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.


it is a wonderful 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 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 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


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.