.

I know i have been blogging a lot today but i couldn't resist making a note of this fantastic post from Will about the real Santa.

Also, for those interested, a good article about the emerging church can be found here.

And one last thing....Sherry and I read this article by Henri Nouwin last week as part of a collection of Advent writings. It taught us a lot about what it means to wait with hope.

peace

world on fire

This video by Sarah Mclachlan is popping up on lots of blogs. Sherry and I just watched it and we're undone by the images and the song...did someone say the stones were crying out?

see here for the lyrics.

Human Rights Day



Something for us to support at the UK campus.

A celebration of Human Rights Day.

Here's The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a refresher about what we celebrate.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

more politics

Todd noticed this guest opinion piece in our local paper yesterday. I really liked it and felt like it asked some good questions about “Christian ethics” and the person of Jesus. On the same page, just above this article was this cartoon. It took my breath away. It is a disturbing image (in the prophetic sense) but a good match for the article.

Where are all those comments?…I was under the impression we were community of people passionate about Jesus and Politics ;)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

retreat and thanksgiving pictures

The Saturday breakfast team and some fire gazing.


Our art project and Isaac running free in the woods.

(There are more pictures...)


Thanksgiving at the Third St household












Friday, December 03, 2004

Politics and God’s people

On Tuesday about 12 people gathered at the Leffel’s place for a Communality round-table conversation about Politics. It was a wide-ranging conversation that attempted to identify some hot-button issues and bring questions about ‘the ways of Jesus’ to bear on our life together in the United States in 2004.(There's More)Here’s what the e-invite said….

We wanted to let you know about a group of us who are gathering to discuss our faith with respect to social, political and economic issues of the day. After the election and the remarkable division in our nation and the church, some have voiced a desire to turn to Scripture together to study the prophets and especially the teachings of Jesus in order to better understand what it means to be a Christian in the United States. Of course this is not compulsory and yet it certainly isn't exclusive. All are welcome. Some of us are tired and weary and don't wish to talk about current issues at the moment. Some of us are eager for a conversation that engages with Scripture and the issues of our world…


Here’s my attempt at summarizing some of the things we felt good about affirming in our community:

1) We recognize the particular concern God’s people must have for “the least of these”. In this spirit, we recognize the “social margins” are an important space for us to live out the whole gospel.
2) There is continuity between this world and the world to come. Therefore, what happens in the Town Hall, the Local Council, the State Government, all the way to the White House matters to the people of God. In fact, all of creation is our concern if this is the case….it’s not “all gonna burn…”
3) Our involvement should not be for the sake of getting ‘our man’ (or woman) into power. We must always apply a Kingdom-critique to people and systems in and of power. So we will celebrate holiness (in the ways of Jesus) and denounce corruption and sin.
4) We are determined not to take ourselves too seriously. Much of the ‘heat’ of the political tension in the Christian community and American society in general is directly related to our inability to love one another and avoid honoring ideology above people. We want to be people of humble-conviction.
5) We hope to challenge individualism with interdependence (sometimes called ‘community’). The theological teaching about the Trinity creates a social/relational image that can inspire a politics rooted in setting aside our own needs for the sake of others (other-centered).
6) We are ultimately optimistic about our world and the way we can organize our human existence together because God is at work and we are being Holy-Spirited into a present and future that is SHALOM.


To those of you who were there…how does this equate with what you experienced? Did I forget/misrepresent anything?
To those of you who couldn’t make it….how does this look to you? Positives, negatives, general comments and hopes.

We hope to have some more of these round-table gatherings in the new year.

One other thing I would add to this….i think Doug Pagitt is onto something when he suggests we must learn to embody a Prophetic presence in the world. I think this might be the best biblical image for us to be political people…but it must include a collective dimension to being prophetic - not (just?) the individual fist-shaker. This fits with the "collective charisma" we talked about at the retreat. Read this post to get a better glimpse of this image. I’m going to look into this and write some more soon…
Peace on Earth.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Mall of America

After a lovely breakfast of Thanksgiving turkey-and-stuffing omelettes, in celebration of Buy Nothing Day, Lisa and I headed down to the Transit Center on Friday morning to catch a Lextran bus down to the mall.
(There's More...)

Earlier that week, I had taken a couple of white sweatshirts and had decorated them, one as per Adbuster's classic BND paraphernalia, and the other with a Buy Nothing Christmas theme (courtesy of the inspiration of a Mennonite congregation in Canada). I was particularly fond of the simplicity of the scrawled image of a packaged present accompanied by the question "Why not think outside the box?" and that became the front of the latter shirt. On the other sweatshirt was printed a couple of proportioned bare feet representing the comparative ecological footprints of the United States and Bangladesh (at something like a 20:1 ratio).

Donning our gear, we bussed down through the packed, impatient traffic to the great temple of the Fayette Mall. The vast holy see of cars in the parking lot was matched by the vast holy see of shoppers inside. We wandered largely unobtrusively.... generating by my recollection a few smiles from other shoppers, and by Lisa's recollection a few glares from the salespeople, but we mostly managed to be ignored in the overwhelming crowds.

We paused for a bit at the "mountain of love", where the mall, Walmart, a local television station, and some additional retailers were sponsoring a food drive for the Salvation Army. I would have walked right on past, but Lisa suggested that we stop and consider the sight for a moment. The pyramid shelving was stacked with various boxed and canned goods... mostly dried potato flakes, dried stuffing, and canned vegetables, all under the "Great Value" label. A few name-brand products (Campbell's soup, Betty Crocker cake mix, and Quaker oatmeal variety packs) littered the floor. Lisa noted that the various canned peaches and pears dotting the shelves would indeed be coveted at somewhere like the Catholic Action Center, but that most of the donation was of foods aleady presently lining their shelves. We began a quick estimate of the retail value of the mountain, and came to suggestion of somewhere around $1,200. We then turned our attention to the stores around and tried an estimate of the current sales volume of the mall. We peeked at nearby register's for average transaction amounts (e.g. $25 times four cashiers at the Disney store), excluded any shops without a current checkout in progress (jewelery stores were likely candidates for getting skipped), and mapped out a directory to generalize across the mall as a whole. Based on our register espionage, we multiplied a $1,600 transaction load by 8 mall areas (although I argued for 6 instead) for a total "single checkout" volume of $12,800. It seemed a sobering number either way.

We bussed back downtown for a lunch of more Thanksgiving leftovers at Thirdstreet, and then walked out towards Midland Ave. to catch the bus to the shopping haven of Hamburg. Having misread the route, we watched the bus turn ahead of us onto Winchester Road and disappear without us, so we sat down in a nearby park and talked while we waited for the next run, an hour away. If that were our only Lextran foible, we would have done well, but after perusing Hamburg's sprawling shops, we sat down at the bus stop again at 6:30, unaware that the bus service to Hamburg had ended half an hour earlier. With new respect for those who don't have the luxury of car and depend on Lextran for their daily travels, we found a public phone in Meyer and called for a pick up by one of Lisa's housemates.

I think I can say that for Lisa and myself, our rooms are less full of stuff for un-shopping on Buy Nothing Day, and our lives are more full for having spent the day together. I'd like to say "Thank you" to her for that experience. And to Brooke I'd like to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you again for rescuing us from Hamburg." And to the lady who read our shirts with the confused expression and then before returning to her cart sighed with relief, "Oh, I thought that was something about Christmas," I'll say "It is." And to all I'll note that I found some neat carols we can sing as we get a group together for next year. ;-)


“Joy to the World”

Joy to the World the Love has come
To Liberate us all.
The workers all are poor
From shopping at these stores.
Let heaven and nature sing,
Let heaven and nature sing,
And stop, and stop the shopping.
Joy to the World the Love has come
To Liberate us all.
No one can afford
This birthday for the Lord.
Let's join together and sing,
Let's join together and sing,
And stop, and stop the shopping!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Hello from Lubbock.....

I just wanted to take a moment to say happy thanksgiving to everyone from Lubbock, Texas. Maria and I arrived safely on Wednesday morning and will be returning to Lexington on Monday evening. We're having a great time with our family down here, eating and drinking, laughing & telling stories, and trying to keep up with the five very young children of this ever burgeoning family!

Today I went on the first quail hunt of my life on a ranch about 70 miles from Lubbock. I didn't actually get to participate in the hunt since I don't have a hunting license, but Maria did along with her Dad and three brothers in law. It was a very interesting experience and pretty amazing in several respects. It reminded me of how ignorant most of us are of how the food we eat comes to be on our tables. The violence of the hunt was a little disturbing, but it was a good reminder of the fact that our eating does come at the high cost of life, whether that life be animate or inanimate. And I guess that's a pretty good lesson for the Thanksgiving holiday. It reminds me a lot of the beautiful paintings that Scott & Geoff have been posting. Its so vitally important to maintain our connection to the land.....

J-F Millet. Noonday Rest. 1866. Thanksgiving is a good day to rest and be at peace. I wish I could have come by. But we had a houseful of assorted friends to dinner, and by the time I had finished eating I was too encumbered to move usefully. Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004

the gleaners - Millet part 2


This is the Millet painting i referred to in a comment on Scott's post. I said it taught me about Ruth and i guess this is the story my parents told me about the painting. it is one of my all-time favorites.

thanks

it is a wonderful holiday...my favorite since making this country my home. in Australia we have no Thanksgiving day and it is a shame - probably more a case of wrong season than ingratitude. the day started with some flurries of snow and preparing food for our annual family-feast at the 3rd st household (our largest community-home). there were as many as 30 people there and the food was plentiful (and delicious). it's always a joy to see family and friends gather in communion to celebrate gratitude. John beautifully set the tone with a sacred prayer that acknowledged just how blessed we are to be gathered together and to belong to such a loving extended family. thanks to everyone who brought food and gave their time to create a family-space for those who might not have it today. Later in the afternoon i returned to the house to pick up some things and found a gorgeous gathering of people playing monopoly....to those of you there, thank you for giving me a most spectacular glimpse of the kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Whosoever would be a man.........

In truth, given the obviously confused consumerist canrival that is our society, no holiday season rant could be more conformist than to talk about how the spirit of Christmas has been gutted by gluttonous gift giving. After all, the push for increasingly plusher products has become so extreme in some cases that it even defies caricature (insofar as these tendencies tend to caricature themselves). But what I want to ask in the midst of it all, is whatever happened to Thanksgiving? So asking this simple question will be my holiday rant for 2004.(There's more)

Several local radio stations are already endlessly droning on and on with every type of Christmas music that you can imagine. And its not just the music that drives me nuts after a while, but its the fact that we haven't even properly given Thanks, and were already poised to dive into the copious mounds of shredded wrapping paper and swim to our delight. Whatever happened to remembering the days when we had to rely on the graciousness of our indigenous brothers and sisters to help teach us how to plant the crops that put food on our tables? Perhaps if we offered a Christmas/Thanksgiving boxed set at Best Buy we could get more folks interested in thinking about Thanksgiving as more than just a rest/fuel stop on the way to the mall for the after Thanksgiving sale? I don't know, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's any holiday left in our culture that isn't up for sale or hasn't been sold already. Does anyone else feel this way, or am I simply overreacting to it all? But one thing is for sure....it makes me more appreciative of what we have together, and more ashamed of my own tendencies toward ingratitude.

Friday, November 19, 2004


Jean-Francois Millet, The Sower, 1850.

Artist with a revolutionary and scandalous concept: ordinary people and their lives are worthy of serious attention. The subject has an unmistakable earthiness and energy symbolizing the dynamism of the peasant population of the period. Millet painted a number of famous canvases, many of which glorified the French peasant class; another of my favorites is The Angelus.

This is an image to contemplate as the group discusses mission and related topics; "A sower went out to sow... " Posted by Hello

Monday, November 15, 2004

Shall We Gather At The River........Again?

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who participated in last night's meeting at the High Street House. It just wouldn't have been the same without the many folks who came from Third Street to help us broaden the historical picture that we were attempting to collectively draw. It served as a good reminder to me of the very deep common bond that we continue to share as different complementary expressions of the overall ministry of Communality. And even though all of us don't share the same memories or the same level of bonding, I'm convinced that its through periodic times like these that we'll ultimately be able to upbuild and stretch each other as we continue to grow. Each and every story, memory, lesson,idea,struggle, and overcoming has its own indispensable place in our shared life, and learning how to tell the story of our communal journey is a great way to celebrate our belief in that reality. So, thanks again to everyone for coming out and making it a special night for us. It meant a lot, and we're very grateful. Let's keep looking for opportunities to gather at the river...........

Monday, November 08, 2004

Re-entry is Tough....

So, were back now from our community retreat...., and I'm sure that many of us are feeling at least a little jolted by the abrupt return to life as usual. Being able to be together for a whole weekend sitting around the fire, laughing, sharing, walking, musing, cooking, and looking, is truly a small foretaste of what heaven must be like. I found it to be a very inspiring time, and I want to thank everyone who had a part in making it possible. Its times like these that really confirm for me our status as brothers and sisters in Christ, a spiritual family that is blessed to be a blessing.(There's More)
If I could bottle up any single stretch of time and share it with someone else as being representative of who we are, I think that this past weekend would rank right near the top of my list. Judy and Jen did an absolutely wonderful job of planning the weekend, and the more than thirty people who showed up all played an indispensable role in creating a welcoming and engaging atmosphere. And it all added up to the creation of many already treasured memories.

And of these memories there are several in particular that spark my imagination. The first was Geoff's idea to place a beautiful rainbow colored stole around Kim's neck after she was baptized. It was meant to symbolize her entrance into the priesthood of all believers, and it added a very rich, verdant, visual image to the sacrament of baptism. That was a great idea Geoff! Another great memory was seeing the unmistakably genuine emotions of Kim in response to her being baptized. It was so obvious to me that God is really working in her life, and that her baptism was truly an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. And last, but certainly not least, I thoroughly enjoyed my small role in helping to cook the Saturday night meal under the able supervision of James Walsh. James has such a dynamic gift for hosting people through ministries of food & fun (partying), and its so energizing to see him continuing to grow and develop that gift within the body. So, thanks again to everyone for making this past weekend possible-I owe you all a deep debt of gratitude for giving me a place to call home!

Friday, November 05, 2004

out of towners

our community retreat is this weekend so things will be quiet on the blog-front. many of us will be here at otter creek park. we will be eating wonderful food, hiking, talking, making some art, playing with kids, opening our lives to one another, and generally celebrating our unity and love. on sunday morning we will round-out our time together with a baptism and communion....what a beautiful way to finish a retreat.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

risk

Maria and I returned from Atlanta late Saturday afternoon after spending several days at the CCDA Conference/Neo-Monasticism gathering. It was fabulous to see so many of the people who have become dear to us over the last couple of years, and we relished the opportunity to share this particular journey with Geoff & Sherry. And even though our time with them was limited, the simple fact of being able to be there together and share the overall learning experience was invaluable. God is doing a lot of exciting things on the national and international level to bring together groups of Christians who are hungering for a deeper and more engaging expression of their faith in Christ. And the various personal and group interactions that I've had with folks along the way have been very challenging and invigorating.(there's more) They've really helped me to frame my experience in community here, even as my experience at Communality has had an overwhelming influence in guiding and shaping my participation in those settings. And as I reflect on this last journey within the context of our return to Lexington, there is one thing in particular that's come to the forefront. That one thing is the relationship between faith and risk taking.

At the Asbury Kingdom Conference two weeks ago, I read an article in the Good Works Incoporated newsletter where Keith Wasserman was observing that he began to spell "faith" R.I.S.K. when he and his wife were first starting Good Works. And Keith's elegant little dictum confirmed for me a current that had been stirring in my soul for several weeks. It was a current that had been crashing gently against the heavily fortified shores of my own complacency, slowly beginning to erode my defenses. And it had to do with re-evaluating the extreme comfort and security with which many of us in America live. The comfort and security that comes from having a Wal-Mart, Jiffy-Lube, McDonald's, or shopping mall right around the corner. For many of us, all we have to do is get in our car, drive to one of these establishments, and our needs/wants will be immediately satisfied. We're not used to having to wait very long to get what we want, and we're likewise not used to worrying about whether or not we're going to get those things. So, why am I making these observations?

I guess I'm really beginning to wonder if the relative comfort and security in which many of us live makes us prone to being very risk averse, whether that risk be physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, relational, cultural, political, etc. (as if these things are ever completely separate)? Does our incessant daily conditioning in a society where we have everything waiting at our fingertips make it hard for us to take risks that enable God to move in bold new ways? And is it any wonder that in a society where we have so much substantive material security, that the issue of national security has become the defining issue of our time? Maybe these are bad questions, and maybe they miss the point of where a lot of us are at present. However, I feel compelled to ask them, and to try to live out the answers day by day.

In Matthew 10:7-10 we read "....As you go, preach this message: 'The Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff;for the worker is worth his keep."

Naturally, there are a lot of things going on in this passage. But a couple in particular ensnare my attention as I consider the above questions. Jesus sent his disciples into a risky situation (they didn't have any planned place to stay, susceptible to bandits, etc.), to proclaim a very risky message (perceived by the religious leaders of the day as heresy), and ostensibly stacked the deck against them by forbidding them to take any supplies. But he didn't stop there. To top it all, he gave them the explicit command to "give freely" from whatever they'd been given, thereby cutting them off from ever being able to become too secure in their circumstances. And he did this (at least in Matthews accounting) at what appears to have been a relatively early interval in their relationship, not at the end......

Thoughts on evangelism

Since we are starting to shape thoughts on evangelism and our community, I thought we should have some good examples of evangelistic efforts. I discovered this in a central Florida news site and thought it might be helpful for our conversation.

46-Year-Old Reportedly Trying To Convert Lions To Christianity

A man was attacked and injured after jumping into a lion's den at the Taipei Zoo and trying to convert the lions to Christianity.
The 46-year-old man leaped into the den of African lions and shouted "Jesus will save you," according to the report. He also said, "Come bite me" before one of the male lions attacked and bit the man.

Maybe we are afraid a lion may bit us too!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

dreams and politics

on this election day i'm thinking about the dreams of this country. At it’s best (and worst) democracy is essentially the articulation of dreams and then we vote for the dream we like best.(There's More) George and John each have a dream. As Sherry, Isaac and I walked across our neighborhood to vote (well, Sherry votes, I’m not eligible, being a foreigner and all – makes me think seriously about citizenship in this land I have fallen in love with), I wondered about the dreams of our neighbors……good health, steady job, dignity, affordable/safe/warm housing, better hope for their kids, safety, return of loved ones from combat….

Jesus had his dream and he set about voting for it with all he had, every day. To the edge of a cliff, across Palestine, into the religious headquarters, and to a cross.

“God’s Spirit is on me,
Because he has anointed me
To bring good news to the poor he has sent me:
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”
then he said…

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”

and they really liked his stump speech.
But then he explained what it means in real life.
And they really didn’t like the policy that accompanied the stump speech.
And they formed a violent mob to kill him.

Monday, November 01, 2004

From the Pasture to Pastoral care – a farmer reflects on missions and evangelism.

the following extended quote is from a farmer i know.

...also, check out maggi's reflections on midwifery and mission.
perhaps these analogies help us in the same way parables often clarify and navigate the slippery concepts and slick programs sometimes connected to missions and evangelism.

One of the things that I didn’t need to worry about was the arrival of the calves on our farm. The main thing that I remember my dad teaching me was that the cattle had to be very healthy, and if possible, gaining weight. The normal result of healthy stock and a good season was an abundant yield of healthy calves. This principle seems to apply right across all of nature - from fruit trees to pasture and all livestock.(There's More)

As someone involved now in Christian mission and pastoral care I see the same principle at work. Where a community is Christ centered, receiving good, holistic nourishment, and involved in loving their neighbors (seeking justice, welfare, and peace in the wider community), then the normal result will be “baby Christians.” In such an environment those who are gifted in evangelism will develop their gifts as they share God’s grace and goodness and point people to Jesus. The community will naturally grow in numbers.

When farming there was always special care for the babies. They were watched closely for their health and growth and sometimes, in severe weather, given shelter from the wind and rain. If they weren’t growing then appropriate care was given to encourage health and growth. We should understand that a new Christian can be very healthy but not necessarily mature. Then we need discernment to understand the difference between giving encouragement to someone learning about faithfulness, or if that person is turning away from walking with Jesus and their heart is in rebellion at the Lordship of Christ in their life. It is important that we don’t expect maturity in baby Christians - it will only produce frustration in those who are caring for them.

The Fruits of the Spirit along with the incarnated Sermon on the Mount are the normal result of a healthy, mature Christian fellowship. It is so important for those of us who are older in the faith to reflect accurately God’s grace and goodness in our lives so that we can be models and mentors to those who are younger in the Christian journey. I truly believe that if we do this well, the Christian faith is almost irresistible to those we nurture relationships with as they see something of the beauty of Jesus in our lives.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

CCDA

it's saturday afternoon and i had hoped to make it into the workshop about "new generation church" (facilitated by Shane Claiborne and Tom and Christine Sine)...but after a good journey on Atlanta's public transport (bus/train/my feet) i arrived a few minutes late to find people spilling out of the overstuffed room.
so i came up to the conference "cyber-cafe" (cyber: yes. cafe: no....not a dark warm beverage in sight). (There's More)
it has been a brilliant time of connecting with (old and new) friends, encountering the diversity of God's people, and being stirred by new ideas and perspectives.
more to share in the coming week but for now, here's a reflection from the first plenary session....many of the moments from that first gathering became themes for our time here.

....in the cavernous ballroom of the Hyatt-Regency we gather for the first plenary session. this echoing vault gives up it's hollow sterility to the voices of the "rainbow people of God." It is an unusual privilege to see such a diverse gathering of people - and the diversity is even diverse! Ethnicity, ideology, politics, theology, and a fantastic range in age-groups. Suits and dreads, bared feet and business shoes, stained shirts and tattoos, piercings and carefully quaffed hair.

It’s difficult to describe the meeting without appearing critical (perhaps this is a sign that even our language has been co-opted by the mythos of excellence). It was refreshingly irregular. Like a tomato from the farmers market - glorious and divine because it isn’t perfectly round, red, polished. I shed salty tears several times, moved by the raw and real people who sang/spoke. The meeting was marked with the messiness of the neighborhoods in which many of these people have chosen to live.

As Sherry and I talked about the evening we both felt inspired by all these wonderful servants and encouraged to be reminded about the breadth of God’s redemptive work in the cities of this land. it is a joy to be here and we are ready to learn.



Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Still on the road…

We’ve been away from home for over a week now and it’s nice to sit at a computer and read emails/blogs/news. Here’s a small sampling of our time away so far….
(There's More)
Emergent Gathering in New Mexico:
Stunning landscape::
Sherry spent the first two years of her life in the dry, bright, and vast landscape of New Mexico (not far from where we stayed in Glorieta). Geoff felt like he had come home to Oz. Too beautiful for words and far too expansive for even the most wide of wide-angle lenses.
No Isaac:: we left him with Sherry’s parents and our first extended time away was a bizarre mix of liberty and ache. Mostly, we enjoyed our time as just a couple again, but couldn’t help talking of him.
Wonder-full people:: we experienced an intimacy and grace with new friends that far outstripped our brief time together. Must have had something to do with Jesus and the Kingdom that comes with honesty and hope. Shane was there and we fell in love with Will and Lisa Samson along with their delightful children – Ty, Jake, and Gwynnie.
Grace-filled food/yoga/conversation:: table fellowship punctuated our time together with yoga creating a holistic and sacred space. lots of good things to talk about and between the hugs/tears/sighs/laughter we were caught up in the fellowship of the saints.
The Gladdings:: a reunion (or sorts) with Sean and Rebecca and little Maggie. We miss them and the time together to process how our lives and vocations are unfolding in different parts of the U.S. was a great blessing.

Back in Georgia:
Bent Tree is where our parents’ mountain home is. A few days here in the midst of the Fall(ing) leaves is a great place to re-introduce ourselves to Isaac.

Now:
We’re heading down to the CCDA conference in Atlanta tonight and the various workshops/gatherings/sessions will take us through Saturday night. Home again Sunday.
Missing all of you in Lexington.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

taking unto our bodies

a friend left our house last night commuting on his bicycle. four blocks away he was hit by a car, his left leg hinging midcalf like a grotesque new joint.
we spoke with lisa this morning about the opportunity to do clinicals in the swaziland. she would be an immense help. She would also be in constant contact with bleeding people in various stages of decay from hiv\aids.
and grieving with geoff over norelle and her family's choice to put their bodies up for suffering in chad and sudan.
it is a beautiful thing to 'take unto our bodies the crucifixion.' it is a powerful statement in the face of so much sickness. i am proud to live amongst people who walk up to the already stained cross with the belief that their lives can make things different, better.
but those are hard things for me to say. this morning i would rather us start a kibbutz, isolate, be safe. it is too painful to watch. there are images that won't leave. and so i finish praying for us to have eyes to see not just the crucifixion, but the resurrection as well. like the prophet, to see dried and bleached bones rise with sinew and muscle and skin knit together.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

on the road...

we (the Maddock clan) are off to Georgia this weekend. we drop Isaac off with his grandparents and fly to Glorieta, New Mexico for the emergent gathering. then back to Atlanta for the CCDA conference where we look forward to being with billy and maria. we hope to spend some time catching up with tom and christine sine as well as shane and some friends exploring the new monasticism.

whenever we travel and meet people interested in re-imagining the church we're always mindful that we're representing communality - your hopes, questions, dreams, hard-work, and love. we are proud to tell stories of your faithfulness and the way we are encountering the Kingdom together in Lexington. Please pray for us and we look forward to sharing with you the things we learn.

Evangelism andwhatnot

Lots of conversation around the blogosphere about mission and evangelism and proclaiming-the-good-news and "just being" the church.....
questions like:
"what is the church for?",
"what's the difference between mission and evangelism?"
"are being apostolic and attractional mutually exclusive?"
"how do we reframe/reimagine evangelism for a post-everything culture?"

As a community we are getting ready to retreat together and affirm our unity as a little tribe of God's people trying to move with the impulse(s) of the Missio Dei. We plan to talk about Evangelism (or the lack thereof) in/around our life together.(There's More) Hopefully we can use the next couple of weeks to talk about the issues surrounding evangelism in our context and arrive at the retreat-times set aside for discussion with ideas/stories/hopes already bubbling to the surface.

so here's a bit from me to get things going...
As i have been thinking about this question of Evangelism (especially as it fits into the framework of APEPT (Frost and Hirsch call it the DNA of the church) - apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, teaching - I have come across some wonderful imagery in the prophets..... Here's one from Zechariah (8:19-23)

Thus says the Lord of hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah: therefore love truth and peace. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, "Come, let us go to entreat the favour of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going." Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: in those days ten men from nations of every language shall take
hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, "Let us go with you , for we have heard that God is with you."



Notice the coming/going languge? It seems to me we will waste a lot of energy emphasising tension between these two. Jesus seemed to "go out" and "send out" but people also gathered around him and continued to gather in homes, sacred places, and public places. The next tough question for me is, "what do we say when we 'go out'?" - Accepting, of course, that we live in such a way that is itself a proclamation of the good news of the gospel.

I'd like to have ten people grab me and say they want to walk the road with us........ahhh, every missionaries fantasy :) Whatever questions we have from such a pericope, it seems that joy, gladness, cheer, and peace are part of the compelling case for the Jesus-way of living.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

David Letterman and the Blind Boys

Last night on David letterman, Ben Harper and the Blind Boy from Alabama played at the end of the show. They played a song called "Take my Hand". Toward the end of the song one of the older members of the Blind Boy basically took control of the gospel chorus and Ben Harper just let him. The baritone voice sang a bluesy, gospel "Take my hand". The music stopped and the Blind gentlmen kept singing the chorus. As the camera focused on the lead gentleman with the baritone voice who was now standing with no music playing, you could see tears dripping down his face from under his oversized, dark construction glasses. It was an amazing image to see a blind man passionately singing with one hand raised in the air, "take my hand". It put a new image to the phrase, blind faith.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Hail to the grief.......

I was listening the other night to a beautiful Warren Haynes acoustic cover of the U2 song "One," and it got me thinking about an issue that I feel is very relevant for our life together in Christian community. There's that deeply affecting line in the song that goes ...."but I can't keep holding on to what you got, when all you've got is hurt..," and its the line that always hits me right in the gut when I here it. So, why does it me so hard? Well, the answer's very simple but very difficult. It hits me hard because it reminds me of how often I hide behind my own hurt in order to avoid being intimately encountered by other human beings.... (There's More) Tragically, one of the net results of managing my relationships in such a way is that it makes it almost impossible for me to have genuine heartfelt compassion for other people, or appreciate the beauty and wonder of everything else that God has made. The needs and concerns of others so easily get lost or suffocated in the morass of what I feel like I didn't get when I needed it, how others have continually mistreated or slighted me, and the general impossibility of anybody else understanding what "I" am going through. And, in my own craftily composed experience of self-curvature, compassion is almost always the first and worst casualty of the holding onto hurt mentality.

In Matthew 9:35-38 we read that "Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest..."

Now there are many things that strike me about this passage, but one in particular leads me back to Bono's bothering line about my own lack of compassion stemming from the holding onto hurt attitude. And the thing that really busts me in the bowels here is that Jesus is talking, at least in large part, about reaping a harvest of compassion so plentiful that there aren't enough workers to bundle it all up and get it to market! Not only that, but he's making this statement right after another tiresome and especially vicious harangue from the religious leaders of his day. A harangue that would have given him a far better reason to hide behind the hurt than I've ever found. But instead of getting tripped up by their empty self-referential ego rhetoric, Jesus seizes the opportunity to tell his disciples about a harvest that is rooted and established in compassion, in the constant striving to put one's own personal feelings to the side for the sake of moving vibrantly toward others, particularly those who are in the greatest need. And this makes me wonder if one of the biggest struggles that we face as the people of God in America is a lack of opportunities to meaningfully reap this harvest of compassion, to be involved in the lives of other people in a way that makes lasting change happen? How different would the church look if more of its witness for Christ was expressed in people making gut wrenching sacrifices for the sake of moving in compassion toward other people, especially people who are different from us and make us feel uncomfortable (the people from whom we probably have the most to learn!)?

Lastly,in an I-should-have-expected-it cosmic turn of events, I found out that the verb that is used in the above passage (and many others) for compassion, comes from the greek word splancha , which basically means the "inner" parts or "viscera" of one's body. Hence, I now know why Bono's words have always hit me right in the gut, since they literally strike at the core of what it means to have compassion. It is a grinding, often unpleasant, acid reflux producing, churning in the stomach, is compassion, and Jesus calls us to go and reap a harvest of it, which harvest he has planted and expertly cultivated by showing us how to love one another.

So, in the words of a great Steve Vai tune, may we ".....Let the might of (y)our compassion arise to bring a swift end to the flowing stream of the blood and tears....."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the shaping of things - to some....

seems like frosty and hirschy are stirring some good conversation across the pond. there's a good (passionate!) exchange of ideas at blogs by maggi, jonny, moot, andrew (check out the links down there to the right), and steve.
any of us who have read the book care to enter the fray?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Looking Forward, Backward, and Inward....

Maria and I recently returned from our trip to Europe, where we learned many profound things about world history, the richness and depth of our Christian heritage, and the incomparable value of being sent out on our journey by a community of love. The power of the communal prayer that carried us through this time was especially evident in a deeply moving experience that we had in Eastern Europe. It was there that we learned of the remarkable story of Father Maximillian Kolbe, who was starved to death by the SS at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of all the Nazi concentration/death camps.
(there's more)

In an utterly selfless gesture of love, Father Kolbe stepped forward to take the place of a young man who was facing a death senstence for a supposed infraction of the hopelessly cruel "camp rules." And, having willingly taken responsibility for this young man's offense, Maximillian was locked in a dreadfully small cell in the hellish subterranean darkness of the detention block basment, where he slowly starved to death (this basement is especially notorious in the history of the holocaust, because it is where the nazi's conducted their first "experiment" with the poison gas cyclon-B-they took 120 sick Polish prisoners and 600 Russian prisoners of war, sealed them in a room, and then "gassed" them). The young man whose place Father Kolbe took, went on to survive the camp and live a very long life.

The story of Father Kolbe's unbelievable love is enough to make any Christian burn with a renewed passion to follow Christ to the cross. But the way that we came to be in possession of that story, added a whole new dimension to its inspiriting power. And for me, it all began with an entry I made in my journal dated August 18, five days before we left for Europe. The following is an excerpt that sets the stage(I'm writing about my dad's sudden death and the empty house that remained afterward):

".....So, however empty those rooms may have seemed five years ago, I now know that there were indeed things there that I could hold onto and cherish, even in the midst of the cavernous echoes. Building a home is about beating back the decay of time, fending off the continous onslaught of that nihilistic impulse inside all of us, and erecting a memorial to the one thing that not even the most evil force can destroy, viz. God's desire for us to believe in the inherent goodness of life no matter what. And to believe in life no matter what, is none other than to believe that love is always and forever stronger than hate, that mercy eternally triumphs over judgement, and that the soul is ultimately incapable of being marred by anything, save the callous disregard of its life by the one who possesses it.
And these reflections lead me again to the topic of empty rooms. But they are rooms that I've not yet seen, not even in my dreams. They are the empty rooms at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which we plan to visit during our trip to Europe. We just decided yesterday to go east into Poland, and yet all of the sudden it seems to me like this is something we were meant to do. Indeed, it is something that I feel I have to do. And I can honestly say that I'm horrified at even the thought of going to a place that witnessed such unfathomable acts of human cruelty and suffering. But I know that I must go there, just like I must continue to go and visit the empty rooms of my own past. Because that is where I know I will find Jesus most powerfully, right in the middle of the place where he seems, at first glance, to be least present. He is right there in the midst of all the horror, trying to die, trying to forfeit his life for all of those seemingly God forsaken souls, and especially for those who have stirred up the fires of wrath, the fires that will ultimately consume only them. Nowhere is the inexorable centrality of his life and death more evident than in the midst of these nauseatingly dire circumstances. That is what Mother Theresa knew so well, and because of that she became a beacon of hope to people around the world, even though she lived dead in the center of nearly constant heartbreak. And that is what I've humbly known in my own fragmentary manner, at the darkest moments, on the streets of Lexington, and in the abandoned alleyways of my life. Jesus is right there in the midst of it all, trying to die so that hope might live, trying to take the lashes so that the violence might stop.........."


Much to my amazement, this journal entry turned out to be prophetic, as we were brought face to face with the story of Father Kolbe by means of a moving memorial to him at DrefaltegeitsKirche (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit Church) in Vienna, Austria. Quite astonishingly, this church was right down the street from the pension that our wonderful friends Mohammed & Omid arranged for us. As I quickly realized, Father Kolbe was the Jesus in the midst of the horror, that the Spirit had been revealing to me as I toiled through my journal entry. And the memorial to Father Kolbe was a remarkable work of art, a disconcertingly personal instance of God revealing his glory to us. But that was only the second leg of the pilgrimage, with the most painful and glorious passage remaining.

This wonderful mosaic of life, in, around, over, and under, the midst of death, was finally completed when we went to Auschwitz, walked the tortured halls and paths where so many hundreds of thousands died, and stared speechless into the tiny cell where Maximillian slowly died an agonizing death so that another human being might might live. It was the most moving example of a human being embodying the very life and death of Christ that I've ever seen. And, having also encountered many other stories of great men and women of the faith, I earnestly hope that we in the protestant tradition can come to more fully appreciate the deep, deep riches of the saints of the catholic tradition, and the incredible importance of being linked with our past heritage, though not ruled by it, or limited by its shortcomings. Maximillian willingly allowed his body to be starved to death, so that his spirit, and his body, might live a fuller and more vibrant life in Christ. I will never again hear Jesus' words in John 4 without remembering Maximillian. And may we all continue to hear them anew.......
"While this was happening, Jesus' disciples were saying to him, 'Teacher please eat something."
But Jesus told them, 'I have food that you don't know anything about."
His disciples started asking each other, 'Has someone brought him something to eat?'
Jesus said: 'My food is to do the will of the one who sent me..........

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

An Atonement of God's Presence

Last Friday, Patrick and I went to a local synagogue for the Kol Nidre service in preparation for Yom Kippur. I was struck by the following reading in the liturgy:

When justice burns within us like a flaming fire, when love evokes willing sacrifice from us, when, to the last full measure of selfless devotion, we demonstrate our belief in the ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness, then Your goodness enters our lives; then You live within our hearts, and we through righteousness behold Your presence.

(there's more)
The passage draws together in my mind the interrelatedness of our action (justice, love, willing sacrifice, selfless devotion, demonstrable belief) and the nearness of God (entering our lives, living in our hearts, in a presence we behold). For me, it gives a bit of reality to the usually trite claim of "God living in my heart". When we live out the character of God in justice, love, and peace... it is then that we see God's presence in us.

The tangible enfleshment of the nature of the Divine in the life of the Human draws out redemption in such a way that just might be understood as atonement.

A Reflection of ME

It takes only a short time after one enters into any serious relationship, be that with friends, dating relationships, or spouses that a reflection of one’s self begins to surface.
This statement is not profound by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I have had the sentiment expressed to me numerous times and I know I have read it stated in some form in at least half a dozen books. (there's more)
Because of this familiarity, it seems idiotic to be surprised when I realize I am clearly seeing the worst of myself in a relationship with another person – most commonly my wife. Nevertheless, like an epiphany at an AA meeting, I say, “ Hi, my name is Todd and I have a problem with _________!” I usually declare this (to myself because I would never admit it out loud) only after I have yelled, rebelled, cussed, and screamed at the other person for showing me … ME!
I never cease to be amazed by my own stupidity most of the time, but I am glad that laughter and a caring person on the other end of the relationship doesn’t hold the same judgments against me that I hold against myself. The most frustrating part of this relationship process (if that’s what you call it) is, I inevitably feel like a hamster in a running mill because I keep making the same mistakes and having the same epiphanies.

Friday, September 24, 2004

soundtrack for amos

sunday bloody sunday as sung by president bush...sounds like something Amos would sing (especially the last verse)

re-scripting

this is a good re-post from jonny via geoff holsclaw

those of you who were there last night...how does this frame our conversation surrounding Amos? How do we wrestle with the ambiguities of the scripts (#16)?

I feel like we discover the most clarity about such things when we are engaged in liturgies of our life together - welcoming refugees, eating together, visiting with friends at phoenix park, praying our way into an awareness of the presence of God in our city....

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


marketing team Posted by Hello

marketing department Posted by Hello

clinton and geoff and some hot-dogs at the roots and heritage festival....see this for a description Posted by Hello

Displaced people and being saved

Sherry and I have been thinking a lot about refugees lately. This stirs all kinds of grief, joy, despair, hope, and anguished prayers. Our community is getting ready to welcome a family from Liberia at the end of this week and my sister (with her husband and two children) is getting ready to leave her Johannesburg home to participate in the relief work on the Sudanese/Chad border. A friend from Ethiopia taught us how to make bread on the weekend, and some of our friends from Bosnia have just returned with their twoandahalf year old from an extended stay in Sarajevo. Each of these places and people have stories that have profoundly changed the way we live and view the world.(there's more)

Each one gives us pause to reorient our lives and the opportunity to learn more about the heartbeat of the gospel. The Psalm we are reading this week (146) unpacks some of the passions of the creator (and re-creating) God.....the one who made heaven and earth (v.6) is the same one who watches over strangers/orphans/widows (v.9). As I write this our Bosnian friends arrive and I'm having trouble communicating with the little one. He is earnestly showing me toys and describing them in his east-European tongue and I'm frustrated because all I know is "good", thank-you", and "good-night." The best I can do is cuddle him. For the longest time I thought YHWH's call for us to care for the foreigner was for their benefit. Having been caught up in the refugee-settlement work in our city for several years now I'm sure that this work continues to have salvific significance for me.

Monday, September 20, 2004

you made some promises....

A couple of Thursday nights ago at our 3rd St gathering we spent some time talking about Exodus 32 and the whole golden-calf-reveling-mess that blew up somewhere in the scratchy sand surrounding Sinai....as a way to enter the text and see how it might shape us we broke up into 3s and 4s and re-scripted the story from the inside - different ones assuming the voices of Moses, Aaron, the people, God, etc.
Here's what one of the groups came up with. They were trying to see it from Moses' perspective....


So, Moses had been wandering through barren, craggy hills, hands wringing, sweating through his responsibility. God had not confirmed the plan. These dirty, fickle people had been walking through the desert. Moses had no compass. There was no gas station. The promised land was not in sight. Again, Moses was sweating it.
Eventually God comes back to tell Moses about his earing-less people freaking out and thinking this brokenass calf brought them out of Egypt.
"I'm gonna blow up. I'm superflyTNT. I'm dynamite.
I'm a race car in the red."

Moses said,
"Chill, they aint my people. You brought 'em here. Don't give that locust and frog eatin' fool Pharaoh the satisfaction. So, chill man. Remember all those old dead dudes...Abraham and whatnot. You made some promises."


Sunday, September 19, 2004

reluctantly going where no man may go

so dostoevsky says, "a man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himelf or anywhere around him." and again, "it's always like that with holy fools: they cross themselves before a tavern and cast stones at the temple. your elder is the same: he drives the just man out with a stick and bows at the murderer's feet."

later on he describes how a particularly debauched character would sometimes wake his servant in the night just to be in the presence of a good man.

i had insomnia for a few months. i remember feeling the same urge and comfort lying next to laura.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

sick of choices

I have been fighting off a nasty illness for over a week now. It started last wednesday and has kept me up several nights coughing. After talking to a few of my classmates, I realized that there is a virus going around, and apparently it takes several weeks to get over it. Since it is a viral illness, there really isn't any treatment either. I just have to wait for it to run its course. I really don't have time for this sickness thing because I already feel behind in school, and I have 3 tests and a paper due next week. I also have many other commitments which unfortunately I cannot just brush off to spend the day in bed.(there's more)
This has left me somewhat irritable, as I'm not sure I see the end in sight. Then last night, while talking to Clinton, he suggested that I could just choose to be well tomorrow. My first thought was WHAT??? I can't do that because I am exercising all of my choice muscles to not be annoyed at you right now for making such a suggestion. It wasn't exactly the sympathy for which I had hoped. I have to admit though, I have been thinking of this option ever since. I'm not convinced that I can just choose away illness. The viruses that are multiplying in my lungs are very real, not just part of my imagination. The constant coughing at night is also very real. So, how exactly do I choose these things away? In school, I am being trained as a Physician assistant, and we do learn that a significant portion of illness is psychosomatic.
But, surely not my illness.
Then, I think of Jesus asking the paralyzed man "Do you want to get well?" This may imply that he chooses to be well despite the fact of a very real illness. I'm not sure what to think of this. I believe as part of my faith I think that we can choose to be well despite very real and difficult circumstances. However, my struggle comes in figuring out how to do this without living in denial. I can easily ignore all the trouble around me and be happy, but the challenge comes when I can see all of the real circumstances that would inhibit my well being, yet still make a choice to have faith that heals.
So, now I will finish out my day going to class, taking a quiz, having time to study, and ending with women's group tonight, and all the while I can think that if I am not well, it's my own choice.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Cry "Have-At-It" and Let's Eat the Dogs so Raw!

Of course, none of the dogs were "raw" per-se, but we did give away over 150 beef and turkey weiners at the Roots and Heritage festival this morning. Although one might argue whether a hotdog is a "meat product", being ever-conscious of the code (LFUCG CoO: Article 1, Section 10-1b), we offered free coffee and hotdogs as the parade kicked off, with a jar available to take donations for Kentucky Refugee Ministries. At first the marketing department (complete with a state-of-the-art sandwichboard) was outpacing the production department (a.k.a. the "grill faster, you dogs!" and "what happened to the bloody slit in this bun?" department), and lines quickly backed up. One hour and one emergency "bun-run" later, supplies were exhausted, leaving a mob of not-so-hungry people, a cooling charcoal grill, and $58.44 in donations to KRM.
(There's More...)Lessons learned:

  • If you have 150 hotdogs, having 150 buns is a good idea.

  • When you're out of buns and out of plates, a free hotdog served on a napkin is apparently acceptable.

  • Marketing with the word "free" necessitates production in large, rapid quantities.

  • If you don't distinguish between "hotdogs" and "turkey dogs", no one cares. If you do distinguish, everyone cares (and no one wants the turkey dog).

  • Once a hotdog falls through the grill, just let it go... it's gone.

  • TANSTAAFL?




Friday, September 10, 2004

Saying yes to life

this quote from the latest sojomail challenged and inspired me this morning,

"Lest my way of life sounds puritanical or austere, I always emphasize that in the long run one can't satisfactorily say no to war, violence, and injustice unless one is simultaneously saying yes to life, love, and laughter."
- David Dellinger, peace activist and author


looking forward to meeting alan today and hearing more about the community he belongs to...

Thursday, September 09, 2004

greenbelt pics

enjoyed these pics from andrew jones and, among other emergent-dignitaries, spotted our beloved billy and maria kenney. look forward to their return and hearing what went on.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

word and world

thanks to some inspiring (inspired?) thoughts from Clinton this morning i felt like i started to understand this week's readings. the cry for grace/mercy issued by Moses and the Psalmist is shadowed by gratitude in Paul's "testimony" (Timothy). Luke reminds us of Jesus' preference for seeking that which is/was lost and what great celebration/parties erupt when we/they are found....looking forward to what these passages provoke in our Thursday conversation. These passages remind me of Kosuke Koyama's "relationship/invitation-theology" and it's superiority to the "answer-theology" we often seek and settle for.
In his book "No Handle on the Cross", Koyama writes,
"One of the unfortunate characteristics of the Christian mission in Asia has been the presentation of the Gospel of Christ in terms of a slogan; 'Jesus is the Answer'. In my own Japanese language 'Jesus is the Answer' sounds extremely awkward, cheap and superficial. In my culture it would be understood as saying that Christianity works mechanically, therefore it has no significant spiritual dimension. But the real issue is not a cultural but a theological one. Jesus Christ means a continuous story, not a deus ex machina answer. ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father but by me (John 14:6). This passage is not saying that Jesus is the answer. Instead, Jesus is inviting us to come and walk with him. What is the use of knowing the way if one does not walk on it? No! Unless one walks on the way one does not know the way. ‘I am the way’ means ‘walk with me’, the basic message throughout the biblical tradition. ‘…and the truth’ means that as we walk we will be affected by his life. And being affected by his life we begin to say ‘Abba Father’ (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15). Jesus Christ is obviously neither like Mary Poppins who straitens out a messy children’s room with a snap of her fingers, nor like Santa Claus who is carrying a bag full of sweet answers for everyone. He is more interested in establishing a relationship than in giving answers.”

Monday, September 06, 2004

I'm in

It's good connect via cyberspace. Billy, I've enjoyed your parabling. Hope things are well in Europe. We miss having you around. Scott joined are group last Wednesday night, so as to not meet alone (Robert and Ron were supposed to arrive, but never did).

So anyways. My housemates and I had a little retreat on sat. We went down to Red River Gorge about a hour or so southeast of Lex. We grabbed a loaf of bread and assorted turkey products( Turkey Salami?) and headed into the park. We started with many expletives as I backed off the road into an unseen ditch, only to ground the bottom of my car on the road, but with a bit of a push we were liberated and went on our way.
After quick sandwiches and some sort of party mix, we headed down the trail. We stopped to swing on a rope someone had tied to swing over the river, but much to everyone's disappointment, no one slipped and fell in.
So we apparently left the trail, because we found ourselves trailblazing. I didn't mind this, but I almost felt sorry for Mike, who decided Birkenstocks were appropriate hiking footwear. So we headed up the mountain. Clinton promised a "gentle slop" around the corner from smooth inverted cliff faces we continued to come upon. Finally, after two hours we found not a gentle slop but a firm disciplined incline. We navigated the roots and rocks to pull ourselves up. The summit was in our sights. Weary and heavy laden, we approached the top. At which point, Clinton pointed out to John the sound of engines, more specifically, car engines. How could this be? Were we not in the remote regions of Kentucky, having triumphed the, until now, unreachable heights? In the distance we saw the signs of civilization, fences and paved walkway. Then the old couple strolled, yes strolled, by. It seems we had covered the entire mountain, except the road onto it and the paved walk way out to the overlook.
Of course the road out would have taken us ten miles away from our car, so it was decided after much deliberation and jockeying for control that we would head back down a different side of the mountain, into the wilderness. Finally, we reached the elusive car and snacked on grapes and granola.
Thus continues our policy of finding the most round about, tiresome, scar inducing , yet fun and memorable ways to the top of the mountain.

Friday, September 03, 2004


"If no answer" - these signs appear occasionally in our new neighborhood. wonderful. Posted by Hello

On the road with Bosch #2

Bosch finishes with a chapter called "the courage to be weak" in which he challenges us to live on the borderline of the "already" and the "not-yet". He doesn't quite nail down (crucifixion pun intended there) what that looks like but he does say it will be "the very antithesis of neutral aloofness, contentment, and passivity...shallow enthusiasm and hyperactivity."
I was most challenged by his discussion of "vocational certainty" and the struggle to know "this is where I belong." Bosch claims that, "Paul lived in this creative tension..he never doubted that he was where he belonged and was doing what he should be doing. The knawing uncertainty about whether or not we should continue more than anything else hollows out our ministry and destroys our joy."
While trying to embody what Bernard Adeney calls "epistemological humility and ontological conviction" (in "Strange Virtues" ISBN 0830818553), perhaps I have over-played doubt and compromised a healthy passion, conviction, and quiet-urgency about Jesus and the Kingdom. I need to work more on making sure my 'knawing uncertainty" is limited to doubt about myself instead of bleeding over into the lived-out/spoken-about message of Luke 4:18ff.
Perhaps I have been biting my tongue when I should be speaking the truth (as I see it) in love (as I live it).
Perhaps biting my tongue in this way is as problematic as the religious lip service that offends me so.
Perhaps, by trying really hard not to appear too sure about what I know out of sincere concerns about the cultural sensitivities of post/late/anti/not/modernity, I have missed the chance to be a fool (in the best sense).

Thursday, September 02, 2004

On the road with Bosch

A group of us just finished reading 'a spirituality of the road' by David Bosch. An awesome and humble exploration of the kind of spirituality we might aspire to. Bosch uses Paul's second letter to the Corinthians to construct a way of discipleship that avoids the 'us/God against the world' dualism of the pilgrim’s progress model. He suggests that, "the involvement in this world should lead to a deepening of our relationship with and our dependence on God, and the deepening of this relationship should lead to increasing involvement in the world." Being called out of and sent into the world is a "simultaneous double-movement". Not an easy thing to get a handle on when many of us have been schooled in an understanding of spirituality that, at best, is ambivalent about 'the world/flesh' and, at worst, hostile to all things material. Bosch eventually suggests the cross is the most compelling image of a holistic spirituality....he says, "Jesus was never more worldly than on the cross....Jesus never stood over against the world more clearly than here, and spirituality is both of these at the same time." Total identification and radical separation at the same time! wow.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

wish i was here...

greenbelt is on and billy and maria are in the cutandthrust of this most glorious event.
wish we could be there but it is a cathartic-thrill to imagine them there.
can't wait to read the news from bloggers who attended.

Spiraling

in my efforts to imagine myself as a missionary i go through revolutions that take me to and from street to scripture to self-reflection. often i arrive in the midst of self-reflection only aware of the failings/inadequacies/hopelessness of our work. so i retreat to more reading and shake an angry fist at me/the world/god for not being 'as it is' in books.
i was in this downward phase of the spiral as i chatted with a friendabout how our lives might be sketched out on a piece of paper (?), i was imagining the table in our kitchen as the centerpiece to concentric circles moving into the street, neighborhood, city - friends, strangers, neighbors. it makes sense that the place i begin the day and end it would be the middle of this image. our home is a location for the double-movement of hospitality and sending, not a haven/fortress from 'the world'.
so....lots of talking/imagining/reading happens and yesterday we are in the kitchen and our 'room-mate' (my wife, son, and i live in community with another couple) comes in with a man and his daughter who arrived recently as refugees from Liberia. we make a sandwich for the little girl...she is on her way to a dr's appointment as her hearing is impaired by years of ear infections without any treatment...we talk and i realize i'm in the sketch! i realize that this is it, this is the kingdomcoming. kitchen table. food. strangers in a strange land. healing. i dared to imagine (for a moment) that salvation had come to this house. audacious? hopeful.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bad Directions - a parable

Once upon a time there were two brothers who embarked separately on a journey to see their mother who was dying of cancer. Their mother lived far out in the New England countryside, and her home was only accessible by taking a painfully circuitous network of back roads. Neither brother had yet made the journey to this, her newest residence, and as a result both had perilously little idea of how to get there. Both of them were quite familiar with the main road that led travelers out of the city and into the hinterland, but beyond that they knew nothing. Therefore, they were careful to remind each other to pack a map for the journey, and having thus said goodbye, they agreed to meet at their mother’s home later that evening.
The older brother departed from his home late in the afternoon and by dusk was approaching the turn off of the main road that he knew he needed to make. Now this brother, to his credit, was very expert in the use of maps. Indeed, he loved to study the details of maps, explore the various contours, and generally immerse himself in the discovery of the new places and attractions that each successive journey brought him. To be sure, he could find his way around the countryside quite easily using the map he had handy, so he decided to do a little exploring. He noted a couple of things on the map that particularly interested him, and seeing that his mother’s home was not far away from his present position, he embarked on a brief detour to visit these places.
Before he knew it, one hour had turned into three hours (absorbed as he was in his explorations), and he became worried because it was now getting to be very late in the evening. So, getting out the map again he quickly plotted a very direct and sure course to his mother’s home and sped off. But alas, despite the speed of transit made possible by his adept navigational skills, he arrived to the terrible news that his mother had died two hours prior. She had apparently died wondering why her eldest son, the pride of her heart, had not yet arrived to share her final hours.
Now the younger brother, who had left town earlier in the afternoon, approached the turn off the main road about two-hours before the elder brother. Unlike his older brother, he had never taken the time to learn how to read a map. Indeed, the very thought of trying to find his way by means of using a map was quite repugnant to him. Didn’t reading maps and planning ahead of time simply ruin the fun and excitement of the journey? Deep down he knew that his tendency to depend on others to show him the way was problematic, but he was too prideful to ask for help and figured that learning a skill that rarely had much relevance to him would probably be a waste of time. He had left town that afternoon fully aware of the problems that could lie ahead, but figured that he would make it through all right, just as he had always done before.
So, being confident that everything would be fine, the younger brother made the turn off the main road and hazarded a guess, after glancing briefly at the map, at what his next turn should be. Regrettably, the turn that he made was a wrong one and he was soon terribly lost. He tried making his way back to the main road, but his efforts only resulted in further disorientation, and he became even more profoundly lost than he was before. At long last, giving up on his efforts to find his own way, and delayed by numerous instances of road construction, he found someone who was able to successfully direct him to his mother’s home. But just like his older brother, he too was greeted by the crushing news that his mother had died one hour prior to his arrival. She had apparently died wondering why her youngest son, her baby, had not yet arrived to share her final hours.
Now I wonder what lessons we might be able to learn from the story of these two brothers about the critical importance of healthy self-analysis? On the one hand some of us get so caught up in exploring our own internal state of affairs that we become lost in the process itself, losing sight of the goal, and consequently damaging ourselves and others with our obsessively introspective tendencies. On the other hand some of us are so afraid to examine ourselves, or too lazy to take the time, that we know very little of what goes on inside and when a crisis hits we find ourselves lost in a strange wilderness with no idea of how to find our way out.