Wednesday, February 28, 2007


i checked out a johnny cash 2-disc yesterday at the library and have been enjoying the old school tunes. one in particular was catchy, but told a pretty sad story. it's called "paradise" and is the cover of an old john prine song. it has a bit of a mountain top removal theme. since geoff's been out of town i haven't been paying much attention to the subject of mtr. this was a good reminder of what's going on to land that's so close. and to be mindful of the electricity that we use on a daily basis. in kentucky, 97% of electricity comes from coal. more kentucky mtr facts.


When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Dad passed an article on to be by Ron Nikkel (president of Prison Fellowship International). you can find his past articles here - it is part Nikkel's 'Conversatio Morum' newsletter series and is entitled 'Contaminations'.
his reflection surrounds Jesus warning to his disciples, "beware of the yeast of the pharisees" (Matt. 16:6). This article is particularly interesting given that his former boss, Chuck Colson, has been one of the more outspoken 'friends' of the current administration (which of course offers the same risks to Christians as all the previous administrations). here are the last few paragraphs. i'm very challenged by it thinking through my own expectations for world peace or my own need for bread.

"One day as Jesus was preparing to launch out across the sea, his disciples were arguing amongst themselves about the lack of planning and preparation for their voyage. There was no lunch for the journey – whose responsibility was it anyhow? What good was a single loaf of bread between them? “Beware of the contaminating influence of the Pharisees and of Herod,” Jesus remarked as he stepped into the boat with them. Somewhat perplexed by his comment, the disciples muttered to themselves, “It must be because we did not bring the bread.” On hearing their continuing argument Jesus asked them to recall the recent feeding of the multitudes when but a single lunch had been available and yet sufficient to feed thousands. How quickly the lesson of trusting in God’s power and provision had been forgotten.

How easily we, like the disciples, become contaminated by the ways of the Pharisees and of Herod in our day. The contaminating influence of thinking like Pharisees lies in acting as if true religion is about believing, speaking, and doing the accepted and prescribed things of faith – and that God cares only for the good and for things beyond our reach. When the Pharisees were confronted with Jesus, who acted “outside that religious box,” again and again they demanded a miraculous sign -- real proof. How could the holy God of heaven possibly involve himself with the simple mundane needs of life like bread and wine, or stoop to care for loose women or Iraqi insurgents? But the fact is that God did – and still does.

The contamination of Herod is not religious at all, but down to earth and most pragmatic. It is all about being competent and in control – mastering the details of our own lives and those of others. Politics and performance becomes god-of-the-day under whom we assume responsibility for ourselves and the world. We bless and blame our own effort and responsibility as if lunch and life and the state of nations are completely in the hands of our own responsibility.

Beware of the contaminating influence of the Pharisees, by which we marginalize God to the higher things of heaven, disinterested in rough, routine and earthly stuff like the bread we need for the voyage or the lives of suicide bombers who threaten us in Afghanistan. Beware of the contaminating influence of Herod, by which we replace God with our own political sensibility and the competence of our own planning and preparation to secure bread for lunch and oil for our cars.

Believe in God, trust God – the One who turned water into wine for a wedding; who fed a multitude with a few loaves and fish; who dared to touch an unclean leper; who dined with sinners and prostitutes; who calmed the stormy sea – He is the God who cares for you in all the places and circumstances of your life."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I'm Not Icharus

I wish I was just standing on the edge today, but I must say that it feels more like I'm running.
Peering to the left I see the cavernous depth drop below, like the gullet of a hungry monster opening for a gulp.

Run, run, running I am from everything I thought I used to know; is this the place to where, with the wind, I'm blown?
Any more force and over the edge I shall go.
Oh, to have wings on my ankles, I'd fly through the sky with the wisdom of hindsight.

I want to tell my story without someone else holding the pen; I want to jump off of this ledge without the darkness below; I want to fly high but not to burning heights.
I want to be free, but I'm not Icharus,
so maybe I'll put out my sails and find out where the wind will blow.

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

(from Dan Lowe)

it's worth doing nothing and having a rest

this is dedicated to my dear friend mr ryan koch...and to all my communality family who struggle with an overactive protestant work ethic (you might not know who you are...ask ryan).
thanks to Simon Carey Holt (prof. of practical theology at Ridley in Melbourne).

(From Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama)
Dear Vasco,
In response to your question, “What is worth doing and what is worth having?” I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause, you must rest, Vasco — otherwise you will become RESTLESS! I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness.

While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged, ongoing state of fatigue, to which our world seems to be rapidly adapting, is ultimately soul-destroying as well as earth-destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive.

When you are tired you must HAVE that feeling and you must act upon it sensibly — you MUST rest like the trees and animals do. Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity — cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly — so cruel and meaningless — so utterly graceless — and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this.

And of course, Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied — they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.
So I gently urge you, Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat — learn to curl up and rest — feel your noble tiredness — learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment with surely follow.

I repeat: it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Yours sleepily, Mr. Curly x x x
The Curly Pyjama Letters (by Michael Leunig,Viking, 2001, 26-28.)

seeing the light

(we posted this over at our family blog also)

great news today from the australian federal government. they are phasing out the old-style light bulbs. see the story
good on you, aussies.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Kentucky Refugee Ministries event this weekend

Kentucky Refugee Ministries
invites you to join us on
Friday, February 23rd at 7:10 PM
at the
Kentucky Theatre
for the showing of
(Pre-show entertainment at 6:30 PM)
This is a film about young Sudanese refugees, and it is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Performance by Lexington Children's Drum Choir before the film, a short presentation by loca refugees, and a photographic display.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Communality Feature in Herald-Leader

In case you all missed it, Communality was featured in today's Herald-Leader. Here is the link: House Church.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Building a wall.......

Several weeks ago we began building a new room in the basement of the Golfview House (a community home intended for men in transition). Scott Morehead has done the overwhelming majority of the work and it is turning out to look very nice. I had the chance to join him for a few hours one Saturday afternoon to help frame-up one of the walls and install some insulation. The process of building a wall is something that is very satisfying. It is a tangible project that has a measurable easy to define ending point; once it is finished it requires little or no further work and is simply there for your enjoyment and use. This kind of finite outcome is very different than what we find in the relationships that we build with one another. Relationships require almost constant effort, can never be taken for granted, and do not provide us with the same kind of tidy ending point. This is something that Scott and I discussed as we built the wall. It is hard to keep up the near constant effort required to make a relationship work. And it is especially hard to maintain that effort, to make room (thanks Christine Pohl for this concept!) for others in your life, when relationships sour or disappoint; and this is something that inevitably happens when you try to love your neighbor. We have certainly had our share of disappointments with the Golfview House. Sometimes, in my darker moments, it seems like the whole effort has been in vain, and I wonder why we continue to make such efforts. However, there is something incredibly pure, inspiring, and revitalizing about building a wall together; there is something umistakably holy about preparing a place where someone else can live and hopefully find security, even if that person chooses not to take advantage of the opportunity. So I find myself, in the face of all my personal doubts and demons, returning to the sacred task of trying to make and prepare room for others. Indeed, I think that this is the fundamental act of God in creation, calling forth light out of darkness, order out of chaos; God willed creation to be,goodness to flow, and freedom to reign even though evil threatened to impinge upon it. We've been studying the Book of John in our small group at the Golfview House, and this past Wednesday we looked at the first chapter. We talked about how God chose to take on human flesh and "move into the neighborhood (thank you Eugene Peterson!); a neighborhood where the neighbors insulted him, falsely accused him, tortured him, and then murdered him! Wow! And John says that Jesus built this very neighborhood......he's the general contractor of the cosmos! How incredible it is that Jesus, who created everything that exists, and welcomed us all into the grand party of creation, embraces and loves us in the midst of our very unneighborly, dastardly, and even murderous behavior! I've started thinking about this in connection to my own struggle to continue making room for others in the face of disappointment. Needless to say, it is humbling. It has helped me to more deeply appreciate how amazing it is when Jesus says to his disciples (also in the Gospel of John )that he is "going to prepare a room" for them in his Father's house. As he approached Jerusalem, where the treachery and conniving of all those around him would reach it's pinnacle, Jesus was thinking about preparing (eternal) homes for the very people who would soon desert him in his hour of greatest need. This is amazing. John's gospel begins to draw to a close in the very same manner in which it started, with the one and only beloved Son of God creating a space in which others can share and prosper. I would do well to emulate him as I join with others in helping to build secure places in which others can live and propser.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The times, they are a changin’ (again)

Sherry and I are enjoying being immersed in Australian culture. As part of that immersion and in line with our vocation as missionaries we are making time to read local authors who concentrate their reflections on church, culture, and mission – Al Hirsch, Michael Frost, Ash Barker, et al. There is much written in these pages about the relative importance of this time in history for the Christian church. We are, many argue, at a pivotal time, a ‘hinge in history’ when the people of God are being pressed to see God’s work in the world anew and to respond accordingly. This kind of talk simultaneously motivates me and triggers a furrow in my brow. Yes this is the dawning of a new age (what comes after Aquarius?) but aren’t we 21st century humans just a bit alarmist and perhaps arrogant to so frequently declare unique status in the history of our species? I understand and affirm the need to carefully and properly locate ourselves in the stream of human history to more wisely discern our kingdom efforts. In this regard I find David Bosch’s call for a ‘gentle urgency’ and ‘bold humility’ really helpful. So, the times are changing, but haven’t they always been changing?

To answer this question I head for books (sad really, I should ask the person sitting next to me). The bible is a good one. I also tend to gravitate toward the writings of E. Stanley Jones – those who know me are already sick of this inclination. ESJ is my favorite writer and today I picked up ‘The Christ of Every Road’ (written in 1930) to explore this question of the times. On page 23 he writes,

“There is nothing new in saying that we live in an age of transition.
Someone has facetiously said that when Adam and Eve were going out of the Garden of Eden Adam turned to Eve and said, ‘My dear, this is an age of transition.’ The oldest known bit of writing in the world is a piece of papyrus in a Constantinople Museum. On it is written: ‘Alas, times are not what they used to be. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone wants to write a book.’”

Sound familiar? While accepting the fact that each generation claims to be living in a time of transition, ESJ goes on to declare about his own time that…

“…no one can get down amid the currents of this age without feeling that the thoughts and feelings and tendencies flowing there are not ripples on the surface but something that is changing the whole fundamental outlook on life. We are in the throws of a passing from traditionalism to life based
upon the authority of facts, of truth, of experience.”

So times are always changing but to let that lull us into passivity is unacceptable. That is to say, it is unacceptable if we believe God is always inviting us to join in on God’s mission of love and justice in the world. ESJ finishes his short reflection with these penetrating questions…

“Can the Church speak that word out of the depths of it’s own radiant sense of God, out of its own experience of victory in life, out of its deep sense of
sureness amid a world of clashing change?”

Now I set aside my questions about history and culture and ask the deeper question, “can I speak out of the depths of my own radiant sense of God…?” and “can I testify to this radiant sense of God in the life of my faith community?” These seem to be the right kinds of questions no matter what kind of age or change (or story) we Jesus followers find ourselves in. I am coming to believe that every time and place is a kingdom-coming time and place...but only if we have 'eyes to see' the world around us and we can inhabit the proper abandonment to joyfully and gently agitate for the Kingdom's cause.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some Family Reunion Pics......

Here are some pictures from the Family Reunion this past weekend in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bad Hair=Good News!

This past weekend a group of us (Mike, Ya'el, John, Katheryn, Elizabeth, and I) attended the "Family Reunion" hosted by the Simple Way in Philadelphia. As always, it was a very inspiring time filled with a lot of great conversation, dreaming, scheming, fun, and reflection. I'll try to get some pictures up in the next few days and maybe share a little more about the actual gathering. But for now I wanted to share one particular anecdote that I thought was pretty cool. I think that Mike was really more deeply radicalized by this weekend, and the first place that this showed up was in his new hairstyling, prominently featured on the car trip homeward. On the last leg of the trip we stopped to get something to eat at a Wendy's in Huntington, West Virginia. I was ordering when I noticed Mike was sitting at a table with Ya'el and an elderly couple, and they seemed to be talking pretty intently. When I got my order I went over and sat down with them, and discovered that they were talking about the nature of our trip, with the older gentleman saying that he thought that he had read something about the Simple Way in a recent newspaper article. He and his wife kindly asked several questions relating to our beliefs on different points of Christian doctrine, seeking (it seemed) to weigh-out whether or not we believed in the "core" teachings of the Bible. It was a nice chat and I told them that I would send them some information to help them understand more about the movement that we were attempting to describe (New Monasticism). Anyhow, after we left the Wendy's, Mike told us that the older gentleman had been staring at him (really, his new hair), turning away quickly when Mike looked his way. He said that the real connection happened when he and Ya'el blessed the food. Apparently the older gentleman was pretty surprised by the combination of hair and holiness. At that point Mike invited he and his wife to join him at the table, and it was the beginning of a serendipitous connection between long lost family members. Anyhow, I think that I'd lost faith in the value of hair as a missionary tool. How I wish now that I still had some noteworthy hair. But that's all for now, I've actually got to get going so I can make my hair appointment!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Frowning in February

A grey shade falls across the window panes;
it's either time for rain or for snow,
but we all know that the sun isn't shining today.
At least not here. Not in here.

Like the temperature, my mood is falling.
An imbalance in my body? Minus my soul my heart,
I'm simply a bundle of chemicals anyway.
That's not so bad, not so appalling.

I find myself frowning in February;
my mouth becomes a slide for my tears -
like a child emerging from a fort, slowly, intimidated -
until his feet hit the ground and he is absorbed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dilemma #845

I wish you could see these return address stickers. My name and address are typed in a stately font, and to the left, a smiling, bald cartoon character called Ziggy smiles and waves. I am not a big fan of Ziggy, though, like him, I do like rainbows and dogs and sweet things. I don’t know when I have read a Ziggy cartoon when I wasn’t disappointed that I would never get those poorly spent thirty seconds of my life back.
Part of my dilemma is that I like to think that I don’t waste much. When Chase sends me an invitation to have a credit cart with them, I take the free envelope enclosed and quietly thank them. I’d like to use these Ziggy address labels, except that this smiling mound of a character would constantly wave a reminder of all the time I had wasted on him. Maybe that’s not so bad: I wouldn’t have to write my return address all those time. Maybe Ziggy is finally paying me back.
Another part of my dilemma is that these return address stickers were sent to me with a free envelope, one I am expected to use to send a gift to a leukemia society, or maybe veterans. What kind of a jerk would I be if I used these stickers and did not reciprocate the gift to this benevolent society? Meanwhile, my manipulation detector is going nuts: I don’t really want to encourage these people in their rascalism.
So these stickers stay here with my correspondence stuff, unused. I can’t believe this paralyzes me so. This is probably why my life is so easy: God knows what I can handle.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Another Empire of Debt link......

Here is another link to an article about the upcoming documentary that One Horizon Foundation is helping to produce. This article gives a little bit more background and information on the project (sorry that I haven't as yet learned how to insert the weblinks; so,enjoy going back to kindergarten with the cut and paste!).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Empire of Debt documentary in the news....

For the last year One Horizon Foundation has been working with Agora Financial (who published the book "Empire of Debt") and Open Sky Entertainment to produce a documentary film project on the topic of the U.S. Federal debt and related matters. Our desire to participate in this project was inspired in part by our belief that pervasive inter-generational debt is a significant source of dysfunction in human society, and is something that is clearly proscribed by the "jubilee" principle set forth in Deuteronomy 15. The principle of jubilee outlines a radical program of strategic debt relief designed to ensure that wealth is more evenly distributed within society and that debt (and the poverty that inevitably results from it) cannot continue to build and be passed from one generation to the next. Anyhow, these are extraordinary ideas that represent a rich inheritance from our forebearers in the faith, and are something for which we should be thankful. While the EOD documentary will not be coming at things from this kind of perspective, we're still excited to be part of a project that is seeking to raise consciousness about this vital issue. There is a brief article announcing the upcoming documentary at the weblink below.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

an economy of the church

this excerpt is from a new book by ash barker, "make poverty personal.' he's an aussie from melbourne working with his family in the slums of bangkok with the organization UNOH. john smith wrote the forward and we are just diving into it.

"the bible too often has been reduced to children's entertainment rather than the greatest revelation to respond to poverty and injustice ever written. for when it comes to understanding and responding to poverty the best book to read is still the bible. taken collectively, its threads show us how to respond to the suffering and tragedy that causes and leaves humans in poverty, both in bible times and today. yet this library of insights and pleas is rarely appreciated and even more rarely acted upon. this can be attested to by the fact thta 99 per cent of western church income is spent on itself."