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.


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.

The Bridge To Nowhere - a parable

How can we illustrate our tendency to become so caught in preserving our own interests that we forget about the responsibility that we have for others?
Late one rainy night, on an obscure and narrow stretch of backcountry road, there was a salesman making his way home from a lengthy and tedious business trip. He had been gone from his beloved family for nearly week, and was dearly looking forward to their sympathetic company after a very difficult meeting with his superiors at the annual District Conference. So, he naturally found himself thinking fondly of them as he guided his car through the dense canopy of trees that enshrouded the road, giving it an almost cavernous feel.
As he drove along, being warmed in his heart by the prospect of soon being at home, the rain began to come down in sheets that blanketed the road before him, making it quite difficult to see much beyond thirty or forty feet in front of the car. The increasing intensity of the storm aroused in him a heightened sense of mental vigilance, and for the moment all other thoughts were pushed out of his mind. He was definitely in a hurry to get home, but he wasn’t foolish enough to press his luck in circumstances like these. He had other people to think about, so why put them in jeopardy in order to arrive a few minutes earlier?

It was at about at this moment that suddenly, from the right hand side of the road, sprang a deer, leaping directly into his path about forty feet ahead. Thankfully, having slackened his rapid pace only moments before, he was able to avoid what had appeared, in the first instant, to be an inevitable collision. He just missed clipping the hindquarter of the deer as the anti-lock brakes he had purposefully paid extra for brought the car to a balanced halt. Naturally, the adrenaline was now rushing to his brain in torrents, and it took him about a minute to get calmed down enough to continue on his way. But almost immediately after he had depressed the accelerator and resumed his journey, he was greeted by an even more horrific and paralyzing surprise. His now supremely serendipitous encounter with the deer had stopped him just short of the shattered remains of a bridge that had obviously been washed out by the storm. Now, in the place of the bridge, was a sheer fifty-foot drop into the raging waters of the river below!
This second close encounter with near disaster left him shaken to the very core. “What in God’s name is going on here?” he thought. “Is someone out there, or up there, trying to make an end of me?” he wondered diffidently. “I’m really going to be late now,” he mused, as he carefully turned the car around and began to retrace his path. “It’s a damn good thing I decided to invest in those anti-lock brakes!”
As he drove away from the shattered remains of the bridge, his nerves began to calm down and his thoughts once again turned toward his family. And as he thought about them, he began to become preoccupied with the troubling issues that had been raised at the District Conference. The retail sales figures were going to be announced tomorrow morning before the opening of the stock market, and these numbers would have a great impact on the overall outlook for his company. After the grilling he had received at District Conference, he really needed something good to happen, and a positive report tomorrow would greatly help things. He had always provided nicely for his family, and he couldn’t tolerate the thought of not being able to give them what they wanted.
Carried away as he was by the competing concerns now waging war in his mind, the man took little notice of the fact that about two miles down the road he passed a large SUV headed in the other direction at a fairly high rate of speed. The driver of the other car had flashed her headlights to prompt the salesman to turn down his high beams, which he grudgingly did after a few choice expletives about the other driver’s lack of patience. And then he continued homeward, dreaming happily of his family.
So, it will probably come as little surprise to the reader that the next morning, in his perusal of the regional newspaper, the salesman failed to take notice of the front-page story about the mother and her three children who had perished after their SUV plummeted into the very river that had nearly claimed his life (they were apparently on their way home from a summer camp). After retrieving the paper from the front yard, he had hurriedly turned to the business section where he discovered some exceedingly good, and surprising, news. The sales figures were much better than he had ever expected! “What a great thing it is to be at home,” he thought, as he celebrated the news with his jubilant wife.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

...but can we survive the church?

Flannery O'Connor wrote, "I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you have to suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it". (from 'Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South" by Ralph C. Wood, 2004)

Flannery is teaching me about the majesty of the incarnation...
To cherish and love the world while enduring the suffering that comes with the 'not yet' of the Kingdom, these are the twin heart beats of the Shalom way of Jesus.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

building community isn't easy Posted by Hello

a birthday pic

This is a picture from Asher's 12th birthday. Asher came with his family to the US from Palestine (Ramallah) and he was visiting his dad who lives near us. When we discovered it was his birthday we threw a party with fireworks and cake....Asher teaches us about Palestine and the remarkable perseverance of a people under occupation. Posted by Hello

how we're finding ourselves...

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of our selves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning." (Missional Church in North America, 1998: 150)