Wednesday, June 29, 2005

India Report #2

It Wednesday morning here at 11:23 a.m. and I have just completed my 3rd of 6 teachings on the day. Opened up with morning devotions with the school staff, then to a lecture at the seminary on poetic motifs in Scripture then to a 6th grade bible class on Noah. I'm wearing many different hats. The lecture at the seminary went particularly well speaking on the poetic drama in Luke 7 of Jesus' broken heart the widow's dead son and raising him from the dead. The Poetic motif is that it drives home one of the overriding themes in all of God's revelation, that is the fact of Immanuel, God with us. When we know that God is with us, all things become possible. The poetic nature of Immanuel is something we should all breathed in deeply. I also taught the poetic metaphors of wisdom in Proverbs. That God's wisdom is written into the code of the universe and if you live in the Way, you find a life of satisfying blessing.

Ali is doing great, just going with the flow. She amazes me with her spontaneity and questions. The president of the seminary had been observing her since we came and last night after dinner, he turned to me and said, "this girl of yours is quite smart." That I'll have to agree with. She has a sharp mind and seeks to understand. I can only imagine what God has in store for her.

The children here are over the top cute. They wear these British uniforms which clash with their dark skin. They have disciplined manners, very clean and speak with a mix of Indian and British accent. In my last class, a girl with pigtails said, "please sir, sing us a song?" (sounded incredibly like Oliver, "please sir, may I have some more?") I was able to refuse but I'll have to give them a little show next week when I'm with them again.

Many of you must be praying for us because I have a strong dose of the Spirit while teaching. So for that I say thank you and please keep it up.

Blessings and peace unto your day,

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

India report #1

So its the morning of our 3rd day in India and I'm still jet lagging pretty bad. I did sleep through the night last night thanks to a couple pills of Benadryl. I have a decently comfy living situation, my own room in an appartment, queen bed, clean bathroom and ceiling fan, God is good.
My daughter is showing no signs of culture shock. She has taken everything right in stride. She is teaching pre-K with my Mom in the mornings and enjoys the responsibilities. Thank you to the Minniears for the gifted gameboy, Tetris was our savior on the long flights and has occupied Ali's downtime here in India. That was an outstanding idea!!
Please keep me in prayer as I am teaching 25 times in the next 5 days, not including the weekend trek I'm taking this weekend. I did not know anything that I was teaching until I came, so I'm having to prep. it all on the fly which is not my forte. The perfectionist in me feels unprepared so its a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit. Most of the teaching is Seminary classes and chapels, 40-45 minute talks which I'm pretty out of practice on. With no interaction or discussions, I feel like a fish out of water. I'm trying to find topics that I'm passionate about and would translate well here. We'll see how I do. On Thursday at chapel I'm going to speak on "finding God in the ordinary" and see how that flies.
The biggest culture shock for me is not India but being in a conservative Christian culture. The dress code is relaxed, so that's good, only a tie on Sunday for me and I totally dig the sandal deal. But the seminary is a strongly dispensational, pre-millenial theological school which is my upbringing but a mindset that I have left way behind. It is dominated by teaching theology, and lacks focus on Spirit and relationship. So I will try and bring those elements in a way that they can embrace. At face value, some of the leaders don't take me seriously because I don't pastor a large American church and the name of my church is "Ordinary Community", doesn't exactly fit their value system. So I'm having to incarnate my views of the Kingdom in this mindset, which is a challenge and leaves me feeling like I can't be myself.
I am having great conversations with younger leaders in the seminary though regarding America, consumer church, gospel as industry, church and politics, sexuality and teaching in the church and the role of suffering. Those evening time round table conversations are what I enjoy most. Keep me in prayer, I miss my community very much and long to be back with you.

peace of Christ unto your day and the challenges you may face,


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where would I be without community?

I've been feeling a lot of stress about this trip to India in just trying to prepare myself but these past 24 hours have been therapeutic. Spent yesterday morning w/ Doc playing some early Golf and just enjoyed our friendship and our desire to be influencers amongst students. Went to the Reds day game and had dinner w/ Glenn Johnson and that always just encourages me. He challenged some of my thinking and desire to be "in control" as I go and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Just had an early morning coffee meeting w/ Paul McGillivary and that was also just what the doctor ordered. Our talks always get me really fired up but this time it really gave me the perspective I needed to teach from. I feel more prepared to go and release the Kingdom virus to the people God is preparing and to see Him set captives free. I want to share the depths and reality of Kingdom Come to the people of India and encourage them to act out this Story in small communities that live missionally to the people around them. I may not have all the outlines and linear teaching points, but I do know that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in India. If I listen and commune w/ Him then I can unleash the gifts he has planted within me. Thank you Jesus for this opportunity to be a learner and a servant of your Way.

I will miss my family terribly, it is really starting to hit me. I am so glad that Ali will be with me, but I will ache for Nicki, Megan and Zach. 3 weeks is the longest I've ever been gone. To the people of Ordinary Community, please look after my family while I'm gone. Be the arms of Jesus wrapped around them, supporting them, comforting them and providing for them. Ali and I go as representatives of our faith community, proclaiming the Gospel with words and actions. Thank you to Ordinary Community for the support and permission to go.

I have no idea what my access to the internet will be while there. But any opportunity I get, I will update my blog here w/ details and stories of what is happening so check in for updates.

May the peace of Christ go with all of us this day as we proclaim and live in the Kingdom of God.

Monday, June 20, 2005

T minus 4 days

Come Friday morning, my daughter Alison and my Mom and I will be starting a long couple days of aviation to Bangalore, India. Ali and my Mom will be teaching pre-school and ministering to kids at an orphanage there. I will be teaching at some churches, seminary classes, doing a seminar w/ local pastors on house churching and trekking to some remote location for a few days to establish a church plant. I believe I'm going to center the majority of my teaching around the Gospel of Luke, the Kingdom being opened to outsiders. It will be a full couple of weeks, tasting the culture and learning the people. There is much prep-work to do.

This past weekend we had our first Ordinary Community Church camp-out at Hueston Woods near Oxford and it was a blast. Our family camped out there Friday and Saturday night and most of the church folk met us out there on Saturday. We hung at the beach for the majority of the day, grilled out dinner at a picnic grove and broke into some worship under the trees. Later in the evening we headed back to our campsite for a fire, smores and laughter. Life is good lived in community.

Palmer had a successfurl surgery but has a long road of recovery in front of him. I can only imagine how crushed his body must feel. But the God of healing, comfort and recovery is with him. The God who knit him together in his mother's womb is the same one that can put him back together and make him whole again. A healthy Palmer is a constant threat to our Enemy, proclaiming Kingdom and inviting others into the story of becoming the people of God. Heal on my friend.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Palmer Watch

Do not relent praying for Palmer today. If all is going well, then he is still in surgery right now and in the process of becoming whole and healed. We need you God, we declare our dependence upon you. Go and heal your suffering servant that your Kingdom may be glorified.

Pray for Palmer, Amy, Micah and Landing Place today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

so . . . the doctor said our son is severely impaired

Nicki and I took Zach to the speech pathologist specialist today w/ Cincinnati Children's hospital and had our suspicions somewhat confirmed. We have noticed more and more that our soon to be 3 year old son is very behind developmentally, particularly in speaking and learning. I was expecting the results to be something like "Zach is behind but its pretty normal and if you just give him some time, he'll be talking your ear off." But what we got is "Zach is severely impaired" and is measuring at the 3-9 month level instead of the 36 month level. So my almost 3 year old has not yet developed to the point of a 1 year old?? Then the doctor began rattling off therapeutic options and special need programs. There was ZERO time to process the 1st statement. Both of Zach's older sisters have been over the top healthy and we've never had to deal with anything out of the normal so this is all new. The Dr. was not able to say why he is so far behind, just describing that he is. Is it developmental and something he'll snap out of with some work? Is it an illness in his brain or chemical make-up? Well, the answer to those questions will come with some further testing. Oh joy. I've had some fears that Zach is showing signs of autism and today didn't help with those fears.

I want to know the facts, I don't want to be naive but it seems the medical industry does not deal with the person, just the diagnosis and the treatment. Its an impersonal industry of #'s and medications. This is just not how I aprroach life so when I come into contact with those values it just leaves me feeling a little bit icky.

There is also a part of me that says your labels don't dictate our future. The victim mentality can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nicki and I will ultimately decide what is best for Zach and we will do it with all the information and discernment we can get our hands on. In God's Kingdom, the sick can be well, the blind can see, the lame can walk, the mute speak, the prostitutes are forgiven, the captives are set free and the dead live again. So don't flippantly label my son what the @#$% chart says. Talk to me as a person, speak to me on my level, incarnate your gifting into our world, enter into our situation or get out of our way. This world is not our home. We are but aliens and travelers through on a bigger journey. We respect this time and this place but we live in a different reality.

I know that we're supposed to be intimidated by this talk of deficiency, decay and death in this world. I know that we're supposed to fall down and call the scientific worldview our reality. I know that we're supposed to bow before the altar of medical technology and knowledge. I know that doctors are supposed to be our demi-gods. But none of that suits us very much, frankly, we just don't receive it. You see, we are people of the Ressurection and death has lost its sting. That Jesus character has passed on this nasty habit of rising again.

peace to you and your community tonight,

Monday, June 13, 2005

Palmer trek

Went up to Columbus to visit w/ Palmer last night and had a good time hangin' out w/ him before he heads into his next surgery. 64 King just has such a great feel to it, truly a community house. After catching up w/ Amy a bit and getting some travel advice for India, Mark and I headed out to the "Happy Greek" for dinner, good stuff. Mark has lost a lot of weight in all of his battles so it was good to get some tasty dishes that he could pig out on and get some nourishment in him.

We talked over the small picture issues of the situation and the big picture theological/emotional issues at length. Our only true conclusion is that we have no idea how people live outside of an intimate faith community. The good things in life just aren't as fulfilling and the trials would be unbearable without being in the people of God. We ended with some prayer together and I just want to never cease praying for a complete healing.

As I drove home, I admitt that I felt a bit numb. I hate seeing my brother in such pain and discomfort. I want him to be free to be a husband and a Dad and a teacher and a spiritual director. I want things to be different and I'm not sure why they aren't. I don't need to know "why" this is all happening, I just need to know "what the heck you want us to do"????

As I drove, I left fate to the iPod to shuffle the appropriate songs and it kept choosing some prophetic tunes from Beth Wacome Keck and honestly, it was the only thing that could penetrate to where my heart was. Beth's voice and the fact that she is a part of our spiritual family and our story seemed to console me. "I stand Amazed", "if I could be the sand inside your soul" and "I am Rahab" were particularly helpful.

We have to approach all of this like a long-distance runner, just one mile at a time. So I woke this morning and hit the road for a 3 mile run, all the while wondering why these things happen and what we are to do.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

portion of Graduation Address

The seniors asked me to give the commencement address at graduation this past Sunday. Here were a few of my thoughts:

"As you move on, let me remind you of a couple things. Verse 5 says, “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” You are turning a new chapter in your life, you are going into a world that is sometimes cruel, you are going to have new experiences and your going to meet new people. But know this and let me make it abundantly clear . . . YOU ARE NOT ALONE, EVER! You have the ever-present, relentless, pursuing love of God that will never, ever, ever leave you. There are going to come times when you are going to want to drink from that source and let me encourage to draw deep from that well and bring it all the way in. Let it be your substance. In addition to that, you need a community. You need people who are for you in all circumstances. I’ll never forget one of the vows my wife said to me 12 years ago this very day during our wedding. She said, “when the hard times come, I’m not going anywhere” and she has proved that to me time and time again. You need the “not going anywhere” kind of friends, because when you have them, you are truly never alone.

The Lord goes on to say , “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Bible is not an academic subject that you get credit for, within it are the very words of life. If you’ve ever watched a surveyor at work, they are plotting points and making boundaries all based on fixed points. Fixed points don’t move and you can gauge everything else based on it. The words of God are fixed points for living. Gauge your life on them. When you are hungry, it is the kind of bread that doesn’t make you hungry anymore. When you are thirsty, it is the kind of living water that makes you thirst no more. Make His words your center, anchor yourselves in them and you will find prosperity when others have found misery. His words are life for those who want real living.

“So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.” My final words for you are this. There are 2 types of Christians in America. There are some who think our best idea is to hunker down and wait for Jesus to come back. They fear the world and its influence on them. They focus on circling the wagons and creating their own safe sub-culture. This all seems right but I don’t think it’s a Jesus kind of Christianity. It simply is not a big enough idea. He did not call us to fear, he called us to take land. The other type of Christian is one who takes the Incarnation seriously. Who understands that Jesus left the comfort of his Father’s Kingdom for the painful muck and mire of earth for one reason alone, it was the will of the Father. The Father’s will is not for you to merely hang on to your faith, His Kingdom is a faith that hangs onto you. His will is not for you to build a bomb shelter, His will is for you to unleash an invasion. We did not prepare you to hang on, we prepared you to take land. God did not give us a Spirit of timidity, he gave us a Spirit of Power and we need to live in it.

Im wondering if your going to cross that line? Im wondering if you have that kind of courage? Where you see the unloveable, will you love them? Where you see the poor in need, will you help them? Where you see the lonely, will you befriend? Where there is temptation, will you resist? Where you see injustice, will you stand up? When others judge, will you show compassion? When the Enemy is seeking to recruit, will you swear singular allegiance to the King?

15 years ago, I crossed that line. I decided to join the war and my best days are the ones that I pick a fight with the enemy, many of the times on behalf of you. You are no longer my students, but now I’m asking if you would be my partners on this battlefield. I need you, the war is hard and its time for some reinforcements. Graduates of 2005, will you answer the call and fulfill the will of the Father? We are a part of an unshakeable Kingdom and its time to take some more land.

I love you and I bless you to go and walk out of these doors with courage and with power and may the peace of Christ be upon all of your journeys. Amen.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dogtown and Z-Boys

I just got finished watching a Documentary on the skateboarding craze in Southern Cali in the 70's. Not sure why I watched it, I've never been much of a skater but I couldn't turn it off. The rawness of their craft, their passion for creativity, their complete disregard for status quo, all of that I love. Its punk rock, its subversive, its underground, its primal.

As I continue to get older I am becoming more interested in my own artistic expressions and appreciating others' art. Art to me is and its various expressions is how to live life and not just take up space. The mainstream world is made up of consumerism, mindless loyalty to the "man" and more of the same. This is one of the downsides to suburbia, no individuality. The new strip malls all look the same and are professional at catering to consumer needs, but they lack true personality and culture. Its corporate America and its fascination with big and mega that bugs me as well. Of course I'm a part of the system, I like the comforts they provide but it all lacks style.

I've never had an "art" per se. I've never hung around circles of artists. But I'm finding myself longing to express myself in unique ways so that I know I'm alive and human. Im jealous of Keck and his skills in restoring cars, he's on to something there. I definitely can appreciate his art. Oh to be a Monster Garage artist.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

War on . . . we know no other way

So I've been reflecting on Palmer's situation a bit the past few days and wondering how to respond. At times it seems so overwhelming and that we can't catch a break. At times its hard not to wonder why the valley of the shadow of death has to be so long and so dark.
Then another thought occurs to me. What are the assumptions of the Enemy? I suppose we're just suppose to be intimidated and think woe is me kinda deal. I suppose we're supposed to re-think our Kingdom theologies and that heaven now stuff. I guess its best to not hurt, not empathize the pain, not enter in, not incarnate into our brother's life. I suppose the Enemy should assume that we oughta just pack it up and feel defeated.

Well, how do I say this pastorally? . . . @#$% that!

Tonight was the last of 5 sessions of a New Testament Survey course I teach for Indiana Wesleyan University. Its been a blast to teach. The truths of the Kingdom were just coming to us all waver after wave, week after week. Each night just had such an annointing, the 4 hours of class would fly by. Tonight was our last one and we ended with Revelation. I gave my take on N.T. Wright's idea of the final "unveiling" and a rapture-less consumnation. About how we are participating now in the Creation of the new heaven and new earth already. And that the Kingdom has come and yet is coming.

One of my students is a 45 year old nurse who has grown up in the kingdom hall of jehovah's witnesses but had left that church and been on a spiritual journey. Tonight she shared that it was the Jesus story that she wanted to be a part of. That the Kingdom we were discussing is what she now understands Truth and reality to be. She will take on much persecution for her decision to be a follower of Jesus but she sees no other way. Her journey has been one of struggle, contemplation and passionate pursuit. Its been so much fun to be her Spiritual Director these past few weeks. So tonight she is a new member of the Kingdom community, she is in the story of the people of God both now and forever.

This is what we do. We proclaim Kingdom and let the Spirit draw the hungry to Himself. I don't proclaim Kingdom because I like to disperse knowledge, I do it to get my sword bloody. i do it to confront my enemy, to look him in the eyes and not be intimidated as captives are set free. I know I'm supposed to be wearied and beat down but the way I figure mr. Enemy, you suck. We know no other way but to war on.

Remember the final scene of "Return of the King" when the fellowship turns and runs towards their enemy screaming "for Frodo!!!!" against seemingly insurmountable odds. Well, tonight I took one down for you Palmer. And I'll do it again tommorrow if the opportunity comes my way. We swear singular allegiance to the King.

war on,