Thursday, December 24, 2009

kentucky christmas

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

here it is (again, 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.......

Monday, December 21, 2009

advent IV - conceive

In this final week of Advent, almost upon the inbreaking of Christmas, we conceive of reality in which the Messiah is right here. Imagine the coming of Messiah. Break out of cynicism and pessimism. Challenge yourself and others with the presumption that God is acting and that creation is being drawn into redemption - conceive the re:creation that starts with Jesus and continues with us.  Conceive of a love as genuine, as tangible, and as pervasive as the struggle which we more readily perceive. Let that conception be birthed in your actions.

This is the stuff of faith.... a substantial outworking of what we haven't fully seen yet; the kingdom of God, just within reach.

God calls us to the same radical re-visioning of life to which the people of God have been called throughout Scripture. We are called to "see" through the eyes of God's redemptive story. Mary is told that she will become an unwed mother, and she obediently rejoices. Zechariah hears that he will be a father, contrary to reason and biology, and loses his voice for his unbelief. Joseph moves his family to Egypt on the word of a dream and the trust of his faith. Magi journey to see in flesh the child whom they have glimpsed in the stars.

And the beauty of submitting to the dreams of God is that they become reality.

Some suggestions for action:

  • Give $10 when asked for a quarter by the guy on the street. Imagine that God can change a life with grace.
  • Take lunch with a coworker whom you've written off as "impossible". Imagine that you can appreciate them without antagonism.
  • Imagine an hour without cynicism, skepticism, fear, distrust, or something else that you struggle with.... and then meditate on your feelings within the context of the whole redemptive story of God, and the ultimate hope of new life.
  • Imagine your own action, and post a comment here.
  • read these scriptures and let them shape your imagining: Isaiah 2:1-5, Isaiah 11:1-10, Isaiah 35:1-10.

east end

here's some video from the east end tree lighting a couple of weeks ago...keep an eye out for the Brown kids and Luella.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

a child is born

Good news!  Billy and Maria wanted everyone to know their son, Roman Matthew was born at 2.38am this morning.  21.5 inches long and 8pounds 9oz.  Mother and child are doing very well.


what would jesus buy?



we're screening "What Would Jesus Buy?", a documentary by Morgan Scurlock, at Third Street Stuff this coming Sunday(12/20), beginning at 8pm.

To watch the trailer, go here

The movie documents Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, as they head across the States coast to coast, bringing their prophetic message of hope in the face of rampant consumerism in the Reverend Billy's inimitable style. It's a lot of fun - hope you can join us for some holiday beverages and the movie - support your local coffee shop! And bring a friend or three.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent III: Be Patient – Dec. 13th 2009


Wholeness, love, and joy come with the Advent of Messiah. We've been awakened to that. But we've also been awakened to the reality that our journey is potholed by brokenness, hate and discontent... and we're caught in the middle.

We welcome the coming. We are surprised and challenged by the glimpses of advent that God reveals to us, and we would welcome its full coming sooner. We expect it; we anticipate it; we long for it.

And we wait.

Wait for the coming of Messiah. Slow down and watch for it carefully. The faithful have been doing so since the story began. Abraham looked for the seed of blessing, and only caught a glimpse. David shepherded the people of Israel in seeking God's heart, and struggled through. Isaiah prophesied of the judgment and restoration of that inbreaking of Messiah, and himself waited for that culmination.

And so we wait as well... and active, hope-filled waiting leads us to faithfulness.... and calls us to patience.

Some suggestions for action:

· Fast from convenience - the microwave, the car, the drive-thru, the internet/email, fast food.

· Choose to wait in line. Take the "human" register at the supermarket and take the time to tell the cashier, "I appreciate you."

· Think of a person or situation that has left you in a place of exasperation or wanting to give up, and pray for patience. Genuinely, expectantly... pray for patience.

Readings - Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the marriage-go-round

“The Marriage-Go-Round: the state of marriage and the family in America today”
Andrew J. Cherlin


I just finished this fascinating book and wanted to post a few quotes here in case any of you find it helpful. I have not read many books this year that do a better job of describing the culture we have made around us. I thought it might just be an interesting book about marriage but the author surveys all the radiating issues of family, hyper-mobility, religion, and individuality as they occur in our historical moment.


The basic question of the book is, “why, more than any other western country, does America emphasize the importance of marriage as a positive cultural idea?” The concluding chapter is called “slow down.” This is the author’s tonic for what he sees as an unhealthy and frenetic relationship merry-go-round (see the last quote below). Here are some nuggets that give you a hint about the author’s insight and conclusions. (if you live in Lexington...i am returning the book to the library today so it's up for grabs)

“Without doubt, the, there are more breakups of marriage and cohabiting couples in the United States than in any other Western country with the possible exception of New Zealand. So not only do Americans marry more, they also divorce more. Further, they end their cohabiting relationships more quickly. So they start and end partnerships with a speed that is virtually unmatched.” (p.18)


“Ones primary obligation is to oneself rather than to one’s partner and children…As a twenty-first-century individual, you must choose your style of personal life. You are allowed to – in fact, you are almost required to – continually monitor your sense of self and to look inward to see how well your inner life fits with your married (or cohabiting) life. If the fit deteriorates, you are almost required to leave. For according to the cultural model of individualism, a relationship that no longer fits your needs is inauthentic and hollow. It limits the personal rewards that you, and perhaps your partner, can achieve. In this event, a breakup is unfortunate, but you will, and must, move on.” (p31)


“Across Protestant and Catholic religious life, the spirituality of seeking was not about laws or doctrines but about finding a style of spirituality that made you feel good, that seemed to fit your personality. Just so, individualized marriage was not about rules and traditions but rather about finding a style of family life that gave you the greatest personal rewards. Religion became a site for self-development – a place where you could continually “learn and grow,”…– and so did marriage. Rather than inheriting your faith from your forefathers, you were free to choose your own through a process that might involve exploring several churches. Similarly, you were free to choose your spouse through a process that might involve living with more than one partner in order to make that choice. And should you become personally dissatisfied with your church, you could leave in search of another, more fulfilling one. So, too, could you leave your marriage if you become dissatisfied with it. Both the spirituality of seeking and the individualized marriage became part of the larger project of developing your self-identity, a quest that became the focus of personal life for more and more Americans during the last several decades of the twentieth century.” (pp.107-8)


“The result is that we have sped up the hands of the relationship clock. We have more turbulence in our family lives, more changes of partners and parents, than any other nation. This unprecedented rapidity reflects a cultural contradiction between marriage and individualism that most Americans carry around in their heads. It is as if we each use two lenses to view family life and shift between them unaware, like an automatic camera effortlessly adjusting its focus from close-up to panoramic views of the same scene. One view emphasizes the desirability of marriage and, by extension, stable long-term relationships. The other emphasis self-development and causes people to end relationships that no longer provide the benefits they think they need. The cycling back and forth we do between these two views whirls the American marry-go-round of partnership after partnership faster than anywhere else in the Western world.” (p.201-2)

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

Please join us for National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.  On December 20 (just prior to the first day of winter and the longest night of the year), the Hope Center invites you to join us as we remember those who have died homeless in our community during 2009.

George Privett Recovery Center

250 W. Loudon Ave.

Lexington, Ky.

Sunday, December 20

5 p.m.

Each attendee is asked to bring a warm item of clothing or loaf of bread that will be distributed to Hope Center clients.

If you have questions, please contact Kim Livesay at (859) 252-7881 or

Kim Livesay

Director of Community Relations

The Hope Center

360 W. Loudon Ave.

Lexington, KY  40508

(859) 252-7881, ext. 3008

(859) 230-1205 (cell)

(859) 255-0749 (fax)

Monday, December 07, 2009

pics to go with advent 2

advent week 2 - welcome

advent week 2 - welcome

advent week 2 - welcome

advent week 2 - welcome

advent week 2 - welcome

Advent II: Welcome – Dec. 6th 2009


Welcoming the Advent means welcoming not only Messiah come to us, but also welcoming Messiah come through us. We welcome as God has welcomed.... graciously, eagerly, lavishly, expectantly. This week of Advent, open yourself up and invite the "other" in. You may find you are hosting Jesus; you may find that Jesus is hosting you. This welcome surprises us. It comes in times and places that are unexpected, and draws us into journeys that are challenging. No less could be expected of the coming of Messiah.

The call of the first Advent was the call of love and was the call of transformation. Within the incarnation is found the welcoming of God on all that is human; it is a divine and intimate embrace of creation, if you will. Similarly then, in that same incarnation is found the exposure and rejection of all that is inhumane; and herein lies our responsibility to welcoming the new life to which God invites us.

We hope to go beyond remembering this Advent season. We want to do more than recall the events of 2000 years ago. We hope to learn what it means for us to be re-made and re-formed as if this incarnation was as close to you in time and space as the skin on your hands and the tears in your eyes. Our being welcomed by and welcoming Messiah should quicken us with the same present-tense energy as today’s headlines.

Some suggestions for action:

· Host a lavish dinner at your place and invite someone who would not be able to do the same for you.

· Spend time in prayer and meditation. Imagine that you have an evening get together with an old friend, and share that kind of time and space with God.

· Invite the change and transformation of repentance. Call on a friend with whom you can be vulnerable and open up your sins and struggles with him or her.

· Read Romans 15:1-13..."welcome one another!"

Readings - Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Thursday, December 03, 2009

gospel fest pics - restore voting rights to former felons!

restore voting rights

restore voting rights

restore voting rights

restore voting rights

restore voting rights

this is Tayna Fogle, the wonderful community activist responsible for the gathering

restore voting rights

State Representative, Jesse Crenshaw

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


we are foregoing our usual gathering at the high st house tonight to join in with the saints for the event described below.



Gospel Fest to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons who have served their debt to society.


Wednesday, December 2nd at 6:30pm

(Arrive at 6pm if you'd like to visit the many organizations tabling at the event - or purchase some barbecue. Call: (859) 231-1555 to reserve a plate.)


Imani Baptist Church

1555 Georgetown Rd, Lexington, KY


Featuring great church choirs, soloists, and hip-hop talents from all over Lexington and the rest of the state.

Free! - But donations to Kentuckians For The Commonwealth are welcome.

Performing Groups:

- Wayside Christian Missionary - Louisville - ministry of Former Felons - "Down By The Wayside"

- Total Praise - Lexington. House of God choir.

- Voices of Bethsaida - Lexington. Bethsaida Baptist

- Black Phoenix Gang - Louisville, KY.

- Vettina People- Wright - Lexington, Ky Historic Pleasant Green

- Knucklehead Muzik. Louisville - Former- Felons. Hip-hop Gospel.

- Karen Dishman - solo Lexington

- Rene Felder-Riley - solo - former-felon Lexington

- Brandi - solo, Cincinnati, Ohio Impact Life Ministries

- Jerry Moody - solo KFTC member

- Elsie Speed - solo - Chronic Pain Support Inc.

- Jeff/Brianna Schultz - duo - Northern, Ky. Kentucky Jail Ministries

- Edwards Singers: Jimtown, Ky.


- State Representative: Jessie Crenshaw "HB 70"

- Change Recovery House for Women: Kim Moore - Director

- Isaiah House Recovery Center: Choe Sergent

- Brighton Recovery Center For Women: Anita Prater - Director

- Drug Court: Stephen Lyons - Graduate

To download a flyer about the event, visit

Issue Background:

Kentucky is one of the two most difficult states for a former felon to get their voting rights back in. 186,000 Kentuckians can't vote because of these laws - including 1 in 4 African Americans.

We think that after someone has served their time, they should be given back their right to vote - because that's the fair thing to do and because it make's Kentucky's Democracy stronger.

Sponsored by:

Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

and co-sponsored by People Advocating Recovery, Never Alone, and other organizations.


Tayna Fogle - 859-270-9470 - Dave Newton - 859-420-8919 -

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mary's journey

This is a posting from our blog, lopetsinlaos, but I thought I would share it here on the Ashram as well.

It’s advent season in the church calendar. It’s the time of year that I like to stop and ponder so that the season doesn’t pass by only to end with a heap of wrapping paper and extra pounds from the big Christmas meal. The cool weather, Christmas music, and lights all help to serve as reminders that this is a special season...a special time of the year. How easily it can become buried in running around from store to store to find those “perfect” gifts. I have found myself in the last minute shopping crowd more times than I care for.
This year, the advent season means a season of moving and packing up for us. We waited to begin packing until after Thanksgiving. Thankfully (yes, I am thankful) it allowed us to enjoy a few extra weeks of “normalcy” before we have had to enter this transition stage. I have dreaded the transition stage. Truly dreaded it.
Last night I sat at our Sunday fellowship, in the darkness, as they lit the first advent candle and talked about the idea of “awakening”. I found myself numb and barely able to concentrate on what they were saying. All good stuff, stuff that I wanted to hear and chew on. As I said, I like to be thoughtful and ponder the meaning of the seasons. I don’t want them to just pass me by. But moving and transition seem to be trumping this Christmas season. Does this mean that our Christmas will take the form of packing and saying good-byes? Is it possible for us to open our hearts to the Christmas story? To stop and reflect and take time to really be present to the arrival of Jesus?
As I lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself that we have to be moving out of our home so quickly (December 15 is the deadline for all of our stuff to be out) a thought entered my mind. Mary and Joseph were sent to Bethlehem to have their baby. Mary must have felt the desire to nest and make a home for herself and the new baby. And yet, she packed up her few belongings and set off on a long journey on the back of a donkey. She wasn’t able to “book” her return ticket...she had no idea where they would be staying until the baby’s arrival. They had no reservations at a comfortable hotel. Wow, she must have been feeling anxious or overwhelmed...I know I would have.
Somehow in my moments of self-pity, this reflection of Mary came to comfort me. In a time when it made the most sense for her to stay put and rest and await the baby’s arrival, she was packing up, moving to an unknown destination, and with a lot of question marks ahead of her. She merely had to trust that God was leading her to a good place. That he was with her. That he would take care of her and her baby. Blind faith.
And here I am. I am feeling the unsettledness. I am not about to have a baby (thankfully...), but I am leaving our place of stability. I am heading out into a time of unknown. How long will it take us to find a home in Laos? How long will we be “homeless” and living out of our suitcases? How long until I can find a sense of normalcy again? And so I can look to Mary’s story...her own moments of unknown...and be comforted.
While this isn’t my ideal way to spend the advent season, there is still meaning to be found in the Christmas story. I can journey through this advent on the back of a donkey, and hopefully learn the same lessons of faith from my friend Mary.

Advent I: Awake – week of Nov. 29th 2009

Wake up! Rub away the comfort of drowsy eyes and take a look around. We live in a world of injustice and pain... Can you see it? Can you hear it? It echoes from the groaning of the earth consumed by greed, to the cry of the refugee torn from her country, to the silence of the man sitting cold and alone on the park bench downtown.

Advent calls us to become aware of the need for healing, for hope, and for help. Advent calls us to be awakened to the need for Messiah. As the faithful waited for the advent of the Messiah many years ago, their longing was filled with the desperation of those on the margins. During this Advent, let's participate in that desperate expectancy by remembering and confronting the brokenness and struggle around and within us.... so awaking ourselves both to the need for and hope of God's life-renewal.

Some suggestions for action:

· Fast this week... skip lunch, or simply eat rice and beans for supper. Remember those for whom choosing what or whether to eat is not an option.

· Donate time and money saved by fasting to Kid’s CafĂ© (E. 7th St Center).

· Sit outside for an hour... on your porch, in the park, where ever. Experience the cold and remember those with whom you share this hour.

· Donate a coat and/or scarf to Kentucky Refugee Ministries as they welcome folks relocating to Lexington who are not used to the cold of winter.

· Read Scripture: Mark 14: 32-42  -  your eyes are very heavy…keep awake!, Matthew 24:37-44  -  be awake and ready, Romans 13:8-14 – now is the moment for you to wake from sleep.

Readings - First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Sunday, November 29, 2009

east end tree lighting

everyone is welcome to come and share in the hot chocolate, hot cider, and caroling at the east end holiday celebration here.

Christmas Tree Lighting &

Ornament Ceremony

Monday, November 30th

5:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Isaac Murphy Park @

East Third & Midland

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Which to choose?

Here is a poem from Marcie Hans that I posted some time ago along with a Leunig cartoon from Geoff. I think these two go well together. Taken together I think they are a good source for meditation as we try to figure out how to relate to one another in a world torn by war; also pertinent as we enter the advent season and prepare to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace (CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT).


Fueled by a million man-made wings of fire
the rocket tore a tunnel through the sky
and everybody cheered.
only by a thought from God –
the seedling
urged its way
through the thickness of black –
and as it pierced
the heavy ceiling of the soil –
and launched itself up into outer space-
No one even clapped.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


For the past three months we have been gathering on Wednesday nights at the High Street House to share a bowl of soup and to share our stories. We have received these times as sheer gift, as we continue to get to know the people we are choosing to do life with here in Lexington. There has been lots of laughter, many beautiful and/or goofy photos, some tears, a few revelations of the "I can't believe I didn't know that about you" kind from those who have been family together for years, along with much courage as people have shared painful and difficult chapters of their story, some the writing of which has yet to be completed. After hearing from two people each week, we sit them on the missionary chest that serves as an altar for our community, and then spend some tender time in prayer for them, with gratitude and blessing for their story as it gets caught up in the unfolding Story of God.
Last night we heard two more beautiful stories, both of which offered the precious gift of vulnerability. I found myself thinking about them as I lay my head on the pillow last night and again as I rose to run this morning. Both of these stories are being shaped by relinquishing, by letting go of something.
A young woman shared the damage that the perfectionism she had internalized had wrought in her life and of the freedom she had found in making the decision to walk away from formal education as a bright and motivated student who was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Relinquishing expectations and opportunity has begun to heal the harm perfectionism has caused her. She concluded with eloquent tearfulness, as she described something else that has caused her pain over the years of which she is being invited to let go: her perception and experience of a profoundly masculine God. This belief has led her - as a young girl and as a woman - to question what it means for her to be made in the image of God: something which God intends to lead to wholeness and identity security, but which for her has led to feelings of somehow being "less than" simply because of her gender. As she opens herself to experiencing the femininity of God, she is continuing her journey towards wholeness and shalom.
The second story we received has also been deeply shaped by relinquishing and was told by a young man who is a relative newcomer to Communality. His two decade search for a life and community that embodies his evolving understanding and experience of the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures has led him into voluntary homelessness in Lexington. He shared his experience of being invited by God to be homeless for a season, to relinquish the security of home and the stuff to which he finds himself deeply attached. I found the gentle and authentic spirit with which he told his story compelling and it has continued to cause me to reflect on my own need for security and control, and the comfort I find sitting in the midst of my books, something which he has specifically chosen to relinquish.
The gift of story is profound and one for which I am deeply grateful as I seek to live more faithfully into the Story of God.
(I found the image for this post online, but was unable to identify the artist for which I apologize.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

why in the world?

spotted this article at jonny's site and thought it worthy of a link here.


Tobias Jones: why I'm setting up a woodland commune

Why would anyone give up a normal family life in order to set up a community for people in crisis? A writer explains why he has decided the time has come to take a deeply unconventional leap in the dark

"why in the world?" is a common (and natural) reaction/question when someone declares a desire to open their home.  Tobias Jones gives a compelling and gracious answer in this article.  though it remains to be seen how things pan out ("between our dreams and actions lies this world" - mr springsteen) i'm inspired by the someone who is so clearly inspired.  Sherry and I also enjoyed hearing Tobias speak about his journeys (resulted in this book) a couple of Greenbelts ago.

an agrarian solution to unemployment

you can't listen to "the news" very long without hearing about "the jobless".  i thought this was an interesting piece from earlier in the year...a way to both address employment problems in Japan and meet a growing market for local food. (in the Wall Street Journal)

here's the link...and here's a taster

Seeing agriculture as one of the few industries that could generate jobs right now, the government has earmarked $10 million to send 900 people to job-training programs in farming, forestry and fishing. Japan's unemployment rate was 4.4% in February, up from 3.9% a year earlier, but still lower than the U.S. or Europe. Some economists expect the figure to rise to a record 8% or so within the next couple of years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanksgiving to friends......

This morning I received an e-mail from a social networking site reminding me that today is the birthday of a friend of mine. The friend's name is Terry Fraley (Terry is the big guy in the blue shirt on the far left of the picture). A few people within our community will know who Terry is, but most of you will not. The reason that I'm writing about this is because Terry died on February 7, 2009 at the age of 44. Terry had numerous health problems that plagued him over the years of our friendship, and many of these problems were exacerbated by a prolonged battle with prescription drug abuse and the grinding stress of chronic mental health problems. Terry had Borderline Personality Disorder and was a self-injurer. I remember a couple of Terry's cuts being so bad that it took up to a dozen or more stitches to close them. "How could someone ever do that to their body?", I remember asking myself in those days. Though sincere, I was ignorant, generally clueless about the reality of mental illness and not a little judgemental in the ways that can only be exposed by the deep down gut-wrenching examination in which these types of "no suitable answer" situations place us. But just like Jesus, through his suffering Terry helped me to learn; and he helped me to be redeemed in a manner that could not have happened otherwise. He was another in a long line of tortured mentors helping me to love better, bringing enlightement to my ignorance and a more sober sense of conviction to my efforts.

Sometimes I did not see Terry for months on end. One time while we were out of town Maria and I loaned him our truck so that he could go and see his daughter in Hazard. We also gave him the keys to our house so that he could use our computer to work on his resume. When we returned we discovered that Terry had used our checkbook to pay his rent and had been ordering things online with our bank account information. When confronted Terry confessed readily to all of it. We tried to work it out amongst ourselves as believers living by grace; we were dissappointed in the initial results but pleasantly surprised in the long run....we tried to suffer long with each other...we went through a couple of revolutions just like this...we held on to each other, tenuously, for years. We were rarely ever together in "Church," but we kept finding our way back together when it seemed to matter the most. And on more than one occassion we were able to find our way back together because our mutual friend Scott Morehead was always helping us to build the bridge back to one another.

Terry always possessed great admiration for Scott, and absolutely loved spending time with him. I think that in some ways Scott was Terry's ideal self; he was an accomplished physician, devoted husband and dedicated parent. Terry was very bright and capable, but his myriad struggles were always there to put strict limits on his upside. He loved studying bio-chemistry and medicine, and could do well with it when his mental health was stable and his ego was in check; but that was an exceedingly hard balance to strike. I think these reasons helped to make Terry's friendship with Scott a very special thing for him. And it was always a wonderful picture of the reconciliation that we all have in Christ, the Christ who respects us enough as persons to not respect our pretensions, positions or titles. Whenever Terry and I were estranged, Scott was always there to help build the bridge that brought us back together.

I remember Scott calling me one day to tell me that Terry was in the hospital after a bout of congestive heart failure. I went to visit Terry and tried to encourage him. Because we were very concerned about his health, Scott and I talked more than once about how our hope was that we could simply help Terry "end well." We knew that the end probably wasn't too distant. We were learning. We were beginning to understand what it means to simply sit and be present to a friend instead of trying to "solve" them. I had taken the time to study the different dimensions of Terry's mental health problems and was much better prepared to be a friend to him. His suffering had produced a wealth of new wisdom and insight in me. I would henceforth be a better friend to others because of what Terry's struggle taught me. Just like Jesus, I had been transformed by his suffering. I distinctly remember telling Terry I was sorry that it took me a long time to learn these things and be more present to him. I confessed and he accepted my confession.

I think that it was around the time of Terry's hospitalization that he began going to First Alliance Church pretty regularly with Scott and his family. Scott would pick Terry up in the morning and on a couple of occassions Scott and Tammy (his wife) had Terry come over for lunch. Terry even began singing in the choir at First Alliance. It seemed like he had finally found his place; and I was profoundly happy that he had found his place even if it wasn't our place (Communality). My very limited ecclesiology and immaturity in love would not have allowed me to see this for what it was even a couple of years prior. I was still too caught up in trying to build up my own "project" and therefore not as able to see what Terry really needed. But the good news is that Terry ended well! He was in a pretty good season of life. And he ended well because a few friends, by God's grace, were able to "fulfill the law of Christ" by a severely bent but never broken commitment to "sharing each other's troubles and problems(Galatians 6:2)."

On an evening not too long before he died, Terry stopped by to pay a rare visit to our old guys group at the Golfview House. That night we were studying 2 Corinthians chapter 6. We read through the section where Paul says "Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you. Our hearts are open to you. If there is a problem between us, it is not because of a lack of love on our part, but because you have withheld your love from us. I am talking now as I would to my own children. Open your hearts to us (2 Cor 6:11-13)." I will never forget what Terry shared after we finished reading that passage. He said that he realized that what Paul was saying applied to him and his relationship with the rest of us; that we had opened our hearts to him but he had not done the same with us. It was stunning. Why was it that Terry showed up on this particular night? Looking back on that night, I've come to believe that this was a special gift that God gave to us. It was God's way of allowing us to celebrate the bond that had never been broken between us. And it was God's way of helping us to understand that it is ultimately the Triune God's open heart (not mine, or your's, or Paul's) that makes it all possible. What a special gift it was to share that moment together.

So, I wanted to share these thoughts today to celebrate Terry's life and give thanks to God for the many profound lessons that he taught me and the time we shared. When I looked at the e-mail this morning the first thing that I thought about was my dear friend Scott. Like Terry and I, my relationship with Scott has been sorely tested at several different points; and because it has been tested it has also been refined and strengthened. It has taken me a long time to realize that and see it for the profound gift that it is-grace upon grace. So, I also want to give thanks for Scott and for the time that God allowed us to share with Terry and the treasured memories that we were able to build; memories that knit together the otherwise broken fragments of broken lives. So, on the day that would have been Terry's 45th birthday, I give thanks to Terry and to God for assisting so profoundly in my own "new birth."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Biz Lex Article on Mountaintop Removal

It is beyond me how anyone can,in good conscience, support the destruction of our brother's and sister's homes in Eastern Kentucky... rings a bell along the lines of the Head saying to the Foot that, "I have no need of you". So since I don't need you and you happen to be living on top of something that I want, I will pillage the earth to remove it.

Check it out: "Our" very own Buisness Lexington Newspaper supporting mountaintop removal. All in the name of "progress." It was the front page article this last week. I have a hard copy if anyone wants it.

Our Promise, Our Plight

How long must people go with their hands over their ears and eyes?

Friday, November 06, 2009

coal - take action

from - this is a close-to-home justice issue.  please prayerfully consider taking action.

Dear friends,
We know many of you are still recovering from the unbelievable organizing you did for the day of action on Oct. 24, and you know that as a campaign is mostly focused on the global negotiations coming up in Copenhagen.
But sometimes things happen at inconvenient moments.
And if you think it's inconvenient for us, imagine what it was like for residents of Pettus, West Virginia to wake up last week to find that the blasting had started on Coal River Mountain, one of the epicenters of the fight over the hideous practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains. Coal River Mountain is an iconic symbol of the energy choices our country now faces: we can blast off the mountain's top to scoop out the dirty coal inside, or we can harness its enormous wind potential and start to build a better world.
So we're going to ask those of you on our USA e-mail list to take a small but signficant action to help our friends who are fighting the good fight there in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Could you please take a few minutes to send a message to decision-makers in the Obama administration, and ask them to intervene at Coal River Mountain?

Click the following to send your message:
The Obama administration officials who could stop this need to know that it's not just people in the hills of Appalachia who can hear the explosions--we all know what's going on.  And we know that every lump of coal that comes out of those hills adds to the carbon burden of the atmosphere we all share.
Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist who first gave us the 350 number, has pointed out that the western world needs to be off coal in little more than a decade if we're ever going to get back to 350--and this is the obvious place to start. It would be a small gesture our government could point to when it gets to the UN talks in Copenhagen this coming December--and for the brave folks who have been fighting this fight to save their homes for decades now it would be a very big gesture indeed.
Coal is near the heart of the planet's climate problem. Let's take a moment to help here, in no small part because it will help in the climate talks ahead.

So many thanks,

Bill McKibben and the crew

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

coal talk

this from our friends at KFTC...


This Thursday evening at 7pm in Memorial Hall, the university of Kentucky is sponsoring a forum on coal featuring four panelists:

Joe Craft, President, chief executive officer and a director of Alliance Resource Partners, L.P. ( "ARLP") and also president, chief executive officer and Chairman of the Board of ARLP's General Partner, Alliance Holdings GP,LP, Fred Palmer, Senior Vice President of Government Relations of Peabody Energy, Tom FitzGerald, Director of the Kentucky Resources council, and, Jeff Goodell, Author of Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

This event is free and open to the public. You don't need to register in advance to attend Thursday evening's panel.

Attendees are also allowed to submit questions to the panelists the evening of the event.

For more information please look at their website at

Ondine Miranda Quinn

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Central Kentucky Organizer

250 Plaza Dr. Suite 4

Lexington, KY 40503

(859) 276-0563 (office)

(859) 368-4438 (cell)

(859) 276-0774 (fax)

KFTC is a 28-year-old grassroots organization that believes in the power of people, working together, to challenge injustices, right wrongs, and improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians. Visit us online at!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The (n)either/(n)or dilemma?

A couple of weeks ago Maria, Miranda and I went to Sunday brunch with a friend of ours who was in town visiting. I was in the process of parking my car in the restaurant lot when I saw a SUV loaded with a family pulling out of the parking lot with a plate on the front of the vehicle that said "SUCKIN GAS N' HAULIN ASS." Perhaps you have seen this particular license plate at some point in the past. I've been thinking about it a lot the last couple of weeks, and after giving it some time, I can't say that my current thoughts and feelings are any different from the gut reaction I had when I saw it. What was my initial reaction? I will try to offer an explanation.

It has been said by some that pragmatism is the fundamental American Philosophy. We like to solve problems, get things done and see the tangible results of our work. Though we've helped lead the world in the development of myriad technical and other wonders, I've found myself wondering if we as Americans have ever had any guiding vision that is bigger than simply solving the next problem, overcoming the next obstacle, selling the next product or framing the latest "cause" for the rest of the world. This is a terribly broad generalization, and perhaps it is indicative only of the very recent history of our country. That is probably true. However, I do find myself wondering if the deeper truth is that this bigger picture has just taken a couple of hundred years to unfold itself in history. Perhaps we were destined from the beginning to arrive at our present location?

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness....." that is perhaps the most succinct summary of the overall vision of our "Founding Fathers." I think that most people would say "individual freedom/liberty" was the guiding vision of America (or some variation of this). In an earlier age the idea of America being a new "Israel" is something that captured the imagination of many. The idea of "Manifest Destiny" was part of this general conceptual constellation. So, we might say that the ideas of personal freedom and self-determination are critical to America's identity. And we might add to this the general idea of "progress." And this framework fits well with our pragmatic outlook, tailored as it is to individual initiative, creativity and potency. It is easy to understand why we've helped lead the way into the "global marketplace" and why the soil of America has helped to nurture the ideas of champions of "self-determination" like Ayn Rand. We're all about people being "set free" to pursue their highest purposes and callings, and even some of the most blatant contradictions of this ideal (like slavery and discrimination) are in time turned into yet another testament to the valor and veracity of our founding vision. We've just seen the latest installment of this in the election of Obama. Perhaps this might happen some day for the Native Americans among us?

Anyone who knows me will know my own deep reservations about America's professed "role" in the world, her intensely conflicted and morally ambiguous history and the way in which these things get constantly spun by the media and politicos to their own ends. But my fundamental question is this: Is pragmatism and our general belief in progress even working at present? This brings me back to where I started: SUCKIN GAS N' HAULIN ASS. This great "free" country of ours (and I do believe that there is a lot about it that is great) is completely dependent upon foreign oil and spends more in a year "helping" to defend our right to it-and the products we buy with it-(the military budget, over $700 billion per year, not including 2 wars-Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates total long-term costs of wars at around $3 trillion) than all but the top 10 economies in the world produce in a whole year. All this so that we can suck gas and haul ass....or maybe it is something else?

So, why harp on this license plate and get so riled up about it? Is it really that big a deal? Well, yes it is....and no it's not. It is not a big deal because in the grander scheme of things it is just a silly liecense plate (produced most likely in China and shipped here to America, thus being stunningly true to its professed ethos). But it is a big deal, I think, because of what it says about where we are in America at present. Is there any rational reason why someone would want to intentionally waste a finite and limited resource; not to mention the fact that this is a resource whose price has been rapidly rising and will continue to rise as demand increases? Perhaps it is somewhat rational if you believe that you will simply find another solution and that the process of innovation is driven forward by crisis spurred on by profligacy or some other means. This gets us back to pragmatism. But is this really what the highly polarized (n)either/(n)or debate in America is about? I don't think that it is. And even it was primarily about finding a common solution and working together to build a better future, is it working? There are many reasons to doubt this, along with some stubborn rays of hope.

When I first saw that license plate it helped to crystallize for me the reality that public discourse in America has become so divided along media-driven lines of political ideology, class affiliation and social affinity that it no longer has much to do with the facts being discussed or even the solutions being pursued; it is not even about good old fashioned American pragmatism. How could it be? The solution to a problem is not the most important thing in our time. In the best case it is about proving that you are the one who found the solution and demonstrating how the other "party" or "group" didn't. In the worst case it is simply about grabbing or maintaining power, selling your latest book or TV show and extending the media shelf-life of your persona.

So, why do we want to publicly profess (seemingly absurd) things like that inscribed on the aforementioned license plate? Well, as I've said, I think it is because we want people to know for certain that we're not like those "tree-huggers, environmental wackos, communists" or whatever tried and true moniker you want to use. And I think it is safe to say that a lot of the people who express these sentiments are also people who love to hunt, fish, farm or otherwise have some deep appreciation for nature. But because the lines of the debate (if you even could call it that) have become so deeply divided, and our differences and aversions to each other have come to so deeply define us (and the issues that surround us), we have neither real dialogue nor the solutions that might come from it. And, to be fair and forthright, why do we also sport self-contradictory (I think) bumper-stickers like "When Clinton lied no one died (except, it could be argued, the Democratic parties chances of being re-elected-and have you ever thought about how sad this is, falling to the level of highlighting a better or less harmful lie as a "selling" point-that is truly pathetic). Well, again I think it is because we've become so polarized in our viewpoints, so socially isolated from one another and so unable to think about a common future and purpose together that we've just settled on trying to make the best of the present that we still have available. And we've been helped to this end by all of the Rush's, Glenn's, Keith Olbermann's, and Rachel Maddow's of this world who become famous and often make immense fortunes out of "hardening" our differences, to borrow a phrase from Miroslav Volf (from his book "Exclusion and Embrace) and manipulating our prejudices and ignorance. Who has time to really dig in to the issues when you're simply trying to survive financially? We have highly paid professionals who can do this work for us!

My hope is that we can learn to listen to each other and learn to work together to make a better future for our children. If we cannot then they will inevitably pay the cost (social,environmental,economic, spritual) of our either/or left/right thinking and inability to hear and genuinely respect each other and work together. These words of Jesus come to mind as I think about our country, "A kingdom at war with itself will collapse (Mark 3:24)."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

stories and pumpkins

on wednesday nights at our high st gathering we have been treating ourselves to each other's stories.  each week two people have shared their journey...hopes, aspirations, fractures, failures, grace.  it is truly a blessing to hear about the loving-faithfulness of the triune God in every straight path and detour.

Meanwhile, upstairs, the saintly Marie has been caring for our kids.  this week she created space for an evening of art with the younger ones - pumpkin painting.

here are the pics..thanks Marie!

Pumpkin Painting on High Street 001

Pumpkin Painting on High Street 002 Pumpkin Painting on High Street 003

 Pumpkin Painting on High Street 004 Pumpkin Painting on High Street 005

Pumpkin Painting on High Street 006

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Great movie....great art......

Last week Maria and I had the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Premiere of a film called "Coal Country" at the Kentucky Theatre. It is a film about the implications of mountaintop removal coal mining for the people, ecosystem and economy of Appalachia. It is a good film that should be watched by all in this region; and the event was really nice and gave us an opportunity to meet a lot of people who are working on this issue (One Horizon helped to sponsor the event). With even Kentucky Utilities highlighting in its lastest bill mailing Kentucky's terrible carbon footprint, we know that this is a serious issue for our region, as the burning of coal is one of the primary reasons for our uneviable position. According to a NOAA study cited by Kentucky Utilities, Kentucky's 4.3 million citizens produce 92,320,191 metric tons of co2 annually, while the 36.8 million citizens of California produce only 62,780,179 tons. So, we produce almost one-third more co2 while having a population that is over 8 times smaller-incredible. Also at the event, there was a local Kentucky artist (Jeff Chapman-Crane) who has created a brilliant piece of art called "The Agony of Gaia." It is intended to illustrate the impact of mountain top removal mining on the earth. The piece depicts a woman (Gaia-mother earth) lying on the ground, her body being torn asunder and stripped away as the dynamite, bulldozers and dumptrucks dismember her. The tears falling from her eyes form a mountain stream that is in defiance of all the headwater and other streams being buried by the "waste" from the mining. It is a really incredible and moving piece of art-these pictures do not do it justice.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

An exhortation from Mother Theresa's Wall

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – from Mother Teresa’s wall

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Wisdom from John Chrysostom

I was reading some stuff yesterday from St. John Chrysostom, the great fourth-century servant of the church. A couple of thoughts hit me particularly hard and I've been trying to meditate upon them. Here they are:

"No matter how just your words may be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger."

"Slander is worse than cannibalism."

Both of these thoughts naturally called to mind the third chapter of the book of James and the stern warnings found therein about the dangers of the "tongue." It also calls to mind the even more stern warning of Jesus in Matthew 5 about speaking ill of "your brother." They are words, along with Chrysostom's thoughts, that have been convicting for me as I think about my own speech and the inner attitudes and rhythms of the heart from which they emanate. They are words that maybe all of us could stand to consider living in an age of intense polarization on important issues, angry "town hall" meetings and politics that seem to be largely based upon assailing the character and credentials of other persons and hoping for them to fail so that "we" might have a chance to succeed. As I watch the daily news and read the papers I've begun to wonder if we might be losing something much deeper than just our ability to have "civil" conversations. I fear that in our attitudes and behaviors toward each other (as a society) we have been gradually losing our very humanity. Chrysostom offers another thought that might be helpful to consider here:

"A dreadful thing is the love of money! It disables both eyes and ears, and makes men worse to deal with than a wild beast, allowing a man to consider neither conscience nor friendship nor fellowship nor salvation."

These are heavy thoughts to consider. And I do not want to share them without offering this additional word of hope and inspiration from St. John Chrysostom:

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."

Monday, October 05, 2009


About two years ago we began an "experiment in truth" with the wonderful online micro-lending initiative called Kiva. One Horizon Foundation put up some money to create a "matching-grant" program intended to help get people involved in the work of Kiva. We had a number of people who took us up on this offer and we were able to get all of the original matching-grant funds distributed and have been diligently re-loaning the intitial capital as it has returned to us over the last two-years. I wanted to give everyone an update on our current progress and thank all those who've participated with us in this wonderful adventure of love, goodness and jubilee. Here is an overview of the totals generated by all partners in this initiative:

Total Loans: 1,088
Total Money Loaned: $28,450
Total Countries: 46
Portfolio Distribution: 70% Female 30% Male
Default Rate: about 2% overall (astonishing thus far!)

Friday, September 18, 2009


as we continue to reimagine the church and foster missional living in community i found this post from Simon Cross in the UK really helpful.  i found it personally challenging and comforting. just this week i was commiserating with a colleague about the frustration that comes when you don't have the rhythm of office hours and set tasks on a week to week basis.  along with the immensurable privilege of living out an apostolic/missional calling comes the tyranny of anti-structure.  if you are involved in a pioneering community it is well worth your time...

here's a snippet:

Pioneers often dont make good leaders, they are too driven when what is needed is stability, they are unable to pastor as sensitively as someone whose calling is to pastor. That doesnt mean however that we should duck out of service because something isnt our calling, we do need to do the hard boring stuff too,

and here is an overview of his main points:

I would go further and suggest that we need to learn a few old lessons again about ways to keep ourselves rooted and productive.

1) Manual work.

2) Study.

3) Prayer.

4) Rest.

5) Time away from screens.

6) Vulnerability to community.

win a bike ... for the Gladdings!

Although we could never manage to ride our bikes to Communality with two little ones all the way from Wilmore, I know it's a community value--to be "green", and in the process get some much needed exercise and fresh air. I think it's a great value to have, and one that we hope to uphold in our next season of life (in Laos). For now, we will support this value and live it out vicariously through you all. And part of that is attempting to win a bike for the Gladdings, who are in need of one. I haven't asked them if this is okay, but hey, who would be against an innocent attempt at getting a free bike?! We came across this bike on a friends' blog who are living out a life of simplicity and environmentalism (in Laos). They don't own one, but I'm sure they would be happy if they won one. The way you "enter" the contest is by putting the link to their webpage into a blog, like I am doing here. So I am not trying to advertise their bike and promote "buying", but I am linking you all to their page in hopes that we "might" be adding one of these to our community! I know, I know. It's silly to really believe we can win this. But someone wins one each week...and it could be us! (Us meaning our community...)

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

So in theory, by posting their site to our blog, we are entering ourselves into the weekly bike contest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

roots & heritage

wonderful weekend of crowds and music on elm tree.  good times with neighbors and communality peeps...we held a small fundraiser for the neighborhood with grills and hamburgers, and hotdogs in our driveway.

roots & heritage 2009

roots & heritage 2009

roots & heritage 2009

roots & heritage 2009