Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hello....House Concert Opportunity....

Hello to everyone.....I've gotten to see some of you since I got back, but not others......I wanted to let everyone know that Maria and I are going to be hosting some new friends on Tuesday July 7th that Greg and I met at the Amahoro conference in South Africa. Their names are Tracy and Seth and they are going to be passing through town. Tracy (Howe) is an excellent musician and is a friend of the Psalters and many of the other communties in our wider network of friends. She said she is willing to do a backyard concert on the evening of July 7th and would love to meet community members and others. So, we would like to invite everyone to come to our house, 239 Burke Road in Lexington, at 6:30pm on July 7th for some good music, snacks and fun. We can even crank up a little water park for the kids if you want to come early (6pm). We'd like to suggest that each adult donate $5 to help Tracy with the great work that she and Seth are doing in the arts across the world. Everyone is invited, please bring friends, even if they cannot contribute financially. It should be a really good time....we know everyone is busy, but please come if you can find out more about Tracy at her music at her website called Restoration Village ........if you think that you're going to come try to let me know ahead of that day.........thanks.........


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The universe is a big place.....

Not sure this post has much relevance, but it is an astounding thing that I was reminded of last night....and certainly not unrelated to Maria's last post. I was watching this documentary on TV on a phenomenon called "Gamma Ray Bursts." GRB's, as they are called, are apparently usually caused by the death of massive stars right before the stars collapse into becoming black holes. The picture included here is an artist's rendition from Wikipedia of a GRB. Scientists have been trying to unravel the mysteries of GRB's for the last several decades and say that most GRB events happen at an average distance of about 6-8 billion light years from earth. One light year is equivalent to about 5.8 trillion that's 6-8 billion multiplied by 5.8 trillion! And the expanse of the known universe is much larger than even these unfathomable distances. I don't know, but contemplating the immensity of all of this stuff blew my small mind. I'm thankful to all the smart folks who figure this stuff out and share it with the rest of us-truly amazing.

Creativity, particularity, breakthroughs and losses

I've been reading this week in one of the foundational texts in Augustinian studies, Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo. In this 30th anniversary edition, he has a fascinating epilogue in which he traces new directions in the field and, more importantly, tries to assess his own changing views.

In reading the epilogue, I was struck, deeply, by the following section. It follows a discussion of how Augustine failed to retain an appreciation of cosmos (the world) in a way that was decidedly different than his contemporaries (a topic which I'd like to address later). But what moved me was Brown's opinion, as an historian, of the impact of major shifts in paradigm on the way in which ideas are both immortalized and diminished.

"A touch of sadness at Augustine's failure to respond to the quiet vision of the cosmos still shared by many of his contemporaries is an entirely appropriate emotion in an historian of ideas. For sadness does justice to the irreducible particularity of any truly creative intellectual system. The effect of a major breakthrough in the history of ideas is to block all alternative visions of the world. Thoughts that had been thought with dignity and profit for many centuries become unthinkable. The loss of an entire world-view cannot but be accompanied by the 'leaching-out' of many necessary nutrients. They are lost to future ages. And thus each epoch passes on to the next the intellectual and religious vitamin deficiencies created by its own, most distinctive achievements."

How does this strike you?

Monday, June 22, 2009

road trip complete

thanks for your prayers and thoughts.  we had a wonderful time in chicago at the ASM conference.  enriching conversation and nourishing fellowship with all and sundry.  thanks to the crew to took the time and money to join the road trip and make it more than just a conference.  we bring back greetings from all corners of the country...especially al, jonathan, and doug.  a more thoughtful report will be posted sometime soon.  here are some pics to tell the story...the photography policy at the place where we were hosted was pretty strict so, sadly, no pics of the talkie-bits in action.

asm conference: chicago 09

asm conference: chicago 09

asm conference: chicago 09

asm conference: chicago 09

Thursday, June 18, 2009

missiologists gone wild

nothing like a road trip to a conference on missiology to bring out the wild side. professors samson and pavey, farmer porter, intern k-rice, sherry and i set out today for the fair city of chicago. we are attending the ASM annual conference. should be a good time of catching up with some of our professors and meet many of the authors of books that have shaped our imaginations. we'll also enjoy meeting with al hirsch, doug pagitt, and jonathan wilson-hartgrove....they are all presenting papers here. sherry will also present a short reflection on communality on friday night (if you are the praying kind, say a prayer of courage for her as it can be intimidating to stand up in front of you mentors...essentially your bookshelf).




Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maria's favorite part of last week's Psalter's concert

Here are two of our Psalter friends, Jay and Jobie. You may have seen them like this before.

But have you seen them like this?

This just makes me happy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A thought on the value of home.....

I just finished a great book last night that I thought had direct application to Sherry's important post about low-income housing in Lexington. The book is called "Shadow Cities," by Robert Neuwirth, and it is an excellent study of "informal" squattter settlements around the world. Greg and I actually got to spend time in one of the settlements that was a case study in the book, and I learned from that experience just what an excellent job the author did in his research. Here is a key excerpt from the final chapter:

"Today, we have crowned the market as the ultimate arbiter of our ability to dwell here on earth. The market will ensure that we all have adequate homes. The market will correct any deficiencies. In all things, we have made the market all-powerful. It is our civic religion.

Yet, when it comes to human necessities (such as having a place to live or enough to eat) the market does not seem to do such a good job. For as long as there have been humans on the planet we have needed shelter. Whether it takes the form of a cave, a grass hut, a room in a bowery flophouse, or a massive private home with a three-car garage, we all need a roof over our heads. The market, however, does not provide enough roofs to go around, and certainly not at prices most people can afford. If the market truly worked, if supply met demand as it's supposed to in the classic fable of economics, we would not need government incentives to spur the production of housing. We would not need direct government investment in affordable housing. We would not need laws to force banks to make mortgages to low-income people. There would be no homeless. And there would be no squatters.

There is a problem of property. It's been with us as long as we've been on the planet. Today, the world's squatters are demonstrating a new way forward in the fight to create a more equitable globe. Without any laws to support them, they are making their improper, illegal communities grow and prosper. We don't need to crush their communities with our hard-nosed conception of property rights. Instead, we can learn from them how possession can trump property: how people with no right to any land can produce more housing than people with a title deed.

To many philosophers, there is no life without a place to live. French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas put it in this way: 'Man abides in the worlds as having come to it from a private domain.' For Levinas, dwelling, having a home, is prior to being. It is the grounding of our existence, both material and physical. 'Every consideration of objects, and of buildings too, is produced out of a dwelling. Concretely speaking the dwelling is not situated in the objective world, but the objective world is situated by relation to my dwelling.'

In other words, without a home, there is no world.

The squatters, by building their own homes, are creating their own world (p 306)."

Monday, June 15, 2009


Sherry, Isaac and I went to the Juneteenth celebration in our neighborhood on Saturday.  a very moving occasion and we learned a lot about this important annual gathering (see here and here for more info).

the highlight was to meet an elderly woman who had a very old photograph of her mother standing on a wagon celebrating Juneteenth in 1910 in Texas.  an incredible picture of people 100 years ago who were all too aware of the tragedy of slavery for the immediate generation before them.  this energetic woman delivered an impassioned exhortation to Isaac about the importance of going to college (her mother had graduated in 1915 and she had graduated from college in 1941...remarkable achievements for their respective eras). 

here are some pics.


juneteenth 09

juneteenth 09



Last full day in Africa......

I just wanted to say hello to everyone back home in Lexington. I am leaving tomorrow night to begin the long journey home. I will be seeing all of you again in just a few days. That is a good feeling. I am glad to be coming home and more thankful than ever for the home that I have. The last month spent travelling through Africa has truly been another in a long chain of life changing experiences for me. What that change will entail in the long run remains to be seen. Whatever it means I hope that I can seize the opportunity contained within it. Here are some of the prelimary (personal) reflections that I wanted to share as I look toward home.

The first thing is how much this trip has deepened my awareness of how blessed I am to have such a wonderful combination of family and friends. I will be returning home to a safe and comfortable home with a family who love me and have supported me wonderfully in this time. And I have an opportunity to take advantage of what I've learned and love and support them with renewed commitment and purpose. I will also be returning home to a loving and supportive community who have also supported me wonderfully and have labored with me over the years as I've slowly begun to grow into maturity. Those two things are the most important expressions of God's love and goodness. In the past month I've walked among people who've both killed and watched their loved ones be killed, hundreds of thousands of children (many of them HIV positive) who have no family or home, and whole communities of people (indeed a whole nation of people) who've been brutally ripped from their homes, businesses & neighborhoods and forcibly resettled...leaving them with nothing, and unleashing a process of healing and restoration that even in the best of circumstances will take decades to unwind. I've never had to contemplate and witness so much human suffering, injustice, corruption, and exploitation in my life....and at the same time I've never seen so much hope, promise, strength, vital faith, courage, and opportunity........the perennial question, what will we choose to see and seize?

The second thing that I would say is that this trip, more than any other, has convinced me of how little I deserve to have this kind of opportunity. As I've travelled from place to place, seeing the extremes of beauty and ugliness, I've always been mindful of all of my friends and family who may never have this kind of opportunity. That has weighed upon me every step of the way...not so much in the sense of guilt, but in the sense of recognizing that this is a precious gift, that it comes with a responsibility, and that it is not something that I've earned. I need to make the most of it.

The third thing that I've learned is that I owe a huge debt to all of my brothers and sisters around the world who've been building relationships for years, the fruits of which I get to enjoy without any effort on my part. Some of my best, and most needed memories from this trip, have been the moments hanging out with people like Fuzz Kitto, Mark Pierson, and a whole host of other Aussies that I only know or are connected to through Geoff & Sherry and John and Glenna Smith. That has been a precious gift. Also, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Daniel Leffel who made our time in Senegal very smooth and very meaningful through his amazing knowledge of the languages and culture of the Senegalese people. And of course, I owe huge debt of gratitude to my friend Richard who made it possible for us to start this ongoing experiment in truth.........I've been riding on the coattails of others my whole life......most of all, I have to thank my wife and daughter for their patience and love in this would not have been possible without them.

Fourthly, I would say that this trip has been the most intellectually and emotionally challenging trip of my vocational life. It has given me many things to ponder and many reasons to be grateful. I've done well in some respects and been made aware of the need for progress in others. My thinking about faith has really been challenged by the people that I've met, and I've really been convicted about the laziness and lack of focus in many areas of my life. I've really been challenged by people who are being much better stewards of their God given gifts and graces. I need to grow significantly in this area.

Lastly, this trip has been a great opportunity for me to reflect upon my identity as a Christian worker. When I first got involved in this work in Lexington, my focus was pretty narrow and my view of the world very small. Hanging out with guys on the street at all hours and working to try to build bridges between them and others was pretty much my focus. I was also single and had no children. In hindsight, I can now see just how simple and elegant the rhythm of life was during that season. Now, things are much more complex and there are many more things to balance. My view of the world, my faith and the relationship between these two variables has been significantly altered-and at times it seems like it has been ruptured. And now my first responsibility is to my family. I find myself wondering if I need to return to some form of that initial simple rhythm and minimize the bigger picture stuff. But I know that it is not that simple. I come back again and again to a thought from the Catholic writer, Cardinal Suhard, who once said (paraphrase), "A priest is a person who joins together in their own life the very things that tear them apart." I will be continuing to think on these things.....thanks for allowing me the space for this raw reflection.....look forward to seeing all of you soon.....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Friends, old & new

There's a saying that goes, "Old friends are the best, unless you can find a new friend who's worth turning into an old one." When our friends the Psalters joined us this past Wednesday, I realized that somewhere in the last few years, they've changed categories on us. I remember meeting Scott & Jay back in 2002 at the simple way reunion, and how their music was alive & powerful in ways that were exciting. When Billy & I think back on our journey into activism & friendship with this group of folks, it's as though the Psalters have provided the soundtrack to the journey.

So, it was an unexpected treat to have them visit again on their way to play at Ichthus. Miranda & I were happy to host them, and she was delighted to gain 10 new people as playmates, if only for a day. We shared cajun food and a great, greasy meal at the Meadowthorpe Cafe, and Dove chocolates & accordian music at midnight under the stars, and in between were treated to a backyard concert that was energized in every way. Most special for me was the return of about a dozen folks from our neighborhood, who'd listened to their concert last year from across the neighbor's fence, but who joined us this year in the backyard.

So, here are some images from the evening. Many, many thanks to Mia for taking these great pics and sharing them with us. And thanks to everyone who joined us and brought food and made the night so much fun.