Friday, July 30, 2004

Privit! (Ukrainian for Greetings)

Palmer and I landed safely on Kiev soil after a 3 hour delay of our plane in London. Pretty smooth trip, let's just say it was good that us behemoths got exit row seats for each flight (thank you Jesus). The best line of that day was when we checked the flight boards to see what gate our Ukraine airlines flight left from, the board listed it as "wait in lobby".

We slept in the hotel last night rather soundly, its 7 hour difference from Ohio so the first night is important to get sleep. We spend all day with Ukranian pastors as the key speakers at their annual conference. Its funny, cuz its usually an American version of "church growth" kind of stuff, but 3 of us are all a part of leading house churches so it was not typical. All 4 lectures today were on spiritual formation and not how to easily grow your church through marketing schemes kind of stuff. In particular, Palmer brought the tasty stuff and it brought loads of questions from the crowd. He shared on prayer, community and hospitality, it was the highlight of my day. My favorite question was a guy who asked what book he got his model from. Palmer was nice though, and didn't give the obvious answer "errr, the Bible".

We have one more half day of teaching tommorrow then will be hanging with my sister church here in Kiev for 2 days. Palmer and I both will be speaking to their church community on Sunday morning (of which we were informed of today) but I'm not sure what we''ll be speaking on. The life of a traveling apostle is all about being on the spot. time in Kiev is good, but its an understatement to say that we can't wait to go to Northumbria and the rest of England.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Palmer will arrive at my home any minute now and we will depart for the Cincy airport. Sitting here, I'm realizing that my expectancy is very high. Its a combination of many things. 1) I love to travel, to taste new cultures, to have an adventure 2) I'm expecting to meet my God in solitude 3) I'm expecting to make a Kingdom impact 4) I'm looking forward to being with my friend Palmer, his depth and humility challenge me

As I sat here, Celtic Daily Prayer is here on my desk because it didn't make the cut as I packed for space reasons. (instead im bringing a pocket celtic prayer book given to me by Rains a year ago). I flipped through it and found this prayer for traveling. Let this be my prayer:

"Peace between me and my God.
May I tread the path to the gates of glory.
Rule this heart of mine that it be only Yours.
God's path would I travel, my own path refuse.
May I tread the path to the gates of glory."

Godspeed and protection be ours.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Final preparations for Europe pilgrimmage 2004 are coming together as we depart tommorrow evening. I will try and blog as much as I can with Internet cafe visits, I'm sure there will be much to report. We will be gone July 28 - August 10 We will be visiting the countries of Ukraine, England and Scotland. I'm most looking forward to visiting Northumbria Community on Holy Island off the coast of northern England. They are trying to workout new forms of celtic monasticism on property that dates back to ancient monasticism. I'm looking forward to dialoguing with them and telling stories of our attempts to be monking in the real world here in the states. That will also be a time of quiet, solitude and prayer.

books in my backpack:
- Lonely planet guidebook to Britain
- my journal
- pocket version of The Message
- Rennovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard
- The Challenge of Jesus by N.T. Wright
- Celtic Daily Prayer

goals in my heart:
-I want to listen to Abba's voice
-I want to pray by name for my spiritual community
-I want to share the Kingdom
-I want to see the beauty of a culture outside my own
-I want to be an encouragement to all I come into contact with
-I want to experience soul quiet

I leave you with a Celtic prayer by Carmina Gadelica:
"May God make safe to you each step,
May God make open to you each pass,
May God make clear to you each road,
And may he take you in the clasp of his own hands."

Peace of Christ upon you all,

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Church signs crack me up and cause me nausea all at the same time. They are so revealing about our theologies and the things we value. There is a church I pass everyday to get in and out of my neighborhood and there are some classics.

Today was no different. It reads "Exposure to the Son can prevent burning!"
A classic line of the reductionist gospel. What it all boils down to is avoiding hell, thats the sum total of Christianity. Does it matter that Jesus hardly ever talked about hell? Does it matter that there are 174 (give or take 1 or 2) other more prominent topics/themes in the Scriptures than a place called hell that non-beleivers go to after they die? I am convinced that hell is a reality, but is largely a mystery as to what its like or what it means. How did such a minor theme in Christianity become the main point? When Jesus is pressed to get to his point, he stands up and delivers the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, arguably his most crucial teaching. And the gist of this teaching is on becoming people of the Kingdom, living in the Way. If we were supposed to reduce all of Christianity to avoiding hell, how come Jesus didn't address it in his teachings? For that matter, we no little of what heaven will be like. Most of our imagery is purely speculative. N. T. Wright suggests that western Christianity follows Plato's dualism which is a separation of the spiritual and the physical. That the physical is evil and the spiritual is good. Therefore, hate this world and long for the perfect spiritual world to come. Rather than embracing this Creation, that the Kingdom has alredy come amongst us (in Jesus the Christ) and that we are to long to be agents of Redemption here as we are transformed into Kingdom people. The future hope has already come but it involves dying to self and we don't like that much. We want to dream of a place where we are given riches and live in mansions, where Jesus comes for those of us he loves and damns the sinners we never liked much anyway (insert sarcasm). We need to embrace a Creation that is pre-Plato where there is no separation of the body and the spirit, but rather we are one. They both need to be redeemed and transformed and embraced.

Hell is a life that is lived outside of the Way, Heaven is a life of communing with Christ and one another. We have glimpses of that in this side of eternity. For me, eternity is the fullness of the Way and hell is some dimension of separation from the Father. Just my own speculation. Of course I'm awaiting comments from those of you who have it all figured out : )


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

ok, I'm back from the family travels and let's just say its good to be home. Always a highlight is spending time with my wife and kids, especially since I'll be leaving them again soon. We did the Philly Zoo, cheesesteaks on south street, saw the ships at Penn's landing, went to the NJ shore, walked the boardwalk, ate boardwalk junk food (yes, another cheesesteak), chilled out at my brother's house for a couple days, spent the night at a hotel in downtown pittsburgh with a pool, Pirates game on monday night with $1 hotdogs (my family consumed a cool dozen) and now we're home.

One week from this evening, Palmer and I get on our first of 4 flights for a 13 day spiritual pilgrimmage. 5 days in the Ukraine teaching church planters, then 8 days in England and Scotland for quiet retreat, reading, writing and some good times of course. Suffice to say that I'm pretty excited but I need this week to prepare. Will share more details in the next couple days.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Will be gone for a week with my family to Philly, New Jersey and Pittsburgh to visit my Dad and Brother. Looking forward to some concentrated family time before I depart for Europe for 2 weeks. I'm just not looking forward to my 10 hour drive tommorrow.


Monday, July 12, 2004

** Disclaimer **
I am about to give my opinion after watching Michael Moore's film Farenheit 9/11 and some of the issues that arise around it. If this will get you too riled up, please discontinue reading.

1) On a scale of 1-10, the movie gets a 3 overall (1 for footage, 1 for satire and 1 for soundtrack).

2) This movie is sophomoric in its attempt to make a point. He showed no restraint in making potshots, no discipline for arousing the jeers of an audience. It was a really un-intelligent attempt at a documentary. He does call it a "satire documentary" which I assume means take it as entertainment because it was by no means a documentary. It was 2 hours of the same stuff you can find in a 30 second T.V. spot on why not to vote for Bush.

3) I was really disappointed with the juvenile nature of his argument given the serious issues. The movie portrays many deaths of human beings and the reasons behind them. That kind of subject matter deserves dignity, reverence and responsibility. The movie offered none.

4) Numerous contradictions in rationale. He says that Bush spends too much time on vacation while at the same time arguing that he is a driven war monger. He says that the gov't spends too many resources through the patriot act infringing on our rights while at the same time pointing out that we don't spend enough resources on protecting our country leaving us vulnerable. That the Republicans and those in power have a lot of $ and can't understand the plight of the common man while not stating that of course Kerry and Edwards are both millionaires themselves.

5) Blatant racism. He suggests that he is standing up for the viewpoints of black america but treats with extreme satire the perceptions of other nations. He dehumanized the people of Costa Rica, Iceland and Morrocco with wide-brushed stereotypes to make his satirical point. I found this to be one of his largest hypocrisies.

6) Promoted the American ideal of entitlement. He suggests that we should offer military service and the benefits of job and education that come along with it without the threat of serving in a war. That somehow we are entitled to an American life without the threats of staying free or working hard for it. I believe that "entitlement" may be one of the root causes of the destruction of America. By the way, this is why I vote. Because I don't believe that I am entitled to the life I live but rather I have responsibilities that come along with my freedoms and my global-relative comfortable way of life. I continually vote for a small gov't that is big on personal responsibility.

7) No real prescription, just satirical description. The film offered no suggestions but perhaps the inference to vote against Bush in November. For what? For more of the same? You see, I'm not Republican, Democrat or Independent. I vote for the candidate who most closely resembles my economic philsophy. Its not about haves and have nots, its about consistent values at every level. I believe in hard work, determination and personal responsibility. So I vote for those who are small gov't. and yet compassionate. My cynicism tells me to vote economics because all the pomp and circumstance is really about $$, not people or platforms. So I prefer for the $$ to go to people and I'll roll my dice there.

8) My one agreeing point is the lack of credibility in going to war with Iraq. But not for the conspiracy theories that Moore tries to piece together. I never liked the decision to go to Iraq, I have always viewed it as an unjust war. It is eerily similar to Vietnam. I am very sorry that soldiers and civilians have lost their life there. I am pro-peace. I do believe that (forgive me pacifist brothers) there is such a thing as justified war, but Iraq doesn't fit the description. And yes, I do find it conflicting to be a follower of Jesus and someone who can support an atrocity known as war . . . I desire peace for the nations.

So what do I prescribe? What is my hope if it isn't voting against Bush in 2004? As I've heard my bro, Palmer, say many times, "I swear singular allegiance to Jesus". Follow his Way. Die to yourself, embrace suffering, turn the other cheek, seek to create not destroy, give life don't take it away, give mercy, offer grace, love your neighbor, pay attention to your character, offer hospitality to the lonely, feed the hungry, teach the children, love goodness, seek beauty, embody hope . . . be a follower that is an ambassador to the ways of Christ. If your not a follower of the Way, ask Him for the grace to start that journey. I swear my allegiance to a risen Christ, and you can document my life for evidence.

peace to your journey today,

Saturday, July 10, 2004

42-Foot Jesus Draws Attention Along I-75

That's right folks, just up the street from our house, they are building a 42 foot statue of Jesus off of Intersate 75 in front of Solid Rock Church. 42 feet, that's just short of 5 stories tall.
Here's some info. from the paper: "Bobby Pelleteri spent two days hauling the 13-foot head for the Jesus statue through five states. Even though he got a lot of looks along the road he called the job a blessing. "It's a statue of our lord, Jesus. You don't get to do that every day. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Pelleteri said. Designed by an artist in Knoxville and built in Jacksonville, Florida, out of styrofoam and fiberglass, the statue will be placed next to the church's new amphitheater. Once erected at Solid Rock Church, it will stand 42 feet high with a 40 foot armspan. "One of the reasons Solid Rock exists is to let people know that God loves them. What greater symbol than the King of Kings for people who drive by and see it there's hope? Whatever circumstances they're in, they'll see that there's hope for them," said Ron Carter of Solid Rock Church.

I know, I know, Philippians 1 says that regardless of the motive, atleast Christ is preached, right? Paul says, "I've decided that I really don't care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!"

But a 42 foot Jesus deserves some blog fodder. Here are some questions. Do we even know what Jesus looked like to project his image? What is the qualitative moral difference between Nebechadnazzar's Babylonian Idol and our 42 foot Jesus? Do 42 foot sculptures communicate hope and love? Is it easier to build replicas of Jesus or to follow him? If this isn't one, then what is a graven image that we are supposed to avoid according to out other great moral hope, a visibly displayed list of the 10 commandments? Which one of Jesus' teachings implore us to invest our resources into statues of himself? This is eerily similar to my experience studying in Israel and Palestine watching people worship the stones instead of realizing that He called us to be living stones. Why aren't we content to trust God and live out his Kingdom way of life? Why do we need a concrete reminder? Isn't this why the Israelites built their idols in the desert? Because they stopped trusting God and wanted to compete with their pagan neighbors who had idols they could see and touch? And it wasn't enough for them to put their trust in an unseen God. The idea of being a marginalized people was not their idea of big fun. So as Moses was communing with Yahweh, they built an idol. I am in no way dropping prophetic judgment on Solid Rock, I'm not that smart or super-spiritual enough for that. I'm just wondering as a Christ follower who is finding peace the more I understand that to become less is to become more in Kingdom economy.

I can't help but wonder if the Jesus that I am striving to be transformed into is the same one who is standing 5 stories tall by my house.

peace to you and your house today,

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

my blog creativity must be on summer vacation too . . .

Went down to Lexington last night to hang out with the Creecher and had a good time. Some pizza and wings, a couple pints at McCarthy's Irish pub and then to Common Grounds for coffee and open mic. night. Some of the musicians/artists were good, some were, well, in my estimation, not good. I suppose though that art is all relative right? Just because I thought it wasn't quality doesn't mean someone else with different brain cells might see it as art. I can appreciate art, but its not a culture I could live in. My borderline type A personality would not be welcomed in that sub-culture. The song that got the biggest crowd reaction last night implored us in the chorus to "make pizzas, not nuclear bombs". That's advice you just don't get everyday and something I'm gonna keep in mind this week.
I do appreciate different cultures though, I love the diversity, what makes them tick. Even in the art/indy sub-culture, the focus is on the individual but there are definitely themes of conformity amongst them. Their anti-mainstream tastes in appearance are similar to one another, so is it really a rebellion against the "Man" or just another form of conformity? They were sandal wearing, hippie sounding, folk singing, love promoting, coffee drinking, anit-war enthusiasts (of course they were more than that, I'm just creating my own generalization with labels) But is that a bad thing? I mean, our community is within a distinct culture and our culture helps give us an identity. An identity that is larger than ourselves, you see, I'm pretty against the hyper-individualism thing. Our culture helps us understand story, the story we find ourselves in. It helps us make sense of the world we live in and the future we're heading into. If all I have to go on is "being my own person", well, that's pretty shallow. I don't want to be the center of my worldview, that's pretty pathetic. I want to know and be known in the context of that Story. The Kingdom Story that gives me identity and meaning, gives me room to be creative, gives me a fight to wake up to in the morning. Jesus' story makes sense to me. Abba is the center of my identity. The community of genuine followers of Jesus are to whom I belong. All my contentment and purposes are found in Him. Death to self is my marching orders today, as is everyday that I decide to take up my cross and follow.
I hope you find a Story that you belong to today.