Monday, May 31, 2004

Ok, back from Va. Beach as of last night and we had a blast. The weather was up and down, sometimes nice and sunny, sometimes overcast and breezy. Our first night, we had front row seats to a sweet lightning, driving rain storm. We sat on our porch outside our rooms and watched it like Discovery Channel Live. I went out on a charter deep sea fishing boat with 8 other guys, it was a nice boat ride, apparently we passed some whales I never saw, and all of us caught 10-15 fish. However, they were all saltwater trout, only one guy in the back of the boat caught a flounder, all else was trout. Fun, but got boring after awhile. I primarily ate seafood and pizza, and most of those particular items in the buffet format. The last night, 8 of us went to a seafood buffet on the boardwalk and had a few contests. There was the Crab leg eating contest won by Kris Thomas, Lord knows how many he actually ate, but they tasted realllllllly good. There was the Hush puppy eating contest won by Dan Hauer at 21 total balls of fried batter. Then I won the dessert eating contest at 8 desserts + frozen custard at Kohr Bros. later in the evening. Then there was Craig Laake who decided to compete in all 3 contests, much to the demise of his stomach. He got a solid 2nd place in all 3 and then scorched porcelain in our hotel room for the next 12 hours. Thanks to those guys, plus Jen B., Jon, Ben and Dustin for a ton of laughs that night over dinner.

I got to hook up with one of my best friends from high school whom I hadn't seen since he was in my wedding 11 years ago. Steve is a Naval Officer on the USS Ashton ported in Norfolk, VA. I spent a couple afternoons with him and caught up on lots of stuff. He is married now and expecting their first child, it was so good to catch up. He took me aboard his ship and gave me the civilian tour, I am fascinated by all things military and it was cool to get some VIP treatment. Better than that, he took me to a local dive called "the thirsty camel" and treated me to some of the largest steamed fresh shrimp I've ever had. We had great conversation, I was able to apologize on my Pharisee ways in high school and explained the different ways I see Jesus' teachings now that I understand them for myself outside of the systems I grew up in. So good to see Steve.

This trip more than anything will only deepen the fact that I will miss these students as they move on. I'm hoping some will stick around in our Sunday night house church as they go to school locally, but I will surely miss all. It was a very successful senior trip, now let's get these exams out of the way and bring on summer break!!!!


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Well, this is where we are staying on Virginia Beach with the seniors this week, should be fun. I pray for safe travel and great spiritual community time. I also pray that my natural born skills in Euchre come back naturally so I can win some m & m's on late night gaming. Will blog next week on the results.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Just checking in at this early hour to say that I had a great weekend. Friday night BBQ was awesome, so many great friends hanging out under the stars, around the fire in my backyard. Its one of my favorite things in the world, everything seems so right when we do that. Bill Bean spent the night friday night and we had some great fellowship time accompanied by an important conversation about the kinds of spaces our communities have within them and how to read the story God is writing amongst us. We ended our time by seeing "Troy". I give it a 6 on the 10 scale.
Saturday morning, Ali finished off her undefeated soccer season with 2 assists. Saturday night we went to the drive in with the Minniears to see Shrek 2, also a 6 on the 10 scale.
Sunday morning OCC leadership team meeting to discuss our June 13 big party and planning. We are also looking to throw together an "underground worship" event in the next month, stay tuned.
Went to the Reds game with my brother-in-law Sunday, saw Cory Lidle pitch a complete game shutout against the Astros for the Reds to move into 1st place. They are shocking my socks off so far. I'm glad I was wrong about them. Sunday evening student house church (we need a real name)was pretty cool. Really in depth conversation around some of Dallas Willard's concepts in Divine Conspiracy, good time. There was some energy in the room last night, the Spirit is doing stuff we can't see. Community is happening, I hope this story has many more chapters, these are some gifted students who just need some hope and a reason to believe. I pray we go to the center of the life of God together.
I have 2 days to get a lot done before I leave with the seniors to Virginia Beach. Have a blessed day.

Stop and notice the Kingdom amongst you today.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

He done did it, blew me right out of the water. This is from my boy, Paul McGillivary. If you care about or are leading a missional community, this NEEDS to be read. Talk back to him.

1. Christ followers follow Christ. Okay, semantic mumbo jumbo it would seem, but i don't think it can be emphasized enough. Talk is cheap, actions speak volumes.
2. The "main event" is not when we gather. Yes, we meet to encourage, to learn, to pray, to sing, to eat, to take communion, etc. But we emphasize the mission of our community: to be Christ's presence in our communities. When we leave, we don't simply tolerate life until next meeting, we live our faith in front of others. We listen to the hurting, we give aid to those who need it, we pray for folks. We become the body of Christ to our world. This is huge.
3. Everyone must exercise their giftedness for the body to function correctly.
4. Leaders must lead, but they must lead in a way that helps others burst forth. If the leader is the spotlight, then they are not leading correctly.
5. Community takes time - loads of it!!
6. How you handle children is something you must negotiate in your group. Whatever you decide, make sure to celebrate them in your community.
7. Get folks excited about giving money away. Show direct connections between what they give and who it went towards.
8. Spiritual disciplines can help us. Don't let it be legalistic.
9. Our culture's hyper-individualism will continue to bump up against your community.
10. A couple hours in a community gathering only . . . serves your vocation in the world for the rest of the week.
11. A couple hours in a community gathering only . . . serves your vocation in the world for the rest of the week.
12. A couple hours in a community gathering only . . . serves your vocation in the world for the rest of the week.
13. I just want to emphasize numbers 10-13.
14. Be willing to change your plan for what God has in store.
15. Organic things live and die. Organic groups should be allowed to do the same.
16. Success is following Jesus.
17. Success is not in amount of $ your community has, number of people that come to your gatherings, or number of people you "convert."
18. Obedience in the small things - we always want to jump on to the big things.
19. Love those around you.
20. Sometimes the best thing for a community is change.
21. Sometimes the worst thing for a community is change.

ok, I suppose early morning posts are becoming more frequent. Its 3:46 a.m. and some things need to be said. For some of my senior Bible students out there who read this blog, this one is for you (Ben, Kris, Jon, Josh and others) I mentioned earlier that I have bonded with this senior class and I really didn't want to see them go, well, that reality is settling in more and more. I just woke up, having had a dream of their graduation and my heart is like, missing them. And to top it off, I dreamed I was burning them a CD and the last song was, (are you ready for the sap?), Boyz 2 Men "Its so hard to say goodbye to yesterday". <<< insert tear and "you had me at hello"

Yesterday was the seniors last chapel and they led it from top to bottom. I'm going to go as far as to say that it was the best worship experience I've had in years. I mean, it makes me giddy thinking about it. My whole goal for them this year was to do everything I could to get them to think for themselves, believe for themselves so they could lead on their own. They entered this chapel with some opposition by some on staff who just don't understand them nor their culture to express themselves. I have watched time and time again, a spirit of legalism try to control the faith in these students that is dying to coming out. As I was jogging on Tuesday, all of my prayers were centered on them and this chapel and God spoke to me on behalf of them. He said, "tell them not to let anyone look down on them, but if its in their heart to worship, then worship. If its in their heart to lead the people, then lead."

Worship sometimes is done with a chip on your shoulder. In the face of oppostion, spiritually and sometimes physically in history, true worshippers let it rip. These students yesterday led us all with a passion that I have LONGED to see in my day. Out of the experience,they confronted legalism and said they refused to shut their mouths, but that their faith would have a say. They took their hurts, struggles and losses and instead of letting them fester more in bitterness and negativity, they symbolically brought them before the Healer who makes all things new. They raged towards God with honesy and authenticity and I loved it. Tears were streaming down my face, I wanted to come out of my skin, I wanted to dance, I wanted to celebrate the God they were exalting, I wanted to run, I wanted to get out of the way. There is a time when the teacher needs to step aside and let the student lead them when they are ready. That time was yesterday. They made a statement before the entire community of CCS and it was God honoring. They blew the roof off in worship and heartfelt words. I am soooooo proud of them and yes, they will be missed. Its not over though, next wednesday, I will act as one of their "chaperones" for their senior trip to Virginia Beach. It will surely be a blast and I look forward to passing on to them any last words of wisdom I can impart. More than that, I look forward to just spending time with them.

U2 has often been asked why they don't embellish the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" rebellious lifestyle. Bono says, their faith is their real rebellion. Our faith is not to be tamed, its not to be controlled, is not to be put under a blanket. Our faith is a primal scream, its our rebellion, Its a rebellion against our sinful nature and its a rebellion against the way things are with a longing for them to change. To cry out in deaf world that we belong to the One who is making all things new, that His Kingdom reigns now and not yet. Our faith breathes life into dry bones. Thank you to the Seniors who breathed life back into my heart yesterday. Much love.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Quote of the Day. Discussing Dallas Willard's thoughts on the reduction gospel today in senior bible class and how it is a far cry from "kingdom now", most of the students looked at me as if I had just told them I am the Easter Bunny. But for a few, it made total sense, as should be our reaction to Truth. When comparing a Gospel that is only about "heaven and hell" and "getting saved" vs. a Gospel of life in the Kingdom now and not yet. As the concept settled in, Jon Wedaman said,
"Its the difference between a cartoon lion and a real dangerous one."

Beautiful words. I love it.

Monday, May 17, 2004

1) New look for the blog, thanks to p-mac "the computer kevorkian" for helping me out with some kinks
2) Saw "Big Fish" again and "13 going on 30" this weekend, I've heard tha "Troy" is not good
3) I am within 3 weeks of having a 2 1/2 month vacation (too bad I have to find summer work for $$)
4) I realized again today how many incredibly good friends I have (grandma taught me to count my blessings daily)
5) 6th Bell Senior Bible had some spicy conversation today, including sex, masturbation, sex, making out, sex, marriage, sex, lust and sex. God made it and called it "very good" but he also designed oneness intimacy for lifelong marriage. Good practical discussion of what we all think about and never say. I hope I made some sense today.

Rains just had a 4:30 a.m. blog and I guess its my turn (its 4:27 presently). Woke up at 3:44 a.m. with many thoughts in my head and I suppose internal pressures I'm feeling. I'm going to be very unspecific about the context of my thoughts and just say how I'm feeling. I'm in a place where I'm not sure what to do. I have a myriad of directions and options I could take, and I honestly don't know which road to take. Not knowing what to do is very unsettling. I've been in cruise control for quite some time and I've been liking that. It has helped me get grounded and really pay attention to my family. But I sense changes on the horizon and for the first time in my life, I'm apprehensive about it. I used to thrive on change, bring it to every situation I found myself in. But I also used to have an addiction to success and was never satisfied or ever content. I never experienced the peace of Christ and the simplicity of walking in Him. But now I have. Now I have learned to run the race of the turtle, sure and steady. Its not very exciting, but Matrix-like, it slows the world down enough to where you begin to see things you never saw before. A contemplative life, being a suburban monk in mindset, opens my eyes to the access points of the Kingdom that I never saw before and now can experience. But I sense that my little comfort zone is changing and I don't like it. It feels unsettling.
As I survey my life, many things are going quite well, and some things need fixing. What to do, what to do? Which path to take?
I'm still reflecting on my experience in this genre of church planting known as house churches or simple churches or organic churches or missional communities and would continue to say that I am converted for life. But I have this critique, we have a hard time getting over our pain and loss in traditional church structures. I have heard so much lately of bitterness coming out of my mouth and others that I recognize is purely flesh serving flesh. We major in proclaiming what we're not about. But what about the Gospel? What about the transforming power of Christ amongst us accompanied by the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit? What about being governed by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control? I am wondering if my own bitterness is stifling the life of Christ and the presence of the Spirit in gatherings I lead. Because within me is a river of depth and spiritual power that I hardly ever access because I fall into default roles of sarcasm and fear of intimacy. And the very idea of being serious about spiritual ministry just conjures up images of past abuses. unauthentic christianity, programs and bad experiences I didn't trust. So the baby has gone out with the bathwater? We reform not towards Christ and him setting captives free, but we simply reform away from trad. church. (please note that I'm talking about my own experiences, many of you out there may have found a much more healthy deal) I am comfortable leading conversations (which is most of what I do presently) but I long to use other gifts God has given me that seem to have no place in the movement known as "not being institutional church". And I wonder anymore if me not using these gifts is a help or a hindrance to seeing God's Kingdom amongst us. At some point you have to decide what you're about and give it a shot, regardless of what others think. I pray that the church that is emerging will have the maturity to be more than "not my father's oldsmobile".

Stop and notice the Kingdom today.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

I wanted to respond to some questions regarding what it means for us to have been "affiliated" with the MBC. It actually has more to do with the MBC than it does for us. As for how could we qualify for it? We had to show in real life that we are a healthy community of believers who desire to seek God's Kingdom in our neighborhoods. We are a bit of a pioneer community for them so they have not measured us by typical church planting measures, but rather because of their trust in us, allowed us to set those measures. The only thing they asked for was for us to show how we desired to be re-producing or that we wanted to be planting new communities (house churches) and not just one. But there has been no pressure on counting, just that they know its our heart to do so within organic relationships. We also tithe back to the MBC to show that we believe in them and their desire to change and affirm new kinds of church planting. They officially created a new category for what we're doing called "apostolic church planting" as opposed to traditional church planting. They are also hoping that we could help them assess new planter types and design some processes for supporting and coaching others who desire to be "outside the box" of traditional planting. They recognize that it isn't fast church growth, it isn't sexy, it doesn't create $$ for the conference. But they believe its healthy and biblical. If there was the typical pressure, we never would have made it this far. So the MBC has been willing to be learners in this process and it has been a great relationship with them.
As for why is it important for OCC to be connected to the MBC? I can say that I had a strong impression from God that as we began this story about 4 years ago, he put it in my heart that we should be a part of a larger spiritual family and see it as an investment. Sure, we can do what we're doing without any official affiliation, but I felt called to walk through the murky waters of where an established church conference who gives 73% of its resources into planting new churches could partner with a network of house churches and see it as a win/win. It was all about relationship. I have a great relationship with Dan Peterson, exec. director of MBC. And out of our friendship is forming a new stream for church planting and perhaps helping many other planters out there like us who feel alone and could be supported. Its not about $$, the MBC has little resources to help there, but we're bi-vocational anyways. The issue is family, belonging, different contexts but one kingdom and one faith and one baptism. So why are we glad to be a part of the MBC? Because its pro-Kingdom. And I'm committed to being more pro-Kingdom than I am being anti-institution. Deconstruction and reactivity are not a big enough idea for me. Partnering with Creator-God to do new things, mend broken relationships with Church at large and still be about organic mission here on earth is what keeps me going. Its been very healthy. If we de-humanize organizations and not understand that they are made up people like us, then I think we can miss out on Kingdom possibilities. However, I am not naive. This partnership may not work in 95% of all other denoms. out there, all I'm saying that this has been an exception to the rule and I'm glad to have been a part of this ongoing story, which I believe is a part of the greater Story.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

I know I said yesterday that my venting was done, but I'm fiding that hardly the case. Last night however was a dose of good medicine for my mental/emotional health. Had a BBQ with McGillivary, Canipe and Johnson. We must have spent an hour conjuring up 80's Christian music artists and our memories of them, breaking out into lyrics when the moment caught us. Around the fire a little later on, my daughters quizzed the trio of pastors with questions of God, the devil and the purpose of creation. It was pretty funny. At one point when McGillivary was explaining to Ali why God made us, Ali turned to him and said, "now what does that mean in English?" ha ha.
Leaving this afternoon with the McGillivary's to the annual conference for the Mideast Baptist Conference where Ordinary Community Church will be taken off "church plant" status and officially affiliated as an established "church". This is kind of a marker moment for me. I began this journey over 4 years ago in complete pain and desperation, believing that if this didn't work, I was out of church for life. Well, this experiment has changed my entire life and reality. I have tasted of the Kingdom of God so deeply and so profoundly. Its nothing very exciting, it truly is quite ordinary and that's the beauty. And we're not alone. So many of you are out there in communities and are a part of the larger Story that we find ourselves in. This weekend will be fun just to drive and hangout with the McGillivary's, do some dreaming of the future of OCC and I will be teaching a seminar on "living out an old faith in a new world". We'll see how that goes. Hopefully I'll politely rustle some feathers.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I'm not sure what my problem is today but I've seem to have hit a wall. I feel like I just lectured one of my senior bible classes on how we have reduced the Gospel to heaven/hell and getting saved (i.e. Dallas Willard thoughts)and that we don't have a freakin' clue. I feel tired and worn out with what I've been seeing lately. And then I look at the students and they are bored out of their mind. Jesus is a cliche. Religion has ruined them for life. But all that they are sick of has NOTHING to do with Jesus. Its man made systems based in fear and control. Its not the Gospel. Jesus draws, but he's not invited. My heart is so heavy for this scenario. I know that the Jesus of the Kingdom can transform them, but in my position, I just represent the system. My cynicism is raising and that usually leads to unhealthy comments coming from my mouth. Jesus said "follow me", not "get saved". We dwell on 1/2 the Gospel and have no theology for Jesus following. I want to come out of my skin. Sit down, sit down, sit down your rocking the boat. Chill out, Marshall, let it go, let em sleep. And if this is the case, then don't ask me to @#$% care. Don't ask me to program changed behavior from within a system that sucks the life out of the Truth. Don't ask me to pimp out a safe Jesus who is separated from his reality. The Kingdom of God is all pervasive reality, living outside of it is death and separation. Religion is irrlevant and yet its my daily grind, and I get paid to represent it. AAAAGGGGHHHHH. Venting done.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Instead of karaoke or dancing at Cincinnati Christian School prom, the students were presented with Charlie Cadabra. Yes, Charlie Cadabra. We don't dance or do music because we are afraid, we're afraid of teenagers with feelings, emotions and hormones. We have all of our own repressed guilt and shame regarding our own sexuality so we certainly can't expect teens to handle themselves in any healthy manner. Rather, let's picture them as a-sexual 7 year olds and hire a magician (who lacked serious quality, felt sorry for the poor guy). The students were very polite, they could have made it hades for the guy, I was proud of them for that. So the night was not about the students, it was about another message that we have no real answer for the "world" and its desires. Rather, we sell a gospel of fear. Oh by the way friends, we're losing this game in evangelical Christianity. The game of sexuality that was God's idea by the way back in the Garden. He called it "very good". But our best idea since then is to live in fear of our sexuality, repress it, pretend its not there, push it underground and attach shame to it. By not addressing the issue or blushing at the thought of it, we reinforce our position of completely IRRELEVANT. If the game was being irrelevant, we are going for hall of fame status. Rather, our teens have to figure it out for themselves, Gospel by trial and error.
When oh Lord will we recapture your Garden intention? When will we face our insecurities and fears and overcome them through your redemption of the "whole" of us? Who will take on the arrows of shame the enemy hurls at us and repel them with truth and goodness? Well, apparently not us here at CCS.


Friday, May 07, 2004

Memories of 80's Prom fashions.

Going to Prom tonight with the wife as "chaperones". Of course prom for a Christian High School involves absolutely no dancing, but rather dinner and socializing. For my wife and I, senior prom was our first official date. That was 13 years ago. We attended different high schools and our proms were on the same night. So we went to mine first for a couple hours then headed over to hers. The only problem was that I got lost for about an hour and refused to read the directions. Why Nicki didn't move on to a more evolved human being at that point, is beyond me. Perhaps it was my pink bow tie and cumberbum that kept her interest peaked. I do remember Nicki looking ubelievably "HOT" that night. She was tanned and all done up, I would have walked the streets of Cincy all night just letting people know she was with me. My principal pulled me aside and said that he was casting his vote for us as "best dressed" because of our perfectly matched pink hue. We didn't stick around to see if we won or not. I was already pretty sure that this girl would be the one I would spend the rest of my life with, but now 11 years of marriage later, 3 kids, a home to call our own and a faith community we love and belong to, it seems fairytale-like if it wasn't for all the hard work it takes to get here.
I will enjoy tonight. I have bonded with this senior class and I really don't want to see them move on. I suspect some of these friendships will be life long. If there is Karaoke tonight, I will lay down something proper of the 80's genre. But because of the Christian School culture, there will be no "Safety Dance" :)


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Took my daughters out to dinner last night and then we went shopping for Nicki's Mother's day present. I had something electronic in mind, but decided to get her what she actually wanted instead of what I thought would be cool. And in true "marsh" fashion, I gave it to her the moment I got home instead of waiting til Sunday. Its a big canopy/gazebo to go over our back patio to enhance our bbq experiences with shade and rain relief. Looking forward to putting that puppy together this afternoon and seeing if it can withstand the rain and wind.

Had one of my more fundamental baptist students say yesterday that my NT survey course was a waste of time because it wasn't "deep" enough. I have long been accused of not giving people the "Word" in my past. But I honestly have no @#$% clue what that means. If it means that I don't judge people enough, I don't create timelines for end times events and that I don't tell people they're going to hell enough, then I suppose I should take this as a compliment. The context of the comment came out of a day where I was teaching on 1st century Gnosticism as a threat to young Christianity and the reason why the apostle John wrote the epistles of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John. I suppose having a historical understanding for the writing of NT epistles is a shallow endeavor for approaching the Scriptures. I suppose I should just teach my opinions without any accountability to disciplined exegesis and that humility need not be applied to the ancient texts. I suppose I am not a very good preacher. I hate the word "preaching", I have no positive feelings towards it. If that offends some, know that I affirm teaching and proclamation which is "receptor" oriented. But preaching the Word as I have come to learn it and be measured by, I find it pure ignorance.

I find that arrows received from fellow believers hurt me deeply. It used to destroy me and render me incapable of going on. I projected perfection on the Church and it disappointed me over and over again. I am just an "all or nothing" kind of guy. Either Jesus is real and the Kingdom of God is all pervasive reality, or let's just sit around and smoke your plant of choice. I work really hard at keeping my heart tender and open towards the Church, its just gets hard when I am vulnerable to attack on wounds yet open. But bitterness is not a big enough idea for me. Contempt does not feed my soul. I don't long for justice here on earth. Rather I choose to keep my heart open, to bless those who curse, to turn the other cheek and to choose meekness over division. This Christ following stuff is harder some days than others.


Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I actually have really good things to report on but lacking the energy to give them due justice. I wrestling with like an inner ear infection that is messing with my head, my hearing and my energy. But here is a short list.

1) Had a pretty blessed time traveling with K-rains to Harrisburg, PA and retreating with some missional community leaders there. We just really affirmed what they were already doing. The highlight was hanging out with my bro, Rains for the weekend. We laughed ourselves to tears for various reasons and dreamed of more Kingdom stuff in the future.

2) I had another niece born this morning. Rob and Becky had their 3rd daughter, Kate came at 4:20 a.m.

3) Will be attending and speaking at the MBC annual conference next weekend with the McGillivary's

4) Will be chaperoning prom this friday night and the senior trip to Va. Beach May 26-30. Its that time of year.

blessings upon your week.