Thursday, April 21, 2005

WALP bloggers

some places to hear about the conference.....

sounds like a wonderful always, the highlights happen in the gaps between the formal gatherings. i didn't officially attend this conference. we weren't going to be able to fit it into the work (jobs that pay) and care-for-our- dear-progeny schedule. we had some beloved companions stay with us and attend and we made a couple of trips out to campus - i heard maggi dawn's talk. i'm a bit bummed this morning thinking about all the great conversations i missed out on. woe is me...poor little missionary ;)
...last nights 'international emergent' bit would have been very helpful. the last session today will broaden the scope to involve our family in africa and hopefully press the social justice activism that is clearly the most yahweh-honoring type of worship (micah 6).

the highlight for me this week as an almost-attendee (apart from catching up with Laci, Doug, the Samsons, Troy, et al.) was a lunch Communality hosted on tuesday. it was a delight to look across the room and see our various friends (old and new) meeting and sharing bread and stories. thanks to all who made the time to be with us. i'll post more later this week about some of the things that have animated our imaginations concerning church/emergent/mission/scripture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

WALP conference

this conference is happening out at ATS right now. it's been nice to see some friends from around the country descend on sleepy Wilmore (and slightly less sleepy Lexington). looking forward to some grace-filled conversations and stimulating chat over the next few days. will report back with anything that seems blog-worthy.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pete and Alex and the stirrings of good.

"God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing right and are patient beneath the blows, God is pleased with you. This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps." -1Peter 2:19-21

This passage has been hard to read this week. Something else I read this week speaks to suffering too. I submit this as one more clue, not as an answer. This is Alexander Solzhenitsyn quoted in Johann Christoph Arnold's Be Not Afraid. After wrestling with hardships for some time, A.S. learned this:

"From then on I felt that the solution to suffering is this: that the meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in development of the soul. From that point of view our torturers have been punished most horribly of all: they are turning into swine; they are departing from humanity. From that point of view punishment is inflicted on those whose development...holds out hope....
Looking back, I saw that for my whole conscious life I had not understood either myself or my strivings. What had seemed for so long to be beneficial now turned out in actuality to be fatal, and I had been striving to go in the opposite direction to that which was truly necessary for me...
It was granted to me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good."

May we all learn how to be good.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

All-Communality Gathering

It's that time again....
hot on the heels of a blistering winter formal comes this great gathering at Eloheh village.

We would ask that people arrive by 3:30pm on Saturday April 16th.

Soon after everyone is there we will be planting a fruit tree in memory of Dragana's husband, Senad. Of course, everyone is welcome to go out earlier to help with the other planting going on throughout the day (Please read the details below for directions, food instructions, etc.)

Everyone is welcome as we come together to celebrate what God is doing among us.....

(More Details....)

For anyone who is coming out to Eloheh Village for Indigenous Leadership & Ministry Development on Saturday April 16th to plant trees and work- here are some details.

1. We will work from 9 AM to 5PM. Bring your own lunch and a side dish (salad, dessert, vegetable, etc.) to share at supper. The Woodleys will supply the main course and drinks. After supper Communality will meet together (other groups helping that day will depart at 5PM).

2. If you can bring gloves and work boots you will have a better time. Anyone with shovels and pruners is encouraged to bring those as well. Bring a raincoat if there is
inclimate weather.

3. Directions: Take Nicholasville Road (27) past Nicholasville (past the last Business 27 after McDonalds) and make a left (East) on #3374. Take 3374 until it ends (about 1.5 mi) and turn right (south) on 39. Go about 3.8 mi and turn right on #1278. Take #1278 until it ends (about a mi) and turn right. In 2/10ths of a mile you turn right onto Brumfield Lane and go about 1.5 miles to Eloheh Village (sign on right) 1672 Brumfield Lane. 885-1447.

Edith & I want thank you for your willingness to come and serve Native Americans who are reaching their own people for Christ in appropriate ways. We will give a brief orientation that evening concerning the ministry.

Do-hi" (Peace in Cherokee)
Randy Woodley, President

Eagle's Wings Ministry
P.O. Box 125
Wilmore, KY 40390

Sunday, April 10, 2005

This is a story I have been telling as comedy, but...

This is a story I have been telling as comedy, but I think it is more tragedy, or maybe mystery. I told it as comedy because I didn't want to think it through. Here's what happened.
I was walking down 4th street on Thursday morning, praying. I don't usually pray as I walk, but I think I was moved to do so on this particular morning. I prayed for my family, our community, this neighborhood, that guy in the Buick, this house, that woman walking away from me, etc. It felt like the right thing to be doing. Then a man waiting at a red light made an obscene gesture toward me with his mouth. I checked to see if I knew him; I didn't. I kept walking. He proceeded to turn in to where I was walking and offer me a sexual favor. I kindly declined, and kept walking. This is another thing that doesn't happen to me every day. It was fairly disconcerting.
I often ruminate about poignant interactions for some time after the event. On this day, I regretted that I did not check on this man. I don't know what I would have said. To hear a price list would have at least satisfied my curiosity. I also would have been interested to know what about me made him think that I was in the market.
Only after a couple of days of living with this story did I realize that I had been distracted from praying. I am not sure why this is important. I do think I needed to pray that morning, but I don't know why. And I don' t know how bad it is to stop praying as a result of an interaction with one of God's children. I don't know if the prayer ended when I became distracted. I am not sure what role discipline plays in praying. The story becomes more mysterious when I think that this man may have been sent too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

the church is an illigitimate center

this article published as the feature in the New York Times magazine was a fascinating examination of a church. without going into too much detail about the article, (please read it if you are at all inclined) a very large church in Arizona is closely examined within the context of the "exurbs" - new housing developments that might be described as dislocated suburbs on steroids.

i wanted to bring it up here simply to restate something a bloke named Hoekendijk started writing about back in the fifties. Hoekendijk argued that if the kingdom of god is to be our principle aim, we are sorely mistaken to focus all of our hopes/energy/passion exclusively on the church. he summarized his argument by saying that, "Church-centric missionary thinking is bound to go astray, because it revolves around an illegitimate center" (The church inside out, 1964, p.38). (there's more) he goes on to suggest that understanding God’s mission of love and justic in the world will require a broader vision - a vision that has been called the missio dei. (i am well aware the there are some major problems with Hoekendijk's ideas.....but for now i am grateful for the shift in ecclesial thinking his work inspired, including his having a huge influence on a bloke called Leslie Newbegin).

just as we are miserable creatures when when we put ourselves at the center of the universe, so too is the church mired in it's own troubles when we make it the centerpiece of what we suppose God is doing. in australia we have billabongs - literally meaning "dead creek". they are ponds where the water sits still because a creek or stream has dried up and stopped flowing through. The water becomes rancid and stinky.

now, back to the NYT magazine article. here we have a church that is a massive success in gathering people, serving the 'members', and offering relationships/advice/information. and yet...and yet, it is increasingly the "center" and i wonder if this success will turn sour as it becomes a Christian ghetto. i have a friend who suggests that Christians in the United States are generally "of the world, but not in it." the punch line of the article (in my reading) was a quote from a very satisfied member who was talking about his new (Christian) friends and his old (non-Christian) friends - "we've had to commit ourselves to friends who could help us grow spiritually." (cf. Luke 7:34)

i hope we as the people of God can commit ourselves to the world in the ways of Jesus. this will mean occupying the margins - "the edge of chaos" - where our whole lives can be trans-formed in missionary service. this is a de-centered religion, a faith(fulness) for the spaces in between. the church is not big enough to contain the dreams of God.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

"learning to read scripture"... contrast to "learning to dissect the bible."
this is a challenge i feel almost daily in the mirey clay of (post-)western mission. i've been programmed to mine the text for historical fact. i really need to be transformed by the reality of this confronting (afflicting!) good news. i need help.
...and so i have been reading lots of books.
but i discover that i still need help and that books don't have nearly enough skin and blood and breath and dirt.
it has become clear to me that the most startling moments of shoe-dropping, ahah-gasping, mind-messing scripture encounters have happened when i have been among a group of other acting/reflecting missionary-people.
(there's more)

still, i find we get so caught up in trying to match "actual history" with "biblical truth" and i'm wondering if they are not always the same thing. by learning to read scripture in a theological way (not just in a historical, cultural, biographical, etc, etc, way) i hope that we can learn to read our own life-stories theologically (or perhaps it is the other way around). this will involve storytelling that recounts our dangerous stories of loving mission in Lexington. as we all become missionary-raconteurs we will be moving with less tension between the "the text and the world". by Yahweh's grace, we might be further caught up in the missio dei.

a couple of brief writings that have recently helped me wonder about the whole history/truth/reality complex have been written by a guy called pete rollins from ikon in belfast. see what he has to say here.

check out Will's recent comments about choices and following Jesus.

living-water containers

The following is a reflection from my dad and i thought it might be appreciated here. he wrote it for Prison Fellowship volunteers - he coordinates this organizations volunteer work in victoria, australia. [you might remember this other piece from kev]

Recently I saw a photo of an animal skin that had been made into a water container and was full of water. In the photo there were other containers scattered around all full of water, they were hard strong plastic, some blue and some white or transparent, but there was this one animal skin (maybe from a mid sized cow) that would have contained about 30 liters of precious water

(Read on...)

The photo was sent to us from our Son in law who, along with our Daughter Narelle and our two little grand daughters have been living in N’Djamena, Chad. Sandy is a pilot with Missionary Aviation Fellowship and has been flying groups of people across Chad and into southern Sudan. Sometimes medical people to the refugee camps, or United Nations people and on this flight a group of people who were doing a survey of the wells and water supply of the desert people.

In a climate where for most of the year the daily temperature is in the mid 40’s and sand and dust storms can last weeks, water is scarce and precious. When a well runs out it can mean that animals and people die. So when the United Nations or the government dig a good well, then the people will travel many kilometers to fill their containers, it is the “Water of Life” to them.

When I saw the animal skin full of water I thought that here was a person who couldn’t afford a plastic water container, but still being desperate for water, used the age old method of liquid storage (remember the wineskins of the Bible) and set to work to make their own water container. In our western culture it is hard for us to understand that type of poverty, where even the basic essentials are so uncertain and life hangs on such a thin thread. I was thinking about prison ministry and our care for people in the prison system, their need for the “the Living Water” (John 4; 10-14) and the containers that they use to receive the life giving water. I think that most of us who visit inside the prisons would recognise that there are the “poor” who don’t have the normal containers. They are thirsty, they still need the precious “Water of Life”, that need and the answer to their need doesn’t change, but the container is often different. Instead of it being a theological explanation or a sermon on the Salvation story, the “water of life” may need to be found in the context of care for the person and their family during the difficult time of imprisonment. A building of trust and friendship where we seek to reflect accurately something of God’s love, grace, and goodness. As they learn of God’s love through our caring actions, then perhaps the questions will come, but the “living water” will usually need to be delivered in “different” containers.