light in the darkness. pregnant pauses. local lamb. sleeping children. banjo and piano. all part of an advent-ending gathering. a beautiful night of celebration. god is with us!
Friday, December 28, 2007
just wanted to let people know about ryan's fantastic initiative. in recent months he has been working to start up a non-profit aimed at installing and maintaining community and school gardens here in Lexington.
it's called SeedLeaf and you can check out the website here:
as we think about the new year and all the great kingdom projects communality people are involved with, please pray for each other and these initiatives.
anticipating the nearly-with-us new year (a time for considering the future/past/present), here's the notes i made for a recent eucharist at one of our high st gatherings...
We have heard today about the importance of our being more than sentimental memory keepers. We are encouraged by the writers of the New Testament to be far more ambitious in our remembering. We are called to believe that these times of ritual and celebration are in fact moments when the future world God is making – the Kingdom of God – comes into the present.
The future fullness of God’s re-made world penetrates our time and space, affirming the story of God’s work through history and all the while, remaking us. We are invited to taste the goodness of a world re-made by God, a world that has gone through the trauma and struggle of re-birth. As we gather in this way and eat in this way we are like midwives to new creation - to each other’s rebirth and to the coming kingdom.
In the Passover – the meal where Jesus taught us these things - Hebrew people don’t just recall past history. Instead, they enter into the reality that they are exodus people freed from slavery. This Eucharist meal calls us Jesus followers to that same awareness– we are the people, this is the night! So, at the same time we are here in Lexington, gathered as the people of God, we are also the disciples in that upper room, and last, but not least, we are also the heirs of the kingdom, gathered to eat the messianic banquet in the new heaven and the new earth. Past, Present, and Future.
In Numbers(13:17ff), when the children of Israel are still on the border of the Promised Land, Moses sends spies to check things out.
“Moses sent them to spy out the land…he told them to be bold and bring some of the fruit of the land …grapes, pomegranates, and figs.”
Can you imagine the people of God as they first tasted the fruit of the land they would someday soon call their own? Grape juice coursing down smiling faces. As we pass the cup and the bread, and as we gather to eat together, can we also dare to expect that we are indeed tasting the goodness of food from the celebration feast hosted by Jesus - our brother and our God?
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Lis and CG worked hard to coordinate our neighborhood christmas dinner. it was a fantastic banquet with the highlight (for us) being the prayer to end the meeting and offer grace for the meal. we circled up and all held hands. very inspiring moment in the midst of a neighborhood that has often been neglected. thanks for all your work Lis and CG...
The following came to me via an email from the tireless MTR activist, Dave Cooper. it is a stirring testimony from kentucky author, silas house. please take the 5 minutes to read it...
Kentucky author Silas House (Clay's Quilt, The Coal Tattoo) recently spoke to a group of state legislators who came to see a mountaintop removal mine in eastern Kentucky. I thought his speech was so powerful that I would like to share it with you: Testimony by author Silas House, Dec. 3, 2007
... Like many others across Kentucky, I have a complicated history with coal. It has marked my family just like it has marked the land. My family was able to rise up out of poverty in large part due to jobs provided by the coal industry. My mother is proud to call herself a coal miner's daughter. My uncles are proud of the many hours they spent underground, on strip jobs, and driving coal out of these mountains. My grandfather lost his leg in a cave-in at a Leslie County mine, never losing consciousness until the doctors at the Hazard hospital knocked him out. He recuperated for six months and then promptly went back into the mines, where he worked for twenty more years. My people are proud of their coal mining heritage, of the hard work they have done in these mountains. None of them got rich from working in the mines, but they were able to make a living, and that was all they were asking for.
I am proud to come from a people who helped to build this nation.
But I also saw another side of coal. I was raised across the road from a sprawling strip mine. For three solid years everyone in my community breathed the dust and grime, put up with the constant blasting, heard the groan of dozers. We watched as the coal company's overloaded trucks destroyed our road and when we complained we were told that our taxes would pay to fix the holes. When the company pulled out they scattered some grass seed that never took, planted a few scrub pines, and left, never looking back. Twenty-some years later, that land is still struggling. Some of it is out-right dead.
Looking back, I learned a lot of lessons from this experience. Although people in our community complained, they were mostly met with silence.
The handful who did get their phone calls returned were given the runaround by their government. We were told that it was our duty to the region, something we had to put up with to support the economy. We were told that complaining about it would cost other people just like us their jobs.
Everybody in my community worked like dogs, raised their children the best they could, stood in line on every election day. Yet it seemed that no one cared about them.
They were a forgotten people. An invisible people.
I developed complicated feelings about the coal industry from these very different experiences. Mostly, I fell in line with other family members, usually justifying the actions of the coal company by reminding myself that we had to support the economy, that Eastern Kentucky couldn't make it without coal. This is what I had been taught.
This is what the companies had brainwashed us to believe to keep us from questioning them.
And then, I went up in an airplane, and at the risk of sounding overdramatic, I have never been the same since. I couldn't believe that such disrespect could be done to the land, to the people, to my heritage.
My convictions only thickened when I heard stories from the people. And I educated myself, researching both sides of the argument, which led me to the conclusion that mountaintop removal is wasteful and disrespectful. That it takes jobs away from the region instead of supplying them. That it epitomizes everything that is wrong with big
business: corporations putting their bottom line before their ethical responsibility.
Mountaintop removal is a case study in greed, in taking from the community without giving back, in instant gratification.
We are at a crossroads here in Kentucky. This issue will prove to be a defining moment for us. We live in a world where our children have very few people to look up to. We live in a society where money is valued more than integrity or respect, or just about anything, to be quite honest. We need heroes. And this is your chance to be someone who stands up for something important, to stand up and say, "This might not be the most popular thing to do, but I'm going to do it anyway because it's right."
In times when people feel invisible to their leaders, they often turn to the artists in their community. That's why so many writers and musicians and photographers and other kinds of artists have become so active in the fight against mountaintop removal: because the people have asked us to. I can't tell you how many people have written to me to thank me for standing up and saying that mountaintop removal is wrong, for speaking out for what I believe in. I also can't tell you how many people have written me nasty letters, or have cussed me out, or have refused to speak to me at family gatherings.
For the last three years I have heard the testimonies of more than four dozen Eastern Kentuckians who are living with mountaintop removal in one way or another.
And every single one of them always finishes by saying: "Tell my story." After the very first person said that to me, that became my responsibility. There was no turning back. Their voices became the burdens of all the artists fighting mountaintop removal.
We felt a moral obligation to tell their stories, to be their voices, to make the invisible visible. But, as artists, we can only do so much.
As our elected representatives, these stories and everything you see today now becomes your burden. By virtue of your constitutional authority, each of you has the ability to truly change people's lives by standing up for your constituents – whether you represent Eastern Kentucky or Western Kentucky or Lexington or Louisville – and saying that they deserve better. That they deserve to be seen and heard. That their land and woods and water and roads deserve respect and protection.
That mountaintop removal is wrong.
That our brothers and sisters living in the shadow of this awful practice are no longer invisible to their leaders.
I know what it's like to feel invisible. I felt invisible the time I was far away from home and somebody called me "a stupid hillbilly." I felt invisible when an editor at a major New York magazine told me a joke about "incestuous Kentuckians". I felt invisible when I overheard a woman in a not-far-away city make fun of the way my mother talked. I felt invisible when I was giving a speech on mountaintop removal in New York and someone stood up and asked if the reason my people were allowing such a thing to take place was because they were so ignorant.
I'm not the only one who feels this way. Our region is invisible everytime one of our politicians blames our water pollution mainly on straight pipes, thereby suggesting that pollution is the fault of Eastern Kentuckians and not the coal industry. We felt invisible when the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee said that he had heard no public outcry against mountaintop removal from the people of Eastern Kentucky, even though we had marched and lobbied in Frankfort and given speeches and sung songs and spoken at community meetings and written to the paper and begged him to help us.
We are entire state of people who feel powerless and unseen by our leaders. And so I thank you for making us feel visible today, for seeing us.
When you are able to do that flyover [of the coalfields], I hope you will see what lies below you with open eyes and an open heart. See all those trailers and houses that sit just at the edge of those sites.
Think about how it would feel if you didn't have any other choice but to live next to such a thing. And think about the people who live there, about the children and the babies and the men and women who work hard and just want to come home and enjoy their little spot of land on this earth. People who have had joys and sorrows and hopes and dreams, who are just trying to do the best they can, to get through the day without hurting anyone. People who are now looking to you to do the right thing.
Look down at the roads and think how we've paid for them over because of corporation coal companies overloading the coal trucks. Realize that those creeks and rivers below you carry the remnants of mountaintop removal to people all over this state and this country.
This is a chance to show our fellows Americans that the stereotype is
wrong: that Kentuckians are not ignorant, that we're not the sacrificial lambs for big business anymore, that we have elected politicians of integrity who are going to stand up for us.
I'm not asking you to ban coal mining. All I'm asking is for you to see the problems that mountaintop removal is causing, to see how it's a sacrilege to the land, to stand up and say, "Now listen, we can mine coal, but we've got to do it with some integrity, with some respect, with some compassion for the land and our people." To vote for more regulations and then to make sure that those restrictions are enforced.
To follow the leadership of Representative Don Pasley and support the Streamsaver Bill when it is introduced next legislature session. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is an issue of being informed, of having the courage to do what's right.
Andrew Jackson once said that "one man with courage makes a majority."
You have this golden opportunity to make the invisible seeable, to make the unheard audible. Most of you went into public service because you wanted to do something important, because you wanted to change things, because you wanted to make a difference. These mountains are offering you the perfect opportunity. You've listened to all of us today, you're about to see the devastation done to the land. So now, it's up to you.
We're depending on you. And we thank you.
Friday, December 21, 2007
In the darkness, he cannot see.
Weighed down by years of something
we only know to call pain,
he is drowning himself in shame and guilt.
......A flash of light erupts!......
The sound of rock cracking and boiling
drowns any sense of reason and responsibility.
And the darkness closes in and no one sees the smoke.
A phone rings. And rings. And rings.
A busy signal here, an automated voice there.
The silence is deafening, like the darkness blinding,
and no one is free to let go of anyone.
Despair and fear hook their claws deep;
anger flies like arrows at the wrong targets,
and painfully hits those marks.
And blood and tears flow freely like a river.
No one sees the smoke. No one sees the boy.
No one sees another. No one sees the blood.
No one sees the tears. No one sees.
No one sees. Who is looking? Is anyone seeing?
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
2. Lender establishes a profile on the Kiva site, lends money ($25) to an entrepreneur of their choice, and receives an e-mail confirmation of loan from Kiva. Follow the weblink below to the first entrepreneur to receive OHF matching grant funds, or simply Google Kiva.
3. When you make a Kiva loan you will get an e-mail confirmation of the loan from Kiva. The next step is for the Lender to forward the e-mail of the loan confirmation and amount to OHF. Any questions or concerns that a potential lender has should also be forwarded to this address. The address is as follows:
4. OHF then matches the loan amount, up to $100, by lending to the same entrepreneur or someone in the same general region if loan amount for the entrepreneur has already been funded. Kiva currently allows you to lend a maximum of $25 to a particular entrepreneur, so by the guidelines of the OHF program you can lend to up to four different entrepreneurs ($100). The OHF matching grant program has a ceiling of $3,000 for the current fiscal year and will conclude at such time as this ceiling is achieved for 2007-08 (A grand total of $6000 would then be invested!). Our desire is to make this a yearly program and build it up over an extended period of time; if we are able to achieve this goal then the OHF/lender match program to Kiva could become a substantial pool of capital over a period of years. Our first concrete goal will be funding the initial $3,000 matching grant.
5. OHF matching grant funds will remain permanently invested in Kiva entrepreneurs. When/if loan is successfully repaid OHF money will be reinvested in another Kiva entrepreneur and will remain a permanent legacy of the original lender. The original lender may choose to withdraw his/her money on completion of the loan term or reinvest it. Withdrawal of money by original lender (upon successful loan repayment) will have no impact on OHF matching grant funds.
In this final week of Advent, almost upon the inbreaking of Christmas, we conceive of reality in which the Messiah is right here. Imagine the coming of Messiah. Break out of cynicism and pessimism. Challenge yourself and others with the presumption that God is acting and that creation is being drawn into redemption - conceive the re:creation that starts with Jesus and continues with us. Conceive of a love as genuine, as tangible, and as pervasive as the struggle which we more readily perceive. Let that conception be birthed in your actions.
This is the stuff of faith.... a substantial outworking of what we haven't fully seen yet; the kingdom of God, just within reach.
God calls us to the same radical re-visioning of life to which the people of God have been called throughout Scripture. We are called to "see" through the eyes of God's redemptive story. Mary is told that she will become an unwed mother, and she obediently rejoices. Zechariah hears that he will be a father, contrary to reason and biology, and loses his voice for his unbelief. Joseph moves his family to Egypt on the word of a dream and the trust of his faith. Magi journey to see in flesh the child whom they have glimpsed in the stars.
And the beauty of submitting to the dreams of God is that they become reality.
Some suggestions for action:
- Give $10 when asked for a quarter by the guy on the street. Imagine that God can change a life with grace.
- Take lunch with a coworker whom you've written off as "impossible". Imagine that you can appreciate them without antagonism.
- Imagine an hour without cynicism, skepticism, fear, distrust, or something else that you struggle with.... and then meditate on your feelings within the context of the whole redemptive story of God, and the ultimate hope of new life.
- Imagine your own action, and post a comment here.
- read these scriptures and let them shape your imagining: Isaiah 2:1-5, Isaiah 11:1-10, Isaiah 35:1-10.
Monday, December 17, 2007
"Forget about staying together for the sake of the kids. Researchers have a new reason: Do it for the planet. An analysis of data on domestic relations and resource use in the United States and 11 other countries shows that divorce leads to more households, so more land gets built up and more building materials are used."
the rest of the this interesting article is here
the focus of the article is divorce but speaks to the wider question of living in community...
Sunday, December 16, 2007
i'm currently reading this book called 'thanks' by robert emmons. it is an exploration of the science of happiness. emmons is making the case for the measurable positive value of gratitude in human psychology. he goes beyond the idea that being thankful is nice, polite, or appropriate and argues forcefully that it is essential for mental health and for a civil society.
i am finding his arguments compelling and obviously echoed throughout all major religious traditions. here are a few quotes (in bold) and notes that might be stimulating...(more to come when i read the second half of the book).
"[recognition] is more than politeness or superficial thanks... recognition is the quality that permits gratitude to be transformational" (p.5)
"Gratitude binds people together in relationships of reciprocity - it is the building block of a civil society." (p.9)
Ingratitude leads inevitably to a confining, restricting, and shrinking sense of self and to emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness. (p.10)
"When people report feeling grateful, thankful, and appreciative, they also report feeling more loving, forgiving, joyful, and enthusiastic. These deep affections appear to be formed through the discipline of gratitude" (p.11)
Joy is not a biologically set point, ie. one cannot discount another's joy as natural - 'they are just happier individuals'. the research shows that people can and do improve their default happiness state. (p.11)
We must develop ways to affirm gratefulness - to 'want what we have'. (p.12)
Studies show that American males generally show very little gratitude - because to do so would imply dependency and indebtedness. American men do not like to be reminded they need others. (p.15)
Gratitude is a chosen attitude - not a response to what you get (a contrast to happiness which is more often related to happenings) (p.17)
To say that gratitude is a choice is not to say it is easy. things that block our ability to be grateful are...a sense of being victimized, an inability to admit ones shortcomings, a sense of entitlement, an inability to admit that one is not self-sufficient. (p.18)
"In a culture that celebrates self-aggrandizement and perceptions of deservingness, gratitude can be crowded out. it is also easy to see how gratitude can have a difficult time surviving in a culture that celebrates consumption. But in gratitude we recognize that we are not ultimately producers and consumers but, above all, the recipients of gifts" (p.18)
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." (p.18)
depression is inversely proportional to gratitude. (p.40)
"consumerism fuels ingratitude." (p.43)
"Gratitude requires that we affirm our dependency on others and recognize that we need to receive that which we cannot provide for ourselves." (p.54)
Friday, December 14, 2007
i just finished reading a fascinating book called 'the naked brain' by richard restak. he argues that the relatively new science of neurology is shaping to radically transform our expectations and observation of society (or what he calls 'neurosociety'). he describes the common left hemisphere/right hemisphere analysis as dated and suggests a far more useful way of analyzing human behavior is to examine the different and complementary functions of the front and back of the brain.
anyway, i found his most interesting chapters looked at the profound influence we have on each others brains. he argues that we effect each other at the most basic level and our 'mirror neurons' function in such a way that, "the neat division between you and me breaks down and we form a unit in which each of us is influencing the other's action at the level of imagination" (p.59).
Wow. is it any wonder the scriptures bang on about the importance of holiness and righteousness in our dealings with one another. it's sobering to think that we can be having such a powerful influence with the moods we unleash on one another. in fact, people who spend a lot of time together over many years (eg. spouses) even begin to look like one another - facial expressions are mimicked unconsciously and over time mirrored wrinkles and creases form on partner's faces.
another and related insight from the book was restak's argument that the human brain has a strong bias toward negative ideas and thoughts. it is thought said bias is an evolutionary advantage - we are more ready for things that might injure or kill us if we are imagining the worst.
it follows that if we are to be hopeful, creative, and joyful jesus-followers we will need to be very intentional about our thought-lives. we're up against some seriously embedded neural-negativity. no wonder becoming the vibrant, hopeful, loving people of God we want to be is hard work. our brains are working against us :)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
this is an excerpt for the dec 13th from the much-enjoyed advent book called "watch for the light":
"We must once and for all give up trying to be self-made individuals. Let us cease preaching by ourselves, being right by ourselves, doing good by ourselves, being sensible by ourselves, improving the world by ourselves. God wants to do everything, certainly through us and with us and never without us; but our participation in what he does must naturally originate and grow out of his power, not ours. O, how we could then speak with one another. For whatever does not grow out of God produces smoke, not fire. But that which is born of God overcomes the world (1 John 5:4)."
see this week's reading - james 5:1-10; 2 peter 3:13-15
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Wholeness, love, and joy come with the Advent of Messiah. We've been awakened to that. But we've also been awakened to the reality that our journey is potholed by brokenness, hate and discontent... and we're caught in the middle.
We welcome the coming. We are surprised and challenged by the glimpses of advent that God reveals to us, and we would welcome its full coming sooner. We expect it; we anticipate it; we long for it.
And we wait.
Wait for the coming of Messiah. Slow down and watch for it carefully. The faithful have been doing so since the story began. Abraham looked for the seed of blessing, and only caught a glimpse. David shepherded the people of Israel in seeking God's heart, and struggled through. Isaiah prophesied of the judgement and restoration of that inbreaking of Messiah, and himself waited for that culmination.
And so we wait as well... and active, hope-filled waiting leads us to faithfulness.... and calls us to patience.
Some suggestions for action:
- Fast from convenience. Fast from the microwave or the car or perhaps fast food.
- Choose to wait in line. Take the "human" register at the supermarket and take the time to tell the cashier, "I appreciate you."
- Think of a person or situation that has left you in a place of exasperation or wanting to give up, and pray for patience. Genuinely, expectantly... pray for patience.
- Post your own comment or suggestion here.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Welcoming the Advent means welcoming not only Messiah come to us, but also welcoming Messiah come through us. We welcome as God has welcomed.... graciously, eagerly, lavishly, expectantly. This week of Advent, open yourself up and invite the "other" in. You may find you are hosting Jesus; you may find that Jesus is hosting you.
This welcome surprises us. It comes in times and places that are unexpected, and draws us into journeys that are challenging. No less could be expected of the coming of Messiah.
The call of the first Advent was the call of love and was the call of transformation. Within the incarnation is found the welcoming of God on all that is human; it is a divine and intimate embrace of creation, if you will. Similarly then, in that same incarnation is found the exposure and rejection of all that is inhumane; and herein lies our responsibility to welcoming the new life to which God invites us.
We hope to go beyond remembering this Advent season. We want to do more than recall the events of 2000 years ago. We hope to learn what it means for us to be re-made and re-formed as if this incarnation was as close to you in time and space as the skin on your hands and the tears in your eyes. Our being welcomed by and welcoming Messiah should quicken us with the same present-tense energy as today’s headlines.
Some suggestions for action:
· Host a lavish dinner at your place and invite someone who would not be able to do the same for you.
· Spend time in prayer and meditation. Imagine that you have an evening get together with an old friend, and share that kind of time and space with God.
· Invite the change and transformation of repentance. Call on a friend with whom you can be vulnerable and open up your sins and struggles with him or her.
Read Romans 15:1-13..."welcome one another!"
Unfortunately, the true Christian concept of love has sometimes been discredited by those who have sentimentalized it, or formalized it in one way or another. A sincere subjective disposition to love everyone does not dispense from energetic and sacrificial social action to restore violated rights to the oppressed, to create work for the workless, so that the hungry may eat and that everyone may have a chance to earn a decent wage. It has unfortunately been all too easy in the past for the man who is well fed to entertain the most laudable sentiments of love for his neighbor, while ignoring the fact that his brother is struggling to solve insoluble and tragic problems.
Mere almsgiving is no longer adequate, especially if it is only a gesture which seems to dispense from all further and more efficacious social action. This is not always, of course, a question of genuine insincerity: but the "good works" that measured up to the needs of small medieval communities can no longer serve in the fantastic and worldwide crisis that is sweeping all mankind today, when the population of the world is counted in billions, which double in forty, twenty, and then fifteen years. In such a case, the dimensions of Christian love must be expanded and universalized on the same scale as the human problem that is to be met. The individual gesture, however commendable, will no longer suffice.
Thomas Merton. "Christian Humanism" in Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 124.
Friday, November 30, 2007
“Now Mr. Taylor,” said Roland Anthony with cool conviction, “I do believe you’ll understand me when I say that your friend on the front porch must go. I appreciate your heart in the matter, son, but I believe you’ll agree that there are more proper establishments for such men.”
The sweet southern drawl of the imperious man’s voice almost made the request seem hospitable. But there was no mistaking the intent. David Taylor had secretly lived in fear of this moment for the past two months like an anxious kid who’d been slowly siphoning off the ole’ man’s liquor.
Roland Anthony made his point abundantly clear, just as clear as he had been making his arguments to the courts of Savannah and the rest of Georgia for thirty five years.
David Wayne Taylor IV, fresh out of Yale Law, a husband with a newborn, being paid handsomely to study for the bar, and trying to carry the storied family name, was sobered by Roland Anthony’s unspoken reminder of his proud southern heritage. Charity certainly had its place for a southern gentleman, but that place was not the front porch of the magnificent Victorian housing the acclaimed law office of Anthony, Sloan, & Hicks.
David had been at the firm for a mere two and a half months. Eager to impress, he was always first at the office. It was during one of these early mornings that he stumbled upon the “friend” to whom Roland Anthony had politely referred.
David knew him simply as “Hollywood,” a homeless African-American Vet in his late fifties. Their first encounter was abrupt, and the unsuspecting David was unsettled. But Hollywood had a mysterious presence, a lighthearted and relaxed command of the awkwardness of the situation that enthralled David and made him feel truly welcomed. Having lived his life in the long shadow of southern social propriety, David was both fascinated and undone by the unaffected grace and dignity of Hollywood. “How can he still feel so good about life?” David mused.
They began visiting for a few minutes each morning. They sat on the porch talking freely in the cool early morning breezes of late fall in Savannah. Soon they began getting coffee and it wasn’t long before David was the last one to the office. It didn’t seem to matter anymore. There was contentment to be found in life apart from career success and family pedigrees. It was the contentment of simply knowing and being known, and apart from his wife, David wondered if he’d ever really known it before he met Hollywood.
The trouble came the morning that Roland Anthony discovered the improbable pair meeting on the porch.
Hollywood knew the score.
The next morning he took the gut-wrenching words right out of David’s mouth.
“No worry Cap’n,” he said. “You gotcha’yer family to keep. Don worry about me. No sir, I been workin’ these streets a long time.”
Hollywood smiled brightly, hugged David, grabbed his pack, and walked off into the bright Savannah morning.
David kept a low profile over the next several weeks, nursing along the first true bout of depression that he’d ever known.
He resumed his early morning routine, and every morning he thought about Hollywood.
Late one night David was working alone at the office. Exhausted, he’d turned off the light to take a nap. He was awakened by a loud commotion coming from the porch. He heard a familiar voice say, “Hey, you,” followed by several gunshots.
David jumped to his feet, raced downstairs, and unlocked the front door.
Lying in a pull of blood on the front porch was Hollywood.
His breathing was shallow, but he smiled as a speechless David cradled him.
It was a cold windy night and he’d come back to the porch. He’d been awakened by a man trying to break into the house who he confronted.
“Well Cap’n,” said Hollywood, still smiling, “Tell de boss I finally paid de rent!”
David yelled for help as his friend breathed his last and slumped, lifeless, in David’s arms.
David sobbed uncontrollably as he held Hollywood’s limp body.
Several police cruisers soon arrived as David continued to hold his friend. He was quiet now, mysteriously content as the officers approached.
Only now had the truth become clear to David. He was also unwelcome on this porch. It was not the “proper establishment” for a man like him. But no one would ask him to leave this place. He alone had to make that decision.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
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.
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 brokenness 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.
· Sit outside for an hour... on your porch, in the park, where ever. 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.
· Read Scripture:
1. Mark 14: 32-42 - your eyes are very heavy…keep awake!
2. Matthew 24:37-44 - be awake and ready
3. Romans 13:8-14 – now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.
Monday, November 26, 2007
We begin a serious of Advent reflections. here is one from Will Samson that was first posted last year.
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."
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
As I read the scriptures this week I have caught myself savoring the Colossians passage. I feel like Paul is bringing me behind the curtain with this stuff about Jesus. How does Jesus hold all these things together? How does his blood make peace? Paul doesn’t say how. He doesn’t begin to answer my why questions. But he weaves this heady tapestry, and I long to worship this Jesus in the ether before time began.
I also feel myself read quickly through the account of Jesus on the cross, mocked even by another man on another cross. How low is that? My eyes scan quickly so that I miss the dialogue and the heat and the blood and the flies and the suffocation and those nails and the joints and all the bones intact—I don’t want to be bothered with all of that. I don’t even want to hear him welcome some murderer into paradise.
I’d rather sing that Christ hymn in Colossians. But a wise man has taught me that it is not sufficient to worship this first-born Son; we are called to follow this homeless Palestinian (the same person) through the cross somehow. Lord, let me read the hard parts closely.
Monday, November 19, 2007
"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:25-27).
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
this comes from the book i love so much - the beautiful life by simon parke - it is a long, slow, dense read. in this chapter, he argues that truth can never be acquired but is experienced as we are transformed from the inside, changing our attitudes and shedding our opinions...
"anyone can pass on knowledge
no one, however, can pass on understanding.
for unlike knowledge, understanding is not just a sequence of words.
understanding must come from our own work and experience.
it is the gradual disentanglement of twisted textures within us.
understanding is the slow creation of space for all things.
the house inside was a peeling wreck of dirt and squalor, but the householder was offered some beautiful gold curtains, made of the finest silk, and took them. he put them up in the front room for all to see. they were most striking curtains - and the word on the street, as everyone saw them in the big window, was that everything else inside had changed as well. the householder had changed everything!
this was not so, however. nothing else had changed. the house was still damp, still dirty and still overrun with vermin. the householder had not lifted a finger to sort things out and, with his marvellous new curtains, there seemed even less need than before to do so. the gold curtains on public show were surely change enough.
but because the house didn't change, the curtains did. the house did not get better, so the curtains got worse. the damp wrinkled and rotted the fabric, the dust settled layer by layer, dimming the shine, whilst the vermin treated it as a brand-new toy, running up and down, snagging thread with their claws. it was not long before the once-glorious curtains had been reduced to the level of the rest of the house. and in time, the householder came to resent the gold curtains. he had had such high hopes of them, but really they had made very little difference at all."
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
a few of us attended a 'rally' downtown this afternoon. along with some others we wanted to show our support for fostering a spirit of welcome in our city. it was asher's first protest. way to stick it to the man, asher. see the little news blurb here.
clinton has compiled a set of reflections and news items for us to look over in anticipation of the lexington fellowship gathering. he put it well in the community list serve email:
Next Sunday the Lexington fellowship will be following up on the conversation we started last week regarding the upcoming Immigration Commission report for the city. I've attached some of the text from the Herald Leader and News Radio 630.
As we reflect further on this, please come with a related news snippet / experience / dissertation, as well as a Scripture to frame our time together.
This is a complex issue, and we're not shooting for some definitive "resolution", but we would like to be more widely informed as a community, both by Scripture and the situation around us.
Monday, October 29, 2007
In reality, love is a positive force, a transcendent spiritual power. It is, in fact, the deepest creative power in human nature. Rooted in the biological riches of our inheritance, love flowers spiritually as freedom and as a creature response to life in a perfect encounter with another person. It is a living appreciation of life as value and as gift. It responds to the full richness, the variety, the fecundity of living experience itself: it "knows" the inner mystery of life. It enjoys life as an inexhaustible fortune. Love estimates this fortune in a way that knowledge could never do. Love has its own wisdom, its own science, its own way of exploring the inner depths of life in the mystery of the loved person. Love knows, understands and meets the demands of life insofar as it responds with warmth, abandon and surrender.
Thomas Merton. "Love and Need" in Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979: 30-31
last night, during our fellowship gathering, we had special guests with us. a friend of communality's brought two women who are currently touring the u.s. sharing about their incredible ministries. one woman is from thailand. she helps care for and educate children of prostitutes and literally saves children from falling into that horrific trade. a story of her ministry - garden of hope - was featured as a cover article for this christianity today article earlier this year. the other woman is from burma. she and a team of other women live on the border of burma and thailand and they save women who have been traded across the border as sex slaves. they risk their lives every day for the sake of these forsaken women and sometimes they actually "buy back" their lives - the very work of the cross. the stories they shared were devastating and glorious - the testimonies of god's redemptive work in the darkest places. while listening to them, we were moved and blessed and unfortunately, deeply ashamed because this sex trade is funded predominantly by westerners.
as we started our worship together, i read psalm 84. in this psalm are these verses:
"even the sparrow has found a home
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young -
a place near your alter, O lord almighty."
even the birds...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
i wish everyone had the time to read bill mckibben's new book, "deep economy." geoff read it about a month ago and insisted that i read it next. now i understand why. in the beginning, it's quite depressing because it has to be as it describes what is about our current situation - economically and environmentally. but then things begin to look up and it is a book full of hope about our capacity to live within limits, locally with a healthy and balanced economy and rhythm of life. here's an reflection on revealing measures of happiness:
" In general, researchers report that money consistently buys happiness right up to about $10,000 per capita income, and after that point the correlation disappears. That's a useful number to keep in the back of your head - it's like the freezing point of water, one of those random numbers that just happens to define a crucial phenomenon on our planet. 'As poor countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, and South Korea have experienced economic growth, there is some evidence that their average happiness has risen,' Richard Layard reports. But past the $10,000 point, there's a complete scattering: when the Irish were making a third as much as Americans they were reporting higher levels of satisfaction, as were the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch....A sampling of Forbes magazine's 'richest American' has happiness scores identical with those of the Pennsylvania Amish.
On the list of important mistakes we've made as a species, this one seems pretty high up. A single-minded focus on increasing wealth has driven the planet's ecological systems to the brink of failure, without making us happier. How did we screw up?"
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I didn’t end up going to the movie store. I went home and did dishes while re-living the gruesome scenes from the evening. Wanting to move to the suburbs where there are fewer pit bulls. Desiring a safe place where Asher can grow up and play. I want to be free from the fear that would keep me locked up in my house. So, this morning, I took a run with Laura and Asher. We passed by the red spot where a dog laid last night. I bought some doggy spray (called “Halt”, pretty awesome name) that might ward off any aggressive beasts that get near us when we walk from our house to downtown. I’m at peace. This is our street. Our neighborhood. Our town. God has placed my family here for a reason. I’m glad that I didn’t pass by and try to ignore that scene last night, if only to help a neighbor in need.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
below is our schedule for the weekend for those interested in what we got up to. there are some photos at flickr (you can search "sfc") or just go here. hopefully we'll have some more reflections on the weekend in coming days.
Schedule for School for Conversion October 19-21, 2007 Communality – Lexington, Kentucky - Friday, October 19th
1:00-2:30 Arrive and check in with hosts (as possible) 2:30-3:00 Welcome and introduction to Schools for Conversion 3:00-3:30 Introduction to Communality and Lexington 3:30-5:00 Session 1 – “You Must Be Born Again… and Again” (Billy and Maria Kenney) 5:00-5:30 Break 5:30-7:00 Session 2 – “God’s Plan to Save the World Through a People” (Melissa Maher and Sherry Maddock) 7:00-8:00 Dinner at High Street House 8:00 onward Optional outings to local sites (Buster’s, Third Street Stuff, Pazzo’s, Tolly-Ho)
Saturday, October 20th 8:00-9:00 Breakfast with hosts, travel to High Street House 9:00-10:30 Session 3 – “Resisting the Powers of We the People” (Ryan Koch and Geoff Maddock) 10:30-11:00 Break 11:00-12:30 Session 4 – “Living in a Whole New World” (Lisa and Clinton Graham) 12:30-2:00 Lunch and electives at High Street House 2:00-5:00 Work fellowship 5:00-6:30 Clean up and rest with hosts 6:30-9:30 Dinner and games night at the Kenneys’ house
Sunday, October 21st 8:00-9:00 Breakfast with hosts, travel to High Street House 9:00-10:30 Session 5 – “A Culture of Love and Grace” (Andrea James and Sarah Brown) 10:30-11:00 Break, set up for worship 11:00-12:00 Worship 12:00-1:00 Fellowship lunch at High Street House, rest time 1:00-2:30 Session 6 – “Where Do We Go From Here?” (Scott Bass, Elizabeth Whitworth, Will Samson) 2:30 Farewells and Departures
Electives for Saturday lunch Creation Care & Environmental Concerns Local Government/Neighborhood Associations Ministry with Refugees in Lexington Families in Community & Mission EnterChange/Next Steps Ministries
Friday, October 19, 2007
this weekend (fri-sun) we here at communality are hosting a school for conversion. we are welcoming as many as 20 people from all over the US as well as some in-towners. should be a great time of sharing stories and being converted (again, and again).
...also, on sunday night, we are hosting a 'cobalt season' show at the high st house (112 w. high st, lexington, ky). see will's blog for more details. it's free and everyone is welcome!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Part of the backdrop of this gathering was food. Okay, a big part. At the home-cooked meals, vegetables from our home garden and the garden at Breck’s played a role. There was a serious pot of greens one night, a mixture of kale, collards, turnip greens and beet greens. I roasted a pan of Yukon Gold potatoes for another meal. Then there was this succotash—sauteed corn, okra, cabbage, onion, tomatoes with basil and oregano (I can still taste this one). We were cooking for a very appreciative group, these dear elders. But that is only part of why I write all of this.
Better still was that I got to be in on a harvest celebration. Asher is some of the fruit that has resulted from the love that these aunts and uncles planted in me. Our family is the result of the work and worry and joy of others. I realized that these people, these who do not share my name, but share some important history, these are the ones who showed me why a community is dear. I saw it so clearly as we held hands in prayer last night. What a joy to share from our harvest with these sowers.
The harvest season is both gladdening and humbling. Food has happened again. There is an abundance, plenty to share. Praise God. And this harvest party was no exception.
signs in the sky and terror on the earth.
The days of vengeance draw slowly nigh
as we progress farther away from birth.
Stocks rise and stocks fall as dollars are stretched
on racks of terror til oil drops out
and slowly burns the heavens, warming us
while empires exchange pants for shorts.
While we gather at our temples
and worship our respective deities,
rich and poor gather to bring their gifts
as though time were not slowly running out.
So, as we are slowly losing our sight,
fail not, we must, to notice the widow bringing her mite.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
"for thousands upon thousands of years people couldn't see it whole - only as much of it at a time as there was between wherever they happened to be and the horizon. for most of them, the question of flatness or roundness must have seemed altogether irrelevant. either way it was plainly enormous. beyond the fields and the mountains there was the sea, and beyond the sea more fields, more mountains. whatever wild ideas they had about how it came into being or who made it, they knew it had been around more or less forever. just by looking at it you could tell that - the ancient rocks, the vast deserts. nothing less than god himself could ever bring it to an end, and he didn't seem to be in any special hurry about it. in the meanwhile, though time and change eventually carried off everybody and everything else, it was as clear as anything was clear that at least the place they were carried off from was for keeps. spring would follow winter like the ebb and flow of the tides. life in one odd shape or another would keep going on and on, the old ones dying and the new ones being born.
then suddenly pictures were taken from miles away, and we saw it at last for what it truly is. it is about the size of a dime. it is blue with swirls of silver. it shines. the blackness it floats in is so immense it seems almost miraculously not to have swallowed it up long since.
seeing it like that for the first time, you think of jesus seeing jerusalem for the last time. the ass he's riding comes clipclopping around a bend in the road, and without warning there it is. his eyes fill with tears, as luke describes it. 'would that even today you knew the things that make for peace,' he says. 'for the days shall come...' (luke 19:41,43). the holy city.
the holy earth. we must take such care of it. it must take such care of us. this side of paradise, we are each of us so nearly all the other has. there is darkness beyond the dreams of avarice all around us. among us there is just about enough light to get by.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
As a child of this consumerist culture of instant gratification, quick fixes, and cheap imitations, I feel that I’ve barely had the eyes to see or appreciate this sort of thing fully. It just hasn't dominated my mental vocabulary. But, I’m beginning to suspect my vision could be adjusting.
I hear God laugh, and say, “just wait.”
This makes me a bit nervous. :)
Either way, I believe this kind of wholeness and depth formed through perseverance is something creation and it's children are desparately crying out for. So, be encouraged today.
A couple quotes that have spoken to me lately:
“If a problem can't be solved as it is, enlarge it.”
- D. Eisenhower
“You never change by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”
- R. Buckminster Fuller
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
your streets, the veins and arteries
the fluid rhythm of my existence.
The pulsating cadence of schedule and time and clocks
are my day to day business of to and fro.
Your buildings and towers, your ghettos and suburbs
are the jungle in which I hunt and gather.
And your people are my bread and wine,
a sustenance they know naught about.
Yet their lives and mine, intertwined,
are a community in a place where a space has sprung,
soil in which the roots of a kingdom grow.
Subverting you, converting you,
and so, transforming your jungle into paradise.
we had a brilliant time together on retreat in the far south-east of our state (Eolia, KY). our time together was one of service as we worked to build a porch and attach a deck to a community center and a home. several people also sorted donations for an upcoming thrift store sale. go here for more information about the place we visited....and here's a brief outline from the website:
"ECCO is an MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) partner that provides clothing and emergency services to an area often referred to as "the forgotten part" of Letcher County. ECCO's ministry touches many people, serving their physical needs, and witnessing the love of Christ. Eolia is a beautiful area of about 2500 people, and is separated from the main part of Letcher County by Pine Mountain. This physical and psychological barrier is difficult for most Letcher Countians to cross, and seems to impede county services and attention that may otherwise be available."
i have uploaded a set of pictures from the weekend. click here or on any of the images below to see them. thanks to all who were able to come. special thanks to ryan for making all the arrangements. it was a beautiful time of eating, talking, and relaxing together while also serving our kin in Appalachia. (Sherry made some notes about the weekend over here...)
Monday, October 01, 2007
here's what they're saying: "Individuals, congregations, and local organizations can participate in the Cancel Debt Fast by committing to fast for a day or more and on the same day to contact or meet with their Member of Congress, asking the congressperson to support the Jubilee Act as well as just trade and poverty-focused development assistance to fight global poverty. On any given day during the 40-day Cancel Debt Fast, debt cancellation advocates across the United States and around the world will be engaging in this powerful act of solidarity with those who are bound by the chains of unjust and oppressive debts."
jubilee is appealing for anyone to join them in fasting for a day by october 15th. if you are interested you can register online at www.jubileeusa.org/canceldebtfast.html. in addition, please consider calling your representative and ask that he or she support the above legislation.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
it was great to be active over the weekend in our city and see so many communality peeps out and about. here are some pics from last weekend: lexington bike summit, gallery hop, jeremy joybomb explodes at 3rd st stuff, isaac takes inspiration from the joybomb and rocks out.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"The workplace is not always a happy place. Long-running hostilities often exist. People arrive at work knowing who they like and who they do not like. A splitting of humanity has quietly taken place, a separation of good and bad. We will display charity towards those whom we regard as good, but give little room to those deemed bad.
Self-observation quickly exposes such personal vendettas, however, and questions the low-grade happiness we experience in their pursuit. How different the day at work wold be if we refused to split humanity, and started the day with a clean slate for all.
If the sea can twice daily wipe clean the beach, then once daily I can wipe clean the past."
Monday, September 17, 2007
here are mr will samson and mr ryan koch harvesting/cultivating.
i've uploaded some more pics from our sunday gathering at the community garden (click on the pic to be transported to the flickr page). we had a bless-ed time celebrating Z's birthday and the fecundity of the earth. activities included frisbee, eating, throwing the football, eating, trampoline jumping, creek wading, croquet, eating, weeding the garden beds, and eating smores.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Lay me down beside you,
that I might arise in the morning light.
Morning after morning after morning after morning
until the twilight fades into sleep's long night.
Raise me up beside you
from wrinkled sheets and threads worn bare
in the moment the last dew drop
chases the wind into the air.
Lay be down beside you,
for I fear to not see your face,
so I'll take this moment of eternity
and wrap you up for days upon days upon days.
Monday, September 10, 2007
as we joined together to pray for him, two things were profoundly obvious. the first was the power of the sacrifice of one life. we've watched daniel grow into an adult over the last ten years. he is bright and gifted and he is giving his future and his occupation over to the purposes of god. i could not help but be deeply inspired. the second was the unity. for those moments, the room was filled with love and commitment as we stood before god in faith and entrusted daniel to god. there were hands on my back and my hands touched and held those of others. i didn't know who was around me and it didn't matter. the space was shared and it was sacred. i could not help but be deeply encouraged.
we will continue together to pray for daniel, his work and his family here. and by god's grace and the faithfulness of the spirit we will be unified. blessings daniel.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I have been stuck thinking about the Hebrews verse... Don't forget to show hospitality to the stranger because some have entertained angels without knowing it.
I shared tonight how CG and I found out this afternoon that the Honduran family we welcomed is moving to California tomorrow. As I first thought about the verse, I found myself wanting to find comfort by thinking that our neighbors could have been the angels spoken of here. But then I think of those in scripture, such as Abraham, that did entertain these angels. They did not do it just on special occasion. They were able to welcome the angels because they were in the practice of welcoming foreigners. Not because they were expecting angels or looking out for something extraordinary. Hospitality was simply a core practice of their lives. Maybe they welcomed many strangers who were ordinary (and possibly even rude, unappreciative, and manipulative) but because this was what they practiced, there was an occasional angel thrown in the mix as well.
I pray I learn not to expect much before I'm in the habit of being faithful with little.