Tuesday, April 27, 2004

In Liberty House Church tonight, we watched the live DVD performances of Coldplay "Clocks" and "The Scientist" and discussed the lyrics a bit for reflection. Are we a part of the cure or a part of the disease? What is "home" to us? Where do we find it? What is the place that gives us roots and gets us out of the rat race? Nobody said it would be easy, so what can we know about it? Can we always get another try and take it back to the start? All good questions to ask. We read from Philippians 1, "There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears." I suppose if you feeling in the funk and don't see this perspective, its good to have others around you who are confident of it for you. I've always been such a big fan of the song writing of Rich Mullins. He once said, "there is music you make, and some music makes you." I think this applies. My faith is not the product of my effort, it is something that is happening to me and in me within the context of a larger Story. A Story that isn't tame, isn't scientific, isn't systematized and isn't black and white. My faith is a mystical story in which I am a character, but not the only character. I have a role in how the story goes on and ultimately will end, and yet I am not the author of this story. This story is living, it breathes, it feels, it chooses, it worships and it longs for a deep connection within His bigger Story. He started the work and he finishes the work, but he lives it with me and in me as we go. Sounds like a paradox, but welcome to the way story works. I don't want answers, I don't want to KNOW what I should do or how it will end. I just want to live and breathe its reality. I trust the author, He has been very good to me. He is truth, the only black and white I know. I long to be closer to the author this night. I want to feel His hand in mine. His touch is a part of this story, it is then that I know that I am not alone.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Weekend went by much too fast. Ali scored her first career goal in soccer on saturday morning. Not sure who was more excited, her or me. I was beaming. She really has improved so much over the past couple years, i love watching her play and improve all the time. I hope she sticks with it, its fun debriefing with her over ice cream.

Spend saturday evening in Norwood with many friends including Palmer who was down for the weekend a bit. Amazingly good ribs (atta boy to Aaron and Rains) and great conversation as expected.

Watched most of the NFL draft all weekend while doing other things, Bengals had a solid draft. Not a sexy draft, but a solid draft. We'll see how it pans out.

Had our 2nd student house church meeting last night, good discussion on authentic christian community. We talked of the idea of having to deny self in order to be in community. To accept others and be willing to take the risk to be ourselves and be accepted by others. That community does not allow us to choose how we feel like living, but calls us to a consistent life of Christ following. Community is hard, challenging, keeps us accountable, gives us belonging, gives us purpose and increases our freedom and growth in Christ. It appeared to me that this same conversation with students who mostly hold to a postmodern worldview, "get" the idea of community and circular thinking than adults who I've had the same conversation with but think mostly in linear terms. They seem to inherently see the issues and see life within the context of organic relationships, rather than within the construct of modern thought. As we continue to go deeper, it will be interesting to see what kind of story God wants to write with this group.

I can talk about the implications of community every night of the week. I think I may be a community geek. Confession over.


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Ok, me and the fight club boyz went to the Reds game last night in my in-laws front row seats and something very appropriate happened: a fight broke out! After the 1st inning, both benches cleared after a collision at home plate. After tagging Casey out, the catcher stood over him and dropped the ball on his chest and walked away. Casey sat up, took the ball and beamed the catcher in the ARSE!! It was classic. I love Casey, named my dog after him, love his passion and fire. It was fun spoiling 3 of my best friends, giving them rock star status with the best seats in the house. However, Glenn performed one of my all time pet peeves: calling people on his cell phone to see if they could see him on TV. Glenn, that may go over at a NASCAR race in the south, but not when we're amongst the elite here north of the Mason-Dixon line :) Reds lost in extra innings but the night was a win/win. too much fun.


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Ok, Brother Bean (no relation to Brother Bear) has called me out which requres me to respond with a fluid flow of thought. How is it that back on Mar. 24 I was singing the praises of contentment, peace and happiness, and that the past couple days my blog fodder has been of darkness and pain and gloom??? Short answer = borderline bi-polar. If you understand the mindset of a Philadelphian, in particular a Philadelphia sports fan, you may understand where I'm coming from. When things are going well (as they are right now for the Flyers), its the best sports city in America. Passion unbridled. When things aren't going well, they put nets under the bridges to catch the yahoos jumping off after another loss by the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. They are also the only fans who in their gloom who have been documented to cheer wildly at the scene of an opposing receivers neck injury (i.e. Michael Irvin) and to heckle and boo Santa Claus when he made an appearance at mid-field. Think about that, we booed Santa Claus, that's sick! That's borderline bi-polar.
Theological answer is something we discussed at Liberty House Church last night in the introduction to Philippians. Paul uses the phrase "rejoice in the Lord" 16 times in Philippians even though he is writing from a cold, dark, wet and lonely prison cell. How is it possible to have joy in that circumstance? I believe there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is contingent on external circumstances, the things that happen to us. Joy is rooted in the promises of God and Kingdom that never change. So, we can have joy in all circumstances, whether they make us happy or not. So even though this week has been rough for me and rather depressing because of circumstances, I still have enormous joy in being God's beloved and living in a community of Christ followers (i just didn't have the perspective to blog about it). On March 24, I was reporting that my constant joy and my happy circumstances were matching up, it was a win/win. Joy is stable, doesn't go away, is manifested in a deep sense of peace, belonging and stability. Happiness sometimes in this life joins the party when circumstances are positive.
Like sometimes the Eagles go to the Super Bowl (1980), sometimes the Phillies win the world series (1980), sometimes the Sixers win the NBA championship (1983) and sometimes the Flyers win the Stanley Cup (1974, 1975 2004??????????). In the meantime, we scream profanities at jolly old men who hand out toys to needy children. Bah Humbug.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

You ever wake up in the morning with a song in your head that you haven't heard in a long time, but it seems your subconscious is trying to say something? This morning I have a Moby song in my head, with the lyrics "why does my heart feel so bad?" playing over and over again in my brain. So what is my mind telling me? Low-grade depression? Overwhelming circumstances? Frustrations beyond my control? Pressure? Past hurts coming back to haunt me? New hurts making an introduction? Disappointments with self? I'll leave all this for some amateur Freud out there. But as I get tired and beat down, my patience lessens significantly. I tend to be less of a nice guy and more confrontational on everything. Why does my heart feel so bad? Not sure, just know that it does.


Monday, April 19, 2004

On Saturday night, went and saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" with mr. Joe Long. As I drove home, I was filled with some thoughts about pain in general. I got marked down in seminary one time on a paper because I made the statement that "pain is a part of the human experience" and that we should "embrace suffering". The professor in this class on healing was not fond of my presuppositions and let me know my errant theology. I suppose I was to say that if we pray and have faith, it is God's will to hear us and heal us instantly. That line of thinking is still not consistent with my experience, perhaps I need more faith. Perhaps I need to buy a Tony Robbins DVD. Perhaps I should have plastic surgery a.k.a. "the Swan" to have my pain go away. Perhaps I should have some memories erased as the characters in the movie suggest. Doesn't that seem the right thing, pain avoidance?
Pain has always been my connection with people. Some find that too intense at times and I'm just so glad that those have not had to experience deep levels of pain in their life and I in no way think its a pre-requisite for Christ following. But I do believe that most of the change and transformation in my life has come out of pain. Its how I learn big teachings. It is why I care about people, why I care to pay attention to them, why I care to respond to them in the Spirit, why I care to build and invite Kingdom into people's lives. I care because of pain. It has real purpose for me, it drives me to transformation and action. I don't want it erased and I don't want to short-change others away from their pain of how it might be used for greater healing. C.S. Lewis said that "pain is God's megaphone for a deaf world". Pain is a great attention getter. And if we are people that are teacheable, we ought to embrace these experiences, not avoid them. I believe its a mark of maturity for the Christ follower, how they deal with suffering. To read the N.T. and not see a huge theme of pain and suffering is to read with eyes wide shut. Jesus, Paul, Peter and John, the dominant authors make it a point to address it constantly and not avoid it. The O.T. is chock full of horrific painful stories of the tragic history of people.
Avoid pain? Seems a logical thought. But it might be the one that strays you from the story of God.


Friday, April 16, 2004

I know that I am constantly badgering everyone to "stop and notice the Kingdom today" and that seems quite an abstract thing. I mean how do we actually do that? I suggest that its at one time a very mystical thing and another time a practical thing. But I believe that the Kingdom of God is all pervasive reality. Christianity is not a faith, a mental ascent to some historical information, its not a religious system to control or be controlled by. Rather, one enters into the reality of the Kingdom of God through the person of Jesus Christ, it is a relational story. Authentic Christianity is written into the code of universe, living in harmony with the teachings of Jesus is to live in harmony with the whole of God's Creation. I believe that code is best spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount. So to stop and notice the Kingdom around you is not mystical reflection, but a literal and physcial aligning of oneself with the Spirit of the Creator God. I believe this is what Paul meant by being "in Christ".

Yesterday's Finan Reading of Celtic Daily Prayer speaks this discipline well:
"Those creatures in whom I admire a reflection of His perfections, on whom there falls a little ray of the infinite sunshine, are outside me, far removed from me, distant and separate, whilst You, who are perfection, beauty, truth, infinite and essential love, You are in me and around me. You fill me altogether . . . there is no particle of my body that You do not fill, and around me You are nearer than the air in which I move. How am I blessed! What happiness to be united so completely to perfection itself; to live in it, to possess it living in myself! My God, You who are in me, in whom I am, let me know my happiness.
Give me a perpetual sense of Your presence, of Your presence all around me, and at the same time that loving fear one feels in the presence of Him one loves passionately, and which makes one, in the presence of one's Beloved, keep one's eyes on Him with great desire and firm purpose to do all that may please Him and be good, and gently fear to do or think anything that may displease or harm Him.
In You, by You, and for You. Amen."

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today.


Thursday, April 15, 2004

Buffet of topics today:

1) At Fight Club last night we had a first, we allowed a woman to attend. Palmer was in town with his friend Amy so we allowed them to join us for dinner at P.F. Changs. Good spicy chicken, always good seeing Palmer and the usual suspects of FC. Palmer and I continued dreaming of the reality of our European pilgrimmage this summer, Ukraine, England and maybe touching shore on Ireland and Scotland. Afterwards, Chad, Rains and I went for some coffee and hashed over some life stuff and theological topics. One thing I learned from the culturally savy Canipe, apparently the Toyota Rav 4 is the vehicle of choice for women who prefer women. You fill in the blank.

2) The Cincinnati Bengals 2004 schedule came out and I found myself strangely excited. I'm already thinking through the games I want to be at (which is probably all of them) but especially excited about our first Monday night football game in like 10-12 years. In October vs. the Broncos, that's a must see. The draft is also coming and its in Marvin we trust, he has done everything right so far. I have a lot of optimism about the season this year. I know we'll have a first year QB, but I'm a believer.

3) 73 degrees tommorrow + friday evening = BBQ!!!!!!! Its time to get the parties started. I want to have no less than 20 backyard bbq's between now and October. I love having community friends over my house, new friends and strangers. Food, music, DVD's, fire, smores, cigars, pipes, brew of choice, Holy Spirit, Kingdom conversations, sports debates, movie recommendations, life sharing, encouragement, horseshoes, wiffle ball, cornhole, stars at night and the occasional coyote sighting. Bring it!

4) As an extrovert, I am trying to discipline myself to read an hour a day. There are so many amazing books on my shelf that I'm dying to digest but must force myself to do. Workouts and regular reading are the disciplines before me right now. That and a pile of paperwork that I'm buried under.

Stop and notice the Kingdom today.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I find that in vacations and time away, if I take the time to be available and to listen, God always speaks. But never in the way that I wished he would or not in getting a pat on the back, he often gives me marching orders and warnings. It usually requires me to cut out yet another sin in my life for holiness. Or to own up to some mistakes that I have left dormant. Or to consider new areas of spiritual responsibilities. Its never, "well done, go on to eternal peace". I guess that will have to wait for a different kind of vacation :)
I had a vivid dream of the demonic realm about midweek. I was in a holding room with a door on the other end. I was face to face with a demonic spirit and it seemed like we had met before. Fear and anxiety made my heart race. I confronted the Spirit as it headed through the only door in the room. My confrontation had no effect. It was apparent that where it was going, I had no access to. I demanded that it be stopped but it just sneered at me and laughed. It was going to prey on something or someone and I couldn't stop it or protect. I was denied access. As it slipped through the door, I was left alone and felt helpless but also with a sense that it was meant to be. I woke up pretty startled as if this wasn't a dream but a real confrontation in the spiritual realm. I'm not sure what it all means, but I know that it happened. God does not always reveal to us what we want, but rather what we need to know. This is a hard lesson.

"You take us by the hand and lead us, not there were we would wish to go, but there where it is best for us to be." April 13, Finan Reading of Celtic Daily Prayer.

peace to you this day,

Monday, April 12, 2004

ok, we're back and we don't want to be. We had a GREAT time, fantastic family time, I really, really did not want to leave. Disney was a side thought, we just really enjoyed our time together. This trip probably just became our best family vacation to date, the kids were great and the weather was awesome. I miss the 85 degree sun already. Hope all of you had a blessed Easter. I will blog further about some Kingdom thoughts that occurred to me during some reflection times this past week. Right now, I need to get out to your blogs and catch up.


Friday, April 02, 2004

On vacation april 3-11. Have a blessed Easter. Will blog again soon.