Wednesday, November 30, 2005

awaken, sleeper

Our small group has been reading a novel called Under the Feet of Jesus. The story is about a girl and her family that resort to agricultural labor camps when they can no longer pay for their apartment. We have discussed the feeling of becoming awakened. In the novel we get another side of a story usually told by marketing people. We see that their is no such thing as cheap produce. If we don't feel the cost, be guarateed that someone does. For us to have bananas for 30 cents a pound there has to be cheap gas for transportation and an underpaid labor force working and living in abhorrent conditions. I don't feel particularly good about being awakened to this sort of thing. I don't want to imagine the other hands that have touched the fruit I think I can pay for. I don't want to imagine the lives that I have impoverished. I can't afford that for 30 cents a pound.

In the story the main character stands up. She stands up for her life and for the life of her loved ones. I need to remember that daily. I have the choice to objectify or humanize in every interaction, in each purchase. As the seamen warns Jonah, "awaken, sleeper." There is a storm and the boat is threatening to capsize.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Waking up to AIDS

On December 1st, in partnership with DATA and the ONE campaign, we are hosting a showing of an incredible film called "A Closer Walk"

December 1st is world AIDS day, a day to focus on this global health crisis and take time to better understand how we can serve to help those in need.

It is appropriate in this first week of Advent that we are awakened to pain and suffering in the world, to become more aware of our need for the messiah.
Several people in our community have already seen this film and were deeply affected by what they saw and heard.

Please come and bring a friend.

WHEN: Thursday, December 1st, 7:00PM
WHERE: Communality, 112 W. High Street, Lexington.

The Purpose Driven Death....

As this year's advent season dawns I've found myself pondering the spaces where the dusk and twilight of life reside in falling shadow. Perhaps it is my melancholic nature that so inclines me, or maybe its because every holiday season naturally brings to mind the people who are no longer a living part of my life history. I suppose its probably both of these things, since they can never really be separated. At any rate, as we lit the advent candle symbolizing hope last night, I found myself reflecting on the extraordinarily paradoxical nature of this hope that we yearly celebrate. And as I thought about it, I determined that it is the hope that lies on the other side of the glorious birth of the king that to me makes it so paradoxical; the side where the slaughter of the innocents resides, the flight into Egypt as refugees, and the tender scene of the young Jesus (bringing a sacrificial lamb?) at the temple in Jerusalem with his parents during Passover. It is a hope that from the beginning was rooted in the realization and awareness that wherever life is breaking out and is blossoming, death is always necessarily present. And it is in this sense more than in any other that we know that it is not a false, illusory, or deluded hope. We are able to rejoice in an event that caused such immense heartbreak and hardship to so many, precisely because we know that in God's economy death has indeed become the very way to life. We celebrate because we know that God has mysteriously united both the living and dying dimensions of life in this baby king. The hope that we have during this advent season is a hope that is so robust mainly because it reminds us that the cost of any life is death (whether it be spiritual,emotional,physical,financial,political), and that God has made this price worth paying through the inimitable example of the one who gladly surrendered his life in order to show us the way to a purpose driven death. And this is no small thing in a world where death often seems so senseless, cold, absurd, and random. God has given us a gift so precious that its worth dying to possess it; and this is what truly makes life worth the living. So, as we celebrate advent season this year, we would do well to remember all those people who pursued a purpose driven death so that we might be able to know the deeper mysteries of God's love and the purpose of our live's in this world. What "lamb" is it that God wants us to bring to the temple as we "grow up" with our Lord?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

We Wait

Advent is here. The arrival of the Christ is upon us. We wait. And I'm really bad at waiting. If there was one negative description that would best be applied to me it would be "impatient". It's the story of my life. It defines a struggle I have dealt with from my earliest memory. I'm 41.

Yet Advent comes to us again, as it does every year. And, as always, we are reminded that we anticipate more. The first Advent of the Christ got us to this point. It brought us a living Jesus and gave us a life to imitate. The first Advent gave us the cross of Jesus to which we are called. It made resurrection a possibility, which, in turn, gives us hope for the next Advent.

And so, now, again, we wait. We hover in liminal space, always conscious that we are on the brink of something greater. We celebrate the first coming of Jesus. But I admit my inability to grasp the second.

At various points in my life I thought I had that question answered. But I'm coming to realize that it is the waiting, and the mystery, to which I have been called. Where I once thought the second Advent of the Christ could be reduced to a formula, I now find myself living in accord with those who wandered and waited for the first coming. Like the people of God before that amazing night in Bethlehem, I have no choice but to seek to be faithful to the call of God, and to live in expectancy.
"Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Advent Devotions

As part of our discussions on advent, we thought it would be meaningful to put together some devotions to help guide us through this time. The Bruderhof communities have several available online. As this is the first week of Advent, maybe this one, The Meaning of Advent might be appropriate.

Clinton and I have also worked on one that ties together the theme of Awakening with this week's scripture passages for the Jesse tree ornaments....

(Continue reading....)

This week we focus on our need for awakening- to sin, heartache, injustice, suffering. This awakening can allow us to experience more fully the yearning for the coming of a Messiah. This week we can also pray that we can be awakened to Hope- in God's story, His promises, and the coming of His Son.

The creation story provides a picture of a state of shalom. It awakens us to the possibility of "how things could be". And, not only how they could be, but how God created them to be. God has created us to be in community with Him, without sin and shame.

This is followed by the Fall, the ultimate awakening to sin and shame. They hide as God seeks. Through disobedience, Adam and Eve destroyed the communion with God. They were exiled from the garden.

The creation continues to decay until we come to the time of Noah. Here the world is awakened to God's judgement. The world is also awakened to God's mercy and his continued desire to live in peace with his creation as he makes a covenant with Noah.

God then chooses Abraham for the salvation story, calling Abram to a drastic change. Abraham is awakened to the cost of following the will of God. He is asked to leave his home and family, everything he has known, to obey God in faith. Even when this obedience would cost him his beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Through this obedience, God awakens them to a way of redemption, offering a ram in substitute.

Isaac's son Jacob is also forced to leave home and family to save his own life. On this journey as he sleeps alone in the wilderness, he is literally awakened to find God's presence there. The heavens are bridged to earth in a most unexpected place.

Finally, this week we have Jacob's son, Joseph, who is awakened to the injustice of betrayal, slavery, slander, and imprisonment. He remains faithful to God throughout these trials and is then part of awakening others to the dreams and image of God.

Perhaps these stories may help us to see the ways that God may be trying to awaken us. Let us pray that we may be faithful and obedient, trusting in God's mercy and grace, as we yearn for the coming of the Messiah this advent season.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Advent I: Awake

Wake up! Rub away the comfort of drowsy eyes and take a look around. We live in a world of injustice and pain... Can you see it? Can you hear it? It echos from the groaning of the earth consumed by greed, to the cry of the refugee torn from her country, to the silence of the man sitting cold and alone on the park bench downtown.

Advent calls us to become aware of the need for healing, for hope, and for help. Advent calls us to be awakened to the need for Messiah.

(Continue reading....)

As the faithful waited for the advent of the Messiah many years ago, their longing was filled with the desperation of those on the margins. During this Advent, let's participate in that desperate expectancy by remembering and confronting the brokeness and struggle around and within us.... so awaking ourselves both to the need for and hope of God's life-renewal.

Some suggestions for action:
  • Fast this week... skip lunch, or simply eat rice and beans for supper. Remember those for whom choosing what or whether to eat is not an option.
  • Donate time and money saved by fasting to the Catholic Action Center or Lexington Rescue Mission
  • Sit outside for an hour... on your porch, in the park, whereever. Experience the cold and remember those with whom you share this hour.
  • Donate a pair of gloves and a winter hat to Kentucky Refugee Ministries as they welcome folks relocating to Lexington who are not used to the cold of winter.
  • Particiapte in World AIDS Day, learning more about the effects of HIV/AIDS and what you can do.
  • Post your own action or experience below...

Monday, November 21, 2005

one meeting

one of the principle goals for us as a tiny speck on the missional church map is to foster involvment in issues of local, regional, national, and global justice.
we are currently planning two events for Decemeber in partnership with DATA and the ONE campaign (more to come about those).

If you are a local and want to know more about issues of Debt, Aid, and Trade this meeting will be a great place to meet our regional DATA/ONE representative and get involved.

Volunteer Meet-up. Everyone Welcome.

WHO: The ONE Campaign is hosting this informal meeting

WHEN: Tuesday, November 22, 6:00PM

WHERE: Lexington Public Library, 140 East Main Street

WHY: Help ONE plan upcoming events in Lexington and meet other Lexington ONE Volunteers.

Rallying Americans ONE by ONE to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Heart trouble killed inmate, autopsy shows: of his 25 arrests this year, all but one were for drunkenness

"Phillip W. Barnes, 55, was arrested Monday on alcohol intoxication charges and booked into the Fayette County Detention Center at about 1:52 p.m. After Barnes spent the night in a cell, guards went to get him around 11 a.m. Tuesday to take him to be arraigned in district court, jail officials said. He was unresponsive and later declared dead. The Fayette County Coroner's Office identified Barnes as the dead inmate yesterday after notifying his family. Barnes was believed to be homeless. "

i was sad this morning to read about Phil.
at least once a week i would see him when he came in for coffee at the YMCA where i work the opening shift. in recent weeks it had been pretty cold and quite a few homeless men had been coming in around 5:30am for some free coffee and a warm place to sit for a minute or two.
i didn't know Phil apart from a morning greeting. he seemed happy most of the time and wore a big floppy woolen hat.
i'm sad that he has few people to mourn him.
there will be no memorials on blogs.
not many tears for his passing.
few people will visit his grave.
he may have already been gone/dead/forgotten before he died.

'Shake 'n Bake'

from the BBC:
"The Pentagon's admission - despite earlier denials - that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue - it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare."

if this is true then no wonder it has been kept form the public. what a horrible thing.

a way to measure our days

in recent weeks, melanie did a wonderful job of inspiring and coaching us in a series of gatherings to explore the season of advent. at the root of these gatherings is a commitment to be a self-theologizing, missional community. we are not happy with simply and passively re-enacting traditions, nor are we willing to disconnect ourselves from the beautiful and rich history of our faith.

it is our obligation and privilege to generate our own traditions and rituals as we follow the already-work of the triune God in our world. this requires thoughtful, prayerful, and critical engagement with our traditions, scripture, and our life in mission.

the fruit of this exercise was an advent calendar that frames our preparations for christmas with feasting, fasting, readings, and reflections.

for some wider context, this link is a helpful survey of the christian calendar.
if you haven't seen a copy of the summary and calendar please email me and i can make sure you get a copy.

joey and will are also keeping us moving forward down this self-theologizing path. they are editing a 'prayer book' (a book of uncommon prayer, perhaps). this is a way for us to learn the traditions that have served god's people for so many years as well as to compile our own growing list of rituals and resources. everyone should be encouraged to explore what it means for the word to be made flesh in our time and place and to join in on this process of action/reflection.
so, talk about it with one another, pray, act, imagine, and act again. talk to joey and will about how you might contribute.

a way forward

sherry and i have been reading through Journeying Out by Ann Morisy. it is full of gems...and her overall thesis is beautifully crafted. challenging and compelling. wow. get it if you can.

one of the little nuggets that i have been thinking about came from her brief mention of the Arabic word ijtihad which means something like struggle (p.135). the word is from the same root as jihad and represents the intellectual or spiritual struggle of the Islamic faith to find the law/will of God (in contrast to the violent militarism of jihad). if you want to read more about Ijtihad you can start here with the wikipedia entry.

It seems like a good place for Muslim/Christian dialogue to move forward. I think the sharing of Father Abraham and a celebration of God's ultimacy provide other great starting points but ijtihad can perhaps be something more....a shared method of theological reflection where meditation and wrestling with angels replaces the hard-nosed legalism that all religions tend to veer toward.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

scripture is not safe

"It is much easier to argue about evolution and creation than it is to live as though this is God's world. Or, debating whether a 'great fish' really swallowed Jonah is far less costly and risky than acknowledging that God loves our enemies as much as God loves us."
[p.20 "Formed and Transformed by Scripture: Character, Community, and Authority in Biblical Interpretation", L. Gregory Jones...a chapter from "Character and Scripture: moral formation, community, and biblical interpretation" William P. Brown (Ed.)]

this quote and Jonny's article have me thinking about scripture and preaching and what it is we can hope to achieve by spouting 30-minutes of information at people once a week. In connection with this, i've been wondering what kind of authority over my life i really give scripture. and so, here are some scattered thoughts - sometimes blog posts like this are just thinking out loud with a keyboard.
(there's more...)
It seems like it is too easy to simply agree (or disagree, for that matter) that the bible is True and/or that the bible tells us how things really are (or ought to be). It is even easy to argue over the historical details of a given passage, easy, that is, compared to meaningfully submitting oneself to scripture. i'm not even sure what i mean by meaningfully submit. Perhaps that's why I/We default to questions like, "did it really happen?" It is a way of avoiding the inevitable affliction that comes from truly listening (with ears that hear!) to these mysterious stories. right now i am more likely to to respond to the "did it really happen?" question with less certainty - the question makes me squirm because it seems to be the wrong question. I might say whether it happened or not is, at best, marginally important but more often than not irrelevant. it seems to me that the real power is in the truthfulness of the text. It's like Lucy's question about Aslan in 'the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.' She asks, "is he safe?" to which Mr Beaver replies, "'Course he isn't safe. But he's good." Lucy had the question wrong but the answer reoriented her. We get the question wrong and we get off-track. Now, i'm all for rigorous historical criticism. I just believe that we can easily strip the Word of power by becoming convinced that we know precisely what is going on.

the risk with emphasizing this kind of 'epistemological humility' is that we can easily default to a tepid faithfulness. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) addresses this and suggests we know more than we are willing to act on.

"The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians...pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close."
so, we know far more than we are comfortable with and yet we really should be quick to admit we are still in the dark. before this post becomes lost in an argument about History and Truth....back to preaching. if we begin to view Scripture as a transforming story that messes up our plans so that we will be more likely to fall into the arms of Christ and be reoriented to the vision of the Kingdom-coming, then perhaps our expectations of what should happen at church (among other things) would be turned upsidedownSpontaneityty in all its ragged clothing (mess, chaos, awkward pauses, et al) is too often avoided and preaching can do more to gag people than promote an encounter with Jesus. giving one person the 'pulpit' week after week seems to be a sure fire way of limiting the work of God. if it is true that 'the medium is the message' then we need to make sure our modes of communication are true to our missional church identities.

Finally, to end this rant, a quote from a brilliant book about early church practices.
"Why did the ekklesia gather? Most evangelicals, indeed Christians of nearly all persuasions, traditionally answer that churches meet for worship. [i would add 'preaching' here] Paul's consistent answer was "to build each other up." The members met to use their personal endowments from the Spirit for the common good. They prayed, read Scripture, encouraged, sang, taught, and prophesied to one another as the Spirit enabled them. Paul never identified ekklesia in terms of a vertical relationship of worship. The meeting was for one another. The gathering was a conversation - a rich, diverse, extended conversation... Participants in each ekklesia had to grapple with ongoing challenges of making sense of their lives in the light of the story of Jesus Christ. Each community was an informal learning network."(pp.174-5)

Friday, November 11, 2005

under the feet of jesus

i am very thankful to be a part of a small group of lads who get together weekly. it is a sub-set of our wider community but in many ways our smaller gatherings are the heartbeat. i'm very thankful that we discuss and read a wide variety of topics and books. in the last few years we have read some shakespeare, watched movies, just chatted, read dense theology and equally dense fiction. at times we have drifted too deep into arguing over propositional statements and theoretical frameworks. as a way to keep us balanced we agreed some time back to alternate our reading materials between fiction and non-fiction. brad has been a great help in our understanding the power of fiction and his recent suggestion for reading is a stunning little book called under the feet of jesus. it is doing for me what hearing the prophets might have done to audiences back in the days of yore. i (arrogantly) thought i understood some things about the harsh lives of migrant workers in the USA. after all, i lived with an illegal immigrant for a while and daily meet homeless friends downtown. i've even been honored with the chance to help refugees settle here and heard countless (miraculous) survival stories. but there is something remarkable about this book in particular and fiction in general that can take me to new places. i would be more likely to pick up a sociology text about economic refugees and labor laws to find out about migrant families in california. so, if you are like me and too readily head for the non-fiction section of the bookstore, get 'under the feet of jesus' and get your heart ripped out by a nine year-old called Star.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


these are some notes i made for our meal and gathering last weekend. they are most certainly notes and therefore quite unfinished in terms of style and grammar. hope that doesn't detract too far from what i was getting at...

When we read scriptures about the end times we are easily lead to believe they are specifically warning us about sometime in the (distant) future when all hell breaks loose. But if we imagine more broadly about the roots of the apocalyptic we’re soon aware that these times of great reckoning may already be upon us.
Apocalyptic is ‘the revealing’ – it is when we come to see differently. Our eyes are softened &, paradoxically, sharpened; softened so that we are less focused on the universe of things our fearful, consumeristic, materialistic, militaristic, hedonistic culture is obsessed with, and sharpened to see the radical and cosmic newness of the kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven – poor fed, lonely embraced, hope restored, earth healed, justice and reconciliation worked out. The biggest hurdle to our properly seeing is the “reality check.” It sounds something like this…“now come on, you have to be realistic about the world.”
The medicine for this affliction of “reality” is a bent toward the warped. To reinvigorate our imaginations and receive eyes to see we must pay attention to distortions. Stories that warp and mess with our carefully ordered lives. Flannery O’Connor is a master of this kind of writing. The trickster is another one who can help us. We need to learn to give ourselves over to the distortion that is revealed – principally the supreme distortion that is caught up in the life death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
And so we remember this communion we are invited to.
This apocalyptic table. This meal of reorientation where we bring our whole lives back to the center of the new universe, where the future is dragged kicking and screaming in to the present moment. Here we are forced to struggle with the meaning of this story, the story of Jesus, and we must be encouraged because through this struggle a new world is being born. And this could be the way the end times arrive – not in a cataclysmic ~storm but in the day-to-day , moment-by-moment struggles and faithfulness of the people who follow Jesus.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

movie tip

Sherry and I saw good night and good luck last weekend. we saw it at the Kentucky Theatre and i can't say how wonderful it is to walk to the movies...i could go on about the blessings of downtown living but that would be another post.
we really enjoyed the movie and both learned more about Senator McCarthy and the 1950's political scene. one of the most compelling things about the movie is the way real footage is seamlessly included. the whole film is in black and white which, after the initial novelty, draws you into the CBS studios (where almost all the scenes are played out) in a way that might not have been possible with colour. great acting and very serious dialogue made it particularly engrossing. and the most contemporary 'theme' was the way anyone who offered a critique of 'the powers that be' was immediately labeled as unpatriotic. it also made us wonder where all the great investigative journalists have gone. too much entertainment to be had.
In the concluding scenes, Ed Murrow is giving a remarkable speech (1958)'s a snippet:

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


we've been listening to this song called "breathless" by nick cave...a stunning hymn/love song (same thing really..if it's done right). i took this picture when our household went for a walk at raven's run on saturday as part of our celebrations for laura's birthday.
the picture, the song, a sunny autumn day, and the miracle of each human life came together for me. they made a 'thin place' - a flip side to "day of the lord" doom-and-gloom scriptures in recent lectionary readings. (don't get me wrong...this may well be the right time for doom and gloom but i just needed a break)

The sky of daytime dies away
And all the earthly things they stop to play
For we are all breathless without you
I listen to my juddering bones
The blood in my veins and the wind in my lungs
And I am breathless without you
Still your hands
And still your heart
For still your face comes shining through
And all the morning glows anew
Still your soul
Still your mind
Still, the fire of love is true
And I am breathless without you

two links

thanks to scot mcknight for this post about how the church that is emerging looks like a protest movement.

and this Christian Century article about 'new monasticism' is well put together. the last few paragraphs outlining weaknesses/dangers are especially helpful.

read on...

Monday, November 07, 2005


i had an interesting experience this past week with my two year-old son, Isaac. we were walking over to the Samsons place and i was singing an absurd song about our where we were going and who we were going to see. at one point in this song i mused that we were walking along the footpath. Isaac swivelled in his pram (or should i say, stroller) and looked up at me with furrowed brow and pointed finger. He said, "sidewalk, sidewalk..on sidewalk". At once i was reminded that my child is, unlike me, a native of this part of the world. he will say 'sidewalk', not 'foot path'. he will say 'fall' and not 'autumn'. this child of mine will not be very much like me in many ways. a missionary lesson, me thinks.