Friday, February 27, 2004

Good morning, its friday and that's just alright with me. Go read K-rains blog today re: Jesus at the Pub. It is the point of what missional communities are about.

Went and saw "The Passion" with the fight club boyz on Wednesday night and I am just now kind of ready to talk about it. It is overwhelming. This is not a movie that you say that you "liked" or didn't, its just a movie you said you saw. I literally was in clinical shock for about the 24 hour period following. I describe it as "horrifically beautiful". I think I can even say that it might have actually changed me, it was that profound an experience for me. Watching the Jesus who has carried me through so many trials in my life, who has blessed me beyond measure, who has inspired the man that I am becoming was like taking a travel in time and actually being there. The implications of that cross continues to be overwhelming to me. The Kingdom has come. The Kingdom has conquered. The Kingdom is ultimate reality. I want to say !@#$ religon. It is so trite, so trivial, not even close to the profound "veritas" (truth) of the cross. Jesus is not to be a marketing ploy, he is to be the Lion of Judah who once let out of his cage, will devour the foolish thinking of this world. It is this Jesus that I serve. It is in him that I swear singular allegiance. He has all of me and in him I have found fullness. While driving home after the movie, I began to pray and cry a bit. My only words were, "I hope that I get even close to teaching your truth". I mean, if I'm even in the ballpark it will set captives free, give sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, love in the darkness and resurrection to the dead. I'm tired of small thinking and obsessive compulsive theologies that are all about control and keeping the Lion in his cage. Following the Jesus of Nazareth who was born to be the Christ is leading a rebellion against our sinful nature and man made religion.

I close with the words of Paul at the closing of Philippians 3. "But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him."
Submit your life to the Christ today.


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I'm dealing so much this week with all my church baggage. I don't want to debate any topics right now, I just want to communicate what I'm feeling. I don't want to accuse, condemn, judge, point out or prophesy against, I just want to express what I'm feeling. The combination of 2 things for me this week, "Spiritual Life Emphasis Week" here at the school I work and the release of "The Passion" film. I'm struggling with my own cynicism. - here's a beautiful link to the merchandising for "The Passion" film. If its not enough that we can't just let the film be a film, if its compelling then let it speak . . . but of course let's try some marketing ploys. Let's sell trinkets of a horrific death and maybe a board game for my kids. The christian sub-culture is ruining this movie for me with its hype. I am going tonight with the Fight Club boyz but I admitt that I'm not that excited about it. I obviously have strong feelings about Jesus of Nazareth who became the Christ, but I'm not sure I resonate with the Jesus sold by evangelicalism.

That leads me to my next point. We have "Spiritual Life Emphasis Week" this week and the whole premise is just so foreign to the way I understand the Kingdom now. It basically is 5 days of intentional time of worship, drama, teaching and altar prayer which I struggle with why I'm so cynical of it. But it seems so evident that the message all the time in these meetings and the thousands of its sort I've been to in my lifetime is that the great hope is to "try harder". Seek after God more, pray more, read Scripture more, be more hungry for God, find more gumption within you, strain ahead, be restless, cry out, repent, mean it this time, get serious, try, try, try, try, try harder.
My conclusion is that the end conclusion of the system known as evangelicalism is to "try harder" and frankly this is not helpful to me.

What I struggle with is that I am completely convinced that the ancient spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture meditation, solitude, community, sacrament and worship are absolutely necessary for experiencing the Kingdom of God and that they definitely require great effort and attention on my part. So what's the difference? Maybe it has more to do with the source of the effort. When I try harder in evangelicalism, its all about me and my resources. When I rest in solitude, connect with the living Christ I find that the spiritual disciplines are a grace that he breathes within me and carries me on. So the source of the effort is God himself and not my gumption.

I also disagree vehemently with this longing/striving towards the future. That the answer for us is yet "out there", the magic pill will get me there. To me, yearning for something more and holding God hostage for it is just about sacrilege. God is here amongst us, all around us. His Kingdom invaded this world through the life and ministry of Christ and he left the Holy Spirit to continue its work. He is here, now. The Kingdom is now, at this moment, not the next one. Not resting in God now, receiving the graces he has given us but demanding for more is like biting the hand that feeds us. If we're not experiencing the Kingdom we need to face the demons of silence and just rest, quiet the soul, center oneself with the core of Christ within you, this is a disciplined approach. The answer is not in the next thing, it is in the thing that is here now. It seems that even though Christ is here and has demonstrated numerous wonders and acts around us, we still demand for him to come off the cross, fly around and prove his deity again. The problem is not him, its us. He doesn't move, we do. I think sometimes the best discipline that we can utilize to experience the Kingdom is not to strive ahead but to sit still. Seek soul quiet and see if his graces fill you.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today.


Monday, February 23, 2004

"Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I've been meaning to pick this book back up so I did and we discussed these ideas with OCC yesterday in great depth and practicality. Community is not a catch phrase for me anymore, I am living in its daily reality. It is sometimes painful, but it is also the well that I drink from often. I don't go to Church, I belong to a tribe of Christ followers. This brings definition to my life.


Thursday, February 19, 2004

Throughout my life, I have typically had 1 or 2 good friends in which I hung with but never stayed in one place long enough to go too deep with them. I probably only have one friend that I have stayed in close touch with for over 10 years now, the rest have lost their contact. But now I have an enormous supply of great friends. Guys with whom I have spent a lot of intentional time with and would do anything for me. They make me a better Father, Husband, Neighbor and Christ Follower. Fight Club last night confirmed that. Rains, Glenn, Chad and I had great conversation and laughed a lot! I totally needed it, a great stress relief. We intertwine between theological quandries, cultural hot topics, severe satire of one another and general absurdity. Last night Glenn treated us to a moving rendition of Steve Green's "People Need the Lord" and Ray Boltz "Watch the Lamb" right in the middle of Red Robin Restaraunt. It was EPIC. I'm surrounded by brohterhood like I've never had in my life. I don't want it to ever end. Come March 12-14, about a dozen guys from the midwest region will be camping down in Kentucky just to celebrate our brotherhood and friendship. Life is good and so is the God who brought us together. I believe the key for us is not in trying to organize our influence or structure our friendships into a "greater impact ministry", but rather to enjoy what is before us. To drink deep in the well of peace and contentment and encourage others to do the same.

Seek out spiritual friendships and make them the point of your life. It seems to be one of those Kingdom secrets.


Monday, February 16, 2004

"Generous in love - God, give grace!
Huge in mercy - wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I've been, my sins are staring me down.
You're the One I've violated, and you've seen it all, the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I've been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you're after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life."
-King David, Psalm 51, The Message

It takes humility to pray a prayer like David did here. I'm reminded of one the earliest prayers of our ancestors in Christ Following: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner."


Thursday, February 12, 2004

My wife leaves today for her annual "Girls" vacation with her parents, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and grandmother. They are off to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla for beach and sun and no kids. My mom and I are splitting duty with my 3 kids and the highlight for me is that I have my son exclusively from friday evening until monday evening. Dad and Zach Attack and I'm relly looking forward to it. He is 19 months now and he cracks me up. It may be more diapers than I'm used to but I'm looking forward to a good weekend. If you think of it, you might want to keep me in prayer. Mr. Mom, here I come.

Stop and notice the Kingdom today.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It was about this time, 7 years ago that I began to have my first battles with depression. I was experiencing great outward "success" in ministry but inwardly was dying everyday. I couldn't figure it out. The more things went well on the surface, the more disconnected I felt inside. I had a void within me that ministry couldn't fill and I felt lost. In my heart, I had already resigned from my position at a "growing" church but was not sure what to transition into. Seminary seemed to be the best fit, that way I could leave the ministry and nobody would ask me any questions. I shared these dark thoughts with no one. But I found the whole system of church that I was involved in to be empty and completely disconnected with the Jesus I thought I knew. Nicki and I scraped all the $ we could, maxed out a credit card and I bought a plane ticket to visit Denver Seminary. I would be there for 4 days and my motives were to visit the seminary and not leave the Rocky Mountains until God spoke. I visited the Seminary and quickly decided it was not the right place. So I drove up in the mountains, trekked through the snow, sat in secluded places and listened. For 3 days, I heard nothing. Just my own anxiety and pain to keep me company. I was in my hotel room late at night with an early flight the next morning when I finally gave up and decided that God had abandoned me. I turned on the news and I'll never forget that story. They were showing the images of a school shooting that happened that day in Arkansas killing 4 and wounding many others. This was a year before Columbine in which my hotel room was a mile away from. The horror I felt as I watched those images began to grow a yearning in me that I can't explain. Tears began streaming down my face. Where has the church gone so wrong that such desperation is acted upon? It seemed clear to me that the answer could not be a "small" change but real radical change. I remember screaming out to God in agony (sorry to the neighboring rooms) and then I heard his voice. I screamed, "What do you want me to do?" and he said, "Dream for me, Chris . . . what do you want to do for me?" For the next 4 hours, I wept and wrote, wept and wrote, wept and wrote. Out of that night came a dream statement to build a church that would follow the core values of community, authenticity, passion and mission. I had no idea how, but that night I became a church planter I think. Out of excruciating pain, birthed a dream. And out of a dream, birthed a Kingdom reality. That reality today is Ordinary Community Church. A tribe of Christ followers to whom I belong to and who have been an agent of healing to me more than they will ever know. God is good.

Ok God, what's next?


Monday, February 09, 2004

For my wife and I, our primary calling is as missionaries. We are not church planters or pastors primarily, we see ourselves as called by God to live amongst a people with the intention of seeing His Kingdom come amongst them. One of my primary passions is what is historicaly called "evangelism" and I certainly have a different view of what that is now than I did when I started out. But there is always a tension point with Romans 12: "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out." (The Message)

Pope Paul VI said, "It is not a good thing to be promised to the world or unite ourselves with its thoughts, customs and tastes; but instead we should study it, love it and serve it." These seem to be words of wisdom for those of us seeking to live a missional life.

Stop and give away the Kingdom today.


Friday, February 06, 2004

Dinner tonight at a Scottish Pub with Craig, Joe, Gabe and Paul. Life is goooooooooood! Been a stressful week, looking forward to hanging with the boyz.


Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'm gonna sound old here. But in my New Testament class, as an Intro. to studying Acts I have shown them the film of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life and death as a modern day martyr. Bonhoeffer's words on community have deeply influenced me and the way I do church. The students didn't have the maturity to deal with it and mocked it. It hurt me. Thinking, this is the future of American church? Consumers wanting to be entertained. Sad.
Thank you for all your responses. The consensus is that blogs are public space and should be treated that way in our expectations. However, all rules of proper engagement still apply: generosity, compassion, humility and grace. So the verdict is that my wife was RIGHT and that I was . . . WRONG. So the tally after 10 1/2 years of marriage is Nicki = 173 Chris = 14. Maybe when I get old and wise I'll make a comeback :)

If you care about the Church, you need to read this today:


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Opinion Poll:

Are blogs public space or private space? Are they fair game to treat as impersonal public space, or should they be held with more gentle approaches because its personal space?

My wife and I were talking about this in regards to annonymous posts in some blogs we read. We have differing views of whether they are public or private space. What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Dreams of anxiety in the night,
Mind always racing weary of the fight,
Heart feeling reckless with no rest,
Why can't we just exist without a best?
Striving, seeking, yearning for goals without an end,
I thought we were supposed to just sit here and try to be a friend,
America the beautiful, thanks for all our stuff,
I'm afraid we missed the point cuz its never enough,
Contentment, peace and joy, we'll leave those for the poor,
How can I know when I've arrived, will somday I be sure?
The goals and lusts of this world are projected onto me,
Anohter Kingdom around me sometimes hard to see,
I wander today with a soul longing to go home,
I wonder if we'll ever live in the reality of Kingdom come.

peace to you,

Monday, February 02, 2004

"I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl," Timberlake said of the incident. "It was not intentional and is regrettable."

MTV, which produced the halftime show for sister network CBS, issued a statement shortly after the game saying, "The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance. MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it."

Jackson did not release an official statement after the game, but her representatives told MTV News that she apologizes for the incident.

Which part is more offensive of the public event: The continued over-sexualized nature of our culture as if women have no other part to their personality than their bodies and they can be groped by the whim of the male? or is it the bull@#$% lying that comes aftewards? We suck at relationships in our culture, WE SUCK AT THEM! Healthy relationships are the result of hard work, honesty and trustworthiness. Lying destroys all of that. Lying is our native tongue in America and its completley justified for $$. I hate it. I hate lying. It is destructive behavior and I can more easily explain Janet's misuse of her body than I can the acceptance of the justified lies. I have never bashed MTV, and I watch some of the programming, particularly the docmentaries. But they revealed themselves to have nothing to offer culture or art but cheap cliche and lawyer talk. Hey MTV, welcome to the world of being irrelevant. You just lost some stock in creative culture.
"One Celtic bother called Cronan moved his whole establishment to Roscrea after a royal visitor had been unable to find him in Sean Ross.
'I shall not remain in a desert place,' he said, 'where strangers and poor folk are unable to find me readily. But here, by the public highway I shall live, where they are able to reach me easily.'
This urge to dispense hospitality to the wayfarer and the indigent led to the founding of Christian settlements along the main roads of Ireland." (Finan Readings, Celtic Daily Prayer, Feb. 2)

I am a people person, over the top extrovert, I love to throw a party and be around lots of people, all kinds of people. I'm so glad my wife humors me in this area. I rearranged half my house yesterday just to throw an epoch super bowl party. But I have long felt guilty when I read introverted contemplatives to whom a monastic way of living seem to come so natural. I do not do well alone nor quiet. Its not peaceful for me, its really stressful. I believe that God meets you where you are at and how you are wired. I long to live in the reality of "soul quiet" which is only possible through the spiritual disciplines, but I don't want to go to the desert to find it. I am a missionary by calling. Called to be with people and incarnate the Gospel amongst them. But this is a challenge as well. Getting caught up entertaining and performing and not taking the time to as Paul McGillivary says, "feel your nothingness". But I am called to live monastically and missionally amongst where people are. And in my landscape, the public highway is here in the suburbs of Cincinnati. Yes, the suburbs. So we are to live missionally around lots of people in order to love our neighbor, but also live monastically where our journey of dying to self magnifies the love of God in our lives. I am a suburban, monastic, missionary living out an old faith in a new world.

Stop and notice the Kingdom today.