Tuesday, July 26, 2005

spiritual formation

"We can say, in a preliminary manner, that spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself. In what follows we must carefully examine what this means for today. But we can say at the outset that, in the degree to which spiritual formation in Christ is successful, the outer life of the individual becomes a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus." -Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart

One of Ordinary Community's values is Authenticity. What we mean is that we believe that Christ following is basically about transformation. Its not about "going to church", its about becoming the people of God. (going to church may be a means to that end, but its not the whole point) If we want to authentically call ourselves Christ followers, then our life has to look like His. We are to be His apprentices. We must die continually so He might become more alive through us.

I am becoming increasingly more aware of inner parts of me that are not dying well. Why do I clutch so hard to things that are full of death? Why don't I run to the One who offers completeness, wholeness, peace, contentment . . . life?

Nicki and I were doing some pre-marital counseling with a couple I'm marrying this fall and we were discussing "pigitis", or our own selfishness and how it plays out in marriage. Just bringing up the topic causes me to look inward and see my incredibly selfish heart. I have so much dying to do.

Lord forgive me for my pursuit of things that are dead and lead me to the waters that give life. I miss you.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

why is slowing down so hard?

Every year I have lots of goals and objectives for the summer schedule. I have books I want to read, projects I want to write on and time I want to spend in solitude. But rarely do I ever achieve them. My extrovert nature has me running all over the place, meeting lots of people, seeing movies, being productive but not in any sense of solitude. I wonder at times if I run from the intimacy that I so desire w/ the Father? That its just too much and too intense for me. If I sit and take it in, I just want to get up and start doing someting. I want to improve in this area but it requires so much discipline. Will be going camping for 3 days with Glenn Johnson and Bill Bean and I hope that will provide some time for solitude, reflection and big picture thinking.

Running may also help in this area. Am beginning my training for 2 half-marathons, one in September and one in October. These training times make my mind slow down and become disciplined. The physical and the spiritual are intertwined.

Why do I sometimes sabotage what I actually need? Why am I a better talker and thinker than a doer? The conclusion is always the same, I need a Savior. I am not well, my soul is yet sick and needs healing. It wouldn't be just "nice" if I could have some time for Jesus, I am utterly desperate for it. By the way, so are you :) I am feeling a need to commune with Him in some times of intimacy. Why does my heart stray? It just makes no sense.

Jesus, I am desperate for you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

late night blogging

just got back from watching War of the Worlds with the studious Glenn Johnson and not its almost 1:00 a.m. and my mind is thinking. The first thing I do when I'm online is check Palmer's blog for updates and this is what I found tonight:

"Tomorrow morning at 10 am I will be discharged from the hospital and moved to a full time rehabilitation center where I will learn such basic functions as walking, dressing myself, and keeping my head up high in public. The rehab hospital I will be in is Dodd Hall which is only 1 block away from where I am now. The excellence of this hospital is recognized around the country. Unfortunately, it all comes with a price...my treatment will be $2,000 a day and 80% of that needs to be paid up front because of our insurance issues (a total of $16,000). We came up with the initial $6,000 this afternoon. We have another $6,000 due on Friday and $4,000 due next Tuesday. We currently cannot afford to make that second $6,000 payment or the following $4,000. So, once again we need God to directly intervene on our behalf, because I need this rehab in order to walk again and to be able to function in my daily schedule." -Palmer

I have thoughts that I just don't understand. Coming out of the movie, my mind brought me to Psalm 8, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" At first I found this poetic, just to sit back and reflect on how Great God is and how small we are. How completely and wholly Other He is, nothing like our feebleness. And yet . . . He cares.

But how does He care? Sometimes I have no freaking clue. Why, why, why, why does Palmer have to suffer? His last 3 years have been suffering and yet he's a servant. And now just to get better, he is faced with bills that are way out of any of our means. Many of us have exhausted our resources to try and raise $ and encourage the Palmers and yet our funds are well short of their need. When I quit vocational ministry, I cut my salary by 66% just for the opportunity to plant missional communities. I'm not the only one, many of us are just getting by financially. So when these kind of needs come, we have very little to pull from. But what about God who has this mysterious way of caring? His table is known to be limitless with resources, yet we toil, struggle and watch our brother suffer.

I know it seems so unspiritual to doubt at times but why does Job 7 exist? "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul . . . What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment?" Is all of this a test? A cosmic exam to pass? I wonder and I wonder why His caring is so mysterious. I know the ending of Job, I've read it a few times before, I understand its wisdom but its all still mysterious. I know that if you ask God a bunch of questions that you better be ready for some in return like "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" The only way to answer that question is to become quite feeble and small. That isn't the issue, the issue is He said He cares, but why is His caring so mysterious and why must His servant suffer?

Sometimes these questions are poetic and beautiful, and sometimes they just haunt the inside of my soul.

peace to you on this late night,

Thursday, July 14, 2005

home again

Its good to be home and with family again. Its time to catch up with friends and share some experiences and get back to normal. Had coffee with Paul McGillivary this morning and those are becoming addicting. We have had hundreds of these kinds of meetings and they could go on for hours. We just speak on Kingdom issues and things we're thinking about, I guess they are our OCC staff meetings and I would be okay with having one daily. Going to a movie with Glenn Johnson today and it will be good to catch up with him as well. Scheduled a lunch with K-Rains next week and am planning a trek to Indy to see the legendary Bill Bean. A monastic camping retreat is also on the calendar for some solitude, reflection and prayer.

I will be blogging on this more but came home to my autographed copy of Jim Henderson's 1st book, "a.k.a. Lost: Discovering ways to connect with the People Jesus Misses Most." Its a book on doable evangelism and I can't wait to sit down and read it. Jim has been hugely influential in my life as God hooked us up back in 1998 when I was in a real fragile place. He mentored me over the next 3-4 years and his ideas were foundational to what Ordinary Community would become. He helped me be myself in ministry and set me up for a new chapter in my ministry life. We met at 7:30 a.m. at Starbucks every friday morning for about 2 years and I remember when he would share his ideas on doable evangelism when they were raw in his heart and now they are in book form for all to read. His take on "ordinary attempts" have changed the way Nicki and I see God's missing children, I think y'all need to read it :)

I have reflected on many things on my journey and my mind is pretty active on a lot of topics right now. Most acutely is the need for me to put some more energy into what apostolic relational networks could look like and be more intentional. I'm also thinking of how to be more intentional about passing on our values, theology and ways of reproducing Kingdom communities to the next generation. What could their training look like in real life? How can we provide a kind of "life on life" training model where the Kingdom is more caught than taught? I'm also wondering about what kinds of new communities could we start up this year. I'm feeling the urge to take some more land as long as that means people finding Jesus to be the center of their reality.

Its good to be home but no rest for the weary. The War rages on.


Friday, July 08, 2005

back to western culture

we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany this morning and i can say that i was ready for the comforts that the West provides. you realize how spoiled we are when you have to do without. we have a pretty decent hotel with a pool and gives us a comfy place to chill and catch up on sleep.

my last couple days in india went real well. met up with 2 of jim hendersons friends. 1st was jacob isaacs of kerygma coffee house. he is a bro, if i lived there in bangalore, i would make sure to spend a lot of time with him. his ministry philosophy is very kin to mine and he had more a grasp on india and its youth culture than anybody i met there. a very bright guy and i tried to convince him to start blogging cuz many of you need to know him too. Bert cherian was the 2nd guy, another extremely intelligent and passionate thinker. we talked over many topics re: busniness, world affairs, church, transformation issues and the like. really enjoyed my time with him. good to hang out with a couple guys who are not so steeped in traditional church.

now im paying for my internet time in the cafe in downtown frankfurt so thats all for now. catch y all soon.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

India Report # 9

I have now completed the teaching portion of my trip and I am quite relieved. I have taught 41 times in 11 days. It makes me quite tired. At the same time I have been very well received and have gotten numerous invitations to return and teach more. I feel very content that I accomplished what I came here to do. Particularly being able to share the house church model yesterday with about 60 pastors, many of them took it to heart. Some of their eyes were as big as saucers as if I was giving them the cure to cancer. I children I taught as well were very receptive to me. It was the seminary students though that I felt the most connection with feel I made the largest impact. Some of them wanted to make sure how much it meant to them and how many pages of notes they took and will keep to study over. God is good.

I went out again last night on the motorcycle to another village. This time we went into the homes of 2 families that were unbelievers. They are open to learning more about Jesus so I was able to share some stories about Jesus in their home while sitting under the mantle of their Hindu idol whom they worship. If their was any demonic force attached to those idols, I can't think they were very happy. They were very receptive and seemed to listen intently. Then they would bring their children to me that I would bless them. In their culture, this is the role of the Hindu Guru, usually in exchange for $. I prayed over these children in the name of Jesus and then turned and thanked them for the opportunity. May the Holy Spirit use these interactions to draw them into the Kingdom.

I will be meeting with a couple friends of Jim Henderson's tommorrow in Bangalore and then we fly to Germany tommorrow night. This will be my last blog from India as the next one will come from Europe most likely.

Keep Nicki in your prayers today as she is attending to her Grandma's funeral. I so wish I could be there.


Monday, July 04, 2005

India Report # 8

Had a real good day yesterday. Finally being healthy I feel like a brand new person and have the energy to finish my teaching strong. I had a lot of time yesterday to relax and just have some conversations which was a first in about a week.

SHHHHHHH . . . nobody tell my wife . . . but I rode a motorcycle last night :) The Pastor from the church I spoke at on Sunday took me out on his motorcycle to some villages and do some sight-seeing. We were just exchanging stories and cultures as we zipped past water buffaloes and sheep herders. We got out to take a walk at a scenic area, a dam and water purifying plant. As we were walking along a path he was telling me a story of how a few years back he struck and killed a King Cobra in his house that wandered in. This freaked me out a bit but I didn't let on. I asked him in what areas they live in and he said "all around here, like in bushes like that one" (pointing to one we were just passing). That was more reality than I needed. I just tried to ignore the possibility of meeting a cobra and chose to just find my happy place.

We traveled to villages and met with some new followers of Christ who were the only followers in their village. So we entered their homes, knelt on mats and then they asked me to pray for them, their families, their home and their ministry in that village. This was such an honor. Now when I say home, I mean a mud hut, thatch roof, mud floor and a few electrical wires. Usually 2 rooms, maybe 8 x 8. I have seen this before but it is still shocking and I couldn't help but have memories of visiting Homerama in Cincinnati and walking through the 1-3 million dollar houses. The comparisons are enough to make you lose your lunch. The disproportion of wealth in this world is quite staggering. I don't think we're supposed to live in guilt, but I do think that we have to use our high place of influence to educate for awareness and to do our part in helping. It costs $40 a month to support an orphan here at the house of Joy. That gives them a great shot here to go to college and come back and be a leader in their villae. That's what I call changing the world. My wife and I have supported Compassion International children since college, its the cost of a few pizzas a month. I am wondering outside of educating about poverty what other things God may be leading us to do.


India Report # 7

It is Monday of our last week and I've noticed that they don't celebrate the 4th of July much over here. No parade, no fireworks scheduled, no hamburgers and hot dogs, no cornhole tournaments . . . I don't get it, where is their Patriotism??? To be fair, in September they do have their own Independence Day where they celebrate their breaking of the ties with England in 1949. What it is about the English that make other countries want to kick them out all the time? (im just kidding to all my friends out there in the UK)

Maybe you could already tell but I'm feeling much better, just about 100%. Fever gone, aches gone, headache gone, stomach nausea gone, stomach issues? Can you say "solid stool sample"? Because as of today, I can!!!! Hallelujah and thank you Jesus. Thank you for all your prayers.

I spoke at a church service yesterday in a village nearby on Psalm 27 "Tasting the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Kingdom Now) There were about 40-50 people, they sit on mats segragated by gender and the children are always a part of the whole service, all 3 hours of it. I love their family style services here, children are a part of the whole community. The bongos were the only instrument used for leading worship and they clapped each song as well, it had a very tribal feel and really spoke to me. There were monkeys climbing the trees outside which was my first sighting of them here for me. They are neighborhood nuisances like Racoons are to us in the states. Afterwards, an elderly gentlemen who spoke no english came to me with a packet of like lotion oil and through much interpretation I realized that he wanted me to pray for the oil to make it a healing balm for his eyes. They have a wives tale in their culture of a great white healer, I guess he thought he'd give me a shot. I prayed over him and the oil in the name of Jesus.

Today I spoke in chapel to the seminary students for the final time on spiritual warfare in ministry. I decided since I was leaving soon that I would let it rip. The students and faculty seemed to appreciate it but they are not used to folk like me. I felt encouraged afterwards as a couple students showed me all the notes they took during my teaching and that they are usually timid and fearful but I had given them a different perspective. If my brashness can get the timid and fearful into this war with us then this trip has been well worth it. That really touched me.

I will be visiting some homes in surrounding villages tonight, tommorrow I will be doing a house church seminar and then my teaching will be pretty much complete. I am trying to arrange to visit a couple friends of Jim Hendersons in Bangalore then on Wednesday evening or Thursday before we fly out and that I'm very much looking forward to.

Stop and taste the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living today,

Saturday, July 02, 2005

India Report # 6

What do you do when you are backed against the wall? You draw your sword and start fighting your way out. I have awoken this morning at 5 a.m. with each of my last 3 teachings absolutely living within me. They are longing to come forth. I desire for each one of them to be a lethal blow into the gut of our Enemy. It burdens me to have to suffer physically here and he is the one who brought sickness into this world. It burdens me to be separated from my wife during this time of grieving Grandma Cecil and he is the one who desires death for all of us. It burdens me that Palmer is having to continue to suffer in his healing and that Amy has to continue her long suffering, the enemy dances in our dark nights of the soul.

Well, here I am again. War is at my doorstep and I am suiting up. Today I will speak on the invitation of the Father to a life of intimacy. Tommorrow I will speak to the seminary students on pastoral ministry as spiritual warfare. On Tuesday, I am going to a local village gathering of pastors to plant the infectious virus of small Kingdom communities (house churches). If God allows, I want them to see an alternative model of planting missional small churches that can spread through villages without the limitations of physical space. That meta idea is bigger than any 2 hour counsel I could give but I want to see them set free to love their neighbors and invite their people into the eternal Kingdom Community.

If all goes well, I will visit the Kerygma Coffee House in Bangalore on Wednesday or Thursday. Johnny Baker pointed me to this urban student ministry and it sounds like my flavor of Kingdom. That would be icing on the cake.

Discouragement may have its time, but it doesn't stick to Jesus Followers very well. Sickness passes, heartbreak goes away but I feel filled with Resurrection Life. I walk in the Ways of the Christ who touched the coffin of the widow's dead son and he awoke from the entrapment of death. I walk in the ways of the Christ who disguised himself on Christmas evening as an innocent baby, but in reality was invading our world with the keys and the power of the Eternal Kingdom of God. I walk in the Ways of Christ who walked this earth and had demons cry out for mercy, wanting to be cast into a herd of pigs rather than deal with the Reality of Kindom Come in Him. Where I see the enemy today, I will thrust my sword into his gut and will not relent until he departs squealing like the swine that he is.

peace to you and your house today,

India Report #5

Who is the person who coined the phrase, "when it rains, it pours." whoever it is, that's a wise person.
I spent the day out and about in Bangalore mostly relaxing and shopping with my Mom and Ali. My fever finally full broke in the middle of the day and has left me a case of uncotrollable sweats a few times but the pain has passed. Thank you and thank you for all you praying for me.

Got the email I didn't want tonight, My wife's grandma passed away last night. She had always been someone who was very close to my wife and very close to all of my children. The first time I met Cecil, she welcomed me as her own grandson and I absolutely adored her. I know this seems strange, but she is someone that I always wanted to speak at her funeral because I just have so many honoring things to say. But now I am stuck here, really no way to get out of the country before Thursday and I'm sure they'll make funeral arrangements before then. That just rips my heart out. I mentioned to Ali tonight that it was really hard for me to not be there for Mommy tonight and Ali put her hand on my arm and said, "at least we have each other." Didn't somebody say that unless your a child you can't receive the Kingdom of God or something??

I want to share that one of the last conversations I had with Cecil was in my backyard, sitting in the sun the week before we left. It was just her and I and she pointed to me and said, "Chris, I've lived my life and I've lived a full one. I have no regrets. You go LIVE your life." The emphasis was on "LIVE". I will never forget that and may I be faithful to her charge.

In a touch of irony, I am speaking at a worship service in the morning and my passage was alreday Psalm 123, "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want". It is a traditional funeral passage so I will use Cecil as an illustration and grieve in my own way in a land far away. This all just feels so eeril similar to how I felt being stuck in the Ukraine 2 years ago when Jennifer Palmer passed and I couldn't be with my brother. Tonight I long to be with my wife and it hurts to be so far away.

Wherever you are tonight, go LIVE your life.

Friday, July 01, 2005

India Report #4

I have spent the past 36 hours wrestling in bed with a pretty bad fever and body aches. Yesterday afternoon, a Dr. here on campus gave me some sample antibiotics and I hope they are doing the trick. Its 3:00 a.m. and I'm awake now due to a splitting headache that I can't shake. I haven't eaten anything in a couple days with the exception of water. Most likely, I am going to cancel my teaching trip as even if I could make the trek, I wouldn't be much of a teacher. My stomach feels so nauseated and I long for some American food. All I want to do is drink and some Gatorade or something of the sort would be real good right now to replenish my electrolytes and give me some sugar.

On a different note, from what I understand since I've been sick in bed, Ali has been keeping students and workers here busy playing Go Fish and Barbie Uno. She doesn't mind being the center of attention (kind of a Marshall thing) and her joy is an international language. She has made great friends with a few of the orphans and they come knocking at her door to play each evening. "Ali, come play now" (insert Indian/British accent). It amazes me how well she has adjusted to being in a foreign land. She hasn't complained about the food and hasn't mentioned any of her comforts in America. She is just going with the flow. That makes me very proud.

peace to wherever you are this day and may your head feel better than mine,

India Report #3

Need prayer, had a real bad night. Throughout my teaching yesterday I started feeling weak and getting the chills. After my last teaching last night, I began coming down w/ a fever. I wrestled all night with aches and pains due to the high fever. In addition, my stomach is very upset and I can't keep food in, so I'm as well feeling dehydrated and weak. The fever has broken for the moment but I still feel very weak. Pray that I can rest well today because I'm scheduled to leave for the weekend to a remote village to do some more teaching. That area will not have any of the comforts that I have here and I cannot eat or drink anything I come into contact with there. So its pretty imperative that I'm well before we depart. I need God to intervene, please pray.

peace to you,