Thursday, December 30, 2004

A couple thoughts off topic.

1) Had dinner tonight w/ GREAT friends. Chad Canipe, Aaron Klinefelter, Joe Long, Alan Creech, Kevin Rains and Mark Palmer. It was somewhat spontaneous with the plans being made all in the past 24 hours. Palmer drove down from Columbus with acute back pain and Alan came up from Lexington for dinner at Claddagh in Newport. You see, relationships are VERY important to me. Really, they are the center of my life, the rest is details. Another reason why I am very low-program when it comes to church is that it often neglects people and doesn't count relationship as significant. If I was busy pushing programs then I wouldn't have time for dinners like tonight, I would miss them. Everytime I meet w/ these guys and others, I walk away encouraged, inspired, challenged and more relaxed. All of this makes me ready for the long haul. I'm reminded that I'm not alone and that there's a reason I do what I do, its because people matter.

2) Just got finished looking at amateur video and photos of the Tsunami in Asia and it causes me to remember the worst night of my life. It was July in 2001 and I got caught in a flash flood w/ my family and friends in the car. We had to abandon my Jeep and head for high ground. It was 1:00 a.m., water was up to my waist and moving quickly, huge debris in the water, lightning filling the sky, a horrifying memory. Joe Long was w/ us, he grabbed Megan and walked out, holding her above his head as the water got deeper. I grabbed Ali and she awoke clinging to my for her life. Nicki grabbed our new puppy, Casey, who we've had for a week and Joe's date grabbed my cell phone. I could have lost my family that night to the power of the rushing waters. But I can tell you that it wasn't an option. I remember trying to keep my balance in the water holding onto Ali thinking about the famous line from the movie Apollo 13, "failure is not an option". I was determined to get us all out of the situation "okay" and we were.

I can't help but think that this is also a metaphor for our current conversation. When your in crisis, you make decisions based on the bottom line. If survival is your goal, then there isn't a "right or wrong" way, but there are "better" ways. Watching Joe go through one way where it got much deeper (to his neck) was not the best way to go. That was obvious. so we all took a longer but relatively safer route. We all got to the high ground, but w/ differing methods, one higher risk than the other. We didn't stay in the car and wait for the water to rise more as we processed the best route, we got out and did our best and that was good enough for that night. Im all for education and meaningful dialogue, but if at the end of the day our "ideas" don't turn into action, then we've done nothing. If the single mom who lives on our street does not experience Kingdom come because she lives w/ in the influence of our communities then our ideas are all rhetoric. As we think, exchange, discuss, dialogue, point out etc., let's make sure to do something about it today because when it comes to church, failure is not an option.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

Part of our discussion here is the nature of truth and knowledge. Is truth and knowledge static and absolute, or is it fluid and relative? Or is it both according to context? I am in no way an expert in philosophy, but I think some basic understanding helps in this conversation. I'll just mention 2 areas and see how they apply.

1) Epistemology (how can we know things?) Here's a textbook definition:
"Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. It attempts to answer the basic question: what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this questions translates into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories? It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition, which developed from the information processing approach to psychology, and from artificial intelligence, as an attempt to develop computer programs that mimic a human's capacity to use knowledge in an intelligent way.
When we look at the history of epistemology, we can discern a clear trend, in spite of the confusion of many seemingly contradictory positions. The first theories of knowledge stressed its absolute, permanent character, whereas the later theories put the emphasis on its relativity or situation-dependence, its continuous development or evolution, and its active interference with the world and its subjects and objects. The whole trend moves from a static, passive view of knowledge towards a more and more adaptive and active one."

So our epistemology (we all have one) influences how we see issues and determine the rightness or wrongness of any situation. Sometimes we may see things as absolute, while other times relative to the context. You have to decide what your epistemology is.

2) The Law of Non-Contradiction (Can something be true and not-true?) Textbook definition:
"Law of Non-Contradiction: (a) Not (p and not p) or (b) (for all x) not (x is P and x is not P). It is not possible that something be both true and not true at the same time and in the same context. I think the notion of time is more inherent in the Law as we normally understand it , but that the notion of context is equally important.
Example: A table can not be both made entirely of wood and not made entirely of wood.

Why do I take the position I do on this church issue that it is preference? Because of the 2nd part of this statement "at the same time in the same context". I think that different structures are valid in certain time and contexts according to the purposes of God. In Scripture we see God use different strategies and structures. One time he judges humanity and floods them off the earth. Then determining to never do that again, he extends mercy when judgment is called for again. One time and context, he reveals Himself and offers covenant relataionship through a particular people (Israel) and in another time and context he reveals Himself and offers covenant relationship through Jews and Gentiles. God does not contradict himself ever at the same time and context. He acts with wisdom and purpose.

So if we have differences, we have to be very specific. Any structure that advocates a "Reductionist" gospel, which reduces Christianity to only about forgiveness of sins and settling the heaven or hell question is faulty and inadequate in my opinion. It is inferior to the Gospel which is about the re-formation of the heart and our entire being. We are "in Christ" not to just go to heaven, but to finally become like him, to become who we were created to be and heaven is the fullness of that experience. We are on a journey back to the Garden to become whole creatures, transformation is at the heart of Christianity, not just redemption.

Barry and I share different ecclesiastical structures and assumptions about the world and context we live in, but we are pretty similar where it comes to the Gospel. We believe in redemption and transformation and contextually speaking I can say that I've seen the fruit of his labors in the form of real people.

My epistemology says that I can't have enough ultimate knowledge to know that what I'm doing is the only "right" thing, but I can tell you why I choose it and why in my time and context that I'm not leading in other church structures. I think we often make well informed decisions by choice and preference than with absolute knowledge. Part of my job as a pastor is to interpret the times I live in and where the Spirit is leading and act accordingly.

I'm sure I just opened 12 dozen more cans of worms so let's see how they taste.


Friday, December 24, 2004

While in my 3 hours snow shoveling celebration yesterday, I had a chance to think as I did my hard labor time. One of the reasons that I will continue to believe that it "is" a preference issue is that the models we are talking about come out of 2 different paradigms that aren't old nor new but strategically different.

The church growth movement that came out of Fuller Seminary in the 60's and 70's and combined with the seeker movement of the 80's is the majority of the influence for what evangelical church planting is today. The downside to this in my opinion is that it can be too closely aligned with corporate American business practices than Kingdom theology. The tangible measures for sucess put enormous pressures on leaders and left a wake of good people disallusioned by a system that at times had nothing to do w/ Christ following. The upside, and something I am really grateful for, is that it made a prophetic and lasting statement that "lost people matter to God." It gave permission for church to be re-thought and re-tooled for the sake of mission. No longer would the only voice be the long-time church goer, but now resources, time and energy could be spent paying attention to those who are not yet followers. This was a healthy change. For those who are more modern in worldview, they would attend these experiences and Kingdom things could happen.

But then transitions began to happen. As the postmodern worldview began to grow in the West, all assumptions about organizations and leadership structures were questioned and deconstructed. Some leaders began looking deeper into our historical roots and adopting ancient practices of worship and community. Celtic Christianity, Ancient Monasticism and a renewed focus on spiritual formation. Out of this began to form another layer of leadership, particularly amongst those who are more postmodern in worldview towards more simple structures that were small, communal and relationally driven. Mission was done in more one to one encounters and in small, intimate settings. This is more of a missionary model amongst unreached people groups and in the western culture there are large pockets of people who have lost trust in all institutions and wouldn't attend a weekend service but would attend a backyard bbq. The growing edge for these churches is how to interface their deep community w/ the general population of people who are non-followers of Christ.

I speak in terms of modern and postmodern worldview because we can't separate ourselves from the culture we live in. We have all been deeply formed by our surroundings for the good and the bad. And I believe that we are in a transition time in history. We, here in the western world, are neither modern nor postmodern, but both. And this may be the case for another 50 - 100 years. History tells us that Macro-change is very gradual so there has to be room for some humility. However, neither the modern nor the postmodern worldview is SATISFACTORY!!! The Gospel Script is the only One that will satisfy. Kingdom Come and the Fullness it brings is the Script that we all need to be a part of. Is it now, finally possible, to come together under the Headship of Christ, and begin to prophetically advocate a 3rd category?????? Kingdom is a bigger idea than culture. Kingdom is a bigger idea than preference. Kingdom is a bigger idea than worship style, teaching paradigm or evangelism approach. Kingdom is the movement of God amongst His people, all of them. Kingdom is the only unstoppable force in the universe that governs the laws and seals our steps. Kingdom is what was, is and always will be. If we jump in this River, questions of differences become pointless as we get caught up in the purposes of the Spirit of the flow. If we continue the hard work of aligning ourselves relationally and spiritually with one another, can we not stand together on this battlefield? Can we not stare our common enemy in the face, shoulder to shoulder and draw swords together? I want nothing more than to get my foot on the neck of the enemy in every place where I can find him and I'll take whatever allies I can get. I take great encouragement to know that as today I pick a fight w/ the enemy on this battlefield, that across the river, Barry is doing the same this morning. He fights differently than I do, but neither of us will go to our grave w/ unused swords, and for that I celebrate.

On this Christmas Eve, in whatever battlefield you find yourself tonight, look for the star in the East and take the time to bend a knee at the manger of the One who is making all things new! I love you all with the love of Christ. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Again, a big thanks to all who are putting in energy and time to this conversation. I think its really helpful. I will try and respond to some of the comments made and see where we go from here.

1) It is evident that there are some disagreements re: the rightness or wrongness of simple church structures. I have really been trying to process this one. Because of a lot of really painful experiences for me, it has taken me a looooong time to come to a place of healing where I can see traditonal/seeker churches in a more balanced way. I do see some built in problems which I will try and point out further, but I also see people/leaders that have encountered Christ and want to make Him known. I am not being nice to Barry, he doesn't need that from me, I'm speaking my heart. I don't want to villainize the former in order to communicate what I see emerging. I want to move on and declare what I "am" about, instead of expressing what I'm "not" about. Its time for me to grow up and get over it because I am singularly motivated to see Kingdom happen in my community. As Rains said, there is no question that there are reasons why I do what I do, but I still don't see it as a right/wrong dichotomy.

2) Bishop absolutely nailed it on his thoughts expressed about the educational model of church that we have been accustomed to and his pursuit of more interactive, holistic and communal models of teaching. Although people are traditionally accustomed to attending a service and listening to a sermon, is this the best mode of how people learn? With what we know now of communication theory and education advances (i am a teacher by trade now as well), is 30 min. of one person talking the best mode for people to learn? Perhaps there are people that have this learning style but I would suggest that there are large populations of people who don't learn this way. Visual aids and creative elements are more helpful, but interaction and participation bring ownership for the individual learning. Relationship and trust are also dynamics that provide a great enviornment for learning. Smaller, more communal settings with high relationship I think provide the best atmosphere for spiritual formation.

3) If there is one issue that will get me on a soap box its the way $$ can drive ministry. I admitt to having real issues and history here. I longed to see if church could be done w/ out the need for $ in order to make it a non-issue. $$ is not the root of all evil, its the "love" of $ that is. What do I see that is unhealthy? We live in a consumer society where goods and services are exchanged at every moment. Its a part of our western worldview but it isn't Kingdom. Traditional church planting makes assumptions that certain costs are neccesary to have legitimate church. Particularly facility and paid staff. With more simple structures, these assumptions aren't neccesary. The pressure on a planter to get more people in order to get more $ can be a really destructive dynamic to the individual and the church. The drive to make these things happen have caused burnout and disallusionment that could have been avoided. Using $ to pay staff, provide facility and run programs can be done in healthy ways, but I don't think we have to assume our need for it. I have found that taking this issue off the table has brought enormous freedom to me as a leader and allowed us as a community to talk about our resources in missional ways and not have all the pressure of not having enough $. I often wonder if my view here is based on fear or conviction, still processing that.

4) Now to Barry's question about evangelism and reaching people. An admitted weakness to simple church structures is that its not exactly a fast way to grow more people into Christ following. But it is happening and in some creative ways. We count conversations and care for people as much as we do conversions. One of the reasons why I want to separate myself from "house church" language is because I think that house churches have often lacked the missional piece. We exist in small communities in order to be missional and express the Kingdom. (I'm speaking for myself here, many would disagree w/ me). Jesus and Paul were in mission towards people, no question in my mind. They were bold, asked lots of questions and proclaimed the Gospel of Kingdom without hesitation. I am not satisfied about our progress in this area and am in pursuit of more personal energy to reflect theologically, pray intentionally and think creatively in order to call people to a lifetime of following Christ. We do community really well, but we have to interface what we do in the small to people who are hurting and in bondage all around us in our neighborhoods. I think that hospitality may be pursued more for missional purposes. It may just be a matter of providing the space for evangelism to happen that fits our values and expresses our theology. More to come on this one.

Looking forward to hearing you talk back.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Saturday, December 18, 2004

(I want to respond to Barry here rather than in "comments" so there aren't any length constraints. Barry is the senior Pastor of the Vineyard in northern Kentucky and is my wife's uncle as well. We come from differing generations, background and mindset but agree on quite a bit too such as kingdom theology, a heart for being missional, experiencing the spiritual gifts and we both think his son, Joe, is pretty Rad. We have mutual respect and relational time invested so I really enjoy our conversations. This is a response to his comment in my last post. Ok, now you're all filled in.)

Hey Barry,
I'll try my best to clarify atleast a couple things. Its not a "right" or "wrong" dichotomy but rather just a different set of values and how one measures success. I'm not an expert but I have served in ministry in both paradigms.
Simple structures typically have less financial overhead, utilizing 20% of income for community needs and 80% is available for missional purposes instead of the other way around. This is why many simple church pastors are bi-vocational and don't have a permanent facility to upkeep. Trying to make sure that the tail (buildings and budgets) doesn't wag the dog (church).
Simple structures see relationships as an end and not a means to an end. If one is establishing kingdom relationships then one is sucessful, without needing more tangible things to happen. Its kind of like seeing with a different set of eyes.
Simple structures are more in the arena of art than science. There isn't a linear formula to follow, its a relational approach if one is intimate with the Father then the Spirit leads on in what to do.
Simple structures have less centralized leadership models. I don't advocate a completely flat leadership structure for 2 reasons: 1) Christ is the Head and 2) Not much happens w/out leadership. Simple churches have leadership that tries to be more fluid and less top down. Because there aren't many assets to manage (physically speaking) there is somewhat a built-in checks and balance system against those who have faulty agendas or seek power. However, Brian McLaren once challenged me to realize that just because a church doesn't have positions and buildings doesn't mean that there aren't power positions for people to fight over (i.e. anabaptist traditions in eary American History) and I think he was right. Leaders in simple structures have influence but is more fluid and less formal. Its an attempt to have a community where if people have the spiritual gift to lead then they should lead, without all the assumptions of what that must look like as Western cultured folk in 2005 A.D.
Simple churches have a different set of goals in mind. Instead of wanting to build one big church in a short amount of time, it seeks to build a large network of very small churches over a long period of time. Instead of a 3-5 year business plan, I am literally trying to chart a course for 30-50 years. Its a much slower approach, seeking depth over growth but realizing that they are not opposable ideas. I believe that all healthy kingdom organisms grow, its a by-product of being "in Christ".
Simple churches intend on being a multiplying body of small churches (3-20 people each).
I suppose simple churches are somewhat of a natural by-product of the postmodern worldview and deconstruction but it is not a new idea and has existed in the Body in history particularly in places where persecution pushed the churches underground. Its hard to differentiate modernistic structures and postmodern in one blog post but this is my attempt. 5 years ago, I thought simple church structures was my origingal idea and that I was all alone. What I've learned since is that thousands of people like me all over the world have been thinking the same thoughts and coming to some of the same conclusions for our contribution to the Body. Either we are all into the same heresy or the Spirit wanted to start writing a different story perhaps preparing some branches of the Church for a specific purpose and future. (that's my best prophetic guess)

However, let me conclude with this thought. Because we live on this side of Kingdom without fullness yet, the Church ultimately should be a bigger idea than what modernist or postmodern attempts have brought it to so far. Church health is "loving God" (worship, teaching, community) and "loving neighbor" (mission, evangelism, care), if we are about these things regardless of our ministry models, this seems to be what Jesus was calling us towards. I once heard you say during a teaching that "there is no plan B for Church", that this is what we have and we have to figure it out. I couldn't agree more and that has stuck with me. So as we as leaders continue to deny ourselves, submitt ourselves to Christ and listen to the Spirit, I pray that our fruits are a taste of Kingdom Come and I believe it will take all of us to get there.

thanks for the dialogue, I would welcome many readers out there to chime in and keep the conversation going but be nice or Barry and I will send out the Hitmen :)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

One more day and I'm on the welcomed 2 week teacher christmas break. I must say that the work schedule for being a teacher is pretty sweet sometimes. The downside is dealing w/ self-absorbed/obnoxious teens and payday, but the hours are great.

Had good coffee conversation last night w/ Klinefelter, G. Johnson and C. Canipe. Discussed a myriad of topics including the emerging attention from large, established Christian organizations towards simple church structures. We'll have to see how this all plays out because its not a different model, its a different worldview altogether. To not see that is to not see the issues.

Been shorting myself sleep every night this week and its catching up w/ me. Glenn and I went to a late showing of "oceans 12" last night. It was okay, I fell asleep 4 times from exhaustion.

peace to your day,

Monday, December 13, 2004

Nicki and I just had a family meeting and announced to the kids that we will be going to Orlando, Florida for Spring Break this year and check out Universal Studios, Island of Adventure, Typhoon Lagoon and lots of chill time at the pool. They are really excited, as are we. I'm not excited about the 15 hour drive each way, but its all in the name of family memory making. Ali misuderstood me and thought I said winter break, she said, "I can't believe we get to go there on Saturday!!!" I had to break it to her that she will have to wait 3 months. I love plannig trips so I will be single minded these next couple months. If your wondering why we tell our kids so far out, its because we like to have a special vacation planning night one night a week for the 10 weeks before we leave. We eat dinner together and then do an activity or watch a movie that correlates with one of the attractions at the park. Since we did Disney last year, for Universal this year it will be "Back to the Future", "ET", "Hulk", "Spiderman", "Twister", "The Mummy", "Shrek", "SpongeBob" and "Dr. Seuss".

I feel blessed to have the opportunity to take these kind of trips.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Ok, feeling 1,000% better this morning. Like a 24 hour oppression bug.

Thanks to all my community out there who encouraged me with words sprinkled w/ grace and wisdom. Thanks to all of you who were praying for me behind my back, the Spirit did come alongside. Thanks to Nicki McG. for her sharing of prophetic Scripture. Thanks to Rains and Creech for letting me vent a bit fulfilling your monk vows of availability and brotherhood(yet again). Thanks to Paul for coming out to keep me company last night.

What was my remedy last night? I took myself to dinner. Went to Barnes and Noble and skimmed a book on Zen meditation and Henri Nouwen's "Turn my mourning into dancing", drank a Starbucks mocha, Paul showed up and we skimmed picture books of really big guns and fantasized about releasing some stress by firing those bad boys, I bought a CD (Death Cab for Cutie) and then we went and saw the movie "I am David". Really good, well made, innocent movie. Then did some communicating with my wife last night and this morning. All of that helps.

So today is a new day. I was down but not out. I am never alone. Tonight is the annual OCC Christmas party, that's exaclty what the doctor ordered. When the enemy comes at us and God allows us to have a dark night of the soul, it is never fatal. As followers of the Christ, we have a nasty habit of Rising Again.

thanks to the One who says . . . "behold, I am making all things new"

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Sometimes I wish that I had never seen behind the curtain,
Maybe it all would be easier to deal with,
What do you do when you've heard all the songs meant to stir your heart,
What do you do when you've seen all the gimmicks used to keep your attention,
What do you do when you've received all the tag lines and challenges,
What do you do when you don't buy it anymore,
I used to buy it, I used to sell it, I used to believe in it,
But I don't anymore,
I'm not sure if it was my choice to not believe,
Or if the choice chose me,
I just know that I don't belong to church anymore,
I don't get it, I don't fit in and it leaves me feeling very alone,
There are honest and good people who fit in and belong to it well,
But somehow I have become lost from its gravitational pull,
I am utterly conflicted, I don't know what to believe,
Its not a matter of trying harder, where's the Grace in that?
If I just need to try harder, what differentiates church from Islam or budhism?
Its not a matter of having it explained better, I see it for what it is (good and bad),
You see, I'm a cynic who wants to believe, I'm a conflicted soul,
I've been around the block and have collected experiences from all over the world,
I get God, I get Christ, I get the Spirit, but I don't get church anymore,
I think I get Church, but not church,
The culture smothers me, I can't breathe, there's no freedom,
I've seen behind the curtain, and its left me uninvolved.

Please don't receive this as pride or rebellion, and don't read it as only darkness, it is what it is, its my thoughts on today.
Why at times do I feel alone, regardless of all that You have shown,
Why does the night last so long and the morning seem so far away,
Why do my thoughts turn dark and ignore the coming of the sun,
What can I do when the clouds arne't lifting, when the storm is a steady threat,
The wind is gusting and I can't find my balance, I have no center,
Numbness overcomes me, my heart is covered in a canvas,
I don't see right, I dont' hear right, I don't know right,
I didn't mean to get lost in the valley so how did I get here,
Why is the desert all around me, desolate and bare,
Why at times do I feel alone, regardless of all that You have shown?


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Well, today is my 32nd birthday and I have a lot to be thankful for. I have more than a wife, but a partner for life. I have 3 kids with whom I'd rather be with than anybody else in the world. I have a place to call home and I'm in Cincy where I always wanted to settle down. I have cool computer toys and a big mean truck. I work 3 jobs to make all of this work but I enjoy each of those roles and they fit my giftedness.

But to know me is to know that I have a restless heart and today it is as restless as ever. I am not very content in a few areas that I lack the time to process and the blog world is not the best place for it. But there are atleast 3 areas of my life of which I am experiencing some profound disappointment. But, who isn't? I don't think there's anything wrong wth longing for more or desiring improvement. I admitt that underneath my laid back exterior, I am driven. I am on a mission on this side of eternity and I don't want to ever be content with anything less than Kingdom Come.

U2 says it best on my birtday, here's some lyrics of longing to experience something different from my 2nd favorite song of the lads from Ireland.

"Where The Streets Have No Name"
I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name.

I wanna feel sunlight on my face.
I see the dust-cloud
Disappear without a trace.
I wanna take shelter
From the poison rain
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name.

We're still building and burning down love
Burning down love.
And when I go there
I go there with you
(It's all I can do).

The city's a flood, and our love turns to rust.
We're beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust.
I'll show you a place
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name

So peace to your day and your areas of discontentment. But let's not whine together, let's have the courage to do something about it. What's the point in having dreams if you can't experience them?

don't forget to count your blessings,

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

In prayer for my friend and fellow teacher, Doc and his family as his parents were in a car accident last night in which the car was blindsided and they didn't expect his Dad to make it through the night. Pray for the Savage family as you can.

Tonight begins the 8 days of Hanukkah and the recognition of the miracles of God amongst us and his provision for what we need. God overcame the Syrians and delivered the Temple back to His people for them to remember and live out His presence amongst them. The candle flame to symbolize the purifying fire of our hearts towards Yahweh. They had only enough oil for one night, but the flame burned miraculously for 8 days. As followers of Christ, this is our spiritual heritage as well.

Thank you Abba for your provision and your flame of purification.

stop and notice the Kingdom amongst you today,

Sunday, December 05, 2004

First things first, Who Dey!!!! The Bengals beat the despicable Ravens today 27-26 on a last second field-goal. That brings them to 6-6 and earns respect around the league some more. The re-building program is right on schedule, gettting better all the time and no longer the laughing stock of the league. I'm proud of my Bengals tonight, and my Eagles who are 11-1. Yee haw.

I am guilty of watching most every episode of "Extreme Home Make-Over" on Sunday evenings with my family. Its so Kingdom to change lives and do good. Its based on compassion, generosity, new beginnings, hope, family and friendship. Yes, I may have even shed a tear over a few episodes, but if you ask me face to face I'll deny it, just so you know :)

Nicki is forcing me to watch Mitch Albom's "The 5 people you'll meet in heaven" because she read the book and wants me to experience it. All theology aside, its pretty gripping. We all think we know what will happen the moment we die and cross over to the other world. We think we know what heaven will look like and what hell could be like. I suggest that we don't have a freaking clue. The Bible says so little about the specifics. It is loaded with imagery and figurative language, but no encyclopedia explanations. Its mystery and that's part of the beauty. What we do know is that heaven is eternity w/ God and that hell is eternal separation from Him. We also know that our crossover destinations have a direct correlation to our being "in Christ" or not. But specifcially what they are like, I don't believe we can know. I believe all our images are pure speculation. I believe heaven is the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That what we experience here on earth is a partial taste of heaven. Someday we will crossover and taste the fullness. I also don't beleive that heaven is a far off place in the sky that is made of mansions and streets of gold. I take that as figurative language of the glory of the Kingdom of God. I believe that He is building a new heaven and a new earth right here, near us in another spiritual dimension that we don't see without pure spiritual eyes. I believe that those who have crossed over before us are not far away in a distant place but are near to us. They are the great cloud of witnesses as Hebrews states, surrounding us, cheering us on, maybe even praying for us. I think its traditional thinking and not Scriptual to believe that heaven and the throne of Christ are somewhere far away, I believe the fullness of the spiritual realm is very near to us and can be accessed through the spiritual disciplines to taste in the here and now. I do not fear death and I look forward to crossing over into the Kingdom fullness someday. But for now, I am content to take the fight to the enemy daily as a partner in ushering in the new heaven and new earth. If I can do whatever I can to bring others into the experience of eternal Kingdom and to come on this journey of being "in Christ", then that's what I'm here to do by any means neccessary that reflect His character. I am here now to do whatever it takes, proclaim His Kingdom come and invite others to come and to follow the One who changes life in the now and the not yet.

peace to you tonight,

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just got back from Philly for my grandmother's funeral. Had some miserable flights and connections, plust they lost my luggage and I didn't receive it til 15 min. before the funeral at the funeral home. I'm not a big fan of Northwest Airlines right now.

It was a pretty good service time there, the Marshall side of my family are pretty good story tellers. Lots of laughter and lots of good stories. It was real casual, real warm and deeply spiritual. good stuff. My grandmother was one of those people who was very open about her excitement to see Jesus face to face so it was easy to grieve her with many words of hope. I caught up with cousins that I was close to as a kid but haven't connected with in 12 years or more. So the reflecting was fun too.

This was also one of about 5 events I can think of in my life where my Mom and my Dad have been in the same room. Since they divorced before I was born, this is a rare occasion. Seeing them together is kind of eery though. Like, "what would my life have been like if these 2 learned how to make their marriage work?" I also was given the honor of closing the eulogy time with some words and prayer. I was able to share my heart through the Spirit and it was easy to honor somebody like my grandmother, an amazing woman.

I need some rest and family time tonight. peace-out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ok, in honor of the new U2 album coming out today "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb", let me post a few quotes from the lads. By the way, I will unequivocally say and teach my kids that U2 is the best rock band in the world and always has been. Secondly, I am not one to be starstruck, but I'm fascinated by Bono. His ideas, his passions, his art, his worldview, his Christ following, his leadership, his criticisms, his persona, his creativity and his sound bites.

Here are some quotes from last friday's USA today article in an interview.

In response to the sales of their new album . . . "But we don't see that as the only way to be successful. What we want to preserve above everything else is the creative life of the band. Our approach to being commercial is be really good and original adn don't worry about it."

On greatness . . . "Very good", Bono says, "is the enemy of great. You think great is right next door. It's not. It's in another county." (geez, i love that idea)

On the death of his father and songwriting . . . "Nothing like bereavement to keep the heart porous, " Bono says, "It's hardness of the heart that can close down a writer."

On new album . . . "This album was no time for philosophizing. This is about who do you love, how do you love, why do you love."

On beauty . . . "We are brutal in a very clinical way. That eye is almost cruel in its search for beauty. No one notices the blows or sees the bruises. All we're concerned about is where is the beauty."

The 4 lads from the Green Island are at it again. Who's up for a couple road trips to see them live?????????


Monday, November 22, 2004

I'm stranded here at school and our new computer has been delivered at home. The new member to our family is an iMac G5 w/ wireless keyboard and mouse. I want to go home right now and set it up and begin playing like a kid in a candy shop.

My grandmother back in philly is failing in her health again the the doctors have given her just a couple more days to live so our holiday plans may be changing. This got me thinking this morning about what it must be like to be ready to see Christ face to face and to long for it. There are great relationships here on earth, but I can hardly imagine what seeing Jesus will be like. I experience His presence now but only in the spiritual. Will I one day see him in the physical? I mean the real Christ? The One who has brought truth to my existence. Amazing thing we call life. I pray my Grandmom Marshall walks seamlessly into the arms of the one she has worshipped her entire life. There are parts of me that envy her for that experience, but I'm content rocking this life for a few more decades.


Friday, November 19, 2004

Been doing some reflecting w/ senior Bible classes today on what we have to be thankful for. We spend so much time griping, complaining, moaning about what we don't have, what we think we need, what we're disappointed with, what doesn't fit our agenda, what doesn't work for us, what we don't prefer etc. etc.

What must this sound like to the God who made us? Who created wonders for us to see and beautiful things in life for us to taste? To honor Him, to thank Him, to praise Him ought not to be overlooked.

So here is my thankful list as is in my mind this morning:
- my wife, I couldn't be more in love. She's an amazing person and Mom. And, she's Hot!
- my kids, they have changed me. I love spending time with them. They amaze me with their learning and their growing up. I can't wait to see how they will bring more of the Kingdom to earth.
- my friends. I have for my lifetime longed for the friends that I presently have. I have hoards of people who love me and would do anything for me. Guys I can share my deepest thoughts with and my closet of skeletons. We share a faith that will never end.
- my health. I have done well so far, but if I'm not more intentional, I might not be able to say this 10 years from now.
- my calling. I feel called to teach and announce the good news of the Kingdom. I'm not doing it as much as I want to but in a way I get to use it as my vocation as well, so that's cool.
- my home. A place to make memories with my family and provide hospitality for more Kingdom work.
- my frivolous comforts. I won't list them or you'll think less of me.
- my ongoing salvation in Christ and the experience of Kingdom come.

Stop and be thankful for the Kingdom today,

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

i just had to say that my wireless virginity has been broken. I asked for a wireless network in my house for my birthday this year and it came early. I'm stoked, watching "Elf" with the kids as I send off some emails. We're also expecting our new computer in the mail in a few days, the G5 iMac. Life is good. Thanks to Jon and Ben for their Mac buying advice.

"All of my days . . . You've shown yourself in mysterious ways,
Not always clear to me in the heat of the race,
But I am sure I've seen your image."
-portion of "At Your Table" by Beth Wacome Keck

"Show me how you work, God; School me in your ways.
Take me by the hand; Lead me down the path of truth.
You are my Savior, aren't you?"
-Psalm 25 (The Message)

I love questions. They intrigue me. They involve mystery and the unknown and that captures my imagination and creativity. I love that my relationship with Christ because its open and not controlled. I mean, there is still so much about Him that I have no clue of or have even discovered. Deeper wells of grace and truth that I have yet to tap in my lifetime. I'm not really a person who wished that God was more like Science, known entities and full proof measurements, that stuff doesn't capture me. I like the unknown, I like mystery. Well, I guess I say that when things are going well. When my enemies are closing in, I like to know that He's a Rock of stability and salvation. I don't want to ever lose the awe and wonder of my salvation.

Take me by the hand today, Lord, I'll follow.


Monday, November 15, 2004

Pretty good weekend. Thanks to Alan and VBCC for hosting our regional gathering on friday evening and Saturday. Really good folk as always gathering to share lives and encourage each other for simple, Kingdom work. Our time of prophetic prayer for one another was particularly a highlight for me. We all should do that more.

OCC is in planning stages for 3 pretty cool events coming up. (events = parties) Next Sunday we have our annual Thanksgiving celebration together w/ a nice turkey dinner and a time of worship and giving thanks. On December 10, we are having our annual Christmas party with white elephant gifting, karaoke, good eats and more. Jan. 14-16 is a new thing for us, we're going to have a winter family retreat in north east Ohio staying in a lodge together, going skiing/tubing and have a few worship sessions revolving around a theme. This brings me back to my student ministry days, really looking forward to a getaway and what the Spirit can do in that time. So the holidays are upon us and the calendar is getting full.

Nicki was painting most of the day yesterday, so I had a chance to do some bonding w/ my 3 kids. We played disney trivia, watched The Grinch, then I cleaned the house and did the dishes, then made dinner, then gave them a bath and got them ready for bed, then watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition and then our evening compline prayers before bed. It was good to have concentrated time with them. Nicki is painting again tonight, so I"m back at it.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

First off, let me say this. Go here ( and buy Beth's CD if your looking for something honest, authentic and stripped down. Its a really beautiful piece of raw worship. Beth's heart and voice has been in my truck this week and the Spirit has been imminently present. I may be buying a few myself for Christmas presents this year. Thanks for your giftings and artistic pasion, Beth.

Secondly, I am attending a Christian teacher convention today and tommorrow in Dayton that our school sends us to every other year. I attended 3 seminars on postmodernism today and they don't have a clue. They are spending all their time setting up a culture war and not getting to the heart of the matter which is that we are losing the hearts of our students. The answer is not to bash Michael Moore and the rest of hollywood. The answer is not to play pop-philosophy with elementary logic about truth. The answer is not to preach to the choir about how right you are. The answer is the Incarnation. The answer is to enter in, not to declare that your right, but to love. Truth does not need to be defended, it shows itself to be true. Students need people who care enough to give them a reason to encounter Truth. When oh when are we going to learn? Its not a battle over ideas, its a spiritual battle for hearts. We don't need anymore "us vs. them" dichotomies, we need to embrace all those outside of the Kingdom of God as his missing children. We are as pompous and prideful as the Pharisees, we lack the simple graces of humility and love. I am beginning to really embrace being an influencer as a teacher, but I share little in common with this propaganda of a culture war. I am not interested in cultural issues, I'm interested in the heart, for that is where our external behaviors come from. We don't love because we memorize long Bible passages about love. We love because the Spirit of the Scriptures is within us and compels us to be like Christ as revealed in the Bible. Postmodernism is not a threat. Relgious minded arrogance is the threat I'm concerned with.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I've been reflecting on the Kingdom that has already come. For so long, I believed that my Christianity was about some day going to a place called heaven or waiting for Jesus to come back and take me there. But as I read the N.T., I don't see the evidence of that. Rather, I see a Kingdom that has already come. A Kingdom that came in power, however oddly wrapped as a child laying in a manger. Jesus lived the Kingdom life, sinless, loving, forgiving, gracious, righteous, indignant towards evil etc. He said things like "if you've seen me, you've seen the kingdom" and "I am the bread of life, whoever eats of me will never go hungry again." You see, I eat other things that don't really satisfy. They seem like they will help me, but they end up being a counterfeit to the real thing. I have tasted and enjoyed the reality of Kingdom come, but I haven't had enough. I want more, a lot more. There is still sickness and pain all around me and the eternal kingdom will be wiped clean of those. I see the hearts of many grown cold, not caring anymore and living only in their own cynicism and lack of trust. I see brokenness, decay, heartache, failures and counterfeits. I want to be a conduit of Kingdom come. I want to touch and to heal, I want to speak and see transformation, I want to love and see hate dispel, I want to prophesy and see hope well up, I want to forgive and see freedom, I want to proclaim and see conversions, I want more than I see now. i want to be a conduit for Kingdom come because I'm tired of seeing people around me in pain and in bondage the ways of this world.

Wednesday is an off day for me at school. I have chosen to spend a portion of it in solitude and contemplative prayer seeking the Jesus who is Kingdom come.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Palmers had an amazing wedding this past Saturday night in Columbus. Really beautiful decor, Jewish wedding w/ chanted Hebrew blessings and concluded w/ Palmer stepping on the wine glass. The fun raged on as the Beans, Creech's, Rains' and Marshall's rocked into the early morning. Good fun, good friends.

Should have tommorrow off then a 2 day Christian teacher convention in Dayton on Thursday and Friday (woo hoo).

Today is my eldest dauthter's 8th birthday. Ali is a unique child. Extremely innocent and extremely dramatic. I can't hardly picture her future but I know it will be filled with highs and lows. She is so much like me, I really enjoy her. I envision her and I taking some walks and trips together just dreaming about life and the future. Happy Birthday Ali!

Stop and Notice the Kingdom around you today.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Do you ever hear a voice calling you? I'm not talking about audibly, I'm talking about the times when you listen with your soul? This morning I hear a voice calling me. I wonder if its the same voice that calls to the deep and the same voice that thunders in the sky. Its the voice of a Creator who governs the universe and keeps his eye on the sparrow. Its a voice that gives incredible clarity to this thing we call life. Its a voice that helps me see whether I've been flying right side up or not. I think I've been looking for perspective lately. But how can I get His perspective unless I unplug myself from this world's systems? How can I hear until I'm quiet in solitude not allowing other voices to distract? How can I strip myself away so that He's the only voice that is left? I long to follow that voice. I long to obey whatever it says. I long to be shaped and molded by the coals from his flame. How can you ever know who you really are unless you unplug from this system and hear his voice? I want to act in the power of the resurrection, but only he has those resources. I want to walk in His stream if only to know that I belong to Him. His ways are not our ways and His Kingdom is not the one easily seen. For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

I want to hear today that distant voice.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Man, it was so good to have fight club again tonight. Its been a long, long while since we got together with lots of transitioning, injuries, scheduling conflicts etc. But back we were again. Rains, Canipe, Johnson, myself and a guest appearance from Joe Long. (Hey Joe, love the CD mix, and part. the intro.) Our topics ranged from 40 foot fires, potato guns, life insurance, things not to say to your wife, jelly donuts in our spinal columns, head injuries, emergent news, eschatology views, Israel as metaphor, home buying, group leading, world systems, music tastes and a ton of laughter. I love not being alone in what I do. Sometimes I feel that I don't do enough, that I should be accomplishing more, I should be more missional, more productive, more intentional etc. etc. These guys help me relax and just be myself. Think Kingdom, act Kingdom, love Kingdom and be Kingdom. Good friends are to be treasured, I appreciate these guys. They spur me on towards love and good deeds. I am never alone. Fight Club is back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

WHO DEY!! Just getting back into it after taking Tuesday off following Monday Night Football here in the Nati. Had a great time with Joe, Paul and Gabe, the infamous Bengal Bus and 65,000 of my closest friends in Bengal stripes. The Bengals played the way we believe they can play and if we can keep it together over the next couple weeks, we're right back in the thick of things. This goes into my top 5 favorite Bengals experiences, very satisfying.

Been talking with many lately about the polarization of our country in regards to this election coming up. It just isn't even civil and amongst the Christian population, it seems if their choice isn't elected then the gates of hell are going to open up and swallow up America by November 5th and no later than November 7th. It will be an imminent destruction. As a follower of Christ, I just don't think this is the case. Rather, this too shall pass and history can prove it.

Romans 13:1-6, Paul lays out his views on government. He states that we should submit ourselves to governing authorities. And Peter, in I Peter 2:11-17 says that we should submit to authorities instituted among men. He also states that we are aliens and strangers in this world, so why are we putting so many eggs in the basket of this election? I do believe that we have dual citizenship. We are to be present as salt and light in our communities, and I apply that as voting, paying taxes, obeying the laws etc. But that we are also citizens of another Kingdom that is unshakeable. So I won't get too upset if the canidate I vote for doesn't win and I don't think the world will end.

By the way, Peter and Paul couldn't vote for their emperor and Nero was a madman. It amazes me that Peter and Paul wrote these words of respect and honor to a governor who would eventually behead Paul and crucify Peter according to Church tradition. It must be that they were anchored not in this world, but in a world that was unseen. The Kingdom perspective changes everything.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Had one of those parent experiences last night that will haunt me for awhile. Our son, Zach, is 2 and he fell down a couple stairs and split his chin open with a gash. I was about to leave for our school football game when Nicki called me from her mom's with the news. So I met her at the Urgent Care facility and it was obvious that it was going to need stitches. Zach was already having one of those melodramatic days and he wasn't co-operating. He wouldn't sit still or sit at all. So they put him on a board that had 4 sets of straps on it and strapped him down so he couldn't move. One over his head, one over his arms at the shoulder, one over his hands at the waist and one around his hips. This obviously made Zach very frustrated and he screamed and cried the entire time to get himself free but couldn't get out. I would be okay if I lived the rest of my life and never saw Zach in that position again. Now I wanted the doctor to do his job but it was really hard to see Zach in this state. His screams pierced my heart and I know Nicki was feeling the same. When your 2 year old son is screaming in agony, your instinct is to pick him up and bring him near, not fight to hold him down. Zach kept looking at us with that look of "why aren't you doing anything about this?" He felt betrayed by us at that moment. I'm sure many of you out there have had similar or more intense experiences with your kids with injuries or illnesses and you can relate.

Without being too cliche, driving out of the parking lot after it was over flooded me with immediate thoughts of Abba watching his son be tortured, ridiculed and die mercilessly on a piece of wood. How did he sit there and watch it happen? When Jesus cried out for his father to help, he was left to feel forsaken. How hard must it have been to be a father and watch that happen to your son? But that suffering had a purpose. He forsook his son that afternoon so that he could bring us near. It tore his heart so much that we had left him that he was willing to have his son go through that so that we could come home in Him. And how much do I still go my own way without any regard to the suffering of Christ for me?

Abba, I awake this morning with gratitude in my heart for your Son and his sacrifice. I don't know how you stood and watched it but as a result, I have found my way back to you. Forgive me this day for the things I do out of selfishness and indulgences of the flesh. i want to honor you with my entire being out of gratitude of your unfailing love. Amen.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Do you ever just hear a song and it makes you feel what the writer felt when they wrote the song? Do you ever empathize with a story? I mean jump into it so your a character in it taking it all in? You become a part of the plot, a part of the action, a part of the scenery. I was moved in my truck just minutes ago with my daughter, Ali. Her and I wear our emotions on our sleeves and we listened to the song "I'll be missing you" by Puff Daddy Sean Combs (or whatever he's going by nowadays). This is not my typical genre, it just happened to be on the radio and we began discussing the song until we began to feel the song. I explained how the artist had lost his friend to a gunshot and he was remembering their good days together. Ali seems to always be up for a "sad" song so she listened quietly. I think both of us just allowed ourselves to be moved. Do you ever take the time to be moved? I mean, let something affect you on the inside. Don't fight it off as childish, just let your heart feel something. For me, I do this to feel alive. To know that I have the capability to feel and reflect. I love to reflect with good artists/song writers/storytellers (not that Puff Daddy fits that description). I desire a life that isn't only linear. Wake up, put the appropriate clothes on, go to job, come home, do the right things, stay in control, minimize risk etc. etc. etc. I want to live and know that I'm alive. I mean, after having taken care of responsibilities, I like to check out of the linear world and have overwhelming experiences. Wasn't it Descartes that said, "I think, therefore I am". My mantra may be, "I feel, therefore I am". I want to hold onto a passion for life, people and the reality of Kingdom come. I want to experience all that it means to be alive, the good and the bad. I don't want to check in and check out of life, I want to upgrade to the deluxe model of life. Drama has its place in the real world, its just not a reality to be in all the time. Passion is one of the core values of OCC and one of the things that I admire most about Jesus. He took time to weep, even though he could fix things. He laughed, even though nothing surprised him. He got angry, he got annoyed, he got fed up and he got fired up on his favorite topics. He was alive and pursued his purposes accordingly. Passion is about living the life that you were purposed to live, and it might not be the one your waking up to in the morning. Don't just get by, live! Live fully, drink deeply from the wells of the Kingdom and take the time to pay attention to the artists around you. They might paint a picture that invites you to get in and be a part of. Now that's living.


Monday, October 18, 2004

Alot of people criticize blogs that are about the details of our lives as being only narcisistic. So I'll go ahead and post one and confirm their suspicions.

- Had a great time with one of my best friends I've had in this life. Kevin Grand and I have been friends since college and we have logged thousands of hours together in ministry, life, fun and tears. He's going through an unwanted divorce and it was good to give him a weekend of processing and pressure releasing laughter. My daughters are in love with him. They went into mourning the moment he left on Sunday morning. Kevin and I couldn't be more different and we couldn't be better friends.

- Had our OCC annual harvest party on Saturday in the freezing cold. We took a hayride in the pumpkin patch and picked out some pumpkins, as well as ate too many cider donuts. We came back to our house for a chili and cornbread dinner, caramel apple pie, pumpkin pie, hot chocolate etc. etc. We had a big fire outside that the men congregated around for conversation and then after dark we make our own drive-in theater. We projected a DVD on the side of my house with stereo sound and the kids snuggled in their sleeping bags for the halloween themed film. Very cool, we'll definitely do that again sometime. Community time never disappoints.

- I still feel sick from the Bengals game on Sunday. The great deliverance out of slavery in Egypt apparently never happened. We look and feel like the same ole Bengals. Another Sunday pathetic debaucle followed by poor excuses. Is it too much to ask for that we just be good? Not Super Bowl team, just decent, instead of the easiest team on everybody else's schedule. I was so excited to go the first Monday Night game in Cincinnati since 1990 next week with some of the boys. Now I'm just excited to hang with the boys, the Bengals are an afterthought. Yes, I still feel sick to my stomach.
But my Philly Eagles are 5-0, so there's hope for something.

- I have the final step in my hiring process on Friday afternoon for Indiana Wesleyan University. I will be teaching Bible Electives in night classes one night a week. In order for me to remain at CCS as a high school Bible teacher financially, I have to get another income somewhere that makes sense. Now I can teach Bible in my day job and my night job. Ideally, I would love to teach at the college lever full-time. Maybe this is a step in that direction. For now, it is very part-time. I thank Abba for the opportunity to make a living at one of the things I do well, regardless of how much I have to do it just to make that living. This will increase my workload, but also my opportunities to announce the Kingdom, so its a trade-off.

- I loved spending time with my kids this weekend, they are so much fun and fill my life with such meaning. This just in, my wife is an amazing person. She juggles 3 kids, a business, friendships, admin. of our community, hospitality needs and still has time and attention to date me. I only hope that I enhance and support her life as she does mine. My future is bright with her in my corner.

peace unto your house,

Thursday, October 14, 2004

So I say good morning
to the God who raises my countenance and lifts my head,
to the God who speaks and light appears,
to the God who walks and mountains tremble,
to the God who walks out of tombs and opens graves that were seemingly shut,
to the God who touches eyes so they can see,
to the God who tells lame men that they can walk again,
to the God who sets captives free,
to the God who makes accusers drop their stones,
to the God who was, is and always will be,
to the God who created an unshakeable kingdom,
to the God who takes the orphan in an embrace,
to the God who formed me in the womb,
to the God who rescued me from myself,
to the God who makes new beginnings,
to the God who has never let me go,
to the God who passionately pursued me ever since the Garden,
to the God who lives within me this day,
To you, O God, I say Good Morning.

peace unto your day,

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

In the words of the infamous 70's music sensation, Geroge Clinton: "WE WANT THE FUNK, GOTTA HAVE THAT FUNK!"

I've been feeling funky, but not in the hip/groovy kind of way, in the "why is my head in a haze?" kind of way. I suppose its the reason for my lack of blogging, I just having been feeling very introspective. I really feel like I could benefit from a retreat day, a day to get alone and just think/pray/read/get my inner house in order. But that day doesn't seem to be on the horizon. The weekend is packed (w/good stuff) and I can't afford to take a day off work right now. I'm not feeling empty or dry, I'm quite content and learning new stuff all the time, just feeling funky. I go into stints where my mind and heart want to contemplate deeply about issues either within me or I see around me in the world, and if I can't take the time to process it, I just have troubles functioning in the real world.

I guess here are some questions on my mind:
1) The reality of Kingdom come is all around us, but why do we still worship idols?
2) Does God still work miracles? And if so, why do I not believe it all the time?
3) Do our busy schedules and busy lives make God sad?
4) When was the last time I made room in my heart to care about starving children who have already died today somewhere on this earth?
5) How many widows (single moms) and orphans have I passed by this week that were in need?
6) God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Who am I that he should care?
7) Am I more American than I am Christian?
8) Is abortion the only pro-life issue Christ followers should care about?
9) Will I ever improve on the things that I am not good at?
10) Why does my heart feel sad?


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rodney Dangerfield, dead at age 82

One of the all-time great movie comedians from the 80's has left us. He did a few Classic films, and a few that never should have been watched, ever.

Here are my top 3 Rodney films:

3) Easy Money
2) Back to School - best line is, "When I die, you can donate my body to science fiction."
1) Caddyshack - one of the best comedies of ALL TIME!! Rodney was at his best in that classic. His dance moves in the clubhouse, his rhetoric on the golf course and his way with the Judge's wife. Way too funny. Must watch again in memory of Rodney.

He also had a big stand-up act with his famous mantra, "I get no respect".
"When I was born, I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother."

Thanks for the laughs, Rodney. You have my respect. RIP.


Monday, October 04, 2004

"why throw rocks in the general direction of some nebulous, evil machine. The rocks might hit people you love and who love you."
I wanted to respond to Barry's comments out here because I think its a really good critique. First off, let me own the stuff I need to. Barry, if you took any of the things I said as a statement towards you or your ministry then let me apologize because that is not who you are. I have nothing but respect for the blood, sweat and tears that you have poured into the Vineyard over the years. You, in your own right, have made many courageous and risky decisions in the name of mission and reaching people. I have watched you set aside your own preferences for the opportunity to be more missional towards people. I admire your compassion, creativity, work ethic and gift in teaching. I apologize if the things I said offended you, it was not my intent.

I agree with Barry as I go back and read my comments that i was painting with a broad brush and not being specific. i was trying to speak towards one situation but in reality it probably hit an old wound in me. At the age of 26, I found myself totally burned out, and chewed up in the seeker style of church growth. There are others like me, and there are others who are completely energized and motivated. The 'evil" is not model or strategy, its system. When a system takes the place of a living body of Christ, then many unhealthy things occur. This applies the same to house churching/simple church/missional communities. When we're more loyal to pushing "systems" over people, we probably cease acting as the Body. This is what I wanted to communicate. Its too easy to speak in black and white opinions in this blogworld. So thanks to Barry for reminding me that readers have faces.

So I want to re-state some fundamental values that I hold. 1) I am pro-Kingdom. (i.e. phil. 1) If Christ is preached then we are to rejoice. I am for anyone who is seeking to announce that the Kingdom has come and the key to experiencing it is through Jesus Christ. 2) I am for doers. I am not for complainers, whiners, deconstructionists or those who are happy seeing their angst as an end. If our discontent does not lead us to create, then I wonder if we're talking about the same God. God is the God of creation, he creates, its who he is. Yes, he tears down in the story of Scripture, but only to build up again. I am passionate about networking with doers who are daily taking the battle to the enemy. I don't ever want to be a stumbling block to those who are doers. 3) I love the Church. I love her. Sometimes too much. I am very passionate about her influence on earth. I have given up every area of my life to serve the Church. I love the Church above ground and I love the Church underground. I am driven by the dream of the Church as salt and light on every corner of this earth. When I critique the church, I do it like a football coach who so badly wants to see the team achieve its goal and is not afraid to "not be liked" for a while as long as the players know they are loved. Kingdom is the big idea. Becoming the people of God and announcing his Kingdom on earth is what we're about. We may prefer some strategies over others according to our values and giftings and as long as we are motivated through the One Spirit and not in systems of the flesh, we are in the same battle.

peace to you and your house tonight,

Friday, October 01, 2004

Great dinner with K-rains last night just catching up with one another's lives over some Irish Fish 'n chips, always a great way to end the day. Nicki and I will be hanging out with Bill and Mollie Bean tonight here in Cincy, really looking forward to that time.

Paul McGillivary's blog yesterday struck me as sad and also very telling. Another Pastor who has crumbled under the pressure of performing for Church Inc. I don't want to rant here or anything, I just wanted to say: Is this why Moses parted the Red Sea and Christ endured the cross, so that our leaders could burn out under the tyranny of programs and performance driven church models?

Dallas Willard in the Prelude to Renovation of the Heart puts it this way:
"For our Christian groups and their leaders, it means that there is a simple, straightforward way in which congregations of Jesus' people can, without exception, fulfill his call to be an ecclesia, his 'called out' ones: a touch point between heaven and earth, where the healing of the Cross and the Resurrection can save the lost and grow the saved into the fullness of human beings in Christ. No special facilities, programs, talents, or techniques are required. It doesn't even require a budget. Just faitfulness to the process of spiritual formation in Christlikeness exposed in the Scriptures and in the lives of his 'peculiar people' through the ages."
-This is the kind of activity I want to put my energy into. I want to do this pastor gig for a long, long time.

peace of Christ unto your weekend,

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Ok, the Bengals stunk today but I had an absolute blast!! Tailgating with Joe Long, Glenn Johnson and the 3 McGillivary brothers starting at 8:00 a.m. Cornhole, football throwing, charcoal grilling, listening to the ultimate Bengal tailgate CD mixed by D.J. j-long with a few thousand of our closest friends. Tailgating is just an amazing piece of American culture. It has all the makings of religious fanaticism. My highlight was walking over with Joe to the "Bengal Bus" which is owned by a friend of his. Met up with about 5 of my wife's cousins and a hoard of other crazy Bengal fans in which we packed into the Bus which is completely decked out in leather lazy boy chairs, bar stools, bengal stripe carpeting, surround sound, DVD player, bathroom and the works. I was able to be a part of their ritual of a 12:05 pep-talk from coach Wallace. That's William Wallace. They put in the Braveheart DVD for the famous "speech" and battle scene where they confront and defeat the English at Stirling. It was blaring, 25 guys sitting on top of each other, crammed in a small bus painted in Bengals stripes screaming like Celtic Warriors getting pumped up beyond measure, better than any pep rally I've ever been to. The testasterone was oozing. After screaming in the bus for 15 min. we poured out and got to the stadium for a Bengal loss :(
it was just so much fun being in the party, so much fun being with some of my favorite people, so much fun being around football in the fall. thanks to my wife for giving me the day off to do what I love to do, which is party with my friends. hope your weekend was well and now its back to work.


Friday, September 24, 2004

I'm a big fan of fridays, especially in the fall when football season is at full speed. Football has always been a diversion for me in my life, its something I'm genuinely interested in and hope to continue my coaching career in the future. (come on, Zach, keep growing!) Tonight I will check out our high school game, tommorrow is college football day with the Buckeyes playing at night and this Sunday is reserved for tailgating starting at 8:30 a.m. for a 1:00 Bengals game. 6 of us guys are going down to tailgate and meeting up with a host of other folk down there we know with shouts of "Who Dey?" heard at all times. Its community time :) My prediction: Bengals 17 Ravens 14.

I've been in a season of real encouragement of late. Just appreciating all that God has given me and all that he has provided for me. It wasn't but a few years back that I felt so unstable, unsure if I could provide for my family and do something I love. And now I can say that we are doing just fine, all of our needs are covered, and a few wants as well. I'm teaching what I love to teach and seeing the results of that investment almost daily. I belong to a community of faith that is seeking out with true authenticity what it means to be the people of God for the sake of the world. Having grown up without a Dad around, I am enjoying immensely the role of Dad to my kids. They are so much fun and I just relax when I'm around them. I have been blessed with the wife of my youth and each day I find new reasons to respect her and admire her, she's an amazingly caring/thoughtful person. I am living in the days of Kingdom come and today I stop to appreciate that the Gospel has been good news to me.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought." - Jesus
(Matthew 5, The Message)

peace of Christ unto your weekend,

Monday, September 20, 2004

WHO DEY!! Bengals 16 Dolphins 13

Went to the game last night with some of the boyz and it was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless and I'll take it. Got home at 1:30 a.m. and the alarm came early this morning. But with the taste of victory, its a little easier to get up. Next Sunday afternoon, going down with the boyz again for the Baltimore Ravens game and hopefully another home victory. I love football season.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

I'm starting to get back on the mend and feel like myself again just in time for the weekend. BBQ for college bound (and already started) students tommorrow night, that should make for a good time. The rain is imminent though, it may turn into a guy movie night which is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

I've been wrestling with a "label" that has been used in reference to myself and others that I am in community with. For those of us doing "fill in the blank here" (simple church, house church, organic church, missional communities), a label that has been thrown around in description of us as leaders or as people is ANGRY. I've heard it a few times as a criticism of me and I've heard friends of mine share similar criticisms they have received. Often we have laughed about it (can you laugh when your angry?), but its been on my mind over the last couple weeks. Is it a label that I wish to wear?

I will admitt to my brokeness. I will admitt that I planted Ordinary Community in a crisis of faith during feelings of desperation. I will admitt that I feel pain deeply and have high expectations for the ideals of Kingdom. I will admitt that I'm a kid from philly who wears his passions on his sleeve. I will admitt that I will speak openly about the things I believe are right. But honestly, anger is not a daily reality for me. I have never felt so loved in my entire existence. I have never felt so at peace. I love being a Dad, husband, friend, teacher, spiritual director, evangelist (in my own way), community member, son, sports fan, pastor etc. etc. I never knew that I could experience the contentment that I have today and the risks taken to get here were the best decisions I ever made. I'm in for the long haul now, I'm not hanging by a string. I feel the privelege of picking fights with the enemy on a daily basis and feeling very confident that I am an agent of Kingdom change here on earth.

So how is it that I'm perceived as angry? Am I angry because I refuse to use my giftedness (pastoral leadership) as a vocation? Am I angry because I ask hard questions? Am I angry because I am better at creating than I am maintaining? Am I angry because I measure success differently? Am I angry because I believe that small is strategic? Am I angry because I want $$ to be a non-issue for ministry? Am I angry because I reject business/consumer models for church? Am I angry because I don't conform well? Am I angry because I'm not a traditionalist? Am I angry because I'm emotional? Am I angry because I view relationships as an end and not a means? Am I angry because I dwell in the middle of major paradigms that are shifting and its hard for us to understand each other?

What is more accurate is that I have probably been too critical of views outside of my own, that's not anger, its immaturity and I'm starting to see the light in that area. I am pro-Kingdom as long as we all understand that form influences function, which is true of all forms.

I've done the work of introspection and I'm honestly going to chalk this one up to the language barrier between differing worldviews. We don't know each other and its hard for us to communicate because we use different language and rest in different values. But the Kingdom is a big idea and I frankly lack the time to be angry. I'm having too much fun being creative in His Kingdom playground.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Forgive me if its because its 5:00 a.m. or the hangover effects of the weekend fever but I woke up with these thoughts.

I've been reading alot out there in blog world about the tension many are feeling about forms and function of church as we seek to move forward in various aspects of minstry that we feel called towards. And I believe these issues to be quite complex and yet the Gospel incredibly simple. Here's my best take:

1) If we're honest, our personality make-ups have a lot to do with the forms of church/ministry that we're involved in. We gravitate towards our passions and naturally choose the ones that fit our ways of thinking. (this is coming at it from a more psychological viewpoint.)
2) According to Willard in "Rennovation of the Heart", all of us have been spiritually formed in good and bad ways and discipleship is to be transformed back to our original created selves. When it comes to ministry, all of us have been formed. Some of us have embraced certain traditions, assumptions, worldviews and church forms that we have no need to question/threaten but rather to just work the plan because there is still a LARGE amount of people going to churches on Sunday mornings and its a harvest. Some of us have been formed by painful negative experiences in church that have led us on journeys to question everything, go back to the Scriptures and try to figure out what the Kingdom that Jesus was talking about means and re-discovering ancient forms of Christianity that have been lost through the years, particularly in mainstream evangelicalism. (simplicity, community, availability, vulnerability, monasticism, contemplative prayer etc.) We speak, feel and react out of our formative experiences giving us our present worldview.
3) The 2 very general worldviews described above are strikingly different in a host of ways. They don't see the world the same way, they don't speak the same language, they share and practice different values and they have contrasting assumptions about the world they live in. They read the Gospels of Jesus to different conclusions. They define and practice evangelism with completely different styles. These worldviews are clashing in many private and sometimes public ways. And if Chuck Killian, one of my seminary professors is right (a prof. with whom I had epic battles with), he said, "ministry happens on the other side of tension", then this clash is a good thing for the Church, let's not run from it.
4) Experientially speaking, I have been in thousands of these conversations about this divide as its a part of my story. I grew up and was formed in category one and have grown through the desert to be formed into category two. (that's desert, not dessert) And in all of these conversations, I can make one emphatic statement, I haven't met one inherently evil person yet and I have found each to be passionately in love with the Christ. Now there are hundreds of things I question about motives, traditions, modern forms, power, control, hierarchy, money, pastoral roles, ego, etc. etc. but have not yet found one person to be inherently evil. Now I have been accused of the following, heretic, not saved, liberal, off the edge, misfit, angry, non conformist, "out there", different, an enigma and my personal favorite "wreaking of postmodernism" :) But I have found all of these comments to be evident of the language barrier between these 2 worldviews and the passions we have towards the ministries we have gravitated towards. And not one person is speaking outside of their own experience of Christ.
5) Out of my worldview and philosophy of ministry, I do believe that form is very influential on function. I won't go as far as to say that it "dictates" function, but it does highly influence it. The systems we create generate certain behaviors. Our systems are fueled by our formations and theolgies and the way we see the world. All of us who are intentionally doing something in ministry are thinking and acting within a form of system. For some it may be tradtiional/seeker/emergent, for others it may be organic/relational/monastic but its a system nonetheless and they all generate certain behaviors. Yes, the Spirit redeems, inspires, moves within, corrects faulty assumptions and can genuinely empower his ministry of reconciliation in either system. (my peeps are going to hate me for using the word "system" so bring it on)

I'm not sure I've said anything new here or if I've made it as clear as mud, but its stuff I've been thinking about (yes, out of my worldview). Feel free to push back, I can take it. Besides, I already assume your not evil :)

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Not a Banner Weekend

Left work early on Friday and then proceeded for the next 24 hours to have a fever that I could not get under control. Was up all night on friday and later the day on Saturday it started getting worse. At about 8:00, Nicki checked my temperature and I was approaching 105 degrees and had sustained that for about 30 hours. So we loaded up the car with the kids and headed to the only thing that was open, the E.R. I felt like I was going to lose consciousness in the waiting room. I had about 3000 mg. of aspirin in me and that finally broke my fever. After an hour of sweating it out profusely (sorry for the details) they hooked me up to an I.V. to stop the dehydration and administer stronger anti-biotics. After 2 hours of IV, they let me go home. The diagnosis: Strep throat combined with a nasty sinus infection. My sicknesses tend to be like my personality, all or nothing. I can't just get the sniffles, I have to go to the ER with a 105 fever. I scared my wife and kids, they don't like seeing me that sick. Trying to do nothing but rest, drugs and NFL football today. (sorry guys, i have to cancel student house church again, you don't want a piece of this action)

thanks for your prayers out there. all of these things have me thinking about getting this "earth suit" more healthy and taking better care of myself. My wife said this morning that her ministry is keeping me alive so that I can affect others (or infect others) with Kingdom teaching. I like the sound of that.


Friday, September 10, 2004

umm, the "test" was to see if I could post something from my school computer because I hadn't been able to for awhile. I was not being quirky or clever, I'm not that artistic.

suffering with virus today, hoping to go home and go nite nite early.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

"There is a contemplative
in all of us,
almost strangled
but still alive,
who craves quiet
enjoyment of the Now,
and longs to touch
the seamless
garment of silence
which makes whole."

-Alan P. Tory

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I can never explain how the Holy Spirit works or how it ebbs and flows. All I know is that I experience it.

I was innocently listening to some i-tunes songs choosing a few I would play tonight for house church and "kabango"! The Spirit within me began to well up. I don't what its like for you but here's what I feel. My abdomen area begins to tremble, my heart gets caught in my throat, if I allow it I would start to weep, my mind gets captured to some higher place and ALL i want to do is worship, or be quiet, or lament in prayer, or cry out, or write. The presence stays with me awhile depending on how much I feed it. I get really reflective and can linger there for awhile. I also get really sad. Sad about the shortcomings in my life. Sad about injustices in the world I see around me. Sad about the entrenchment of the enemy amongst people I love so much. Sad about the responsibility of being a leader in a sometimes fierce battle.

I know that some of you around me are interested in the Kingdom but have never had an experience of the Spirit and I would love it if you did. Of course it can't be manufactured and can't be bought, but it is real. I watch you chase after counterfeit experiences looking for life in things that are dead and it makes me sad because I really care. I care about you, I care about your future and I want you to have an internal hope that can't be quenched. I want you to taste of water that doesn't make you thirsty anymore. I want you to eat of bread that makes other hungers seem pointless. I want you to find the reason your alive. I don't want you just to believe it, I want you to experience it, I want you to embrace it at the core of who you are. I pray the Spirit of the Lord upon you to surprise you in any way he seems fit. For some of you, its been a long time since you gave God that kind of chance and I just pray for you to dream again.

I also seem to in these times have random memories that need to be dealt with. While driving by myself tonight I was reminded of a 19 year old guy named "Wayne" who came to me in tears after hearing me preach a sermon entitled "Where do I go?" about 8 years ago. He was a hard kid, active in drugs and sexual relationships and he came to me completely broken. Through his tears he looked at me as if I had the very words of life. I did what I then knew how to do, I led him in a prayer of salvation. I had no idea how else to help him. I offered him no community and no ongoing apprenticeship to Jesus. How the hell can I preach about such words and have no clue what to do if someone actually took me up on the issue???? I never saw Wayne again. I have no idea what he's up to. I did hear that a couple weeks later he was back at his old lifestyle. I don't know why I had this memory but in the quiet of this night I say, "I'm sorry, Wayne, I was yet blind myself."

peace to you and your house tonight,

Monday, August 30, 2004

been having the hardest time with blogs. I've lost 3 of them in the past week. I think the only place I can blog from is home now so they may not be as frequent.

I got "that" look today. You know the one. The one where someone stares at you because you might have horns growing out of your head. It was in the midst of a conversation where this person was trying to persuade me to teach or lead in a certain way and there was agenda behind it. The inference was that if I taught Christianity in a more simplistic way (i.e. get them saved) then behavior would follow. I said, "Just for the record, I never talk about heaven or hell". There was the "look" and a gasp. Rather, I continued, I try to focus on the Gospel and Transformation. Now to be fair to this individual, its not their fault, they were reacting out of their worldview. This just seems to be the point for me. The reason I have an audience with students is because I focus on the Gospel of the Kingdom and call that out in those I teach. I am not seeking external behaviors, I'm seeking internal transformations. And if the Spirit does the work of transformation, then what follows is a life of loving God and neighbor. This is my 14th year in ministry to students and forgive me if I'm cynical of the "getting saved/walk the aisle/throw your stick in the fire/rededicate your life" one-time decision. I'm looking long term, focusing on living and loving, rather than being entertaining and emotional. The Gospel matters at the intersection of life and students know what a counterfeit smells like.

I got back to working out today, will be lifting and running after school. Let's just say that I'm not 19 anymore, no matter how hard I try.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

you know the drill, i had a long, involved blog and before I could copy it or post it, I lost it.

How long oh Lord do I need to wait til Friday?

Monday, August 23, 2004

1st day of school today, of course i managed to get sick a couple days ago so I can feel like crap the first few days. but being the trooper that I am, I'll ramp up slowly.

news is that Bean will be in town come friday, the weekend is looking tasty.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Becca Mcgillivary has arrived as well. Mom and baby are doing well. Begin prayers for the recovery.
Jude Michael Long has arrived as of 5:45 a.m. 8 lbs., 20 inches long. Joe has a threesome of boys on his hands, all future Bengal fans.

Within an hour or so, we expect the arrival of Becca McGillivary. They will share the same birthday. But yet another reason to throw a party.

Here's today's Finan reading which is so appropriate:
"Matthew had met Jesus and wanted all his friends to meet the Master too. What could he do? He could do the one thing he really knew how to do well - he could throw a party. People always enjoyed his parties. So he threw a big party and invited everybody - Jesus could do the rest.
Why can we not just do the same - lay aside time-consuming religious activities, and spend time with people we like, instead?"

sounds good to me :)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Things I learned on my trip to Europe:
1) Its wise for apostles to travel in teams
2) My life is full of counterfeits (idols) that are cheap imitations for the real thing
3) The U.S. is largely blamed for the world's problems
4) Vastly in Church history we have placed high value on physcial space and low value on personal transformation
5) The U.S. is 100 years behind in the movement known as post-modernity (and I'm glad about that)
6) Its hard to find models of people doing community and mission simultaneously
7) The world is a beautiful place for those who have eyes to see it
8) I'm so thankful to have a time in my summer where I could be quiet and just let the wind hit my face. Sometimes you just need to reflect on the fact that you're alive and be reminded of why that's true.

Things I'm thinking about:
1) I have passions and creativities in me that are crying out for an outlet but I haven't found their usefulness yet. If I were an artist I would paint. If I were a musician, I'd write a song. I don't know what my medium is, but some truths are groaning in my belly.
2) I am to focus on remaining "in Christ" and greater transformations of my soul will happen. There are some giants in my life that need a few smooth stones to the forehead.
3) How can a suburban extrovert practice monking in the real world? (baby steps, baby steps)
4) There are atleast 2 different gospels represented in the church today. (its becoming evident that its more than models, styles and forms)
5) that I long to see his Kingdom come to earth again, more and more. that the Kingdom is an unstoppable force that can't be mocked or distracted. It is ultimate reality, we adjust to its flow.

Things I'm praying for:
in the next 24 hours, 2 of my best friends are welcoming new babies into his Kingdom on earth. Please pray for Paul and Nicki McGilivary and Joe and Julie Long.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

im home and safe but am jet lagging pretty badly. will reflect some more eloquently when I get my sea legs underneath me again.

peace for now,

Monday, August 09, 2004

ok, here's my last blog from England. we took a train to Cambridge today and saw one of the world's most famous universities and a very cool town to boot. i can't really communicate how tired we are. our knees are buckling, our joints hurt, we have nothing left in the reserves. the both of us got pretty dehydrated yesterday, it was 90 degrees and we were out all day walking. we cramped up pretty bad last night in bed and had nausea due to the lack of water. we buy bottled water just about everytime we see it but can't keep up with our bodies sweating. we will not backpack down to near Gatwick airport for a night of sleep and then home at last at 10:30 a.m.

this trip has been such a blessing. ive learned alot. ive listened to Abba whisper to me some instructions. ive experienced much. thank you to my wife especially for letting me go and be gone so long.
pray for our trip home, can't wait to see y'all. maybe friday night will have to be a bbq and missionary slide show. i have 200 digital pics to share.

rounding 3rd and heading for home,

Sunday, August 08, 2004

had a lovely night stay in our priceline hotel in london last night. clean bed, clean shower, air conditioned room, only one roomate . . . it was a welcomed holiday. after checking in, taking a 2 hour nap and getting a shower, we went out to the town. the subway here works great, can take you anywhere at anytime. nothing is more than 10 minutes away. we saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the millenium wheel, piccadilly circus, leicester square and trafalgar square all last night. ate a nice italian meal on an outside table and hit a pub called the "Porcupine" for a pint and then brought a pizza back to the room after midnight. pray for mark, he has a cold/bug that is really bothering him but he is pushing through.

we're headed to Hyde Park today to rest and read in the park, listen in on the famous "speaker's corner" and maybe hit the British museum. tommorrow we hit Cambridge to visit the university and then finally making the flight back over the pond home on tuesday morning. the trip has been fun, fascinating at times, exhausting and stretching, inspired and filled with culture. but home is calling me, i'm ready.

peace to you today,

Friday, August 06, 2004

not much to say tonight, we're in manchester, england. we're not very impressed with this city. we have found ourselves completely exhausted. we have done so much walking these past few days and its gotten to us. i'm also done with staying in youth hostels with other people i don't know or trust, i have realized how much i love my own space on this trip. i'm missing simple comforts. tommorrow we are heading right to london via train and check into our hotel for a long nap and hot shower. we are really grossly dirty and smelly, walking, sweating and no laundry in sight. hopefully the other 14 people staying in our dorm room tonight will not be as loud and drunk as the past couple nights around the hostels.

i'll keep ya posted.

peace to you tonight,

Thursday, August 05, 2004

arrgghh, me maties! I'm writing you a report from the highlands of Scotland, through the dense fog and one can spot pirates all about town (so shimber me timbers).

sorry for the delay in blogs, but i had a long one posted and the internet cafe computer crashed at the end, so i didn't have the energy to repeat it. our 2nd day of teaching in ukraine did not go as well. it became clear that palmer and i represented a different gospel than the one they were looking for. the local pastors were adamant about wanting $$ for new buildings and had enough of this house church stuff. we kept talking about being small, simple, relational and authentic followers, they wanted a magic pill to get their people to give more and getting more americans over there to do the work. i hosted a panel discussion for open questions, it turned into a train wreck. ironically, that morning at 6:15 a.m., the Spirit woke me up and had me read from Matthew 9 where Jesus said "don't worry if they hate you, they hated me first".

We then headed off to Northumbria Christian Community for 2 days. let's just say that the place is holy. we stayed in a guestroom in the tower that dates back to the 14th century, that's the 1300's folks!!!! we participated in morning prayers, evening prayers, nightly canticles and common meals. we took a day on holy island to visit the abbey of st. cuthbert and feel the unbelievalbe scenary of northern england. you can only access this place at low tide, how cool is that?

we are now in edingburgh, Scotland and it is the most amazing architecture city i have ever been in. breathtaking at all times, really, really, old and creepy-like spooky at night. we caught an interesting comdedian last night and had a couple pints of local tastes. today we will go to a live theatre re: the columbine shootings, then some souveneir shopping (the pipes are already purchased, fellas) then to another comdeic live theatre act, dinner at a pub, another comdedian later on, smoke a cuban cigar then to a club featuring music from 80's rock bands. tommorrow we get on a train and go to Manchester, England for a hostel and some used record stores. Our final few days are in oxford, london and cambridge.

i miss my family more and more everyday now. i want to hold them, badly. i'm actually hoping these next few days go quickly. i also miss my spiritual family, ordinary community. while away i realize how much of my identity is wrapped up in them. church is truly not somewhere you go, its a people you belong to.

much love,