Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Road to Recovery

Yesterday's services went as we had prayed they would be. Filled with hope, love and life. The sanctuary was packed, our family is so thankful for all the support we have received. We came home after the reception last night and just absolutely crashed w/ exhaustion. We've been passing around all kinds of sicknesses, but mostly ignoring them these past few days for grieving. Now they are here in full force. Nicki is drained w/ an illness, Zach and i are still recovering and the girls seem to beginning their own. Today is just about rest.

It will be a long road of emotional recovery, but we are committed to Rob and Becky for life. I am Sydney's god-father and Nicki is Paige's god-mother, roles we take very seriously. Let alone our family connection and that we are in a covenant faith community with them. In fact, Nicki and I have had our final resting places purchased during all this drama which means what we have said with our words will ultimately be true, "that we want to spend the rest of our lives in Cincinnati and be a part of God's Kingdom coming to earth". That is our specific calling. Its a bigger idea than being in ministry, planting any one church, teaching in any particular place etc. We are here to do God's will on earth, whatever that looks like, specifically in the context of Cincinnati.

Pray for rest for our whole family, its been a very rough and sleepless past few days. The future days of recovery may involve some anger before acceptance comes, pray for this as well.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hope and Life is our Rebellion

I'm preparing for Kate's funeral later on this morning. Its 3:45 a.m. now and I think I've slept all I can. Zach has had a fever for 2-3 days and is up w/ me. The Dr. office has been closed because of the holidays and obviously we don't have time to take him today. And in the circumstances, it makes us feel pretty uneasy having him sick for a long period of time. The coroner report is that Kate died of a sudden onset of infant pneumonia.

Last night, Ordinary Community Church had a gathering for and with Rob and Becky and it was so right. We shared hearts, we grieved, we cried, we prayed, we prophesied, we loved and we encouraged one another. God showed up in a very powerful way. We talked of the big picture of the Kingdom of God. We talked of being warriors who call back the darkness. We talked of being a people of the Resurrection with whom life and hope is our rebellion in a world of fear and death. We talked of the brokeness of our world and longed for the day when everything will be made right again. We lauged in the midst of grief. Love filled the room. I walked away feeling like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I feel hopeful and ready to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ today. I'm in a completely different mindset because we experienced Immanuel . . . God with us. And quite frankly, that's all we need.

Everyday we are in a war to fight against the forces of darkness that stand opposed to God's Creation and His purposes in this world. The question is, will we show up in it? Once again, I learned that the community of faith that I belong to was and is ready to suit up and bring the fight to the enemy. About five years ago, we planted this community with that dream in our hearts. We are reaping the fruits of a labor sown in love.

Call back the darkness in your community today. Live with the reality of the Kingdom that hope and life is our rebellion.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas is rough

As the shock is wearing off, the grief is increasing. Having to wait until Tuesday to get some closure is kind of difficult. Atleast for me, my feelings are getting more raw. The loss just hurts. There is no sense in it and frankly, I'm tired of hearing people trying to find logic in it. For me, it doesn't help, doesn't make anything feel any better. We have to deal with the fact that our world is broken, it doesn't work right. We have no real control. All sense of control is illusionary.

I'm still congested from my illness last week which is messing w/ my head constantly. I feel fatigued and exhausted. I can't imagine how Becky and Rob feel. I'm hoping for strength and wisdom for Tuesday's funeral.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Day of Tragedy

I received a phone call this morning from my sister-in-law, Becky, and found out that our niece, Kate, had stopped breathing in her sleep last night and they found her blue this morning. CPR and a 911 call didn't save her. She passed in her sleep at the age of 19 months. There is no known cause. She had a cold recently, but nothing serious. There seems to be no ryhme or reason. My wife was Kate's god-mother. Rob and Becky's kids are like surrogate kids to us, spending half their time in our home and we love them as our own. This is really hard to understand.

I spent my day doing the best I could to be the Spirit of God to Rob and Becky. I walked with them through having to talk about funeral arrangements, picking caskets, choosing cemetary lots and putting together a funeral service. My Father-in-law decided to purchase lots for all 3 of his kids' families, 20 in all together. So today I stood on the place on earth where they will bury me with my wife and children as well, that's quite an eery feeling.

When we planted Ordinary Community Church 4 1/2 years ago, we never wanted to bury one of our children. Its not right, its not the Kingdom of God. Its not the way its supposed to be, everything about it is wrong. I reject death, I oppose it, I hate its stench. I hate the look of pain I saw in the eyes of Rob and Becky today. I so wish there was something I could do to take their pain away. Somehow, God remains patient to let us mourn. I am so weary of crying and the general feeling of sorrow. There was nothing to prepare us, no illness, no accident, nothing. The suddeness is overwhelming.

The funeral will not be until Tuesday because of the holidays. So as best we can, we will celebrate the birthday of Jesus, without first having closure on the passing of baby-Kate. It will not be an ordinary Christmas. Lord, teach us to grieve well.

I will try and lead the funeral on Tuesday. Our theme is not of despair but of hope. We don't know the answers, but we rejoice in life. You see, life is our revolution, we are the People of the Resurrection. Hope and Joy are ours in Christ so we are claiming them. Friends, if you think of it, pray for Rob and Becky, we need a Kingdom Community.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Prediction: Bengals 31 Lions 3

The Bengals play at Detroit on Sunday and this will be one of those times where the Tigers show the lions who the real King is. We're going up there just to toy with them. With a win this Sunday, the Bengals clinch the AFC North division title and guarantee a home playoff game. This will be the 1st of 2 trips to Detroit this year for the Bengals. They will be there in early February to win the Super Bowl as well :)

Did anyone else notice the Linz family from here in the Nati won the Amazing Race? They showed their Bengals colors throughout the race and gave shouts of "Who Dey" as they were victorious. I thin their victory was a sign of things to come for the Bengals.

Its time for another Who Dey weekend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Its a Wonderful Life

Ok, I'm gonna geek myself out here a little bit. I am a HUGE "Its a Wonderful Life" fan, like HUGE. I haven't watched it yet this year, I'm saving it for just the right time. I need some warm coffee in my hand, my wife and kids nearby, the house lights turned off, candles and christmas lights only. I love the human story, I love watching a man of integrity serve his heart out on behalf of the good of his community, and when he needs it most, he gets blessed beyond measure.

Well, I would like to testify as well to my own "Its a Wonderful Life" moment. Last week I was wrestling with all kinds of controversy of perceptions around me, my teaching, my ministry, my personhood, my intentions etc. It was personally a bit difficult. It is presently being processed in a much healthier manner. But, I have to testify to the personal support of the many who took the time to express their love and gratitude towards me. You see, my love language is "spoken words" and I was completely overwhelmed. Words can't say what you all meant to me, but here's my list of thanks you's:

1) Ordinary Community Church - you set aside our community agenda and made me the agenda. As you layed hands on me, the peace of God dispelled fear. You are the people that I belong to, a true Church.

2) CCS students - my surprise birthday party complete w/ a Bengals cake, a pile of over 40 heartfelt letters on my desk communicating the impact of my life on yours . . . unspeakable joy they mean to me. I'm not sure it was the letters or the means by which they were given, students randomly walking in all day and dropping them on my desk without a word said, so rock star like :) And of course my white board being filled every inch with well wishes and love.

3) Network friends - Klinefelter, Doc, Palmer, Bean, Creech, Canipe etc. etc. My brothers always have my back, I live daily with friendships that I would lay down my life for.

4) Landing Place Kids - your emails carried so much weight, filled with meaning and hope. I'm hoping to get up to C-bus over the Christmas break and see the Palmers and send my greetings to LP.

5) Blog readers - I know you prayed, I know you care. People ask me, "Why would anybody blog?" Well, I guess its because I'm addicted to authentic friendships and community.

6) My wife - you reminded me of the reason that I fight, you put my sword back in my hand and told me to get back on the battlefield. You vowed that you would always believe in me, and well, once again you proved that you do.

The angel Clarence wrote to George Bailey: "No man is a failure who has friends". I'm living a wonderful life.

Take the time to invest in real relationships today,

Monday, December 12, 2005

Getting over a case of Vertigo

Some friends, the wife and I went to Cleveland to see the 4 lads from Ireland known as "U2". And . . . it was an amazing show. Man, there are few experiences I have in life where I just feel comfortable in my own skin, but I think I was designed to enjoy U2 live. There is just so much to it that I appreciate . . . their ethic as a band, their meaningful teachings, their connection to their audience and of course their passion, night in and night out. Truly a great show.

I am as well a bit overwhelmed with something my Father-in-law celebrates called "early Christmas". It usually is some simple, practical gifts from a drugstore given in early December. I have received toothbrushes, jumper cables, power stips, ice scrapers etc. etc. Well, this year he gifted us with generosity that completely overwhelmed me to tears. It will help to relieve stresses that I've been carrying for quite some time. I am a receiver of blessing so I need to go and bless those in my world today.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow Day!!

Couldn't be better timing, a 3 day weekend for my birthday. Yee haw.

Gonna spend our day going to see Narnia at noon w/ the family. We've been reading the books at bedtime for a couple months. Right now my daughters are out back looking for Aslan's footprints in the snow. After the movie it will be time to do some sledding then the obligatory hot chocolate.

My birtday gift from my wife this year is an overnight trip to Cleveland on Saturday for a nice dinner and then the U2 concert. Needless to say, i'm pretty stoked about that. This will be my 2nd U2 concert, last went in 2003 in Philly. Bono fascinates me, I admit I'm in love. In a platonic, respect your views kind of way :) His theology, his compassion for the world, his passion for life, his genuine character, his artistic craft, his politics etc. etc. I've been hooked for quite some time.

And . . . this will be a serous date night with my wife, who is the real love of my life. This is the best gift I could receive, alone time with my beloved. This has been a very trying week for us, its not the first one in our 12 1/2 years of marriage, but a trying one nonetheless. Her pep talks this week brought a lot of things into perspective, she most assuredly completes me. Our lives exist together as a stumbling block to the enemy's work. We are comitted to God's purposes on earth, His Kingdom has come. If anyone questions that, they just need to get to know us.

Have a Kingdom Come kind of weekend. Peace,

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Matt. 18 continued

Its amazing that when Jesus says something, and we actually do it, we find that it works. Its almost as if he understands human relations and may have even had something to do with the wiring of our hearts. Jesus didn't ask us to believe in his teachings (give mental ascent to), he was teaching them so that we would actually follow them and thus find our Freedom as human beings.

I won't go into details, but the situation I'm dealing with will be ongoing for awhile. However, the pressure/emotion has been released because of Kingdom conversation with those involved. Its my 33rd birthday today and being relieved of this stress for now is gift enough.

Can't even put into words how much support and prayer I have gotten from people who live in community with me and are spiritual family to me. I'll share more of this later.


Matthew 18:15-20

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

. . . my heart hurts.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mark 14:32-35

They went to a place Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to t he point of death.' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.' Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'

peace to your and your house today,

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Poustinia: A walk in the desert

Poustinia is the Russian word for "desert". The Finan Reading of the Celtic Daily Prayer says this today:

"To go into poustinia means to listen to God. It means entering into kenosis - the emptying of oneself. This emptying of oneself, even as Christ emptied Himself for us, is really a climbing of this awesome mountain right to the very top where God abides in His warm silence. It also means to know 'how terrible it is to fall into the hands of the living God' . . . and yet how delightful, how joyful, and how attractive! So attractive, in fact, the soul cannot resist."

I am convinced more than ever that the American evangelical church has no idea what poustinia is and its role in the true and authentic rennovation of a follower's heart. Silence, solitude, quiet, desert . . . not terms I learned growing up in church. What I learned was program, do more, try harder, don't ask questions, don't think those thoughts . . . etc. The answer to our spiritual hungers and longings may not be in the dynamic and the extraordinary. The older I get, the more I realize that the power and beauty of the Kingdom of God is found in the ordinary and in the Now. In America, we "strive" for everything, including our next spiritual fix. The answer as I understand it, is not in striving, but in sitting, getting quiet and connecting with the stream of the Spirit that is all around me already. The spiritual connection to this Christmas season will not be found in the perfect execution of gift exchanging, but rather in the company of warm friends and in the quietness of a reflection of that night in Bethlehem.

Al Martin can give testimony to this, but I'll never forget the night I got lost in Bethlehem with 3 other friends. We went out wandering at about midnight during our study over in Palestine and Israel, about 7 years ago. It was real dark I remember, and we got lost wandering the streets of Bethlehem. The road we were on kept narrowing and each of us was getting a bit anxious about being lost in a foreign land, particularly an Arab one while the U.S. was presently bombing Iraq under President Clinton. That road eventually led us to Manger square by chance. It was about 1:00 a.m., the air was cool, the streets were black and off in the distance past the church of the Nativity the only lights we could see were flickers of fire in the fields. There were shepherds that night, around their fires, keeping watch over their flocks about a mile from the site of Christ's birth. We were absolutely stunned by the realization that this is what it looked like some 2000 years ago. The Incarnation of Jesus happened at this place and because of it, our lives will never be the same. We sat and reflected, mostly in awe. Our fears had turned to hope, joy and peace.

Go take a walk in the poustinia/desert today and connect with the reality of the Hope of a Kingdom Come.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Reality: Bengals 38 Steelers 31

Ding dong the witch is dead. There is a changing of the guard in the AFC North, the past is the past, Marvin Lewis has orchestrated one of the greatest franchise turnarounds in sports history. 15 years of famine, now we are guaranteed our 1st winning season. If we play our cards right, and I think we will, we will win the AFC north division, be the #2 or #3 seed in the AFC and host a playoff game here in the Nati. What's better, I will have a ticket to that game when its played. I was at the last home playoff game in Cincinnati in 1988, so its only appropriate I attend the next one.

Now let's celebrate for the night and move on. Starting monday, its Cleveland week and that's always personal.

oh yeah, and now I don't owe Canipe any coffee. However neither of us is disappointed as this coming Saturday night we'll both be seeing U2 in Cleveland. And well, it doesn't get much better than that.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Prediction: Bengals 24 Steelers 17

If the Bengals defense put 9 in the box to stop the run and cover the TE, we win by a touchdown and will be marching to a home playoff game in the Nati. Its a big, big game. Arguably the biggest game for the Bengals in 15 years. With only more big games to come. Let's get this party started.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Open Letter for CCS Parents

It has come to my understanding/attention that some things I have written here on my blog has caused concern enough to go to my superiors here at school and also to local pastors who don't know me. All I want to say is that if you have concerns, you can come to me. I am a person, I have a 4 year history with CCS, I have 15 years of history in student ministry, I have 16 years of history following Jesus, I am a father of 3 and a husband to 1. I am a person you can come to and talk with. I am not above criticism and I've even been accused of being a decent listener in the past.

I recognize that I have a lot of influence over students and its a position I take very seriously. I also recognize that I can be a bit intense for some and that my passions can be misperceived. To be perceived of as someone who is more a part of the problem, rather than the cure here at CCS is a perception that I grieve. I don't know if the perception is a reality or not, but I'll never know if we don't talk to one another.

If I am anything but an agent of the Kingdom of God to CCS students and staff, I would wish that I be confronted personally by those concerned. I pray that I would do the same.

peace in Christ,

Deep shadows to Radiant Light

"2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows - light! sunbursts of light! 3 You repopulated the nation, you expanded its joy. Oh, they're so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. 4 The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants - all their whips and cudgels and curses - Is gone, done away with, a deliverance as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian. 5 The boots of all those invading troops, along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood, Will be piled in a heap and burned, a fire that will burn for days! 6 For a child has been born - for us! the gift of a son - for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. 7 His ruling authority will grow, and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. He'll rule from the historic David throne over that promised kingdom. He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing and keep it going With fair dealing and right living, beginning now and lasting always. The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this. God Answered Fire with Fire." - excerpt from Isaiah 9 (The Message)

This was our passage at house church on tuesday evening and I'm stil chewing on it. My more recent tradition has been to get my Christmas shopping done early so as to focus the rest of my Advent season on enjoying relationships, sharing joy and basking in the drama of the wait for the King to come in the middle of the night and completely take over.

Jesus changed everything. His presence on earth made right what was unright. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes was a maker of justice. He brought a Kingdom to earth that has no end. Friends, it has no end!!!!!!!! There are no limits to the wholeness that He brings. We lived without hope, now we are a people filled with expectant hope.

The beauty of that night is overwhelming to me. I can smell the shepherds fire flickering into the cool of the night. I can hear the crackling of the dry wood. I can feel the quietness of their routine until all was disturbed with the angelic proclamation. How amazingly cool would it have been to be the ones to whom got the news first that THE child has been born for us and that now everything will change??????? Man, I would have loved to be there.

My reality is that the Kingdom has come in that little baby, and that His Kingdom is still coming. His Kingdom will come today because it lives in me and I seek to give it away to all who have ears to hear. We are a part of the Story, and the Story lives in us.

peace of Christ unto your day,