Monday, December 29, 2008

To Be or Not to Be...Normal

Normality seems to be an idea lacking these days in circles of change, in places where people scheme and strive and struggle to bring about transformation and hope for our society and our cultures. No one seems to be looking to John and Jane Doe for advice on life; instead, it would seem as though we look to the next Mr or Mrs. Wow and Mr. or Mrs. Instant Change. This is a regular occurrence within human history; it is a rarity to seek to follow someone plain, someone simple. Someone normal.
Maybe a part of the problem is that history has erased the normality of those whom we call great; so, instead of seeing their normal lives, we see their lives of power, achievement, success, and transformation. And in seeing those aspects of their lives, we seek to emulate them in those ways. We seek to erase our own normality.
Yet, there seems to be a power to normality. To blending in with the crowd, to just being one of the guys (or girls). To relating to the masses as the masses instead of above, or in charge of, the masses. Granted, this is not always a blind following of the mob mindset though it is always an entering into the mob for the purpose of change and transformation.
I have been struggling with this for the past few months. I have been wrestling with what it means to simply be faithful. I think there is a relationship to this idea of normality and faithfulness. Most of the people that I know that are living lives of transformation and change are pretty normal, everyday John and Jane Does. Like the one they follow, they have no real desirable appearance. They're not wow people.
I'm not entirely convinced that Jesus was a wow person. I think that history has made him a wow person and erased his normality. Yet, Jesus of Nazareth was both normal and faithful. He was faithful to the Father's message of love, repentance, and kingdom living. And he suffered for it; obviously, he died for it. Yet, he didn't reap the fruit of joy until after he'd suffered - rejected by friends, whipped nearly to death, spat on, mocked, and, finally, crucified. On top of various attempts by authorities to stone him, throw him off of a cliff, etc.
I think that I'm just beginning to learn that there is hope in normality and faithfulness. To be honest, I'm getting a little sick of hearing the folks who want to be the next Mr. or Mrs. Wow. I want to meet the person(s) who are being faithful to kingdom values and love for neighbor in the simple doldrums of everyday life. I am finding that there is hope to fight the temptation to erase my own normality; there is still hope of escaping self-exaltation.
What if the very thing that we are searching for to transform the world is ingrained in our very nature? What if the simple fact of being neighbor, friend, brother, sister, oil change technician, water filtration system maintenance lady, or local librarian is that next big wow that we keep skipping over? What if the power of transformation is in the simple living of a faithful lifestyle of love for neighbor and kingdom of God living with the normal John and Jane Does next door?

Friday, December 26, 2008

architecture that jesus might like

npr's "speaking of faith" has recently done a story on the rural studio of the architecture dept. at auburn university called An Architecture of Decency. disclaimer: i am a proud AU grad and i love my home state of alabama. however, it's a beautiful story no matter where it comes from.

AU rural studio

Sunday, December 21, 2008

kentucky nativity

a few years ago mr brad flowers and i sat down to write a localized rendering of the birth of jesus.

here it is (again)


Zachariah was born in Harlan County. His wife, Elizabeth, was also born in Harlan County. In fact, her family had been in that county since before the Civil War, which is a long time for a group of people to stay in a place like Harlan. No one in Harlan knew them as Zachariah and Elizabeth; they were Betty and Z.

In addition to picking up a disability check for the coal dust that clouded his lungs, Z performed various services for his neighbors. A sign reading NOTARY hung above the porch. He was an official accredited minister. Z first received the call to full-time ministry sitting at the kitchen table, eating a piece of sausage, and watching preaching through the fuzz of their black and white TV, occasionally reaching across to adjust a knob or tug at the aluminum foil covered rabbit-ear antanae. It was during an impassioned sermon on Moses and the Pharoah and obedience. A commercial with the words 'no hassle' flashed across the screen like a burning bush. He, too, could earn a graduate degree from F.A.I.T.H, the Firsthand Account Institute of THeology in Alamogordo, New Mexico. They didn't care that Z had dropped out of middle school; the institute looks for men with spiritual knowledge, men with pure hearts.
For Z, the duties piled up. He started off as no more than a glorified justice of the peace. He found that when he opened his mouth to bless a young couple, or eulogize a dearly departed, he was filled with a new confidence. He could bring the crowd to tears; he could bring about repentance. People started to look to him. It was only a matter of time before he started official church meetings. He slowly became the Right Apostle Z, shepherd of the flock, The Pillar of Fire Church of Children Marching Toward Zion.

With the new demands on his life he made time to do what he called his "priestly duties." He would enter his "holy of holies," which was his fanciful description of Betty's garden. He buried himself to the neck in the rich soil in order to be "brought low," so that he could "seek the face of the Lord." It became his habit to do this in the summers on Friday evenings with the cicadas for company in the warm thick air. He wanted to be prepared to exhort his flock on Saturday (Z's church had their Sabbath meeting on Saturday because that was the day the good Lord decided to take for his rest after making this Earth and that was good enough for them).

Z’s custom started with digging an oblong hole in the tilled ground. He would then lay down and pull the loose soil over himself. Once settled in the fecund stillness Z would pray and sweat furiously. As a rule angels did not show up. He did not have visions, nor did he dream particularly relevant dreams. He slept and slobbered and woke up smelling like compost. But this time in the gray area between prayerfulness and sleep, where all things are possible, Z had a visitor. It was big and blonde and bright like an illustration in a King James Bible. Its’ bulk hovered over the tomato and pepper plants not damaging a leaf. The angel declared that Z would have a son, and that his name would be John:
“Thou shalt have joy and gladness, for many shall rejoice at his birth. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many in the flock shall he turn to the Lord their God. He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Z rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself and murmered, "what in the shittin' hell?" And becoming more alarmed he hollered loud enough to wake Betty. Seeing no response from the house he tried to run, but finding himself still buried he urinated and passed out.
The angel, somewhat deflated, sat down, squashing a zucchini, and shook Z to rouse him, "Look, because you can't wake your sorry ass up and see things for how they are, because you don't believe me, you’re gonna be mute until the day the child is born. Then, you’ll believe."
Z laid there the rest of the night too stunned to move and too afraid to attempt to talk. He came to church the next morning half an hour late. He didn't bother to shower. He gesticulated wildly to the audience. He opened his mouth to deliver the words he thought the Lord had given him, but nothing happened. He pulled the chalkboard out of the closet, writing furiously about a vision, a visitation. The people were not surprised knowing that Z often heard from God and that it was usually good. They were surprised when he said he was having a son and that he couldn't talk because of his disbelief. The people laughed uncomfortably waiting for the punch line. They joked about his age and potency.
He never started talking again, though. The punch line was slow in coming. No one really believed until Betty's belly started to extend and stretch the colorful floral fabrics of her favorite muumuus. Betty and Z were relieved and excited. A child, they thought, would make things much better.
About the same time Betty's muumuus started to stretch, another strange occurrence was taking place elsewhere in the southeastern part of the state called Appalachia. There was a girl named Mary. She was engaged Joe a boy from Barbourville who could trace his lineage all the way back to Daniel Boone.
Mary was sitting in the tattered velour lazy boy in the living room/dining room of her parents trailer in Happy, KY. Her mother worked the breakfast shift at the Big Totem diner attached to Harry’s gas and convenience store. Her father was currently staying elsewhere but rumor had it that he found steady work warehousing for a company that bought relics like coal mining tools to sell as art in New York City.
But, back to Mary . . . She was sitting in the Lazy Boy watching the TV and trying to decide if she would go to school that day. She had a bowl of cereal in her lap. Her Coke was on the table next to her chair. Right before the show’s last commercial break the screen went fuzzy. Mary reached over, split the blinds, light pouring through aluminum, to see if something had knocked the satellite off the garage. A voice came from the TV and she let the blinds slap back.
“Mary, wake up. You’re as beautiful as the day you were born. Not a beauty bought at the mall, but from God. There is a spark in you.”
Mary pushed back against the arms of the chair until it reached its maximum recline and tipped. She lay startled with her feet and the footrest pointing toward the ceiling, the remains of her cereal soggy on her chest. She scrambled to her hands and knees staring wildly as the voice started again.
“Mary, relax. This is good news. You are going to have a baby. This child will have your spark and more. He is going to change things.”
“Is this a trick. . . Joe? Momma? I told you I ain’t done it with him yet.”
“Mary, relax. I told you this child would be different. I have also been to visit your relatives Betty and Z. She will have a child as old as she is. Amazing things can happen.”
Mary shrank back sitting on her heels with both hands on her belly, crying and muttering softly: “god, I hope this ain’t a joke,” as the TV flipped back on in time for the weather forecast.
Mary had righted the chair and was sitting in it with her arms pulling her legs up to make a chin rest of her knees when her mother got home early from work.
“Hey, momma.”
“What are you doing? Do you think I go to work so you can stay home all day doing nothing?”
“Momma, stop. Things have been weird.”
“Are you on some kind of drugs?”
“No. It’s not. . .it’s just. Well, I think I’m pregnant.”
“What? In my house and me out working everyday. No, that ain’t gonna happen. Get out. Get your crap and get out.”
“Momma, stop. It’s different.”
“It ain’t that different you little tramp. I remember fifteen years ago pretty clear. Believe me, things don’t change that much. Am I stupid or what?”
At that she slammed her bedroom door. She sat on the side of her bed and waited, one hand holding up her head, the other lighting a cigarette. She took deep pulls not bothering to find an ashtray or open her eyes even.
Mary got a ride up to the gas station by the highway. She walked from there up to the main road, her backpack slung across her narrow shoulders. The bottom inch of her tight jeans darkened from dragging the still wet road. The sun was hot after the morning’s storm. Her t-shirt left two inches of her white belly exposed which she unconsciously rubbed with her right hand as she lifted her left, signaling her need for a ride.
Betty was waiting on the porch. She had heard that Mary left home the day before. She had been busy preparing the sleeper sofa, cooking some things that could be heated quickly, and sweeping the beetle carcasses off the indoor\outdoor carpeting on the porch in case Mary stopped by. It had gotten late. Z was already snoring in the back room. The bug zapper had been on for hours. Betty stood in the doorway sipping a glass of freshly brewed sweet tea.
An unknown pickup pulled into the drive. Betty sat down wincing. As the pickup pulled away Betty hollered, “Hey there, you sure are one lucky lady carrying that treasure. Tell me, why am I lucky enough to be visited by the mother of such a treasure. The moment I heard those tires on gravel this little guy started kicking away. You believe what God has for you.”
Mary stayed with Betty and Z for nearly three months before her mother finally called. She apologized and cried and said she loved her no matter what she did. She arrived the next day still wearing her brown apron and bow tie. Her eyeliner was smeared. There was a half a pack of smoldering slender, pink-stained cigarette butts in the ashtray. Mary went home happily.
Now finally it came time for Betty to give birth. She woke Z in the middle of the night with a death grip on the forearm and the rigid but steady words, “Z it is time.” He hopped up silently as usual. The birth went off without a hitch. Both Betty and the baby were radiantly healthy. Their friends and family swarmed into the hospital to congratulate the unlikely new mother and the quiet father, bringing casseroles and smuggling in cigars.When it came time to name the baby there was some confusion. Several people had already begun calling the child Little Z, or Baby Z, or even Z Junior. Betty announced that his name would be John. The collective head turned towards Z. He pulled out his pad and begun to write. As he turned the pad for all to see he surprised everyone including himself by saying in a scratchy voice, “His name is John.

Joe, being eighteen years old, was required to register for the draft. The US was spreading democracy and, apparently, needed his help. There were concerns about security at home and abroad. The war was going badly. The unrest across the country was typified by the violence breaking out on University campuses. This unrest bred fear and fear caused the powers that be to make demands on the people. Liberties needed to be curbed for protection. In this spirit, the President was re-initiating the draft.
Joe traced his family back to Lexington so he made his way there with Mary to take care of some paperwork. They were planning their wedding for later in the summer when they could get the money together. She was over 8 months pregnant now and the long journey along I-75 was made longer with the bathroom, stretch, and rest breaks. For most of the trip Mary sat right next to Joe in the middle of the bench-seat, her legs straddling the stick-shift housing and her painfully swollen feet propped up on the dash.

Finally, late in the night, they made it to Lexington, but the long journey had brought on Mary's labor prematurely. The last part of their trip had been the most exhausting - hours of sitting in traffic while Mary's body shuddered under each heavy contraction. Joe's white-knuckle hold on the steering wheel and his taut, worried face flexing in rhythm with Mary's pain-throws. The city was flooded with people and cars. There was no way to pull over and rest, no place to go once they were part of the gridlock. When they finally made it there, the UK maternity ward was packed to overflowing and they were eventually turned away. Just a few hours later, in the back of Joe's pick-up, on the third level of the parking deck, Mary gave birth. Their tears splashed into the puddles of blood and water mingling in the corrugated troughs of the truck bed. For a moment Joe forgot that this wasn’t his child. He looked on Mary and the baby with a fondness and compassion and love that he could never have willed. In the months and years to come Joe would still find times where he resented Mary, entertaining the thought that she had been with another guy, the father of this child. He was bitter about the talk that went on behind their backs - gossip and slander. But he would always come back to this moment in the truck. The heroism of Mary, the closeness that such a painful experience forges. Out of this dark, solitary pain came a light and companionship that was as warm as skin and as invincible as it was fragile. They padded Joe's toolbox with blankets and lay the baby down.
It was early morning and the sky was turning from black to blue in the pre-dawn light. On the wrong side of town some sanitation workers were doing the rounds. As they wrestled the overstuffed trash bins into lines on the corner of 4th and Chestnut, they noticed someone calling for them. They could barely hear the voice over droning hydraulics and the piercing bleepbleepbleep of the truck. She was standing across the road in an empty lot and as they caught sight of her she seemed to be glowing with the clarity and brilliance of the rising sun.
Without even thinking they clamored and crammed into the cab with the driver - too scared to approach but too enchanted to look away. Three huge men, dwarfing the wretched insides of the garbage truck, startled but fearfully frozen. As they watched they could see she was trying to talk to them. A quivering hand slowly wound down the window.
"Don't be afraid,” she said,
"I want to tell you some wonderful news. A message for everyone: This morning a liberator was born at UK, the one we've been waiting for. The one who will set things right by bringing real justice and love to this city. Here's the will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, in a brown pickup, in the UK hospital parking deck."
And suddenly she was gone. Just then the radio starts blaring, all static and buzz. After several seconds the white noise gave way to the most wonderful voices - men, women, young, old, black, white, hispanic. They were singing with all the passion, energy, and spirit of a church choir...
"Glory, Glory, Glory,
To God in heaven,
& Peace, Peace, Peace
To the one's He loves on earth"

The radio cut off as quickly as it had come on. The sanitation workers were left staring at an empty lot in the quiet stillness of early morning. For a few minutes, the only thing to move was a piece of trash that skipped along the gutter. After some minutes of silence, Benny, the most outspoken of the men, and the most religious one among them spoke up.
"Let's go to the hospital and see what he Lord is up to!"So they went quickly, after all, they hadn't finished their route and a couple of the men had second jobs to get to later that morning. After walking up several ramps they finally discovered Joe, Mary, and the little one. All three were sound asleep under blankets and jackets in the bed of the pickup. Mary stirred, startled by the three strange men staring at her baby. But soon their warm smiles and fantastic story of what had happened put her at ease and she was comforted by their loving-kindness. After visiting for a while and sharing the story again with Joe and Mary and the others who were coming and going with the hospital staff shift changes, the men returned to the remainder of their route.

Jesus grew up and Mary loved him. She loved him and raised him and it wasn’t easy, her being a teenager and all. Joe struggled to keep things going but between the local ‘God’s Pantry’ and food stamps, they kept food on the table. When Jesus was old enough Joe would take him to the various day-labor sites on the weekends. This allowed Mary to pick up some work as a Wal-Mart ‘Associate.’ Joe was a good learner and could turn his hand to almost anything if someone gave him a chance. Jesus watched him carefully, listened well, stayed out of the way, and eventually learned to help out some – picking up trash, fetching tools, buying cigarettes for the workers. All the people that met him thought Jesus was a “sharp little tack”, and more than one friend of Joe’s remarked Jesus “was something special.”
Mary would tell stories to Jesus when she put him to bed. Stories her Daddy and Granddaddy had told her about the mountains and the first ones that came through Cumberland Gap. She sang some of the songs she remembered and made up the parts she had forgotten. So he grew up and went to school and walked the dirt road from the four-lane to the trailer park every day to catch the bus. As he walked he would go over the stories his Mom had told him and imagine he was a part of the drama, picking up sticks and rocks and discarded cans to engineer the props. A couple of his favorite stories were actually about him. Mary would recount the story of Jesus birth and how they had been driving all day and how Joe had worried about going to war and how amazing it was to see those trash-guys approaching the truck in the half-light of early morning. Jesus loved to hear about the wild preachers that had spectacular things to say about him when he was just a few days old.
A couple of these preachers were Ol’ Simmy and Miss Ann. As Mary would recount it to JC, Ol’ Simmy came bursting into the church whoopin’ and hollerin’ about the time that had come and how he had waited so long for “this chile’.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh Lowwwwwwwwd-ah,
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh LOWWWDD-AHHHH!,
MMMMMnnnngggggggg LOWDYYYY!!”
He gathered JC in his arms and gazed lovingly at the child. After several minutes he started rocking and groaning, gradually setting a rhythm, swaying to music so one else could hear,
“Ohhh Lord, You’re lettin’ me go
Jus’ like you said,
Jus’ like you said,
I’ve seen the hope, you’ve let me know,
Jus’ like you said,
Jus’ like you said,
There is a light and you’re lettin’ it show,
Jus’ like you said,
Jus’ like you said,
Ohhhhh Lord, You’re lettin’ me go….
Mary always stood and swayed as she told this part to JC and, even as a toddler, he would rock along.
Simmy prayed when he was done singing. In a small storage room at the back of the church he prayed a prayer Mary would never forget.
“This boy’s gonna expose the frauds and lift up the righteous folk. He’s gonna see right through us all. He’s gonna inspire and be despised. He’s gonna break our hearts….he’s even gonna break his momma’s heart.”
Mary never told JC this part. She was afraid it might be true.
Ol’ Simmy had barely said “Amen” when Miss Ann started banging on the closet door with the front legs of her walking frame. Even though he couldn’t actually remember meeting her, JC loved Miss Ann and her renowned commitment to being at the church day in day out. In fact, when her husband had died she started a prayer ministry called “Miss Ann’s Prayer-Line” and spent 8 hours a day praying for everyone and anyone who called or came by the church. The elders of the church eventually set her up with a cot in the coat-room so she could keep an eye on the place 24/7.
When she saw Jesus that day she cried out and hugged Ol’ Simmy. She parked her walker and shuffled over to Mary with arms out to take the child. Continuing her tottering gate, she made it to the front steps and called out at passers by, repeating many of the things Ol’ Simmy had been saying. She spent the next couple of days calling every number she had collected through “Prayer-Line”, leaving messages on answering machines that usually only found their end with the impatient tone of the machine cutting her off.
Jesus loved these stories. He became fascinated with the House of God. He counted the days between their yearly journey to visit the folk in Lexington. His fascination became obsession and he began to believe he ought to be interested in “the Lord”, that somehow he might need to question things relating to God, Life, and even his own family. This worried Mary and Jo so for a time she stopped telling him the bedtime birth-stories and she instead read Psalms from a bible Miss Ann had given her.......

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I.O.U.S.A. on short list for Academy Awards

15 Docs Continue in 2008 Oscar® Race
Beverly Hills, CA — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 81st Academy Awards®. A record 94 pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order:

“At the Death House Door”
“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”
“Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh”
“Encounters at the End of the World”
“The Garden”
“Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts”
“In a Dream”
“Made in America”
“Man on Wire”
“Pray the Devil Back to Hell”
“Standard Operating Procedure”
“They Killed Sister Dorothy”
“Trouble the Water”

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

The 81st Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22, 2009, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Monday, December 15, 2008

god's livelihood

spotted this story at Mark Sayers blog

as a family we have been try to incorporate gratitude in to our morning and evening prayers.  too often our prayers become a list of things we would like God to 'get done'...this story blesses us because it reminds us of the primacy of praise and thanksgiving.

In his early years, before he went public with his teachings and disciples came from far and wide to learn from him, the founder of Chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, was an incessant traveler.

Dressed in the clothes of a simple villager, he would travel from town to town and from hamlet to hamlet, asking questions. “How are things?” he would inquire of the water-carrier yoked to his pails, of the market-woman minding her stall, of the child playing in the doorway of his home. “Is there enough to eat? Is everyone healthy?” “Baruch Hashem, blessed be the Almighty, all is fine” or “Thanks to the Almighty, things are improving,” these simple, G-d-fearing and G-d-trusting Jews would reply, and the traveler would depart with the gratified step of one who has found what he was seeking.

One day, Rabbi Israel arrived in a village and made his way to the study hall. There, in a corner, sat an ancient Torah scholar over his books, wrapped in tallit and tefillin. This was the village porush (”ascetic”), who led a life of holy seclusion. From sunrise to sunset, not a morsel of bread nor a sip of water would pass his lips; he spoke to no one and never lifted his eyes from the sacred tomes. For more than fifty years he had kept to this regimen, utterly removed from the mundane cares of material life.

So why was this stranger pestering him? “How are things?,” he was inquiring, “Is there enough to eat? Is everyone healthy?” The ascetic made no reply, hoping the stranger would go away. But the stranger only leaned closer, and his questioning grew more insistent. Impatiently, the ascetic waved him away, pointing him to the door.

“Rabbi,” the stranger now asked, “why are you denying G-d His livelihood?”

The words had their desired effect: the old man was roused to indignant attention. G-d’s livelihood?! The audacity of this uncouth peasant! “What are you saying?” he demanded in a thunderous voice. “How dare you disturb me with such blasphemous babble!”

“Only what King David, the sweet singer of Israel, proclaims in his Psalms,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “Tell me, Rabbi, what is the meaning of the verse , ‘And You, the Holy One, who dwells by the praises of Israel’1? “

“We mortal beings,” continued the Baal Shem Tov when the porush made no reply, “subsist on the sustenance that G-d provides us in His great kindness. But what does G-d ’subsist’ on? On the praises of Israel! When one Jew asks another, ‘How are things’ and his fellow responds by praising and thanking the Almighty, they are nourishing G-d, deepening His involvement with His creation.”

be patient

last night we took time in our weekly gathering to ponder patience. 

so much to do. 

so much that needs fixing. 

such deep need for a savior. 

yet we are expected to wait for the fullness of the kingdom Jesus inaugurated.  we shared about our impatience and the frustration that comes with expectation.  we were reminded of the need for gentle urgency and the steady grace of being co-laborers with God.

i spotted this prayer and thought it put words to our time last night:

why wait?

Why wait for the gift that has already come?
Why wait to meet the guest already here?
Why wait for the child already born?

In the wait we see the beauty of the gift
In the wait we encounter the true presence of the guest
In the memory of the wait we know the child who holds us

Friday, December 12, 2008

advent conspiracy

I don't know how to post videos onto here, or else I would try to make it easier for you to view the Advent Conspiracy video. But what I can do is help you know how to find it--go to site, and then click on the video entitled "Enter the Story". I found it on someone's facebook page...good challenge as we are in the midst of the countdown to Christmas. (13 days from today). But of course, Christmas isn't really the only time we can think about these sorts of things. But definitely the time of year we are intentionally looking for meaning, and so naturally our hearts are more in tune to messages that lead us to the meaning. I don't share this video because I have it all figured out. The only reason I haven't spent much money yet is because I've always been one of those last minute shoppers. I hate shopping. But I have to admit that I haven't made any decisions to put my money and time towards more meaningful investments, either. There's still time for all of us, though!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

kentucky must pull itself up

below is an excerpt from an article in lexington's herald-leader, written by tom eblen.  he offers some solutions to our many problems.  as we think about the welfare of this city, these bits certainly should contribute to our understanding, prayers and efforts:

"So what do we do? Hunker down and wait for better times? Or do we use this crisis as an opportunity to make tough choices and take bold action?

It seems nothing focuses thinking like a crisis, and I was intrigued by some of the ideas I heard Thursday. Although these ideas would require a lot of political will, they wouldn’t cost a lot of money. In fact, many of them would save money in the long run, while making life in Kentucky much better. Among the ideas:

■ Follow the example of Ohio and other states and pass tough laws to rein in businesses such as payday lenders, rent-to-own merchants and check-cashers that prey on Kentucky’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

■ Enact laws and tax policies that promote the creation and growth of “micro-enterprises” — small businesses that allow families to support themselves and local economies.

■ Follow the lead of 34 other states and create a state earned-income tax credit for poor Kentuckians, similar to the federal tax credit in effect since the 1960s.

“What we know at the federal level is that it’s the most effective anti-poverty strategy out there to raise low-income folks to middle class and keep them there,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “It is a very minimal cost to the state. … Ninety percent of those refunds are spent in the communities where those people work and live.”

■ Raise the age for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18. Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest percentages of people age 16-18 who are neither in school nor working. “If you’re 16 years old and not in school and not working, you’re lost,” Brooks said.

■ Put fewer non-violent criminals in prison, especially young adult offenders. Brooks noted that it costs $4,000 a year to educate a teenager in Kentucky, and $60,000 a year to keep one in prison.

■ Follow the example of Lexington and other cities and enact a statewide ban against smoking in public places. It would send a bold message throughout Kentucky — and around the world. More than that, it would make Kentuckians healthier and save a fortune in future medical costs, said Dr. Melissa Walton-Shirley, a cardiologist from Glasgow.

■ Give Kentucky high school graduates a passport along with a diploma, encouraging them to travel and learn more about the world, said Kris Kimel, president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp.

And there were many more ideas that legislators should consider when they return to Frankfort in January, regardless of the economic outlook.

“There isn’t one answer,” Kimel said. “There are many, many answers. It requires a commitment to relentless innovation and relentless experimentation,” because we never know which ideas and strategies will work.

There’s never a better time to act than now."


Billy has been working hard (in his role as Vice President of One Horizon) to get this screening going...

KILOWATT OURS: A PLAN TO RE-ENERGIZE AMERICA is an award-winning film that provides simple, practical, affordable solutions to America’s energy crisis and shows how we can save electricity, save money and make a difference for ourselves and the planet.  Visit for a short sneak preview or to locate a TV broadcast or community screening in your state.
The film has reached more than 50% of the public TV viewing audience nationwide this fall.  More stations are added weekly so visit or check local listings to see if your station is planning to show the film.

Film’s inspiring message of energy conservation reaches key audiences, prime time!
Washington, DC, WETA, 12/28 at 6pm
Louisville, KY, KET2, 12/14 Sun 6pm, 12/26 Fri 3:00 PM
NE Kentucky, WOUB-Athens OH, Channel 20.1, 20.2, 44.2, 12/15 at 9pm, 12/16 at 2am
NE Kentucky, WOUB-Athens OH, Channel 20.3, 12/16 at 3PM, 12/20 at 8pm
NE Kentucky, WOUB-Athens OH, Channel 44.1, 12/16 at 9pm
Statewide, KY, KET3 Instructional Television (visit www.ket.ort/tv/schedules/stations_ket3.htm, 12/15 Mon 11:00am, 12/27 Sat 12:00am
Statewide, KY, KET1, 12/30 Tue 3:00am, 12/30 Tue 9:00pm
Charlotte, NC, WTVI & WTVI-DT, 12/5 at 1am, 12/5 at 4am (if you are in Charlotte and would like more waking hours to view KO, please contact viewer services and ask for a rebroadcast at a more decent hour)
Athens and SE Ohio, OH, WOUB, Channel 20.1, 20.2, 44.2, 12/15 at 9pm, 12/16 at 2am
Athens and SE Ohio, OH, WOUB, Channel 20.3, 12/16 at 3PM, 12/20 at 8pm
Athens and SE Ohio, OH, WOUB, Channel 44.1, 12/16 at 9pm 
Richmond/Charlottesville, VA, WCVE, WHTJ, 1/8/09 at 10pm
Western West Virginia, WOUB-Athens, OH, Channel 20.1, 20.2, 44.2, 12/15 at 9pm, 12/16 at 2am
Western West Virginia, WOUB-Athens, OH, Channel 20.3, 12/16 at 3PM, 12/20 at 8pm
Western West Virginia, WOUB-Athens, OH, Channel 44.1, 12/16 at 9pm

If a broadcast is scheduled in your city, the Kilowatt Ours nonprofit organization has several opportunities for you to help get the word out about this important documentary: 
· Email this announcement to your community contacts and/or post it in your organizations’ newsletter and website. Kilowatt Ours has materials to support the following efforts at <>
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If the film is not currently scheduled in your community, you may wish to contact the viewer services department at your local public television station to find out if they are planning to show this hopeful film that inspires energy conservation and change for most people who see it.  
Kilowatt Ours’ is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Sponsors include:  Turner Foundation, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, The Sierra Club Foundation, Johnson Controls, Mother Earth News, Utne Reader, Stonyfield Farm, and Renewable Choice Energy.  For more information, visit

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

zero impact

Liz sent us this article - a very compelling argument...

Multiplication Saves the Day  by Bill McKibben

In my last column for the magazine I wrote about numbers. Now I'd like for us to do some math.

Let's assume, generously, that 5 percent of Americans are deeply concerned about climate change- concerned enough that they will change all their light bulbs, scrimp and save to put a solar thermal hot water system on the roof (or really scrimp and save to put some photovoltaic electricity up there), unplug all their vampire appliances when not in use, cut the number of car trips that they make in half and use a hybrid for the remaining journeys, buy only local food in season, use a clothesline to dry their clothes whenever the temperature tops fifty degrees (1,016 pounds of carbon saved right there), cut their air travel by two-thirds and learn to enjoy the pleasure of "staycations," take showers with an egg timer so they don't stay under too long (350 pounds of carbon), and do all the other things that every website recommends for reducing your carbon footprint. And then let's assume that they go buy offsets for the rest from a company like NativeEnergy, which will use the money to build windmills on Indian reservations.

Okay, add it up, carry the one, dum de dum, here we go, yes-the impact on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is, hmm, zero. Okay, not precisely zero. Every bit helps. But if your concern is somehow slowing the onrush of global warming in the short window of time the scientists give us, then the number is close enough to zero that it gives you pause. Even if that 5 percent then hector their in-laws, each of whom somewhat grudgingly does half of what they could, the net effect is still, well, right around zero.

I mean, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, said recently, "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late." By "action" he did not mean going down in the basement and adjusting the knob on your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. James Hansen, our premier climatologist, recently said that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." It is true that if you clean the coils beneath your refrigerator it will run more efficiently, and it is also true that it won't do anything to "preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted."

I am exaggerating here to make a point. Of course I believe in energy conservation. I've got a plaque that says I built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont, I drove the first hybrid Honda Civic in the state, I subsist mostly on food from my Champlain Valley. I'm typing this article with electrons currently assembling themselves on my roof. All these things are good I highly support them. Please do them too.

But in a world where we need massive change at lightning speed, the usual equations are turned upside down. We're used to thinking that being practical is what really counts-that you can only reduce carbon by, in fact, reducing carbon. Hence the light bulb, or the farmers' market, or the hybrid car. If we think globally, to use the hoariest of green clichés, we should act locally. In the fight against global warming, though, the practical acts are for the most part symbolic, while the symbolic acts might just save the day. Say you have a certain amount of time and money with which to make change-call it x, since that is what we mathematicians call things. The trick is to increase that x by multiplication, not addition. The trick is to take that 5 percent of people who really care and make them count for far more than 5 percent. And the trick to that is democracy.

We naïvely believe that it takes 51 percent of the people to make change in a democracy, but it clearly doesn't-5 percent is plenty, if those 5 percent are engaged in symbolic action that can force the kind of legislative change that resets the course for everyone. In the civil rights movement, for instance, the strategy was not to desegregate the country one lunch counter at a time-there were way too many lunch counters. Instead, you use the drama of the fight over one lunch counter to help drive the Civil Rights Act, which puts the full power of the federal government behind the idea that anyone can order a hamburger wherever they want to. And here's the thing: I bet less than one-quarter of 1 percent of Americans took part in a protest during that great movement, but it was more than enough.

If people who care about climate change mobilize politically, 5 percent will be more than enough too-it will persuade senators, congressmen, and presidents to back strict legislation that will set real caps on emissions and fund real research on the technologies we need. If such laws pass, they would change the behavior of 95 percent of Americans, including reluctant in-laws. This kind of equation isn't hypothetical. Two years ago, I helped organize a march across Vermont that called on our leaders to work for deep cuts in carbon emissions A thousand of us walked the sixty-mile route-one Vermonter in six hundred. And yet that was enough to get all of our legislators, including the conservative Republicans, to sign on to our pledge. A year later we organized fourteen hundred demonstrations in all fifty states to call for 80 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2050. They were the most widespread rallies about climate change to date, but even so they hardly reached one-quarter of 1 percent of the population. And yet the next week both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton put our goal at the heart of their platforms.

So here's the thing. Along with spending a lot of time figuring out how to make your own life practically green (because, it's true, how are you going to face your kids if you don't?), spend at least a little time figuring out how to engage in the symbolic political action that might actually add up to something useful. In the United States check out and; since you're a citizen of the globe as well, you also need to help us at Putting up a clothesline is a fine idea: 1,016 pounds of carbon, remember. But if you join Project Laundry List to fight for the idea of clotheslines, you become, in essence, an Amway salesman for positive change. Yes, your Prius definitively rocks-but even if you can't afford a Prius, you can accomplish considerably more by joining Al Gore's campaign to push for the rapid conversion to renewable electricity, which can power the next generation of hybrid cars

It's not, I warn you, as immediately satisfying as installing a new tankless water heater or greasing the chain on your bike. You have to keep reminding yourself: multiplication, not addition. You have to keep reminding yourself that atmospheric physics and chemistry don't give you points for doing the right thing-they only care about how much carbon is in the atmosphere. We have so little time that we can't waste any of it. Screw in a new light bulb? Sure. Screw in a new global treaty? Now we're talking.

© 2008 Orion Magazine

Bill McKibben is the author of Deep Economy, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and cofounder of

Saturday, November 29, 2008

being thankful for mr berry

this article appeared in our local paper as a guest commentary piece on thanksgiving day.  a very well composed summary of wendell berry's insights into a life well lived.

here's a sneak peek.

Mr. Berry, who as a young man left a promising East Coast academic career to return to ancestral land to farm, write and raise a family, has long been both behind and ahead of his times.

Though to all appearances an old-time Democrat, his faithfulness to his iconoclastic vision makes him an uncomfortable presence among the mainstream left and has won him new admirers on the dissident right. He is a moralist hostile both to big government and big business. He is a Christian who can't be understood apart from his deep religious conviction that humankind is under divine command to be good caretakers of creation – the land, its creatures and each other.

If you build your politics on this foundation, you will find yourself standing outside the camps of our parties. Most Republicans don't care for him because he is a harsh critic of industrialism, consumerism and the unfettered free market as a destroyer of land, community and healthy traditions. Most Democrats regard him as out of touch because he is a religious man who holds autonomous individualism, especially the sexual freedom it licenses, to be similarly destructive of families, communities and the sacredness of love.

In short, the Kentucky gentleman is an ardent and prolific foe of liberty without responsibility. In that, he embodies Southern writer Flannery O'Connor's charge to "push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

pregnant with God

"Standing at the threshold of another Advent we begin our season of growth and expectation - a time to secret ourselves with Mary, to join our hearts with hers, and to grow pregnant with God together. God invites us to a quiet place of reflection and bounty. This Advent, choose some time for silence. Make space within yourself to grow large with the abundance of God’s favor. Make this a time to fill your lungs deeply with God so that you can breathe Christ into the world."
Thomas Hoffman, A Child in Winter, Sheed & Ward, 2000.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

protecting ourselves from our government

in recent years, the catastrophic practice of mountain top removal has left vast regions of kentucky, west virginia and virginia looking like lifeless, flat moonscapes.  one of the many detrimental and unjust side effects of this greedy retrieval of coal is that residents of these rural counties are left without potable drinking water.  apparently the starting place and source of much of the water throughout the southeastern u.s. are these tiny streams in the eastern part of our state.  right now, president bush is proposing to weaken restrictions that prohibit dumping mountaintop mining waste near rivers and streams.  thank goodness our governor (beshear) and our congressman (ben chandler - an honest and just representative who happens to apply his christian faith to his politics) oppose this.  see this link -

Monday, November 17, 2008

a blessed weekend

a beautiful time of celebration.  check out all of the pics here...if you took some photos or have any reflections about the weekend, please post them or link to them here.

Communality 10 years - Friday

Communality 10 years - Sat. lunch

Communality 10 years - Sat. night

Communality 10 years - Sat. night

Communality 10 years - Sunday

Communality 10 years - Sunday

Communality 10 years - Sunday

Communality 10 years - Sunday

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ten years

a milestone for communality this weekend.

we celebrate God's good work in and through us and welcome the chance to gather together remembering that our story is part of a bigger work - the kingdom coming on earth as it is heaven.


Monday, November 10, 2008

seeker un-friendly church...un-pc jesus

i though these were mildly amusing comedic clips.


musings of an urban farmer

A friend I hadn’t met yet recently called me asking for help. He had been kicked out of a recovery program and needed to stay occupied for a couple of days. He was worried that if he didn’t stay busy, he would start to make some bad choices.

So I met him at one of our gardens. We worked together. We ended up getting to know each other a bit. We talked about compost, his history, cover crops, his art…all kinds of things. This man noted that this was a much better way to spend a morning than what he usually does.

I wish I could tell you that a couple of hours in a garden cured this man of his longing to use substances. But even as he scattered the wheat berries, he recalled a story Jesus told about seeds and where they land, and which ones grow. They didn’t all grow. In the same way, a short time in a garden is not likely to convince a man that he has better things to live for than alcohol.

But on a sunny fall morning, this man had a chance to do something positive, and he did it. The effects of his choice will ripple out from the event into the lives and stories of others. And this is one reason why it is good to have a garden--to give folks who need it something redemptive to do with their time, with their hands.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Meeting Jesus in Momentary Translation

The day is cold and gray and Martin rummages through the remains. He has ten minutes to collect all he can to fight back the wind that will rip through him when he walks out the door. He approaches me from behind, black hat pulled down over his wild, white hair; two teeth jut out from his otherwise toothless mouth as, with a thick French-Canadian accent, he loudly introduces himself and an onslaught of unintelligible jargon escapes. I look to Sean to help me escape this noisy, ancient remnant of a dying generation. I can’t help but shift back and forth on my feet because of my unease. I can hardly understand his sentences. I catch every second or seventh word. I move up and down one stair at a time. But his eyes, a shocking blue, pop because of the backdrop of his white hair; it’s as though they see right through me, which doesn’t help my discomfort. “Dark times!” I hear as I look into his eyes, followed by a rambling of various words and phrases. I interrupt him to introduce myself, realizing at this point that I don’t even know this crazy man standing directly in front of me. I extend my hand, which he takes. In that moment, I experience momentary translation as Martin introduces himself as Martin Carpenter, son of a Flemish-Jewish father and Scottish mother. A bit more rambling ensues until I hear, “haven’t slept in 45 years,” and I’m thinking, this guy is the antithesis of Rip van Winkle. Except that Martin gets about 30 minutes of sleep a night and roams the streets of Edmonton for the rest of the evening. My thoughts are interrupted again, “but God has given me a big heart and working hands; I worked with these hands all my life until the arthritis set in,” as he touches his shoulders and elbows. “Never been married, don’t have any kids, don’t sleep much” followed by another string I can’t understand. “Hey asshole!” I hear as Martin’s friend descends the stairs, “time to go.” And as they head out the doors, I stretch my head into the cold and gray and shout, “Martin, it was great to meet you,” though he just kept walking, which, unless it’s his thirty minute nap-time, he’s probably doing right now. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On November 5th

I know that some people reading this post will be happy about the outcome of the election, and some will not. In fact, that's one of the things I like best about our community -- that we strive to be a place where these differences, while not insignificant, are ultimately subsumed in the saving grace of our Lord.

Yet all of us might recognize the amazing import of last night's decision, the historic nature of barriers being challenged and broken. To see Jesse Jackson shedding tears that are rich with history, to imagine how others might be experiencing this day -- in all humility, I admit that I don't fully realize what this day means. I'm just grateful to have been a part of it, and to be a part of the 4 years to follow.

No matter whom we supported, let's covenant together to uphold both of these men in prayer, in our conversations together, and with the constant reminder that God sees us, and wants our hearts to be fountains of grace, and truth, and faith, and hope, and love.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


* if you are reading this on a computer screen, you are involved!

tonight at our gathering we focused on the democratic republic of congo.  it was a very moving time of hearing about and seeing images from this place - a horrifying litany of struggle and chaos.

we talked about the fact that we are a community of faith and action and that we cannot ignore such injustice .  we discussed the fact that all of our computers, dvd players, and mobile phones require a precious metallic ore (coltan) found in the congo.  we agreed that we are caught up in the conflict over there...when our lips and cheeks and ears touch our cell phones and our finger tips tap on a keyboard, we come into intimate contact with a war that has resulted in as many as 5 million deaths. we heard that there are at least 120 Congolese refugees in our city and some of them still have family in the middle of the violence today.  

it was a harsh reality to face that our consumerism and convenience fuels, as things are presently, an unrelenting war.  we heard the words of scripture that call the people of God to action and away from frivolous religiosity.  we signed letters to our leaders calling on renewed action to bring fairness and justice to trade.  we prayed against apathy, despair, and impotent rage.  we prayed to be more holy people, more engaged and loving citizens of a world that god so loves.

if you are interested in joining in this work here are a couple of good places to start:

for related material on christian action in darfur:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Jesus for President author to visit on Election Day

this article in our local paper's the first part:

"We've found the hope of the planet ... and it's not Obama or McCain or even America, but Christ in the body of the church." — Shane Claiborne, co-author of Jesus for President.

Shane Claiborne believes in change, but he doesn't endorse Barack Obama. He's not a John McCain man, either.

Claiborne also is not big on America's military-industrial complex, conspicuous consumption or the suburbs. He doesn't care for the intertwining of church and state: Christians should be Christians across borders, he thinks, not Christian-Americans who think that respect for God intersects with their respect for the country's ability to push around others.

Claiborne, raised in East Tennessee and now living in Philadelphia, has a different idea for Christians: His latest book, written with Chris Haw, is called Jesus for President. He'll discuss the book at Asbury College in Wilmore on Election Day.

Either you find the book witty, or you're a more earnest type of churchgoer who says that of course Jesus for president is a swell idea, but then who's going to fret about economic meltdown and universal health care? The man from Galilee wasn't exactly a policy wonk.

Claiborne, a dreadlocked inner-city resident who also wrote 2006's The Irresistible Revolution: Living Life as an Ordinary Radical, is an adherent of New Monasticism, which is more about how Christianity walks the walk and less about suburban churches in which worship is an isolated, once-a-week affair like getting an eternal-life shopper's card punched. The movement includes the Communality group in Lexington.

Friday, October 31, 2008

letter from Reginald Meeks

we witnessed a sickening act in our city this week (see this report for background).  we thought this was a good response from one of our state representatives.

(geoff and sherry)

There are times when the body politic needs to be shocked into recognizing and admitting what some parts of the body know to be true.

The Kentucky we want to believe exists, and the Kentucky that does exist for many is not the same Kentucky.

The hate-filled, cowardly and despicable actions of whomever was behind the planning for and committing of this crime should serve as a reminder to each of us that we must be honest with ourselves, and work diligently to wipe out the flames this act is designed to fan. I urge the authorities at the University of Kentucky, and the relevant federal and state authorities, to investigate this crime, find the person or persons responsible, and to prosecute the matter to the fullest extent of the law.

I also urge each of them to reach out to the African American students and other students of color at the University of Kentucky and in the Lexington community to assure them of their ultimate safety and protection today, and in these days leading up to the General Election.

Any and all steps should be taken in the Lexington community to ensure this act does not have a chilling effect on the community's safety as they go to the polls next Tuesday.

President Lee Todd and his staff, deserve to be recognized for having the sensitivity and understanding to respond quickly and comprehensively to this threat to the peace and tranquility of all Kentuckians, regardless of color.

Finally, I want to say to Senator Barack Obama, Michele Obama and their entire family that this act is but one more on a long list of obstacles, challenges, yes, threats, you have faced as you have climbed the rough side of this mountain. I am deeply hurt that the state and the people in Kentucky whom I love would be represented to you, and to the country, in such a dishonorable way. We understand this is a symptom, and the best way to treat this symptom is for the Nation to have a successful General Election on Tuesday, and prove, once and for all, that we recognize the character of the man, the strength of his heart and the power of his convictions are the cure American needs to end this sickness. God bless and keep you and your family safe.

State Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville


Reginald K. Meeks

Assoc. Director of External Programs

University of Louisville

College of Arts & Sciences

Gardiner Hall, Rm. 330

Louisville, KY 40292


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

godspeed the plow conference

a great conference coming up Nov. 7th and 8th.

Godspeed the Plough!:
The Church and The Redemptive Practice of Agriculture

A conversation on church, food and economy; an exploration of what it means for our churches to be faithful witnesses to God's work of redeeming a fallen creation.

Food is one of the basic elements of human life, and yet in many churches there has been little reflection upon how our eating habits intersect with our call to live peaceably with all humanity, and indeed all creation. In recent years, there have been plenty of prophetic voices (e.g., Wendell Berry,  Michael Pollan) calling us to re-examine how we eat, but how do we respond as  communities of God's people to these calls? Maybe we eat less. Maybe we eat more local foods. Maybe we work together to grow some of our own food. Let's come together in November and share our stories and encourage one another to a more just pattern of eating.

Friday, October 24, 2008

pray for the pres

We all have our opinions about who should be the next president...but I think we can all agree that whomever it is, needs our prayers! I found this prayer on the UMC website. A prayer we can pray in the days leading to the election...

A Prayer for the United States Presidential Election

by The Rev. Kenneth H. Carter, Jr

Creator of us all:
you are the source of every blessing,
the judge of every nation
and the hope of earth and heaven:

We pray to you on the eve of this important and historic election.

We call to mind the best that is within us:
That we live under God,
that we are indivisible,
that liberty and justice extend to all.

We acknowledge the sin that runs through our history as a nation:
The displacement of native peoples, racial injustice,
economic inequity, regional separation.

And we profess a deep and abiding gratitude
for the goodness of ordinary people who have made sacrifices,
who have sought opportunities,
who have journeyed to this land as immigrants
and strengthened its promise in successive generations,
who have found freedom on these shores,
and defended this freedom at tremendous cost.

Be with us in the days that are near.
Remind us that your ways are not our ways,
that your power and might transcend
the plans of every nation,
that you are not mocked.

Let those who follow your Son Jesus Christ be a peaceable people
in the midst of division.

Send your Spirit of peace, justice and freedom upon us,
break down the walls of political partisanship,
and make us one.

Give us wisdom to walk in your ways,
courage to speak in your name,
and humility to trust in your providence.


keep our commitments

speaking of justice...check out this link associated with the ONE campaign:

...and please send an email to McCain and Obama about this critical issue.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a word about injustice

Just before Pete and I returned to the states from Southeast Asia, a friend asked if we had ever heard of International Justice Missions.  At the time, they had a position open in Thailand, and our friends were trying to tempt us to look into...hoping we would choose to stay in Southeast Asia.  We looked the job up, but didn't feel it was the right time to pursue it.  However, I admit that I have checked out their job board several times in the last month...hey, we miss being overseas!  But we've bought a house to safeguard ourselves from making any rushed decisions.  For now, we are back in Kentucky.  But my main reason for telling you all of this, is that I just discovered that IJM has a blogsite.  It posts updates on injustice issues around the world, even including internationals within the USA who are victims of injustice.  Since Communality is a community interested in justice, I thought I would let you all know of this blogsite:  
  Their mission as stated on the blog: "International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.  IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local governments to ensure victim rescue, to prosecute perpetrators and to strengthen the community and civic factors that promote functioning public justice systems."

fully human

it is such a joy to be hosting mary fisher in lexington.  she has been more than generous with her time; talking with us about politics and jesus. last night, she shared her insights into the triune god and mission, this as part of a placed people occasional school.  tonight she will join us for our discipleship groups where we will talk about the fact that truth is essentially relation (embodied).

mary has many things to teach us as a biblical scholar, theologian, and grounded missionary.  one of the things that is most compelling to me is her insight into personhood and the social nature of being properly human.  this, she contends, flows from an understanding that creator god is triune and delights in meeting us where we are.  to be caught up in the life of such a god is to take on those outwardly oriented, self-sacrificial traits.  god knows that we long to be in communion with creation, each other, and with god's self.

jumping to another wonderful communicator....mark sayers is a remarkable student of our times.  his post today about hugh hefner entitiled, 'a very lonely playboy' adds weight to mary's insights.  well worth reading along with his post about 'the unadulterated pleasure of limits'.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10/16 Film Fundraiser: "The Ordinary Radicals"

BIG REMINDER - get the word out and bring everyone you can


The Ordinary Radicals: A Conspiracy of Faith on the Margins of Empire

a fundraiser for Kentucky Refugee Ministries


7 p.m. - 10 p.m. Thursday

October 16th


Kentucky Theater

214 East Main Street


Tickets are $7.50 each.  Purchase tickets in advance by calling 859.231.7924 or 859.231.6997


This full-length documentary film is a fundraiser for Kentucky Refugee Ministries to help with their work settling refugees in central Kentucky.  The film's director, Jamie Moffet, will be present for live interview and Q & A after the showing.

Click here to view the film's trailer.

In the margins of the United States, there lives a revolutionary Christianity.  One with a quiet disposition that seeks to do 'small things with great love,' and in so doing is breaking 21st Century stereotypes surrounding this 2000 year old faith. 'The Ordinary Radicals' is set against the modern American political and social backdrop of the next Great Awakening. Traveling across the United States on a tour to promote the book 'Jesus for President', Shane Claiborne and a rag-tag group of 'ordinary radicals' interpret Biblical history and its correlation with the current state of American politics. Sharing a relevant outlook for people with all faith perspectives, director Jamie Moffett examines this growing movement.

Featuring Interviews with:

Shane Claiborne - Author, "The Irresistible Revolution" and Co-Author of "Jesus For President"

Chris Haw - Co-Author, "Jesus For President"

Tony Campolo - Author, "Red Letter Christians"

Jim Wallis - Author, "God's Politics" and "The Great Awakening"

Brian McLaren - Author, "Everything Must Change" and "The Secret Message of Jesus"

John Perkins - Author, "Let Justice Roll Down" and "Beyond Charity"

Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove - "New Monasticism" and "Free To Be Bound"

Donald Kraybill - Author, "Amish Grace", "The Upside-Down Kingdom" and "The Riddle of Amish Culture"

Bruce Main - Author, "Spotting the Sacred"

Ron Sider - Author, "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" and "The Scandal of Evangelical Politics"

Brian Walsh - Author, "Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire"

Zack Exley - Writer, "Revolution in Jesusland" and the pioneering organizer for

Leroy Barber - President of MissionYear and featured in the book "unChristian"

Peter Illyn - Contributor, "The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World" and featured in: "The New Conspirators"

Becky Garrison - Author, "Red and Blue God" and "The New Atheist Crusaders"

Rick Perlstein - Author, "Nixonland"

Lisa Sharon Harper - Playwright, and Executive Director of NY Faith & Justice




One Horizon Foundation


Bill Kenney
(859) 233-9777

Friday, October 10, 2008

Politics and Radical Inclusion

I've been thinking more about politics this year than ever before, thanks in large part to being immersed in a community of such thoughtful people. This is the first election cycle here I've been more than a casual observer and participant. (Ok, I'm still a casual participant, but I'm observing much more intentionally.) And I'm trying to figure out how to hold opinions thoughtfully and strongly while holding more tightly to the people whom I love and respect, and to the character of Christ which we try to cultivate in our community.

At our fellowship time last Sunday, our friend Will led us in a discussion of politics. What do we think of politics? How does the process make us feel? How does our participation in the body of Christ affect (and effect) our political involvement? One text we discussed was Matthew 18, and how Jesus' instruction to treat those who sin against us "as Gentiles and tax collectors" is actually a call for radical inclusion (since Jesus tended to hang out with Gentiles and tax collectors). I wondered how such radical inclusion would shape the manner and content of our increasingly polarized political discourse. Can we have close friends and family who vote differently? How do we relate to someone who believes passionately about something with which we disagree? What hope is there for us to journey together towards those goals we share in common?

A friend, who's a lifelong and rabid (er, devoted) fan of the University of Georgia, said something which struck me as quite insightful. "So many people," he commented, "seem to be Democrats or Republicans the same way that I'm a Dawgs fan." It's a great analogy, startling in its clarity and evocation of an almost blind devotion to a certain allegiance. While this is entirely appropriate in the realm of sports (Go Cowboys [despite Terrell Owens]!!), it's hardly conducive to thoughtful political conversation. How do we, as participants in the kingdom of God, reduce the stridency of our discourse and genuinely seek that radical inclusion that we find in Scripture?

I have definite opinions, some of which I've posted about at Temperance Girl. And in all fairness, this post and this post I did on Palin weren't exactly moderate in nature. (Although this post about Obama and McCain had a much more conciliatory tone.) How do we dialogue meaningfully and graciously? I'm not sure. I don't have a tidy theological answer. What I do have are 2 close, close friends and several family members who will certainly make a different choice on Nov. 4th than I will make. And I'm committed to them, just as committed as to the folks with whom I largely agree. I don't hate them, they don't hate me. We love and respect each other. How do we find the courage to sit down with someone and say, "Tell me why I should care about this issue. Tell me why you are voting for this person. I may not agree, but I want to know. And I'm really listening." And how do we have the grace to answer this question, not with arrogance and hubris, but with a passion tempered by humility?

What do we do?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sober update from China....

Today Greg and I got the opportunity to travel to the north of Chengdu to the rural outlying areas of Sichuan Province ravaged by the recent earthquake. It was a remarkable and sobering experience that I know we will never forget. About 90,000 people were killed in the earthquake. Tens of thousands more lost their homes and are still living in makeshift shelters or temporary housing provided by the government. We visited the village of Bai Hua where 700 people were killed including 7 children at the local school that we are helping to rebuild through an OHF sponsored fundraising intiative. The village of Bai Hua was actually fortunate to lose only seven children as many other village schools lost staggering numbers of young people (the earthquake hit in the middle of the school day). As the photographs below indicate, the village school at Bai Hua took a direct hit but managed to stand; I thank God for that one gift amidst the tragedy. Observing the badly damaged building Greg remarked that is was like the "building gave up its life to save those inside it"-yes it did, thank God. The force of this earthquake was astounding, causing whole sides of surrounding mountains to collapse into the valleys below, sometimes crashing down on homes. I have never seen anything like this is my life. It was incredibly humbling. I thought a lot about my young daughter Miranda as I looked at the crushed remains of the school wash room where the children died. How do you process something like this? One very bright ray of hope was that we actually happened to visit on the day when they were celebrating breaking ground for the new school that is going to be built. It was a really serendipitous confluence of events and a great way to wind up a challenging visit like this one. I'm really glad that we're making an investment in the recovery of this village and the people who live there. They are amazingly strong and resilent people who have really inspired me to keep going in this is not always easy.

Children lined up to celebrate ground-breaking ceremony for new school

This is me examining a large crack in the wall of a classroom...unbelievable....

Astounding....whole sides of mountains collapsed..this is one of the smaller ones...

A local plant that was completely flattened by the earthquake.......

The school building that truly did give its life to save the occupants.....

Major cracks in the first story of the building...but it held.....

The remains of the school washroom where 7 children died

A local villager who gave Greg the "thumbs up"....a great moment of human connection

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Update from China.....

Greg and are wrapping up the first week of our trip to China. It has been an amazing experience thus far and I thought that I would share a few quick details. We flew to Shanghai from Atlanta and then on to Chengdu in Sichuan province. We spent a couple of days in Chengdu and then flew for the weekend up to the Tibetan Plateau to the north of the Himalayas. We literally landed on top of a mountain that had been converted to a real descent, the mountains coming up to meet the plane.....incredible views. We then hurried off to Yellow Dragon Mountain, speeding dizzily through switchbacks to heights approaching 16 thousand feet...a pretty harrowing drive, Greg got motion sick....pretty rough night but recovered well. We spent the whole next day touring Jiuzhaigou nationa park...really beautiful, spectacular views, lakes, and to spend some time with some of the ethnic Tibetans, lots of great food like Yak meat, spicy eels, indigenous vegetables, mushrooms, and other things....we flew back to Chengdu today and will be here tomorrow and then going up to the village of Bai Hua Thursday to see the earthquake devastation and try to assess some of the work we're trying to do there-then it will be on to Beijing, Shanghai, and back home. I think we've had a good balance of business and team/relationship building for OHF...talking about our future as we're awed by nature, daunted by the complexity and scope of development, and struggling to put into perspective catastrophic natural disasters like 90,000 dead in the Sichuan earthquake...we're deeply thankful for this opporunity and for your support.....keep praying for us....look forward to seeing you all soon.....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the green bible

this wonderful edition of that old favorite (the bible) is now being released.  just the right thing for 'the people of the book' in these times.

congratulations to matthew who has written the introduction...other essays in this bible by such luminaries as N. T. Wright, Barbara Brown Taylor, Brian McLaren, Matthew Sleeth, Pope John Paul II, and Wendell Berry.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Ordinary Radicals" premiere in Lexington!

At 7pm on Thursday, October 16 Communality will be sponsoring a viewing of the movie "The Ordinary Radicals" at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington. The viewing will be from 7-9pm followed by a live Q&A with the director Jamie Moffet and a short presentation from our good friends at Kentucky Refugee Ministries. But here is the best part about it. This viewing is going to double as a fundraiser for KRM with 100% of the proceeds from the $7.50 tickets going to KRM! This is a fantastic opportunity for us to put our faith into action while we explore together what God is doing anew in America through "ordinary radicals." Please help us sell this theatre out and spread the word about what God is doing through ordinary people all across America. You can view the trailer for "The Ordinary Radicals" here:

You can contact the Kentucky Theatre at 231-7924 or 231-6997 for tickets....please republish this post on your own blog if you want or spread the word at your own local church/group.....I have posters if you need them

Saturday, September 13, 2008

sunday night

here are a couple of recent pics from our life together in communality.  these are from one of our sunday night gatherings.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Atta Boy, Obama; Atta Boy, McCain

There are already so many posts about this year's presidential race; there's so much to process in this inevitably historic year. But in the midst of all the politics as usual, there are moments of true graciousness and statesmanship -- on both sides -- that bear highlighting and commendation. Here are two.

Example #1: When Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination fell on the 45th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, McCain aired a TV ad congratulating Obama on this historic moment. Watch it here.

Example #2: When Gov. Palin announced that her 17 yr old daughter is expecting, Obama adamantly denounced the media's involving families in the campaign tactics, and wasn't afraid to name the similarities between the Palins' situation and his own childhood.

"We don't go after people's families. We don't get them involved in the politics. It's not appropriate and it's not relevant. Our people were not involved in any way in this and they will not be. And if I ever thought there was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they'd be fired," Obama said.

Obama also said: "This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as a governor or potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories."

"You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And how families deal with issues and teenage children - that shouldn't be the topic of our politics," Obama said.

Good on ya', both of you.