Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A poem for the planters in our midst

Here is one of my favorite poems that I was reunited with just yesterday when a friend returned a book to me that I'd long since forgotten. I was on the way to the funeral celebration of an amazing lady named Sally Rogers when I received the book and read the poem. It seemed to me quite appropriate for the occasion.


by a million
wings of fire-
the rocket tore a tunnel
through the sky-
and everybody cheered.
only by a thought from God-
the seedling
urged its way
through the thicknesses of black-
and as it pierced
the heavy ceiling of the soil-
and launched itself
up into outer space-
even clapped.

Marcie Hans

Sunday, August 26, 2007


The journey is long and often tedious,
on this stretch of narrow road.
Weary feet worn down from miles and miles
of travel make for broken and blistered soles.
The company kept, when kept, is often joyous,
and humble lives make hopeful
the times when the sun sets and the clouds overhead
mock the desire to see the way in the moonlight.
Yet, I am not Sisyphus on his lonely hill,
condemned to eternally roll a boulder up and down.
Though I often shamefully offend the Divine,
there is a place on my knees to stop, repent, and rest.
And so forward I move, toward a destination we trod,
though the place is true, the city wonderful and the kingdom good,
it is the journey that is life, it is the making and molding
of children become heirs no more damned to slavery.


The blessed. The damned. The wise. The fools.
We are they all.
Perspective takes her hold on the minds of all
while humanity peers through windows stained with the stuff of life.

The blessed.
Freed for love by one who chose to die,
a wise innocent, seen as a fool, portrayed as a heretic,
thrust into the midst of a mob screaming for blood.

The damned.
Failures fallen from the altar of success and wealth,
abandoned to a generous hope
that only few can even begin to grasp.

The wise.
A wisdom of beggars and blind, lepers and lame,
the wisdom of a crucified god,
suffocating to death on a cross constructed for a murderer.

The fools.
Are we all,
dancing for delight on streets paved with piss and shit,
bowing before the body of our dead god,
the example we follow when the influence of perspective's grasp
loses its hold.

Morning Glories Bleed White

Morning glories bleed white on a hot summer's day,
broken from the vine, life irretrievably snatched
earlier than had nature taken her slow but steady pace.
The sticky, milky white substance developed by
the process of photosynthesis, sun from the hot sky,
water from the deep roots, it falls, one drop
like a tear from an eye, the preface of a roaring
river dammed by an incessant need for growth.
Morning glories bleed white while Adrian bleeds out.
She was the chance-less, opportunity-less product
of the simple yet virile act of coitus,
a thing unwanted while a daughter desired,
a child whose life promised more brokenness than window panes
shattered by rocks thrown from a distance.
Hers was a life snatched from the umbilical vine
which, for a short period, provided a regular diet of fifths.
Morning glories bleed white while, internally, Anthony bleeds.
The river has crashed through the dam,
for the heart cannot contain the turbulence of life
ripped from the place where nature works her slow
but steady miracle.
Morning glories bleed white; Adrian bled red.
One flower plucked in its prime, the other before her time,
while morning glories bloom on a hot summer's day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

food and religion

found this interesting article at the new york times -
Of Church and Steak: Farming for the Soul
here's the first few paragraphs...

NEAR a prairie dotted with cattle and green with soy beans, barley, corn and oats, two bearded Hasidic men dressed in black pray outside a slaughterhouse here that is managed by an evangelical Christian.
What brought these men together could easily have kept them apart: religion.

The two Hasidim oversee shehitah, the Jewish ritual slaughtering of meat according to the Book of Leviticus. The meat is then shipped to Wise Organic Pastures, a kosher food company in Brooklyn owned by Issac Wiesenfeld and his family. When Mr. Wiesenfeld sought an organic processor that used humane methods five years ago, he found Scott Lively, who was just beginning Dakota Beef, now one of the largest organic meat processors in the country.

Mr. Lively adheres to a diet he believes Jesus followed. Like Mr. Wiesenfeld, he says the Bible prescribes that he use organic methods to respect the earth, treat his workers decently and treat the cattle that enter his slaughterhouse as humanely as possible.

“We learn everything from the Old Testament,” Mr. Lively said, “from keeping kosher to responsible capitalism.”

Humane, sustainable practices like Mr. Lively’s are articles of faith for many Americans concerned with the way food gets from farm to plate. But they are even more deeply held matters of faith for a growing number of farmers and religious groups. In the past few years protecting the environment has emerged as a religious issue. Now, something similar is taking place in the way people of faith view their daily bread.

Friday, August 17, 2007

the miracle of the uneventful

i am currently reading a douglas coupland novel that is quite good. he is a great student of culture in the west. here is a perceptive quote from "all families are psychotic" that captures the central theme of the story:

"our lives are geared mainly to deflect the darts thrown at us by the laws of probability. the moment we're able, we insulate ourselves from random acts of hate and destruction. it's always been there - in the neighborhoods we build, the walls between our houses, the wariness with which we treat the unknown. one person in six million will be struck by lightning. fifteen people in a hundred will experience clinical depression. one woman in sixteen will experience breast cancer. one child in 30,000 will experience a serious limb deformity. one american in five will be victim of a violent crime. a day in which nothing bad happens is a miracle, a day in which all the things that could have gone wrong didn't. the dull day is a triumph of the human spirit, and boredom is a luxury unprecedented in the history of our species."


Happy Fifth-Anniversary JFK!

Yesterday, August 16, marked the fifth-anniversary of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Bruce-Papfio coming to live in our home. In that span of time John has become a part of our family, a part of our extended family of faith across the world, and a source of unending blessing to us and so many others. There have been some difficult moments to be sure, and we continue to wrestle on a daily basis with some of the very same things that we did in those first days. However, I can without reservation say that very few people, and very few life events, have ever taught me more about the true meaning of love and faithfulness than my relationship with John has taught me. It is truly a gift from God, a pearl of great price, that has forever altered the course of my life and my understanding of who I am and who God is. And it is a gift that Maria and I could never have found without the loving support and constant encouragement of this community of faith that we call Communality. From the very first day when James Walsh brought John and I home, there has been an unending stream of people who have come forward to assist us in this experiement in love. From Geoff & Sherry Maddock and the Bible Study group at St. James Place to James Walsh, Troy Allen, Mike Higgins, Clinton Graham & John Heinz (faithfully incorporating John in the Rescue Mission Bible study), Jeremy Sullivan and everyone at Camden House and the Simple Way, all the people at Comprehensive Care, Chuck Griffin (formerly of First UMC Lexington), Peggy Hinson of Voc. Rehab, and all the staff at Gatti-Town, the support has been tremendous and the encouragement constant. So, our deepest and most heartfelt thanks to all of these people and to everyone who has not been named but has helped to consistently uphold and pray for our family. And a special thanks to JFK for simply being who he is; a mystery of God's grace and love that, thankfully, I will never understand no matter how many years pass.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Comic Relief

Here's a video for when we begin to take ourselves too seriously...

Monday, August 13, 2007

setting our sights

as we say goodbye to australia and set our sights toward lexington, we recognize that we never stopped longing for home. while we've been here, on so many occasions we've had the opportunity to share about communality and the story of our life together. naturally this has cultivated great hope in us about our future together. through the act of reflecting over and over again, we've not only recognized god's faithfulness to us through the years, but we see clear patterns of god's shaping us and leading us in a life of mission - an other-oriented, future-oriented life.

one of geoff's dad's sermons comes to mind. i heard him preach this a few months ago at the footscray church. he shared from a passage in luke where jesus says to his followers "let the dead bury the dead... "(luke 9:57-62). kev did an excellent job of translating and making cultural sense of this harsh command from jesus. in this, jesus wasn't referring to the imminent decision of attending a funeral or following him. jesus was addressing those who wanted to return to their work with their families and finish out their generational obligation, get things sorted (their future secured), before responding to the call of god.

then kevin went on to share an illustration with us from his own life as a farmer. his father taught him everything he needed to know to work the family dairy farm. one important skill that took some time to master was plowing straight rows with a tractor. when he first began to do it, he would look back and look back at where he'd been to check his progress. inevitably, his rows were crooked. as he begin to focus ahead on one thing, he improved, but not enough. his father then taught him something that changed everything. he said to kevin - you must pick TWO points on the horizon, not just one, and don't take your eyes off them - one in the foreground and one further on (kevin's dad would compare these two points to the work of scripture and the holy spirit). after that, his rows were straight. his focus on the horizon ahead of him made all the difference in his ability to accomplish the task.

jesus said "no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of god." we are people of the eschaton, a kingdom already come. in spite of our circumstances, we have every reason, promise, and resource to look forward and be the people of hope in the world.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

we shouldn't seek the ideal community...

found this quote on the footscray church of christ newsletter today. if i read this every time i gathered with my community i would be a much better person, more able to serve and love.

we shouldn't seek the ideal community. it is a question of loving those whom God has set beside us today. they are signs of God. we might have chosen different people, perhaps people who were more caring , cheerful, intelligent and like-minded. but these are the ones God has given us, the ones he has chosen for us. it is with them that we are called to create unity and live in covenant.

(from 'community and growth' by jean vanier)

celebrity aid

i saw this over at stephen said's blog (we've had the good pleasure of meeting stephen while here in melbourne) and we thought it was worth re-posting here for those who haven't seen it. very funny.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Some Cardinal Suhard context.....

Here are a couple more thoughts from Cardinal Suhard (Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard), with the second being the actual quote which I guess I more or less paraphrased the other day. It is something that I saw and memorized years ago and didn't quite remember it fully. Anyhow, both of these thoughts are from his major work "Priests Among Men." It seems to me like the guy was really a mystic in his own right. Beautiful and inexplicable stuff.........

On the mystery of being a priests:

“What a priest unites in himself is what tears him apart. At every moment of his life he must answer two callings and entirely satisfy each of them without ever sacrificing either . . .. Transcendent yet incarnate; here is that same fundamental dualism which . . . constitutes the mystery of the Church and the paradox of Christian humanism.”

On priests being witnesses

“So it is fitting for priests to become witnesses again, not so much to convince people as to serve as a sign to them. It has been truly said, that to be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life wold not make sense if God did not exist. To be a witness is much less a matter of external changes in one’s way of living than of firm determination to establish a real community of destiny with the disinherited masses.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

a pioneering species

during our time in australia, i've had a chance to read a bit about permaculture from a manual lent to me by marg harvey, an expert, creative gardener and family friend. permaculture is a practice very popular here in australia, in fact it was created by a famous australian gardener. it is defined as

"…a moral and ethical design system applicable to food production and land use, as well as community design. It seeks the creation of productive and sustainable ways of living by integrating ecology, landscape, organic gardening, architecture, agroforestry, green or ecological economics, and social systems.”

i came across a particular recommendation in the book that interested me greatly. i think it serves as a useful, earthy anology to the apostolic work of the people of god. in a section on succession planting, the manual defines a type of plant called "pioneer species." these plants are "selected shrubs, which can live in degraded soil, improve soil nutrients, and protect seedling trees, are planted initially"

apparently, as other species are planted after these first inhabitants the stability of the ecosystem is strengthened. so the ability of an ecosystem to survive is based to a significant degree on the first type of species planted, a pioneering species. these initial species must be able to weather the compromised conditions of "degraded soil" in order to make the surrounding area more inhabitable for future plants.

it seems to me that we don't have to look hard to find the design and intent of god throughout all levels of created order and i am reminded that the plan within the natural world can serve as a great source of insight and inspiration for us.


Monday, August 06, 2007

To be a witness.......

"To be a witness does not mean to spread propaganda or even to create an impression; to be a witness is to create a mystery, to live in such a way that your life cannot possibly be explained if God does not exist."
Cardinal Suhard's definition of being a witness

Sunday, August 05, 2007

a scandal

"The scandal of the church is that the Christ-event is no longer life-changing; it has become life-enhancing. We've lost the power and the joy that make real disciples and we've become consumers of religion and not disciples of Jesus Christ."

Dr J Sentamu (now Archbishop of York)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

amazing grace

on our recent plane flight from melbourne to perth sherry and i watched the movie "amazing grace". this movie has been around since february...we are just a bit slow.
it was the most inspiring film i can remember seeing in a very long time. as a follower of jesus i was particularly moved. i am not ashamed to say i cried my eyes out and was completely exhausted by the closing credits. i'm not sure why i responded so fully to this movie. it might have triggered something in me that needs healing, it might have just been the right time for me to have a good sob. whatever the case, i came away with a sense of profound gratitude for the christian story and for the faithful ones who have set aside their own 'felt-needs' for the sake of the kingdom coming on earth. it is clear to me that even if wilberforce and the rest of the abolitionists had not seen fruits of their long labour, their faithfulness was a treasure anyway. please see this movie (if you haven't already) and give thanks for the ones that have gone before us. even more, i hope we can be inspired to take on the same kinds of injustices in our streets/neighborhoods/cities/world as a long-haul commitment - the cause wilberforce served took his whole lifetime (and continues today!) for a brief outline bio of wilberforce see this times online article.

the example of anabaptists

the theme of the UNOH conference was "fools for a revolution" with jesus, of course, being our model fool. i attended one session led by stuart murray williams on the foolishness of the anabaptists. he told the story of a well-knonw hero of the faith, dirk wellems (see his story) who was a 16th century reformer immortalized for saving his captor, only to be burned at the stake. a model for a non-violent response of a jesus follower. stuart explained that dirk's response was one of reflex; he didn't have time to deliberate the ethics of the situation. it was an emergency and dirk returned to save his pursuer without second thought. it cost him his life. non-violence is a central commitment of the anabaptists.

the most compelling part of the session, however, was a question stuart posed after sharing dirk willems story. he asked us "what reflexes are cultivated in your community?" he explained that this question is not based on core values, mission statements or beliefs, but an impulse without thought. it gave me pause. the group spent the rest of the time discussing this question and i sat quietly, thinking about communality. what are our reflexes? certainly over the years god's work and our choices are producing spontaneous actions characterized by the kingdom. i thought about hospitality and generosity as two reflexes, instincts as it were, working in our midst. it is a good question worth our consideration.