Tuesday, May 25, 2010

in the park

wonderful gathering in the park this week.  that’s the sweet part…the bitter was also with us as we said farewell to the Aja and Bartlett tribes.  dear co-travelers for a small time and we will miss them.  we played and prayed, laughed and talked and shared in the meal of remembering. 

communality in the park

communality in the park

communality in the park

communality in the park

communality in the park

communality in the park

communality in the park

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Importance of hospitality

In a world where social and political discourse is so dominated by the (felt) need to capture and keep the "news-cycle," I find these words from Henri Nouwen very hopeful and challenging:

"Creating space for the other is far from an easy task. It requires hard concentration and articulate work. It is like the task of a patrolman trying to create some space in the middle of a mob of panic-driven people for an ambulance to reach the center of an accident. Indeed, more often than not rivalry and competition, desire for power and immediate results, impatience and frustration, and, most of all, plain fear make their forceful demands and tend to fill every possible empty corner of our life. Empty space tends to create fear. As long as our minds, hearts and hands are occupied we can avoid confronting the painful questions, to which we never gave much attention and which we do not want to surface. 'Being busy' has become a status symbol, and most people keep encouraging each other to keep their body and mind in constant motion. From a distance, it appears that we try to keep each other filled with words and actions, without tolerance for a moment of silence...But by filling every empty corner and occupying every empty time...hospitality becomes more oppressive than revealing.

Occupation and not empty space is what most of us are looking for. When we are not occupied we become restless. We even become fearful when we do not know what we will do for the next hour, the next day of the next year. Then occupation is called a blessing and emptiness a curse. Many telephone conversations begin with the words: 'I know you are busy, but...' and we would confuse the speaker and even harm our reputation were we to say, 'Oh no, I am completely free, today, tomorrow and the whole week.' Our client might well lose interest in a man who has so little to do.

So we can see that creating space is far from easy in our occupied and preoccupied society. And still, if we expect any salvation, redemption, healing and new life, the first thing we need is an open and receptive place where something can happen to us. Hospitality, therefore, is such an important attitude. We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, to lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own center (selections from chapter 4, "Reaching Out")."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review – Friendship at the Margins

Friendship at the Margins Friendship at the Margins is part of the Resources for Reconciliation Book Series, a partnership between IVP and the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School. The series asks what it means to pursue hope in the midst of the many manifestations of brokenness in our world. Each book is co-authored by a practitioner and someone from the academy. I have been looking forward to reading Friendship, written as it is by two people I have respected for a long time: Chris Heuertz, international director of Word Made Flesh, and Christine Pohl, professor of social ethics at Asbury Seminary, who was my advisor during my time there.

Two decades ago I volunteered regularly at a free lunch program offered by a downtown church in Lubbock, Texas. From one to two hundred people came, mostly from the neighborhood. We ‘got them through the line, fed and cleaned up’ in an hour. For a reason I no longer remember, one day I decided to stand in line, get a plate and sit down at a table and get into a conversation with a couple of people. That was an important milestone in my journey into the heart of what the authors discuss in this book.

Although a relatively short book, it took me a while to read Friendship. The authors ask questions I thought I had satisfactorily answered a long time ago, and yet through their graceful interweaving of stories with the insight that comes from praxis, I found myself being challenged at the same time I was nodding in agreement with them. I took stock of some of the friendships I have, and confess I came out wanting. Having lived in Lexington for 9 months now, I became somewhat uncomfortable as I reflected on whether blossoming friendships here are truly mutual or if I’m still tempted to see certain people as “projects”, “potential donors” or “representatives of causes.” One of the strengths of the book is the honesty and humility evident throughout, which gently drew forth the same from me.

The book takes an unflinching yet generous look at donor-recipient issues in service and mission; at the unavoidable ambiguities and tensions that arise when we become friends with those outside our own social circles; and at the necessity of long-term commitment to place and people. The last chapter, which asks what kinds of spiritual practices help sustain friendships at the margins, seems particularly important. What will help us sustain long term commitment to each other – where does our hope come from, and how will we nurture it in the midst of our shared brokenness? (To that end I’m also looking forward to reading Pilgrimage of a Soul by Chris’ wife and partner in mission, Phileena, released next month.)

Friendship at the Margins – highly recommended.

staying is the new going

Chris (from word made flesh) writes beautifully here of what it means to engage in meaningful mission in our day and age.   he is writing in response to Jonathan’s wonderful book, “the wisdom of stability.”

read the article

Friday, May 07, 2010

keeping our faith cheerful

"What keeps our faith cheerful is everywhere in daily life, a sign that faith rules through ordinary things: through cooking and small talk, through storytelling, making love, fishing, tending animals and sweet corn and flowers, through sports, music, and books, raising kids ­p; all the places where the gravy soaks in and grace shines through. Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people."
-- Garrison Keillor

Something to consider

Here is something remarkable that I was contemplating in my morning reading. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the United States for 2009 was over 6.25 times greater than that of the entire 53 countries of the continent of Africa. The GDP (GSP in this case) of the state of California alone in 2008 was over 80% of the GDP of the 53 countries of Africa for 2009. I know California is currently experiencing significant difficulties, as are many of the rest of us. I do not mean to downplay anyone's struggle, nor am I trying to build an argument based upon such a simple comparison. But as we engage in the very necessary debate about foreign aid (Sachs) vs. internal development (Easterly)-and attempt to discern what we feel is "Africa's responsibility"- I think it is critically important to continue to reflect upon and contemplate how much material wealth is controlled by the west. It seems that as Christians such contemplation could provide us with a strong measure of sobriety as we have these conversations. Perhaps it could help us to incarnate Christ in this debate (as well as the other, even more intense debates, about our own nation)?

List of African countries by GDP (PPP)
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This is a list of African nations ranked by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). Figures are given in 2009 International Dollars according to the World Bank[1] 2009 figures.

This list excludes Somalia.
African Rank World Rank Country 2009 GDP (PPP)
millions of International dollars

— — Africa $2,200,100

1 25 Egypt 467,600
2 27 South Africa 403,900
3 37 Nigeria 294,800
4 38 Algeria 268,900
5 55 Morocco 127,000
6 61 Angola 93,100
7 62 Libya 90,600
8 66 Sudan 80,500
9 67 Tunisia 76,900
10 73 Ethiopia 61,600

List by the International Monetary Fund (2009)
Rank Country GDP (PPP) $M

— World 69,808,807
1— European Union 14,793,979
2 United States 14,256,275
3 People's Republic of China 8,765,240
4 Japan 4,159,432
5 India 3,526,124
6 Germany 2,806,266

gardening and faith

check out this post from Christine Sine at MSA where she references seedleaf.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

‘return to el salvador’ film


please take a minute to demand this film in your city/region.  just a couple of clicks and you can really help this film get the audience it deserves.



Monday, May 03, 2010

book review – the vertical self

The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in An Age of Self Obsession

The Vertical Self - Mark Sayers


Mark had my undivided attention with his Acknowledgements section. He gives thanks to his regional library for “saving me a small fortune in books and for a lifetime of learning.” So, from the beginning of my reading I considered Mark a kindred spirit.


Mark writes with an uncommon grace. As I was reading this book I did feel like I had a wiser friend gently dispensing insight. Personal without being corny and deeply thoughtful without being overtly academic makes for a very compelling read. His personal stories and central thesis provide grounding for years of scholarly research.


Mark writes primarily to those of us engaged in “reshaping the church in the West.” He suggests that our efforts will ultimately fail, “because there is a huge unnamed problem with people inside the church.” (p.xviii) He goes on to argue that discipleship is both the problem and the way forward as the people of God reframe church practices for the sake of living out a more liberating, revolutionary, and life-embracing faithfulness.


After 12 years of ‘life together’ with communality I tend to agree with Mark’s assertion. We really can find all kinds of creativity in the ways we ‘do church’ but still leave our lives just as vulnerable to the dehumanizing influence of that which is unholy. It is no surprise that hot on the heels of this book those other Aussie missionary marvels, the Hirsch’s, released a book on missional discipleship (Untamed).


I found this book personally challenging, a perfect companion during the Lenten season. Mark was able to help me think about my identity as a human person in relationship with the Creator God (the vertical self). I must admit my severe (and, for the most part, ungodly) cynicism whenever I come across the latest “find yourself” recipes for self-discovery – especially from Christian writers. I was curious to see how Mark would avoid pressing my buttons and I was delighted to catch myself deeply moved by a challenging message. Mark is calling us back to a biblical anthropology that affirms what it means to be a proper human being and he cleverly articulates how frequently this quest is interrupted by the push and shove of our LOUD culture. Mark urges the reader to think about this proper humanity in terms of holiness, an admittedly un-sexy idea for this day and age. Mark helps unpack a kind of holiness (wholeness) rooted in scripture and affirming of our deepest impulses. His writing about the redemption of desire was especially helpful for fasting efforts during Lent.


I would have loved to read more of Mark’s reflections of being human in terms of the life of the Trinity. Our image bearing, it seems to me, is only possible in communion with other human persons. How does holiness become more than a personal trait and carry over into cultural (trans)formation? I’m also on a kick about ‘place’ and would love to hear more from Mark about how geography informs the vertical self.


I highly recommend this book to you. Fantastic for personal inventory and/or reading in a small group setting. Few writers are able to bring the big-picture into the same landscape as personal formation with the clarity and gentleness of Mark. And while you’re at it, pick up his other book, “the trouble with Paris” for a brilliant survey of the mess we make when we allow faith to be submitted to consumerism (my review is here).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

overflowing weekend

so many wonderful gatherings this weekend…and then several of our basements flooded. cups runneth over!

we had the growing community event in the east end, (saturday 10am-2pm), billy’s birthday party and derby gathering (saturday night), and the baby porter shower/celebration at the koch’s place (sunday morning).  good times and even in the midst of soggy basements, some cherished community time.

here are some picture (see more here)