Tuesday, October 30, 2007

immigration issue in lexington

welcome the stranger

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

merton quote

[P]sychologists have had some pretty rough things to say about the immaturity and narcissism of love in our marketing society, in which it is reduced to a purely egotistical need that cries out for immediate satisfaction or manipulates others more or less cleverly in order to get what it wants. But the plain truth is this: love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is "getting," and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. Love is not a deal, it is a sacrifice. It is not marketing, it is a form of worship.
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

Moving mountains to mine coal

if you're interested in the mess we are making in our mountains, see this link to a Marketplace (NPR) story.

"moving mountains to mine coal" Jeff Biggers

also, keep up to date with MTR issues here:


women of great faith

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...



garden of hope

christianity today article

Sunday, October 28, 2007

what really make us happy

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 called 911 for the first time last night. Well, I dialed it twice, but hung up on the operator the first time. I was on my way to rent a movie and came up on a dog fight. Earlier, Ryan and I had seen two loose pit bulls as we were walking home from a lovely evening with good food and great friends. I, of course, was scared for my life, but my brave husband stayed calm. We made it home safely, all three of us. A bit later I left the house for the movie store. Towards the end of our street, two women stood yelling at what turns out to be the same two pit bulls attacking one of their, much smaller, dogs. I dial 911, stop the car, turn it around and drive it towards the dogs. What did I think I was going to do, run over them? I just wanted to startle them, I guess. That didn’t work. I honked. Blinked my lights. Then I decided to throw something their way. An empty nalgene bottle doesn’t work, FYI. But, a full gallon oil container is a bit of a distraction. They disperse. I freak out and jump back into the car which, by the way, has all of the windows down. But the pits want this little dog. So I open up my back seat to the victim. His owner is shaking and smoking in my backseat. She’s also holding on to a sweet, little puppy. The police finally show up to find the pit bulls circling my car. Scary. One of the pits becomes aggressive with the first policeman. This dog soon meets his end. After six loud rifle shots, the air is silent. Which is worse, watching two dogs tear up another helpless dog or hearing the shots that killed one of the pit bulls?

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

A picture from the past....

This past weekend's School for Conversion was a great opportunity to rehearse our history and think about the future. I think that it was a helpful exercise and it got me thinking about old friends and memories. I thought that this picture, found by Mary in a file last week, might be an intersting thing to post following this time of reflection. It is a picture of the original twelve-members of the High Street Communality group. I think that it was taken in the winter of 98 or early 99?

SFC Reflection

"But the only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves! Your lives are a letter written in our hearts, and everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ prepared by us. It is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on stone, but on human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)"

One of the best feelings in life is to feel drained for all the right reasons. I'm guessing that this is how many of us feel after this weekend's school for conversion. It was a wonderful time with a wonderful group of people who opened their hearts to our community in an amazing way. I can honestly say that this event was one of the most encouraging things that I have experienced in a long time. I guess it is easy to be encouraged when something that you are a part of is in the temporary "spotlight." However, this was not the reason why I was so encouraged by this weekend. The reason why I was so heartened by our time together is because the more we shared about our foibles, our shortcomings, and the struggles that we have had (and have)together as a community, the more that it seemed like our guests were encouraged and inspired. Wow! Does this make any sense to the common mind! Well, it is beginning to make more sense to me and it is something that I think is an incredibly powerful liberating force for all of us who want to TRY to take on the tough questions in life knowing that there probably won't be any definitive answers, just the fragile hope that doing the right thing will inevitably lead us deeper into the beauty of life and closer to the ultimate artist who created it. Trying to live in solidarity with the tough questions and follow Jesus is tremendously difficult at times, and the hardest part is that one of the main things that is meant to sustain us in this journey (relationship with each other) is often times the cause of the greatest struggle and doubt! How can we get around this dilemma? Well, in my opinion one of the only definitive answers is that we can't get around it. We have to believe in relationships and continue to invest in them no matter what. The relationships that we build and the experience that we share together are, I think, the highest form of art. The greatest beauty that we can create is what we create in each other, in the way that we mold, shape, and color each others lives in a manner that leads us toward God's shalom (the epitome of beauty). I thought that this weekend was a great example of this kind of creative exchange and I was tremendously blessed by every aspect of it. So, thanks to all of the SFC participants who have shared their lives, hearts, and dreams with us this past weekend. I hope that we can continue to live the dreams together......to be one another's letter to the world about the goodness and love of God.

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

school for conversion this weekend

high st house
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!

rid yourself of junk mail

our dear friend Lydia passed this useful link on to us.


it's a way to stop that terrible (and sometimes compelling) junk mail while also planting trees...all for just $15

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Harvest; Party

This weekend I had the good fortune of being around some family friends who knew me twenty and twenty-five years ago. They held our son and we told stories. We laughed and apologized. It was great fun.
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.


Reflection on Luke 21

wars and storms and the falling of nations,
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

buechner's reflection on earth

while visiting with us, sean came across this eloquent passage about earth in one of our books by frederick buechner (anything he has written is highly recommended):

"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


A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining a few members of our church in a meeting for discussion and discernment. At the middle of our table sat an antique wooden kneading bowl, crafted in 1896 by Sherry’s great-grandfather, its rich wood evident of quality and good use. As Geoff told us the story of the centerpiece, something tugged at me about the quality of things built with time and perseverance. Kind of like things built before 1950. And, how some relationships and deep communities can be.

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

My Cadence

Yours is the air I breathe,
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.

communality retreat 07


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

Happy Birthday Maria!

Today is my wife's birthday (number 37 to be exact)! So, I want to give thanks to God for my beautiful and wonderful wife and for the amazing life that we have together. I know that this picture of JFK and Miranda will warm her heart and make her happy, so I will not spoil it with any further words. We celebrate you and all the love that you have passed our way Maria.

cancel debt fast

the jubilee USA network is encouraging widespread participation in a fast to raise awareness and boost support for important legislation called "the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt cancellation of 200" (H.R. 2634).

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.