Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The countdown is on, can't wait to head to florida on saturday morning. Making last minute plans, planning on relaxing with my kids and wife.
I got my head shaved down yesterday, took off the locks. The fight club boyz kinda dared me into it since K=rains took off his locks and beard and went monk again. I didn't want them to think that I was metrosexual that I needed some hair to put product in so I became manly and shaved it off. However, I don't look monk, I look like a drill sargeant. Some looks just don't work on some folks.
Had a small but great house church meeting last night. We're walking through the "way of the cross" during this lent season following the Celtic Daily Prayer. Real good issues came up such as our own tendency to judge instead of encourage, get obnoxious in our passion and reflecting on memories that provoke smiles. Things are kicking real well on Tuesday nights.
Having really good conversation in my senior Bible class re: church structures, their origins and possible alternatives. I try hard to present a balanced view of all perspectives without being too obvious with my bias. If you know me, you know that's a discipline in itself.

3 days til we go to Mickey's kingdom. However, screw Mickey, this vacation is about Nicki, Ali, Meg and the Zach Attack. Spring fever is upon me.

stop and notice the Kingdom today.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

My Xavier Musketeers finally ended their season this evening much to my dismay. They just didn't make the big plays in the final 4 minutes and the hated Dukies did. We outplayed everybody's expectations making this a fun tourney to watch this year. As for who's left, I picked UCONN from the get-go so I'll stick with them. Okafor is a beast in the middle

I really loved hanging out with my friend Bill Clark, who flew in from Seattle on sat. night as he prepares for some teaching in missions here locally. He and his family are missionaries to Kazakstahn and absolutely one of the most sanctified and holy guys I get to hang out with this side of the Kingdom. He's a great humble and calming influence on me. We sat around a fire in my backyard til 1:30 a.m. on saturday just with Kingdom talk, what a great bro.

As a side note for those tracking my physical progress or regress. As of this morning, I have officially lost 20 lbs. in 7 weeks via a moderate Atkins diet and pretty rigorous workouts 4-5 times a week. I feel good, getting stronger all the time and feel as if I can maintain this pace for a long duration til my goal weight is attained. I can say I am almost halfway there and realize it will be possibly a year until I reach my goal. But my race is that of the turtle, I'm getting too old for the rabbit mentality anymore.

This week is all about one thing: preparation. Next week is Spring Break for me and at 7:46 a.m. Sat. morning, my family and I are boarding a plane for Orlando and spending 9 days in Disney World. We love all the activity and options with our kids, we're just about professionals at this point in our strategies and disney experience. Its our way of pouring $$ back into the economy and bowing to the consumer gods. I relax best by being with my family and having the opportunity towards an overwhelming experience. I am really looking forward to this trip, it will prove to be a memory maker in one fashion or another. And I thank our missionary supporter who has given us this trip the past 2 years. Sometimes being a man of the cloth has its perks :)


Saturday, March 27, 2004

First things first. The Lord blesses his Jesuit children. I predicted a good run, and they have delivered. This is officially the best team in Xavier history having reached the great 8 for the first time ever. Now all they have to do is take out the hated Duke Blue Devils to get to the unheard of Final 4. Jesuit Catholics vs. Devils? I hope all my brothers and sisters out there will join me in supporting these kingdom workers :)

Been thinking a lot about monasticism this week and ancient forms of the faith. Paul Mc. and I had b-fast this morning and discussed much about how we see monasticism influencing our surburban communities. Then we went and worked our butts off at a property we are using for our OCC monthly community gatherings. Its a friends wooded lot and we gathered up tons of wood and made HUGE fires to burn them out. Then Paul got his hands on a chainsaw and, I haven't seen him that happy since he held the potato gun a couple weeks ago. Big fires and chainsaws, that's the good kind of work. But hard work is a part of our spiritual disciplines. The act itself has its own rewards. Its fruitful and productive. Whether you are nurturing children, laying cement, cutting wood or pushing pencils, our work has its own reward. If its just a paycheck, we may be missing the joy in the journey. Hard work honors God. Hard work fulfills the curse on Adam in the Garden. Hard work clears the mind. Hard work burns calories :) Hard work can create space in our life for God to speak. Hard work is good for the heart and soul. Monks had daily chores and property to upkeep so that work was a normative part of their days. We pray, we're quiet, we're reflecting, we're exercising, we're communing with the One who isn't busy or looking past this moment to get to the next. I think I just talked myself into some more work days at my friends property. Spirit lead on.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Monking in the Real World

After Chad had to slip out and the fight club boyz regurgitated many relevant and absurd topics over Starbucks in Barnes and Noble, Rains, Glenn and I settled on monking in the real world. This seem to resonate with us as a part of the calling that God was ushering us into. It seems to be some of the reason he called us out of "vocational" ministry and to getting jobs in and amongst people and not in a church office. I'm not here to say that one is right or wrong, just to say that this is what we have been called to and find our present joy in. We have been quite influenced by the writings of Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, Brother Lawrence, Richard Foster and the like. At the same time, we are church planters by nature, giftedness and calling. We desire to plant communities of faith with people in every part of our lives. So we desire to do our monking in the real world amongst people, jobs, families and seductive influences.
So what is monking in the real world? I suppose its creating space in your life for deep community, simplicity, humility, hospitality, dying to self, prayer, solitude, sacred encounters of the divine, hard work, loving neighbor, missional living/thinking/talking/listening, seeing Kingdom come all around you. I suppose its something like that. I seek depth and clarity, not relevance in this world. I want to be quiet so that I have something worth saying. I want to spend time in reflection so I have something worth writing. I want to center my life in Christ so that I have the urge to love a stranger. I want to be filled with the Spirit so that I have the capacity to be a conduit of the Kingdom to my neighbor. I want to sit and listen to God so he can teach me to listen to others. I want live in community so that my life is a bigger expression than my individualism. I want to die to my neighbor so that I can finally love them and not need their affirmation. I want to live simply so that I have the time and attention to provide hospitality. I want to monk in the real world.

"What could please God more than for us to leave the cares of the world temporarily in order to worship Him in our spirits? These momentary retreats serve to free us from our selfishness, which can only exist in the world. In short, we cannot show God our loyalty to Him more than by renouncing our worldly selves as much as a thousand times a day to enjoy even a single moment with Him." -Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

stop and breathe in the Kingdom of God today.

I am in a stage where I am just enjoying life. I enjoy my job, teaching the 153 students each day just a little something about the Kingdom. Being able to stay out of all the administrative dramas that come with an organization, I just stick to my classroom and teach. I really enjoy my children. So fun to just sit with them at home. Paying attention to each of them and noticing something special, looking them in the eye, giving away the touch of their father, I love it. I am really enjoying my marriage. Nicki and I have been clicking pretty well for awhile. Keeping on the same page, feeling connected with her. I am really enjoying my faith community. They make me so proud to belong to them. I enjoy my time with them, such love and mutual encouragement. I feel as if my whole future is intertwined with them. I am finally winning some battles in my physical life. Been doing atkins and working out pretty hard for 5 weeks. Have officially lost 15 lbs. but have lost more size than that as I've gained muscle through lifting. I am enjoying the life that God has provided me and maintains through daily disciplines. In a world of seemingly endless obsessive compulsive disorder, I am feeling contentment. I think its less the result of something I did, and more of something that is happening to me and within me. Thank you, Jesus for peace today.

stop and notice the Kingdom today.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God,
but only they that see,
take off their shoes.

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wow. Stop and notice the Kingdom of God around you today.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Yes, for all you non-believers out there, Xavier has outlasted their critics to the Sweet 16! Not since my junior year in high school have we been there. I remember listening to that game in Spanish class with my walkman in my sweathshirt and the earpiece thread up my shirt and holding it on my ear, pretending i was taking notes. These Muskies are red hot and it wouldn't surprise me if they won a couple more games. Defense, guard play and senior leadership win in March. Xavier has all three. Its fun to be an X fan right now. As for UC and UK, well, its good to be an X fan today :)


Friday, March 19, 2004

Blessings on my Jesuit Catholic brothers tonight. GO XAVIER MUSKETEERS!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Celtic Christianity has been one of the driving influences in my life. I pray the virus finds you too.

Christ, as a light illumine and guide me,
Christ, as a shield overshadow me,
Christ under me; Christ over me;
Christ beside me on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful,
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me on my left and my right.

-St. Patrick Morning Canticle

Blessings and peace to you my brothers and sisters on this St. Patricks Day.


Sunday, March 14, 2004

I believe this is the official symbol of Christian Guy camping, but I'm not sure. I'll do some more research on that. What an outstanding weekend! We (Bean, Creech, Rains, Matt, Paul, Glenn) camped in the Red River Gorge in east kentucky. Friday night was real cold, probably dipped below 20 degrees, got only about 4 hours of sleep as the fire at 4:30 a.m. was calling my name. We took a sweet hike up the Natural Bridge in the warm of the afternoon on Saturday, cooked up some serious steaks and then entered into the best Kingdom talk I've had in a long time. WOW. I love these bros. I was so amped, my adrenaline was overflowing. we challenged each other in theological quandries but it led to a unifying story. The story of what God is doing and has been doing since he decided to create. The story of how we all met and how that networking happened so organically with such tangible love. We want to be known, not for events like Mayhem, not for training programs, not for "successful" church planting (atleast not how most define it), not for being post-whatever, but for our love one for another. And there was a lot of Kingdom love around the fire this weekend.
Bean slapped me upside the head again, intellectually speaking, and gave me some pretty inspiring, simple thoughts. I won't explain this all now, but we need to start with our Christology (life with God), allow that to naturally develop our missiology (life in the world) and only then consider our ecclesiology (how we do church). In all my theological training, I can say that I was indoctrinated to the opposite. That we have pre-determined ideas of what church is and ought to look like, we spend all of our time running that plan. If we are really capable, we move into missiology in the form of evangelism that will increase our ecclesiology or church growth. And if there is anything left, maybe there are a few around the church who take the time to focus on their Christiology, that is a deep connection with the spirit of Christ. With this backward way of looking at things where we seek to be relevant to the world first without finding our "nothingness" before God and receiving our beloved is just panning for fools gold. Is it any wonder that the crises for the north american church is with its leaders? Doing the work of church and mission without the focus on a life with God first and showing that focus in their formation and structure. It leads to emptiness, depression, isolation and despair. mmmmmm, despair. Rather, God wants us to focus ourselves in him first and take our lead from that. Then and only then will we have a clue as to how to love this world and the people in it and finally how we should gather as his local community here on earth. Christology cannot be assumed. It must be planned for, intentionall sought, willing to be disciplined and placed in the center of life. It is what you anchor yourself to, without it . . . well, you know how it feels.
More on this yet to come, let me know if it makes sense to you. I am filled to the brim with Kingdom relationship, brings tears to my eyes. Never have I felt so alive.

"Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." (Matt. 6:33-34 The Message)
There are 2 types of people, those who dream of this reality, and those who are experiencing it. I pray the virus of the Kingdom of God finds you today.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

(thank you Brian for these words. my thoughts exactly. the movie was great art, not the best outreach opp. in 2000 years)

Passionate, but Not for Mel's Movie
Why The Passion 'outreach' was all hype, and I didn't fall for it.
By Brian McLaren, Leadership columnist

The music was appropriately dramatic: bass strings, heavy and resonant, with a mezzo-forte attack and building to fortissimo from there. Then, against a stark black background, a promotional slogan appeared in bold white capitals. It grew, filling the screen's full width: PERHAPS THE BEST OUTREACH OPPORTUNITY IN 2,000 YEARS.

I was watching a video to promote the release of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of The Christ. One expects hype at such moments, but this slogan made me wince. It defines, I think, a frontier between two worlds.

In one world, modern American Christians can be trusted to bounce and bound like golden retrievers from one silver-bullet "outreach opportunity" to the next—seeking single source shortcuts to complete our mission, which we hope to finish as soon as possible, I guess so we can all get to heaven so the world and its troubles are left behind™. Maybe it's a boxed set of books and videos, mass rallies, radio/TV/satellites, the Internet, PowerPoint, or seeker services. Or else it's adult contemporary praise music, electing Republicans, or a new booklet or tract. Maybe it's candles! Or a new model (take your pick from traditional-modern, contemporary-modern, or postmodern-modern) for "doing church." Or a new film.

In the other world—which many of us are calling the emerging culture (post-Enlightenment, post-Christendom, post-colonial, etc.)—we are watched with amusement, pity, cynicism. There they go again, emerging culture people say about us, unimpressed.

After enough hype-induced disappointments to abash even ever-optimistic American evangelicals—after being drained and perhaps even disillusioned by enough campaigns and programs that didn't deliver what they promised—will we be ready to do what we find it oh so painful and hard to do? To slow down and think deep?

For example, we might wonder why slogans like The Passion's appeal to us.

Emerging culture people are, no doubt, as sensitive as anyone else to dramatic, multisensory, rational-plus-emotional presentations. Special effects can impress them. But they're also suspicious of the whole business. They're looking for something that can't be "produced" but which can only be created: Authenticity. Reality. Honesty. Fruit.

That last word, of course, has special resonances to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Think of the difference between produce (like fruit) and products (like films, radio broadcasts, boxed programs, etc.). Think of something that must be the organic outgrowth of genuine health and vitality versus something that can be produced with money and technical savvy.

Jesus didn't say it was by our clever outlines, memorable mnemonics, snazzy programs, and special effects that we would be known as his disciples, or that he would be known as sent from God. Rather, he said, it was by our love that we and he would be known, and by our fruit: our good works that shine in darkness and inspire all to glorify God.

No doubt, Mel G's film will be powerful and will help many—millions, I hope—for it is a sincere labor of love about the ultimate labor of love. But it's not the greatest outreach opportunity in 2,000 years, at least, not for the emerging culture. I'll tell you what is.

Actually, I won't, because there isn't one thing. Rather, there are uncountable great outreach opportunities. For example, there are millions of people, precious to God, dying of AIDs. And their orphans too. Do you want the emerging culture to sit up and take notice? Don't show them another movie, however great it is. Show them Christians around the world (starting with those who have been given the most: us) who care and give and love and move to serve.

There are millions of poor Muslims who see the West as decadent, strident, arrogant, selfish, careless, and pugilistic, and of course, they are right. Can you see how offering them a fine movie could just make things worse? Instead, why don't we show them some Christians (in the West but not of it) who are honest, upright, peacemakers, compassionate, humble, and generous?

Our world is torn by ethnic, class, and religious hatred. Don't show the emerging culture a movie about Jesus: show them a movement of people living like Jesus—people who like him love the different, even the enemy, whose doors are open and tables are set with welcome.

Brian McLaren is pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in metro Washington, D.C.

Next week, Rick Warren tells why his church is riding successfully the culture wave generated by The Passion.

Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Click here for reprint information on Leadership Journal.
March 9, 2004

Ok, let it begin. T minus 50 hours and it will be time for the ultimate guy, late winter camping trip down in Red River Gorge, Kentucky. The Characters involved are Father Creech, Bean the bookseller, K to the Rains, Glen "Watch the Lamb" Johnson, Paul "the Englishman" McGillivary, a couple more guys from vine and branches community and Marsh madness will be in da house (or da tent). Imagine if you will, numerous tents for very large men, one 4 wheeler, one potato gun, a poratable canopy poker room, a few fishing poles, a fire raging larger than necessary, fine cigars and pipes, choice Irish/english ale and I hope Kingdom conversation under the stars til our hearts content. I CAN'T WAIT!!!
Come monday, the real stories from the weekend will come out. Lets get the party started.

Any camping advice from the peanut gallery out there?


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Sad news from one of my good Kingdom friends. Amidst the beauty of Kingdom come, I at times hate living in a fallen world.

Ian David Reider

Ian David was born at 6:31pm March 5th. His first 45 minutes he fought for life as a dozen doctors and nurses gave him breath and chest compressions. He nearly died in his first hour. He was born with severe hydrops (large amounts of fluids in his body) and this caused his lungs to not carry oxygen efficiently. He was "stable but very sick" for the past 3 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit but seemed to be becoming more independent every few hours. This morning (Monday, March 8th at 4:45am) the doctor called us to the hospital becuase his condition was weakening. We arrived at 5:20am to see 8 doctors huddled around his incubator- again, they were breathing for him and giving him chest compressions. For some reason his oxygen was being replaced by carbondioxide and his heart rate was barely 30bpm. They inceassed his oxygen intake, replaced chest tubes and many other things. They told us that he was failing and they could do no more for him. He died at about 5:25am. There is an ache in our hearts that cannot be described by words, melodies or colors. Please pray for our family.

Robbie, Dana & Olson

Monday, March 08, 2004

This is a book review I did for Next-wave.

Get Up Off Your Knees, Review by Chris Marshall

"Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24) Have you ever felt that way? Its not that you don't have faith, its just that you don't yet have the faith that you were looking for. Its seems a dangerous place to have belief and longing in the same heart. It can only be at the point of desperation that mystery can have a seat at the table. This is the space where U2 has lingered in for years drawing people to their passionate story and a longing for a different Kingdom here on earth. It is only natural that many would resource this voice to find a prophetic word for the world we live in now. Get Up Off Your Knees is a compilation of sermons from a diverse background of faith utilizing U2 lyrics as their primary text. The issues that are raised are as varied as the voices that speak them. They speak of peace but see violence, immediacy of death and the reality of hope, lamenting but yet crying for deliverance, looking up but living in the now. It is a dangerous place to have faith and yet long for more. God cannot be domesticated and so our hearts yearn for his reality. The voice of a new prophet lives on in the preaching of the U2 catalog.

There is a six week group study in the final sections of the book that I used as a resource for my weekly house church meetings. You will need quite a few resources beforehand in the form of live DVD's and varied U2 CD's, but it makes for very interesting discussion. Each lesson has a Scripture passage or two to meditate on in conjunction with some of their most provocative songs. I often used the Psalms as a point of reference for most of our discussions with U2 songs and lyrics. I found it helpful to print out the lyrics for everyone making the discussion more specific and concrete. Our conversations ranged from social justice, war, forgiveness, passion, daily faith, distractions, seducing influences, sexuality, mystery, death, trust and a Kingdom come. We ended our study with an authentic Irish U2 dinner party and watched a live DVD in its totality. I found this study to be fruitful and a nice change of pace interacting with song lyrics of faith alongside Scripture.

This book is not for the novice U2 fan. It assumes that you are already pretty familiar with the early U2 years through their 1990's experimental stages. The sermons come from varied faith backgrounds and do well to keep their voices broad and diverse. I recommend this book for the U2 fan who is not familiar with the spiritual journey of the band and for the one who is obsessed with all things U2. Bono often quotes Psalm 40 in live concert crying out, "How long, will we sing this song?" That same longing for a kingdom come can be found in Get Up Off Your Knees.

Friday, March 05, 2004

been feeling under the weather the last couple days. the weekend will be a welcomed event.
I got a contract to teach again next year and I'll be signing it. I can't believe that I came to this job even though I didn't want it and now I'll be signing on for my 3rd year. It has brought stability and contentment. Who would have thunk it?

On a different note, I'm pretty stoked about the Bengals free agent moves so far. Webster is what we needed, a beast in the middle. Being that I played linebacker I love to see us upgrade there. Hering is a bruiser of a safety and both of these guys have Super Bowl rings. Its saying something in Cincinnati that we are more interested in the Bengals off season than we are the Reds who are in Spring Training. I will go see the Reds this year for social reasons only, the Reds did NOTHING to get ready for the season. Another year of uncle Carl just doing nothing.

hope ya have a good weekend.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

ok, had Ali's 1st soccer practice yesterday and I was a bit nervous. This is her 3rd year playing but her coaches this year are turning up the volume. From the first phone call and coaches meeting, they have been animate about playing to "win" and not have much room for girls who don't pay attention or loaf off. This was going to be a serious season and more competitive. (mind you they are 7) The coach's daughter played on a team last year with a few other future olympian types and they crushed us like 11-1 and 9-1. Now we are on that team with this coach and daughter who is pretty good and an attitude to boot because she knows it. I went in just wanting to give the coach the benefit of the doubt and that in a real life situation, he wouldn't be that hard core.
When they went through some drills and one on ones, the coach matched up Ali with his daughter because it was evident that she was the best defender. And I thought to myself, this will be interesting, what will my emotional/overly dramatic girl do with this tomboy who is out to kill? Well, for the next few minutes, Ali frustrated the heck out of her. They jousted and jousted. The competition level kept increasing the jousting turned into pushing, then shoving then tripping. My daughter was going blow to blow with this giant in her life and unrelenting. Eventually Ali got shoved to ground a last time and broke down crying as the coach addressed her. (the coach handled it great) I thought though that fun Ali had her feelings hurt so I asked her. It turned out she was frustrated that the other girl was cheating by pushing her and that her feelings weren't hurt all. Rather, she stopped crying, wiped off her tears and went right back after the ball.
I was BEAMING! I was never the most talented athlete, nor the most skilled, but nobobdy outworked me and nobody outdetermined me. It was my competitive edge. It took me pretty far in athletics and honestly as far as I wanted to take it. Competitiveness is so overdone in our culture but its a part of who some of us are. Its a part of our make-up and wiring. Its a part of how God uses us in prayer and ministry. I have stared down the enemy in the lives of many Christ followers and it came from much practice facing dominating pitchers or bruising tailbacks. That competitive nature is still very much alive in me and when I see it in Ali, I was just so stoked and so proud. Bring on the soccer season!


Monday, March 01, 2004

I took my wife to the "Passion" yesterday with some others in our community (yes, somehow I've seen it twice now) and the implications of the Jesus event in history leave me a little confused. For the life of me, I can't understand how a natural progression out of his life, death, resurrection and teachings has come mainstream hierarchy, orthodox religion, mega church growth theories, health and wealth gospel, KKK, Crusades or the like. It just doesn't make sense to me. His life was so simple, humble, died to self, incredibly honest, compassionate, epitomy of integrity, servant of servants. Intellectually and spiritually, the simple monastic life is the one that seems to be the most accurate of the Jesus of Nazareth. Today's Finan reading from Celtic Daily prayer:

"The Desert Fathers' creative subversion, their simple and radical renunciation, cut powerfully through the subleties of religion and reminded ordinary people that behind all the argumentation was the simple gospel challenge: 'If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine; let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow Me.'" (Matthew 16:24) William McNamara

Stop and notice the Kingdom today.