Wednesday, December 27, 2006


What exactly is a nightmare?

Are they purely a manifestation of the sub-conscious? Are they a mixture of anxieties and memories? Are they an unstable imagination run wild?

Or are they far more metaphysical? Are they at least partially visits from the other side? Are they tools of attack from an overtly evil spiritual realm? Are they wake-up calls towards a life lived in war and to shake us from our slumber? Are they not even my axieties but the fears and pain of those I'm praying for and am empathizing with? Are they the Spirit's way of helping us bear one anothers burden? If I take on some of the pain, does it lessen to blow to another?

Whatever they are, I'm having them almost nightly lately. Last night was vivid and still living in my day now. They are stark visions, full of pain and loss. Torment, anguish, helplessness . . . its like I'm seeing into another realm and I don't like it. I can't control them, so I'm just being descriptive.

If any of you have the gift of interpretation, I'm all ears.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from the Marshalls

An annonymous donor gave Ordinary Community a bunch of cash and so we handed out $100 to each family to have them give it away as a means of being missional. My wife and I matched our gift so we had a $200 budget and some creativity to to release. We talked it over with our kids and came up with 2 ideas.

1) Costco had a great deal on roses. So we bought 150 roses yesterday, stood outside Target and my kids gave them away to busy shoppers wishing them a Merry Christmas. It was fun, almost addicting. We could have done that for hours, it only took 30 minutes.

2) I also bought 20 $5 Starbucks cards. Today we will visit my grandmother in her alzheimers facility and hand them out to all the staff that has to work on Christmas day. With any leftovers, we'll find some other workers in the service industry at work on Christmas day.

That our kids associate Christmas more with giving than getting is not an easy task. I hope these attempts sow more seeds of Kingdom thinking within them.

May the peace and joy of Christmas fall upon each of you this day.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unto us a child is born

I met last night with a couple whom I am marrying this Saturday afternoon. I met them through the grapevine, they were frantically searching for a pastor to marry them before Christmas. Most of the pastors/priests they had met were either too expensive (Does the church still have an indulgence system or something?) or perhaps will not marry them because she is about 2 months pregnant. In these situations I see a woman about to be stoned by the angry crowd or even the woman at the well. If these aren't the life stories we step into, then what is the Gospel even about?

I agreed to do the wedding and have been praying for them before we met last night. I shared with them what God had showed me. A vision of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, unmarried and with child. For outsiders, its easy to look at them with judgment. But for Mary and Joseph, they were experiencing hope and joy alongside their trepidation. Fear and Hope often are companions. When I shared this with them, it seemed to strike a chord deep within them. God is in the business of redemption, he re-writes stories. It is in these human stories where the Gospel is alive. I'm honored to be a voice of the Kingdom in this wedding this Saturday.

While the world scorned, Mary gave birth to a son that re-wrote the story of Creation.

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.
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.

-Isaiah 9

The Good News of Jesus Christ is the reality of Kingdom Come. We are blessed to be carriers of that virus.


Friday, December 08, 2006

So you say its my birthday

My Mom took me out to breakfast this morning to celebrate my birtday and to remember an emotional time for her. 34 years ago last night, she walked into a hospital in Philly in labor of a pregnancy she had been hiding. She had come to the conclusion that her marriage was not going to work after already having 2 kids and yet felt that God had called her to have one more, thats how I came into the picture. I was an agreement of the divorce procedings. As well, my grandfather accidentally started speaking in tongues in the early 1970's while pastoring a large fundamental Baptist Church in Philly. The next day they fired him. The church split and with it, so did my parents' marriage. Both grandparents on polar opposite sides of the issue after decades of intimate friendship and ministry. So my Mom hid the pregnancy to avoid more of the judgment and shame put upon her by the church folk of already in a divorce. Some of you have suggested I have the spiritual gift of controversy, well let's just say I was born into it :) For all the brokenness that I was born into, I can assure you, its not my destiny.

By the way, I have never liked John Lennon. He ruined my 8th birthday. I remember sitting at the table by myself in our mobile home in front of my birthday cake but all the family was huddled around the TV all night watching the news because Lennon had been shot. I know if John could choose, he wouldn't have wanted my birthday to go that way either, but I've secretly always held it against him.

Its important for me to continue to verbalize my grief, but if you ask me what I want for my birtday, I would like to have Chad and Palmer back with us in this life. I just can't let it go. I've had rough dreams/nightmares the past couple nights and I think its mostly anxiety. I'm not at peace with my surroundings.

Through 34 years, brokenness has been a constant companion. At the age of 17, it drove me to suicidal thoughts and contemplating the meaning and purpose of anything. I had no love or intimacy in my life and found it not worth living. Sports was my only outlet, but I played to release rage while my friends seemed to have fun. At 34, I have learned to allow brokenness to be a chisel in the hands of God to mold me into something not only useful, but valued and loved. I think C.S. Lewis used to teach about that. Suffering can be a companion to embrace and soak up for its learning opportunities. To suffer within a community of love makes it just about palatable. The promise that I will never be alone is the Rock by which I stand today.

Brokenness is also how I tend to connect to those around me. I have always found it easy to empathize with others. To enter their pain with them to me is holy ground. I'm honored when others give me that place in their life. When others have had the voice of pain shouting at them, God has given me certain gifts to enter in and shout just a little bit louder with words and a presence of hope and life. To this point in my life, it is that ministry that I am most proud of. I am not a traditional pastor, but I am a warrior who will continue to set up camps in enemy territory until I don't have any birtdays left in this life. I'll stop when my grave is dug, until then, War on and I think I'm just warming up yet.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

does Hope ever wake you in the night?

This is my brother, Mark Palmer. He lived and breathed hope. He is no longer with us in this earthly realm and I miss him so much. His life inspired mine. In a lot of ways we were nothing alike. And yet, in the things that mattered we were spot on. I want my life to honor his. I want the needs of his family to be the concern of our greater community. Mark was an annointed teacher, words meant something to him and he expressed them. Here is a taste on his teaching on hope:

"When it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed."

This is my friend, Chad Canipe. He was an artist within the Kingdom of God. A man of incredible integrity and character. The depth of his life rubbed off on mine. Chad cared about the corners of our world where most of us overlook. I greatly miss having coffee with him and letting him teach me. We lost Chad so suddenly, I am still not sure what to make of that. He lived his life on purpose, here is a taste of that:

"I'm a mixture of corporate world minion, cultural creative, and—yes—ordained minister who has chosen to exit the realm of paid, professional clergy and enter the world where most people live. I start grassroot communities of faith in the city and offer myself as a spiritual director of sorts for a funky mixutre of folks: normal, abnormal, artists, activists,
askers-of-the-big-questions, thinkers, doubters, seekers, lapsed Christians.
I'll spare you the rest of the pretentious sounding labels and just tell you that I am a husband, father, and resident of Norwood in the heart of the Cincinnati metro area. My wife and I love the city, having recently chosen a "reverse flight" from the booming suburbs to plant ourselves in the urban soil of Cincinnati."

My niece, Kate, was 21 months old, she was not supposed to die. That's not how God intentioned it, but our world is not safe and it is deeply broken. She was like a butterfly, free and full of flight. She yet graces us with her presence somehow, our community will never be the same. This Sunday our community will visit her gravesite to grieve some more, that healing would knit our hearts together through the Holy Spirit.

This morning at 3:30 I awoke in prayer with these things on my mind. My thoughts are filled with grief and yet so much hope. I honor those who have passed to the realm of the fullness of the Kingdom of God, I yet live in the broken world being made whole. Advent this year means so much to me, the coming of the Hope of Israel is a trumpet blast that awakens me in the night. We grieve and we suffer but we are not alone. He is Immanuel, God with us. He invaded this world with the coming of the Kingodm of God and it is all around us even now. Look for it, seek it, taste it, breathe it . . . its full of life. Light is shining in darkness, hope is overcoming. There is a manger full of life, won't you come?


Monday, December 04, 2006

Alison on an imperfect world

Well, my daughter Ali is at it again. This month of December is going to be a hard month of continuing to grieve. The hope of Christmas sits right alongside the loss of my niece, Kate. Tragedy and Beauty don't make for identical twins. Here is Ali's next reflection being turned in to school today:

Picture this, your life was perfect. Then your Mom gets sick and goes to the hospital. Do you think your life would still be perfect? Sad things happen. One reason for that is everything happens for a reason. The second reason is the world isn't perfect. The third reason is the world isn't safe. Bad things happen.

A lot of sad things happen. Those sad things affect a lot of people. Those sad things happen for a reason. The people they affect show who they'll be. Things happen and sometimes there's nothing you can do about it. Every reason isn't easy to find out right away. Here is a story to help you understand. Kate, my cousin, was small and beautiful. Kate and her sisters came over. The next morning Kate was announced dead. That was the first time something really affected me. I was really sad. Here's another story: Micah (Palmer) lost his Mom when he was a toddler. His Dad got cancer, soon his Dad died. That will affect who Micah is.

The world isn't perfect because people choose to do wrong. My Dad is a pastor. He tries to let everyone know about Jesus. He was going to India and took me with him. When we got there everything looked horrible. Does you life seem perfect? Mine isn't.

The world isn't safe. Here is a story: I've seen my grandma sick. All her hair fell out. She could barely talk. She looked very pale. She didn't look like Grandma. Here's a story that happened to my Mom. My Mom drove to Cornerstone Cafe. She left the car unlocked because she thought she would be out and in really quick. She left her wallet in the car. When she came back, someone had stolen her wallet. That's all the stories I have.

As you can see, sad things happen. Now you know these reasons well, here they are again. Everything happens for a reason. The world isn't safe. The world isn't perfect. So if something bad happens in your life, move on. There are more happy than sad things in life.

Alison Marshall, 10


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Towards an Open Theology

Yesterday I had a lunch with a fellow sojourner and pastor from a completely different context and background than myself and I found it to be a compelling connection. As we got to know one another and share stories, he was inquisitive as to the functions and structure of Ordinary Community. I realized as I was sharing that I really have journeyed far from many of the systematic theologies I had been raised in.

I believe in conversion, but I have a much harder time putting words to the process or being able to state when a conversion to Christ has happened or not. Rather, I tend to use terms such as "followers of Christ" and regardless of people's spiritual state, I encourage them to follow Christ where I used to try and make them a Christian. In my old days, I would have labeled my present self a "liberal", but I don't think I am. I believe that Christ made exclusive claims about himself as the only passage into the Kingdom of God. There aren't other portals or wardrobes to Narnia, Christ is the gate in. That is one of the absolutes of my theology.

As well, I believe that the Scriptures are True and they have an elevated role for faith and practice. They are the basis of our faith and the marker that doesn't shift even in the midst of storms, the words carry Divine power. But I do not believe that all the genres and books in Scripture ought to be interpreted as literal (except for the ones that are history) but rather some are apocalyptic and as teaching narratives/myths that illuminate lessons and truths to be lived out. Applying the modern scientific worldview to ancient texts in my humble opinion is a clearly misguided goal. Scriptures don't have to be literal/historical to be True or inspired or authoritative. The Scriptures are attached to the Spirit, and it breathes life into the reader. To me, the very process of reading texts from Scripture is a mystical experience and they show me how to live.

I affirm women in all forms of leadership and ministry in the church. I believe the passages of I Timothy 2 and Titus 1 are not prohibiting such.
1) The greek word "Auqentew" translated as authority, is not used by Paul or any other NT author in the Scriptures. The only way we can learn about its correct translation is in extra-biblical sources. In my opinion, the word is more accurately translated as "source" or "originator". So I Timothy 2 would read more as "I do not permit a woman to say she is the source of man" which would be Paul confronting Goddess worship in Ephesus who were teaching that Eve came before Adam. I don't believe this passage is speaking towards an absolute for all forms of church structure, but rather a condemnation of false teaching in the NT context.
2) 1 - 2 passages is not enough to build an entire theology around. One needs to look at the whole of the Biblical voice. We have women acting as prophetesses, house church leaders, matriarchs, evangelists etc. all throughout the Scriptures.
3) Jesus radically departed from traditional Jewish roles by affirming women, reaching out to them as outcasts and inviting them into the center of His movement. We do not have revelation of women as Apostles, but we do see them counted in the groupings next outside the 12.
4) On Easter morning, when the male Apostles were cowering in the upper room, while it was cold and still dark, it was Mary who got up and went to the tomb. I would suggest that at this all important moment of the Church, it was only a woman who was leading us. Mary received the announcement of the Resurrection and then left boldly proclaiming the Resurrection. That in my opinion was the first sermon of the NT Church. Mary telling the others that He is risen!
5) The ancient and NT world were male dominated, women were valued, but not as equals. Part of the teaching of Hebrews and a New Covenant with a New Community to me is the abolishment of this male domination to a pure view of God's intention, the equality of the sexes.
6) I believe the hardline view of excluding women from roles of elder/teacher are not followed consistently by those claiming them. Women cannot read Scriptures in a service but are allowed to sing them in a special song. Women cannot teach our American men, but were/are sent in droves to foreign soil to win the natives (including men) in tribal cultures by teaching/preaching as the only voice for the Kingdom. This is what I observed growing up in fundamental theologies and I think its hypocrisy. If you are going to take a hardline view against women in ministry, you better apply it in all forms or you are committing the same heresy you accuse others of.
7) Experience counts for something. I have sat under and around women using their gifts in ministry of preaching and teaching and making wise decisions. It was quite natural and yielded the same fruit godly men had provided. Just reading the fruit of these experiences agreed with the Scriptures.
8) Its about the gifts, not the gender. The Spirit of God calls and brings to life His gifts in the Church. Whomever that calling falls upon, regardless of their reproductive parts, ought to be obedient to it for the sake of the Kingdom.

So I think differently now than I once did. I believe I have left a loyalty to certain systems of thinking and to one that is closer to the Biblical truths and to the Spirit that drives it all. I have moved towards a more open theology and in that I have found freedom to act and move within the Kingdom in more powerful ways. To some, that may be heresy, but I would just say, judge me by "the fruit".

Or, don't judge me at all, that would be more fun :)

peace for a Kingdom Come,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

mmmmmmmmmmm, tasty books

Ok,Christmas is coming so its time to check out a good book sale. You have to go here: Bean Books Clearance Sale

There are so many tasty vittles on this list at cheapy cheapy prices. Expand your mind, take some down time, buy some books and do a bit of reading. Books as well make for better Christmas presents than chia pets or pink bunny pajamas. Well, maybe not the pajamas, but definitely better than chia pets.

Reccomendations you ask???? Here are a few:

1) The Secret Message of Jesus, McLaren
-Our house church is in the midst of reading and discussing this presently. Its a good, readable overview of Kingdom theology
2)Left Behind in a MegaChurch World, Ruth Tucker
-Written by the same woman who wrote the classic missionary textbook "From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya". I read this on the plane to Seattle, she nails some of the church cultural shifts and issues nobody else is talking about.
3)Emerging Churches, Bolger and Gibbs
-This book interviews the practitioners in emerging churches and tries to report on the scope of the movement
4) Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning
-Ummm, if you haven't read this, what are you thinking? This is a classic.
5) Community and Growth, Vanier
- Haven't read this, been told its great. I need to pick it up.
6) Rennovation of the Heart, Student Edition. Dallas Willard
- I used this with high school seniors and it opened the doors wide open for the real stuff they were dealing with.
7) Divine Nobodies, Palmer
- Another book I haven't read but heard of its goodness.
8) Myth of a Christian Nation, Greg Boyd
- I bought this, waiting to read it. I've become a recent fan of his.
9) Praying with the Church, Scott Mcknight
- Perhaps the keenest mind out there right now in emerging church circles. To quote Zoolander, "that Mcknight, he so hot right now!"
10)Prayer, Richard Foster
- Best overall book I've read on prayer, another classic and perfect gift idea. Who can't improve their outlook on prayer?
11) An Army of Ordinary People, Tony Dale
- Haven't read it, love the title :)
12) The Message New Testament in small paperbacks. ONLY $4!!!
- I would call these house church pew Bibles.

Ok, there's my plug, now I'm off to do some book shopping.

Make sure to feast w/ Thanks tomorrow.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Continuation of Grief

This week begins the holiday season. I'm not sure what I feel about them this year. This week will put us one month away from December 22, the one year anniversary of the passing of my niece Kate, suddenly in the night due to an aggressive and unknown strand of pneumonia. She was a happy 21 month old. It is still shockingly painful and at times raw.

My 10 year old daughter, Ali, wrote this for a paper at school this week, entitled "WHY":

"Oh why oh why did this happen to her? She was only 21 months old. I started to cry. I was at the funeral for my cousin Kate. I went over to the casket that Kate was in. Savannah, my cousin the same age as me, and my Mom went over and we started to cry. Everyone was crying too. I reached my hand out and I felt her cheek. She felt hard like a baby doll. I too looked under the blanket on top of her. I saw her pacifier. It reminded me of the last night when she was alive. I wish I could have known those were my last moments with her. Why did it have to be her? I cried to my Mom. Why? Why is Kate in there? (sister Paige asked) Paige is Kate's siser, Paige did not understand her sister was dead. I gave Savannah a big hug, she gave me one back. We told each other it's going to be alright. We knew it really wasn't though. When we left, I said, "Mom, I don't want to leave her! I want to be with her, I can't let her go." "I know" my Mom said still crying. "But you have to remember Kate is in a better place now." I asked, "But why?" bursting out in tears. "Why?" I repeated. "Why is it her?!" "Why? . . . Why?" Mom said, "I don't know, no one does. Sometimes things happen." Mom said she didn't want to leave either. I don't want to cry about her but it was hard for me. She was the first person I knew to die. I will never forget her no matter what. She will always be in my broken heart."

To follow Jesus includes a road of suffering. It is a baptism of fire. No one asks for it, but they happen and the desert is a very rough teacher. Continuing the cycling of grief makes all the talk of emerging church and ministry so irrelevant. If you want to be cool and hip and relevant, stay out of ministry and find a job in marketing. If you want to follow Jesus, then pick up your sword and start swinging. Its not a program nor technique, its War and it will take the wind right out of you. There will come a day when the Kingdom comes in fullness, for now, its reality is only in part here. But. . . that's a pretty beautiful part. You want a ministry? Forget all the books and techniques. Find the people you think are beautiful and love them. Its not anything more complicated. To fulfill that love, it will cost you everything. But in following Jesus, you inherit everything that matters.

There is still so much mystery in this suffering, but we never suffer alone. When I don't know how to make sense of things, I tend to just pick up my sword and start swinging at anything in the darkness. Until the Enemy can crush the wind out of my lungs, I will not relent. It is an unshakeable Kingdom and the Hope of the Kingdom Come is upon us. Participate in it. live it, breathe it, fight for it. In a world where death is yet a reality, Hope and Life is our Rebellion. Just pick up your sword and start swinging.

peace to your house this night,

Monday, November 13, 2006

Modernism dies a slow death

So I'm sitting here in my family room comfy chair, with me feet up after a day's work and a good dinner prepared by my wife w/ pumpkin pie and all. And since Nicki is reading, I have full control of my remote. I landed upon NRB, one of the dozen or so "god" channels on Direct Tv now. And I'm watching a sermon by John MacArthur. I grew up in churches that worshipped this guy. Over the past 15 minutes he has read a sermon from his notes saying things that today's evangelical churches are mediocrity and celebrating carnality. Pastors are humorous and "cool" instead of being rigorous studiers of the Word. He states that the book of Amos is a prophecy against these "relevant" churches, that he hates their music, hates their worship and hates their sacrifices. That God will no longer speak because of his judgment. Speaking of a past Era when we used to have great preaching and an Era when we agreed with Scripture with consistency. He says the world can't know who God's real spokesman is, that is convenient for a guy who cornered the market with a book called "The Gospel According to Jesus". In that book, he argues his take as Jesus' exclusive view and thus all others are false.

Modernism as a worldview is all about "either-or" thinking. I am right, therefore you are wrong. The Bible then is a system to be figured out of objective information, it will lead you to a world of black and white truth. This is not at all consistent with the kind of Jewish mythology in which the Scriptures were written and a culture of mythology. The Bible was written hundreds and thousands of years before the Scientific worldview was born in the Age of Enlightenment. All I can say in my experience in these churches growing up is that it has a whole lot more to do with a dogged loyalty to the Modern worldview than anything having to do with following Jesus. At its foundation is a system, not a person. And the system is about knowledge, not relationship. In this black and white world, there is no reckless intimacy that leaves you vulnerable nor leaves room for doubt or confusion. I suppose just listening to him just brings up so much baggage for me.

I think what I remember is that I grew up and feeling that I had a "calling" to pastor, but the category of "Pastor" that I knew was one of a guy who showed no emotion, knew all the answers and spent 40 hours a week in personal study around books and systematic theologies and away from the distractions of people. Pastoring was preaching a theological sermon for 30 minutes each week in which you passed judgment on culture. I deducted that I shouldn't be a pastor because none of that fit me. MacArthur is upset because people aren't committed anymore to the rigors of studying Scripture and that he shouldn't have to grab their attention with his preaching, they should work to listen. To me, the burden of communication is not on the receptor, but on the communicator. Pastors want everybody to listen to them, but how many of them understand how people learn.

Do I believe in objective truths? Yes. Does this make me a bad postmodern? Sometimes. For me, in a Kingdom worldview, objective information has to take its place at the round table of knowledge with experience, tradition and Scripture in context. Modernism exalted objective information and its experiment has failed. They couldn't answer all the questions.

It was unbiblical in my traditions of church to show emotion. Christians were somber and right. I never fit and thought God was a joke growing up. I tried to fit in only to be reminded that I didn't belong over and over.

MacArthur is mad the world has changed. Modernism is losing its grip and he interprets that as the Gospel not being preached instead of it actually just being the death of his preferences. Modernism fit him like a glove. I can't stomach this stuff anymore because it lacks what it claims to have the corner of the market on, a true intelligent and studied view of Scripture. Since he would call me unbiblical, I'll go ahead and return the favor . . . in love of course ;)

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sunil Sardar destroyed me

Ok, so last week in Seattle at the Revolution conference I came into contact with Sunil Sardar of Truth Seekers Int'l I was not prepared for this encounter . . . or was I?

For years I have been absolutely captivated by the writings of E. Stanley Jones, missionary to India in the 1930's and 40's. His teaching on the Kingdom of God were profound and revolutionary and it shaped my beliefs. Just a short time with Sunil built several more stories on that foundation. Because of Sunil's relationship with Jason and Brooke Evans, we were able to have dinner with him after he spoke. It was all I could do to not begin weeping at the table. Somehow his words and presence were piercing my soul. There was a fire in the man's eyes that only comes from a road of suffering.

I have much more to say, but instead I'm going to paste an interview with Sunil from Off the Map to give you a taste. Let me know what you think:
What were you doing prior to starting the Truth Seekers Society?

We spent 10 years in church planting work in Maharashtra (central India). Our ministry was called Din Bandhu which means "Friend of the Poor". Several hundred churches were planted representing 40 different caste groups who had no church before. My brother is now leading this work, and it continues to flourish.

A social reformer named Phule founded Truth Seekers in the early 19th Century, tell us about him? What did he do that was different from other reformers in India’s history?

This country worships idols. They also worship heroes. I was looking for a model which would be safe for any caste group to be able to worship Jesus Christ without having the baggage of organized religion. Phule is that role model. He was salt and light and pointed the way to Christ for this nation. He found Christ in this culture and pointed towards him which was residing in the name of Bali Raja (the King who sacrificed), Yeshuwant (victor over death), and Yeshua (Jesus). He never became part of organized religion, but followed Christ throughout his life along with his family, and modeled His example and stood boldly with Christians and missionaries in their times of persecution. He also clearly identified the enemy of the Gospel, which still resides in this country... the false religion of Brahminism which has its roots in discrimination from birth to death. The religion of Brahminism perpetuates and glorifies lying, cheating, and adultery.

Why not simply go out and "preach the gospel" and forget all the social activism stuff? Other preachers stay away from those kinds of activities?

The gospel is the person of Jesus Christ. You cannot exclude any part of human life...the Gospel transcends all, political, economical, educational, etc and spiritual. If someone is a follower of Christ, he has to stand for the poor, oppressed, widows, orphans, and those who have no voice of their own. That is the model Jesus gave us.

Christian leaders who separate the sacred from the secular do not understand. They are looking for an excuse to stay away from a 'dirty job' in the name of holiness and piety. They also are afraid of the risk involved in living this kind of lifestyle. They fear the unknown, and it is safer to surround yourself with people like yourself, other believers. They are afraid of the exploration of unknown territory because they don't have all the answers. They want to look like they know, and in addition, this kind of lifestyle is not taught in the seminaries. It has to be lived. Jesus is the most creative, risk taking Redeemer, so I believe Christians should be the most creative people on earth...even in their presentation of the Gospel. He has made us free so that we can enjoy freedom in creativity.

Who are the Dalits? Do they remind you of any groups in the states?

The Dalits of India are the Untouchables or Outcastes of society; they are not even worthy (according to Brahmin scripture) to be a part of the human society. In fact, they are lower than the animals. I guess we could equate them with blacks who were enslaved before the Civil War, or perhaps Mexican immigrants who come only as laborers. People who are absolutely discriminated against by society...people enslaved by addictions.

Who are the Brahmins? Which socio-economic group in the states do they most closely resemble?

Brahmins are self proclaimed priests of the nation. They are upper caste and upper class. Everyone else (according to their scriptures) exists to serve them. One can become Brahmin only after 84 million life cycles. They are the most proud people on the face of the earth. They call themselves 'god on earth' (bhudeo). It reminds me of the white supremacist groups in the States. Or perhaps the white upper class Republican evangelicals who have the mindset that they know and have all the answers.

Tell us a little about Ambedkar and why the Dalits identify more closely with him than they do with Gandhi?

Ambedkar is one among them; Gandhi is not. Ambedkar fought for their rights and exposed the cause of their slavery and publicly renounced Brahminical Hinduism. The way he lived his life reflected what he spoke. He walked his talk. Gandhi gave a false name to Dalits which was Harijan (children of god), but never said which god. Gandhi asked them to rebel against those who literally supported them. He never identified their enemy. He turned British and missionaries (who were their friends) into their enemies. He sided and glorified the very religion (Brahminism) that made them Dalits.

You practice what I call "deep contextualization", you literally "inject" yourself into complex sociological settings (similar to how a virus works) and then wait and watch to see where you end up relationally and influentially. How did you learn how to do this? Who taught you? What prompted you to stop "watching from the sidelines" and dive into the game of connecting?

Great analogy! I can't claim any instruction but the Holy Spirit's leading. Often, it took me a longer time than it should have to obey because I was scared of 'Big Brother' meaning the Christian world who often accused me of synchronization, which wasn't the case at all. It is redeeming what is already present in the life and culture of this nation. Don Richardson's book, Eternity in Their Hearts, had a great influence on my thinking. Actually, we view it as we are simply meeting Christ where He has already been and continues to be. He is inviting us there; that makes the work so much easier. We are not converting people; Christ is converting us every day. My journey began and I became a Truth seeker when I met Christ. Since that day, no day is boring.

I met a Sikh man at the Ravidas street celebration you took me to. This man had become a Christian through associating with Truth Seekers. He told me that it took him 3 years to become "spiritualized", meaning become a follower of Jesus. What is the process he went through to become "spiritualized"?

Mr. Than Singh Josh became a follower of Christ before he actually knew it. He was culturally a Sikh (learner or disciple). Spiritually, he was an atheist. Politically, he was a socialist. He started coming to our Truthseekers fellowship meetings. Then he started speaking about Jesus as a social reformer. Then he started praying to Him and the Lord answered him. Then, he started praying for others in Jesus' name, and Lord answered those prayers too. Now, many friends are interested when they used to make fun of him. It was the Word, the fellowship of Truthseekers, and answered prayers that brought him into a clearer understanding of following Christ. But he tells me now, that his father told him before dying that if Christians would have come first in his life, he would have become a Christian. Instead, Sikhs came so he had a chance to renounce his caste in this way, so he did. He was a farmer and a hardworking man. Maybe he is in heaven....who knows? But his father's words also had a hand in his conversion.

Why did you tell him to remain a Sikh after committing his life to Christ? Can you think of any "dynamic equivalents" of how this process would look in the States? In other words - In our stateside approach to "getting people saved" are we too linear, too uptight and if so what would it look like if we did it the Truth Seekers way?

The term Sikh means 'learner or disciple' never to become a guru which is your downfall. It’s easy enough to equate that with becoming a humble follower of Jesus Christ. Your turban doesn't matter to Jesus...He is after our hearts. So, culturally to remain a Sikh in his own community is to his advantage and he becomes salt and light to his world and people. This is what Jesus asks of us.

My best advice for the equivalent of this approach in the States is not to have your own agenda for 'getting people into church' and don't have any model other than Christ to follow. No matter what, don't give up on people. Be there for them whatever that means and love them anyway whether or not they become Christian as we understand that term. Don't have any program to make people Christians, but have open homes, open lives, open communion, open discussions. Pray unashamedly to Jesus and boldly ask Him to reveal Himself as you go.

wow. peace.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Must Read

Ok, finally somebody captured the breadth of the emerging church conversation. This is one of the best descriptions of what has happened, is happening and might continue to happen. In my humble opinion, really well done. This is Scott Mcknight's address at Westminster Theolgogical Seminary.
Scott McKnight

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I'm intentioning to be in a state of listening for a bit instead of talking. Not sure how long that will last, but I'm going to refrain from blogging for a bit. A week? A few days? A month? not sure, some sort of season.

I'm excited to go to Seattle next week to raise some cane at this conference Revolution Rains and I are leading a workshop on "Unpimping and Remonking the church", that should be interesting. In the words of William Wallace the Braveheart, "I'm goin' to pick a fight" ;)

peace to you for a Kingdom that has come and a Kingdom that is yet coming,

Monday, October 16, 2006

OCC Fall Fest

One of my favorite events of the years has been our OCC Fall Fest. Its an extravaganza of food and community. Starts at the Pumpkin farm for a hayride to the pumpkin field, picking out pumpkins, petting the animals and most importantly, purchasing the freshly home-made warm apple fritters. Then the folk head back to my house to meet up with many others for different assortments of chili and cornbread followed by a buffet of autumn desserts . . . pumpkin pie, apples and cinnamon, pumpkin crunch and a few other rich chocolate deals. Good coffee, cider and hot chocolate to wash it all down. We took some time to sing in worship and reflection then head out to the fire for smores and more community time under the stars. Having my faith community in my house partaking of Christ's abundance and worshipping His presence is just a continual dream come true for me. Its authentic, real and healthy, something I've longed for in my church career.

I admitt that I am native to the postmodern worldview in that I don't see history and the future as a great line of progression as modernists out of the age of the Enlightenment have. Rather I understand that this Story is pretty cyclical and is lived and expressed in the journey along the way, not in the end. So celebrating the seasons is very important to me. Much like our church ancestors who lived in agricultural societies had feasts and celebrations that coalated with the harvest calendar, living in the Midwest, we have all 4 seasons. Celebrating the seasons can be a community discipline to our spiritual rythymn. It gives us context for how we live, it also allows us to mark time in who we are as a people together. I am reminded of how important the seasons were in Ireland as St. Patrick used these times of celebration to proclaim and exalt the Triune God who had always been amongst them, now Patrick was giving them the full revelation in Jesus Christ.

Celebrating feasts and the seasons to me is a form of a new Monasticism. This is how we are monking in the real world. Rythymn, focus, hearts submitted to God, living as a communal people, giving God the thanks for our daily bread, celebrating simplicity. We live in suburbia, but we are not of it. We belong to a separate Kingdom, but we live in suburbia to be carriers of that Kingdom virus who look to infect the culture around us.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Monday, October 09, 2006

What a weekend

Man, very full weekend, but good stuff.

Megan's 8th birthday complete with a train ride to a pumpkin patch, good times.

Our Community Gathering on Sunday at our house was a heavy topic for me. We've been tackling theological issues once a month at our gatherings and this month's topic was "divorce". I thought I could just glide by it and talk about what Scripture teaches, but instead all my baggage just came up out of nowhere and destroyed me. My parents divorce is my most painful chapter of my life and every so often it hits me in another wave. It reveals how much of my behavior is just trying to seek approval because of never having that security growing up. I know that many have that experience even w/out going through a divorce, this just happened to be how my life has played out. There is plenty of redemption in my life, Godly men who mentored me as Father-figures at key points in my life, a New Testament re-defining of family and my own marriage and children as the foundation of my life. Even in the midst of that, I am broken at times. I wept on Sunday morning before people came over. And then this morning, some time in between my run and getting ready for work, I heard a voice. And it said, "Chris, I'm so proud of you and I love you." Holy Smokes that feels so good to hear from the Father who has never left me and never forsaken me. I remembered that this was the part of the Gospel that converted my heart while in my bedroom at 17 years old and made a decision for life instead of ending my life w/ some pills in depression and pain. God is good and I need to spend more time receiving His love that is sufficient and satisfying.

Liberty House Church last night as well was just great communal discussion on how Jesus presented the Kingdom of God as a mystery to be understood, and not in concrete language we can control. We discussed Nicodemus in John 3 and his conversation with Jesus. The Kingdom is a mystery, yet it is seen and understood in the person of Jesus. He is the key, He is the gate, He is the only Way to a complete understanding and experience of the Kingdom of God.

Lastly, in house church circles, we often wrestle with "Children's ministry" and what to do with kids. Teenagers developmentally very much can connect to worship and discussion with the adults, but what about school age kids? Well, the past couple weeks, in a vacuum of us adults doing nothing, our kids started organically creating their own. A couple of the older kids took their Bible, read a story with the younger kids, then spent the rest of their time planning a skit re-enacting the story for us adults when we were finished. They set up chairs outside and creatively played out Adam and Eve (w/out the nakedness) for us. It was AWESOME! Last week, they acted out Noah's Ark. I think they're on to something here, maybe us adults need to stay out of the way and let the kids do Biblical community in their way. Whatever it is, I think its fruit that the virus of the Kingdom is taking root with the next generations.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Injury update

Yesterday I ran 3.2 miles for the first time and felt strong throughout on hills and had a kick in the end. I've been back running for the past few months but couldn't get past 2 miles due to my achilles just not responding. Just have to continue building a foundation and my goal is to run the Thanksgiving Day 10K in downtown Cincinnati. I have about 7 weeks to double my mileage, that may be doable. I'm running or cross-training 5-6 days a week now getting back to enjoying it again now. For those that care, there's an update.

Yesterday as well was Megan's 8th birthday. Somehow, our middle child is 8 years old, I don't understand how that happens. Nicki went into labor with Megan in my 1st semester of seminary (talk about major transitions) while I was writing a philosophy paper on the problem of evil. Let's just say that wasn't an omen. Megan is sweet, kind, obedient and likeable. Like her mother, she has a high value on following the rules at all times. A trait I can't relate to, but its nice having those types around :) Megan is a joy, I'm very proud of her, and somehow she just keeps getting older.

Church is coming to our house this morning. I love that reality.


Monday, October 02, 2006

clarifying the changes

As I previously posted that things are changing, perspectives are being altered and expectations are morphing, let me clarify what that is meaning for me.

I am in no way feeling discouraged, dismayed, disallusioned nor despairing. Quite the opposite, I'm in a place of real encouragement and ready to move on to the next thing, whatever Yahweh wants that to be. I recognize that I am deep into a spiritual war and it costs us all the time. I'm not going to sit around and wallow about the world and focus on the pain. I'm wanting to connect with the One who reigns over a Kingdom that is unshaken. I am no longer satisfied with my talk of Kingdom unless I apply it to every dark corner of my life. If it is Truth, then I want it to reign in the places that darkness and selfishness has only lived. And as I have been applying this, I am finding new freedom. With new freedom comes fresh faith. With new faith comes courage to fight this war. I recognize that I live in brokenness but I am calling to hope.

Wake up, Deadman! On the day that our brother, Chad Canipe, passed over to Kingdom, a few of us stood over his body in intensive care and had a few moments. This happening while 100 miles north, Palmer was in intensive care fighting for his life. I will never forget that moment, a tremendous realization of being a warrior in a war that was well beyond us. At some point in our initial grief, Mike Bishop said something to the sort of, "well, we're not just hanging out anymore." And that's the stuff that I'm talking about.

If emerging church is just a means for being angry at modern church, an excuse for being broken with only our vices to dull our pain, community for "hanging out" instead of for deep transformation and missional living . . . then I'm not sure that is church in the orthodox or historical sense. But if all of that happened and existed so that we could move towards being church . . . then let's get on with that. The stakes are too high to give up now. I don't care about church models, I care about hope and life lived out in Kingdom communities for the sake of Christ in this world.

I want to press on for more of God and more of His transforming power amongst us. Nothing less is permissable. Discouraged? hardly. If this be War, so let it be. I'm sharpening my sword for I have pitched a tent in enemy territory. Subversive revolutionaries, that's just daily reality for those that follow Jesus.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

end of the blog as we know it?

was talking with Keck today and he was saying how there was a prediction that all the emerging church blogs would pitter out within 3 years or so of their inception, and I wanted to be skeptical. While at the same time, I know that I have been contemplating a break from blogging for a while.

Then I read Glenn Johnson's blog and Alan Creech's blog and I wonder if its not true.

Have the things that needed to be said, been said? do we need to focus now on the building of healthy church communities and not talk about it so much? in this journey of "emerging chuch" now for the past 5-6 years that I've been on, I am admittedly in a complete different place then when I started. I used to be angry, now I"m at peace. I used to be driven, now I'm content. I used to have big dreams, now I just want to obedient. I used to long for a larger network, now I want to be faithful with a few.

for the 1st time in my leadership journey, i can't see the future. i have no idea what the future of OCC is. somehow i believe that it depends on my own spiritual journey in becoming the creation I am called to be. my seminary president said at graduation: "the greatest need in your church is your own personal holiness", at this stage, I think he is right.

i am quite humbled, quite broken, quite willing to do whatever comes next.

come Holy Spirit, dwell among us.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bengals 28 Steelers 20

Who Dey? We Dey, again.

The Bengals are 3-0. New England is coming to town next Sunday, bring it on!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


tommorrow night, OCC has planned a small gathering to just worship and pray and share the presence of Christ together. what is worship? its so powerful and yet so often trvialized. can we worship without strings attached? can it be done w/out needing anything in return? can it be done w/out a focus on self? can we worship if we knew that in it God would break our hearts? if we knew he would reveal the stench of our sin and not give us a good feeling? what is worship but a laying down of all that we are?

worship used to be a big show for me. within it all I forgot who I was. for a long time, i have somewhat forsaken it. but when i feel broken, when healing needs to happen, worship is what wants to pour out of me. worship ought to be primal, a roar of our soul. a reaching out for something more, a stretch towards our Creator.

i don't know what God is doing in my heart, so i desire to seek His face. i'm feeling prepared, pruned and yet the purposes are hidden. its not comfortable, I feel unsettled in a big way.

it has to be enough that it be about God and nothing else. if we don't worship, the rocks will cry out.

to OCC, let's gather and seek His face, the results belong to Him.

peace to you for a Kingdom Come,

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ordinary vs Extra-Ordinary

I'm always telling everybody else to stop and notice the Kingdom around you, so I should report when I'm practicing what I preach. Not by any prompting from their Mom or I, but our 2 daughters have reading to do every night anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes. What I think is so cool is that often they choose to read Bible stories for that reading. They can choose anything, and they choose to read the narratives from Scripture. Its just fun to hear and understand the stories from their perspective. Our oldest, Ali, goes about everything at about 157% effort (not sure where she gets that from) :) She just gobbles up all the knowledge in front of her, she has a huge appetite for more all the time.

So last night, I was finishing up grading some exams from my last NT class and behind me Ali is reading at the kitchen table. Then she blurts out "DADDY!!! WHY DIDN'T THE PEOPLE FROM HIS HOMETOWN LIKE HIM????" I shook my head for a minute then realized what she was reading. Jesus reading the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth of the prophecy of the One who would come and be the Messiah. And then Jesus rolls up the scroll and says that the prophecy is now fulfilled in him. Nazareth rejects him and tries to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus gives them the slip. (By the way, I would love to know exactly what Jesus did to slip away from this mob, I bet it was a story the apostles talked about long after.) So Ali and I had a conversation about Jesus' family and how big his claims were and how hard for those who witnessed him growing up to understand them. I just love that they are taking ownership for reading these stories on their own. I assume they see the Scriptures have an exalted place in their parents' lives and in the lives of the adults in their faith community, and it trickles down to them organically.

One of my mentors in college told me that the definition of an expert is "someone who lives 100 miles away". Isn't that true? We're not impressed with the everyday folk, but we believe the personas of people we really don't know that well. I still believe that the good stuff of the Kingdom is in the ordinary, everyday stuff. Not in the extraordinary experiences, events and programs we could spend all our time doing or trying to create. Of course, its not really an either-or, it is a both-and when it comes to Jesus. You get a lot of ordinary and touches of extra-ordinary.

Ali's ordinary reading I'm banking on having extra-ordinary effects on the ongoing transformation of her heart and mind.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Feeling Alone

Is anybody really ever exempt from feeling alone?

It can come on you and sit upon you like a dark cloud, making the skies of your life overcast with the threat of storms on the horizon. I know some of you read this blog because you feel alone and long for connection to something real. I know I write if for the same reasons. People feel alone in crowded places. People attending churches of thousands feel alone. People leading churches of thousands feel alone. People in small and ordinary places feel alone. Feeling alone is not a comfy place and yet Christ himself often found himself there. Forsaken by friends, forsaken by family, forsaken by his government, forsaken by the church folk and forsaken by His ABBA. That's alone.

The thing is that although we can feel alone, it is rarely actual. Its our self-perception but rarely is it accurate. I'm convinced that its a tool of the Enemy to instill fear and hopelessness into the caverns of our hearts, the problem is that it is a pretty effective weapon on his part. Particularly when we eat of the apple and believe his lies. When we allow ourselves to wallow in the self-pity and turn to our addiction of choice, the thing that gives us false intimacy. We run to these things that are dead because we feel alone and are looking for life. But can the dead raise the dead? Can the dead make life?

Feeling alone is a perception. Reality is that even in the desert of our lives, we are never alone. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall have no fear for thou art with me." (Psalm 23) Feeling alone is a trap of fear, don't drink the poison. You are never alone. The role of authentic christian community is our best weapon against this kind of spiritual warfare. If you don't have this kind of community, do 1 of 2 things. Either find 2 or 3 others and start it, or stop and see where its already happening around you and join it. Quite literally, you can't live without it.

"Call it a clan, call it a tribe, call it a network, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
~ Jane Howard


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Remembering 9/11

I must be a glutton for punishment and I had no real plan for this, but today I was able to leave work a bit early and went and saw "The World Trade Center". On my way home, I still needed another movie, so I rented "Flight 93". Geesh, pretty rough. I had no intention of seeing either movie, just feels too soon, but yet today I saw both. I'm not much of an American rah rah guy, and I'm not a follower of civil religion and I believe God is blessing the world, not just America. But 9/11 is a sad day as an American citizen. Its not just the evil that terrorized the planes, it was evil in the name of God.

As politicians use it for their personal gain, its all just a loss. A loss for human beings. I long for a Kingdom that is coming and it is still not yet. My heart breaks for every family personally affected by the events of 9/11. At the same time, my heart breaks for the atrocities happening tonight, in other countries. Events I'll never hear about but steeped in hate and violence. Our world is broken, I long for the Resurrection.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Confessions part 3

I'm now pretty sorry I said the things written below. The Scriptures teach us to go to a brother if he offends you first. I didn't. I'm wrong and I'm sorry for that.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Confessions, part 2

One of the things I don't understand about all the talk in emerging church circles about how what we're doing is so new and radically better than traditional church just deosn't make sense to me and wreaks of self-righteousness. Because when it comes down to it, ministry is not a model, its not a church meeting, its not a tradition of do's and don'ts. Its simply being a part of the movement of Spirit on earth connecting people to God, and this only possible through Christ. It is nothing more.

It has nothing to do with obsessive church growth theories. It has nothing to do with traditional vs. contemp. worship. it has nothing to do with views on baptism or speaking in tongues. It has nothing to do with being post-modern or pre-modern. It has nothing to do with meeting on Sundays or tuesday nights. It has nothing to do with meeting in large buildings funded through the congregated people or in small homes funded by individuals. It has nothing to do with terms like emerging, emergent, house church, simple church, institutional church, traditional church, seeker church, revolutionaries, new testament church, acts church, established church, missional church etc. etc.

For me, all these labels are not fundamental to church. Church is a grace, given by God through Christ for which we may participate. And for those of us called to be in leadership of it, its not ours to control and accuse others with. It is to love and serve. And that has no glamor of the bright lights and chrisitan celebrityisms. That means being up all night because you care deeply about church. That means being visited by the stench of the presences of dark spirits that seek to destroy the communities God has entrusted you with. That means being personally wounded by the very ones you desire to love and serve. Its not a conversation of being right or wrong in church models. Its a spiritual war and that leaves no time being right or wrong. Rather, we just have to act and respond to the Sprit's moving on earth. The places we come to are not for writing books and forcing movements, but rather to respond with gratitude that we are allowed to paticipate in church at all for it is a grace and not an entitlement.

I think Bonhoeffer puts it best:
"We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for hte Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ." -Life Together, p. 29.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Confessions of a House Church Planter

For anybody who has spent any time, blood, sweat or tears trying to do something different with church in western culture, you come to points in frustration. (I suppose that is true in any form of ministry) There are many days and moments of tremendous experiences of the Kingdom of God amongst us in the house church gig, and then there are nights like tonight. Sometimes I wonder why I bother putting myself out there emotionally, spiritually or physically. When the church is not the central issue but rather our self-focused needs to be the center and for "our" needs to be met. I'm trying to figure out which part in a crucified Christ says that church is supposed to be for us and make us feel great? Have we so bitten of the fruit of consumerism that we don't even question our lack of reality? Maybe we should just go with the American dream of giant, mega "successful" churches and never question the systems it takes to turn the cranks? Maybe church is just an event one time a week with catchy slogans and matching children's programs, group meetings for every needy sub-group, slick powerpoint and worship that makes me feel good? Maybe that is why Christ had to walk up Golgota, so that we could feel good about church?

or . . . maybe church doesn't matter how you feel about it? maybe its a discipline that you give yourself to regardless of the turnout or the feelings it gives back? maybe the Gospel is actually not about us but about dying to us? maybe its about becoming a different kind of people, people who are not driven by consumer appetites? maybe our appetites are to be for God and neighbor, and not for self? maybe its not about our needs but about our discipline to obedience?

I've never been a hardcore house church guy, but frankly, when the consumer mentality becomes the reality of our discussions, it just pisses me off. Traditional church folk are often looking for reasons to call us emerging church folk angry, well here is your opportunity, cuz I'm angry. but for my anger, at least I'm honest.

it is my job to extend grace to everyone in the community, and everyone outside the community. at the same time, it is my job to protect the community from danger, and so at this time I have to speak up and defend against selfishness.

In the 5 plus years of our journey in this, i have never felt the degree of anger and frustration that I have right now. and frankly, i don't know what that will lead to . . .

peace to you this night, i don't have much.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why I Blog

Was kidding around today w/ Jerry, whom I work with because he accidentally found my blog yesterday. (btw, Jerry is Kingdom guy y'all should know) Because I've blogged for so long I don't even remember why I got started or why I put so much of my "stuff" out there for people to read. So I started going back and reading some archives and its really amazing to re-live some of those journeys. The joyous ones and the roads of suffering.

I think the reason I blog is that relationship is one of my highest values and commodities. Its important to me that I live interconnected with the world around me, particularly people. My blog is not about information, its about relationship and its about the flow of Spirit in my life. It is to be fluid and not static. It is not to be about me, but about the world I live in through my eyes. I find comfort in being connected to folk that I've never met, yet we share worldviews and life experiences.

I think another reason I blog is just an opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom. I don't preach anymore, I used to. It used to define my ministry, now its wholly something other. But there is no question that sometimes I blog sermons just to get them off my heart. I still believe strongly in Proclamation and the announcing of the Kingdom, I just choose to do it differently.

For my blog readers, I'm very thankful for this virtual community. It matters to me what you think and are experiencing as well. You keep me connected to a larger world outside my immediate context.

As always, stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Post-labor day resolutions

I often approach the year in seasons and internally think about things I want to get better at or improve in. There is the winter-gray season of January through Spring Break. Then there is the sprint of Spring Break to the end of the school year. Then summer chaos. And the fall season of labor day to new year (hardly counting thanksgiving to christmas to accomplish anything). Anyways, that said, I started Body for Life again today and will continue it for at least the next 12 weeks. That will take me to the Thanksgiving Day 10k.

With my injury last year, I got thrown way off schedule. To be transparent, over the past 10 years I have struggled with carrying too much weight. In 2005, I lost 45 lbs. on Body for Life and felt great. Over the past year, particularly post-injury, I have put all of it back on. So now its time to get back to work and think, eat, play and be healthy again. There is an athlete still in me somewhere that longs to come out again, the pressures and schedules of life keep pushing him back down. I love competing and have no real opportunity to do that presently, so I train to run races to compete against myself.

Before my injury, I was running 10 miles regularly. I just got back from the most struggling, pathetic 2 miles ever. I have no where to go but up. I believe that the physical and the spiritual are intertwined and that as I focus on getting one healthy, the other is right there for the ride. For me, running is often a spiritual experience, an act of discipline. I train my body so that I may be available to the impulses of God. Running gets me in touch with my most primal needs and can bring alive passions deep within. The grind of a day at work is certainly not going to do that.

I want to get healthy. Eat right, run, stretch, sleep properly, read more, listen more. Those are my resolutions this season.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you,

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Call of The Prophet

Its official, my Dad cancelled his trip to come out here this week. I don't know, I think I would be a pretty cool son to hang out with and do life with. But this is a relationship that is just never going to happen.

We moved our house church from tuesday evenings to Sunday evenings with a meal and I am really liking the change. Sunday is just so much more relaxing for me and gives me time to prepare our discussions better and be in the right spiritual mind. Rushing home on a weekday from a crazy day of work was kinda stressful. We also extended our time together by an hour to include a common meal. I'm liking the change.

Last night we discussed chapter 3 of McLaren's "Secret Message of Jesus" and his Jewish background. How Jesus came in the line of the prophets to disturb status quo. We are tempted daily to pay attention to and be influenced by other prophets around us. Prophets who speak of our need for health and wealth and how God must bless us in these ways. Prophets who tell us to focus on ourselves and what we're entitled to. Prophets who teach of worldliness, materialism, legalism, sexualism, lusts for power and feeding our insecurities. But in the midst of those voices, there is a Voice of The Prophet. Calling us to a new community and to become a new kind of people. A Voice that says the Kingdom has come and to also participate in the Kingdom that is yet coming. A Voice that is calling us to finally be free. The way of Jesus is the way of freedom.

Jeremiah 10:1-10 (Message)
Listen to the Message that God is sending your way, House of Israel. Listen most carefully:
"Don't take the godless nations as your models.
Don't be impressed by their glamour and glitz,
no matter how much they're impressed.
The religion of these peoples
is nothing but smoke.
An idol is nothing but a tree chopped down,
then shaped by a woodsman's ax.
They trim it with tinsel and balls,
use hammer and nails to keep it upright.
It's like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch—can't talk!
Dead wood that has to be carried—can't walk!
Don't be impressed by such stuff.
It's useless for either good or evil."

6-9All this is nothing compared to you, O God.
You're wondrously great, famously great.
Who can fail to be impressed by you, King of the nations?
It's your very nature to be worshiped!
Look far and wide among the elite of the nations.
The best they can come up with is nothing compared to you.
Stupidly, they line them up—a lineup of sticks,
good for nothing but making smoke.
Gilded with silver foil from Tarshish,
covered with gold from Uphaz,
Hung with violet and purple fabrics—
no matter how fancy the sticks, they're still sticks.

10But God is the real thing—
the living God, the eternal King.
When he's angry, Earth shakes.
Yes, and the godless nations quake.


Friday, August 18, 2006

The reality we find ourselves in

I've been waiting to crack the cover of the new Dallas Willard book "The Great Omission" and am just now getting to it. Here's a quote from the introduction that strikes home:
But there is a great deal of disappointment expressed today about the character and the effects of Christian people, about Christian institutions, and - at least by implication - about the Christian faith and understanding of reality. Most of the disappointment comes from Christians themselves, who find that what they profess "just isn't working" - not for themselves nor, so far as they can see, for those around them. What they have found, at least, does not "exceed all expectations," as the standard evaluation form says. "Disappointment" books form a subcategory of Christian publishing. Self-flagellation has not disappeared from the Christian repertoire.

So if this is the reality we find ourselves in, where do we go from here? Either Jesus is a fraud, and his claims aren't true? Or what we're following, isn't Jesus. I'm convinced that our issues are the fact that we don't have the right Gospel. Our theologies of what is important are skewed, and therefore so is our behavior and our experiences of followers of Jesus. As the American church, we have lost our identity. We are rooted in a reaction against pagan culture and measure success within the bounds of the American business model. (both mere symptoms of staunch modernism) We literally have forgotten who we are. We are no different than the Israelites wandering the desert but lusting after the pagan ways of life.

Within this is a self-critique. I'm understanding that the Kingdom is here, but I still make choices that indulge the flesh w/out any recognition of a Kingdom Now. And I dont' know why. Jesus offers deep and lasting freedom, I seem to prefer bondage.

This is the reality we find ourselves in, but it doesn't have to remain that way.
Paul says in Romans 8:1-2
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

Well, that's good news.


Monday, August 14, 2006

an Emo moment

things that presently make me sad:

- an incredibly horrible ending to the work day, being implicated in a disastrous student issue re: graduation, i'm innocent but still feel the need to declare my comptence and responsiblity vs. perceptions (this is vague, but it was baaaaad)

- last night of student house church tonight. the majority are headed to college this week or next. how incredibly sad. i love these kids and am so proud of them. as they grew up, so did I. they are now not only followers in the kingdom, but they walk this earth as carriers of the Kingdom virus, looking for others to infect. proud indeed, sad indeed.

- my Dad, who has never visited me in my lifetime, i"ve always gone to him is scheduled to come next week for a few days. Its a long trip so I've been skeptical, now I'm hearing rumors that it probably won't happen. he has done better in the past couple years, has called me a couple times. I've been his son for 33 years, never a visit, doesn't know my birthday, attended my wedding, but no other event in my life, our relationship has been mostly one sided = me initiating. He re-married and had 3 more kids, the reality is that I'm just a step-child, I get the leftovers. i've never had a Dad on this earth to rely on, talk to, feel secure in etc. etc. It looks like things are gonna stay that way.

- one of my best friends has a family and is unjustifiably unemployed. i hate that he has to walk this path, i wish I could do more for him.

- i miss Palmer and Chad . . . .ALOT! I found a picture of me, Chad and Johnson laughing together in St.Elizabeth's today while shuffling through some folders. I can't believe Chad is gone, so suddenly. and Palmer, the day he passed will always be remembered to me as the day that God broke my heart.

- i feel so busy and pulled in so many directions right now, i wish i had time and space to rest. i need to sabbath, but i'm not doing a good job of slowing down

- i'm struggling hard to get back to running. time, sickness, the heat and my achilles are really hampering any progress. 2 miles is still an enormous struggle. i may never get back to where I was.

sometimes it is just therapeutic to admitt the things that make you sad. just don't dwell in them.

noticeably missing from this narcisisitc reflection are really sad things in the world like hunger, peace in places of war, suffereing children, the abused, the victims of crimes, disease, sickness and real suffering. my reflection feels so petty. a focus on self rarely yields a positive effect. i just long for authenticity.

Psalm 50:2 From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.

This is the Psalm reading from Celtic Daily Prayer on this 14th day of August and for some reason it was a reflecting point for me this morning. Yesterday at our OCC Community Gathering, we had a discussion on our beliefs of heaven and hell and learned that growing up some of us were as scared of heaven as we were hell. We just can hardly conceive of what "perfect in beauty" is. What is that experience like? Many of us concluded that if it means "rest", then that would be pretty good. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth . . . that just sounds tasty. I want to rest in Him today and find my being there. Lately I feel as if I've lost my center and I'm interested in reorienting myself back to Him.

Our conversation yesterday really has just spurred so many thoughts and I want to continue it tonight with student house church. The continiuim of eternity of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. Being in the Kingdom and in the reign and rule of God. Being in harmony with His created order. Not exactly light topics.

McGillivary led our conversation so I led a bit of worship and as we sang "It is Well with my soul" I was completely captured by this verse:
My sin not in part, but the whole. Is nailed to the cross and i bear it no more.

I'm floored by this invitation. The forgiveness of our sins is NOT what salvation or Christianity is, but it is the entry point and its unbelieveable. Christ's work on the cross as the Redemptor of my sins . . . we can never lose the awe of our salvation. But salvation is not about going to heaven someday after we die, its about serving and loving our King, even now as we live in His Kingdom.

Big ideas, indeed.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Talladega dumb nights

I don't do a lot of movie reviews here, but I went and saw Talladega Nights on Saturday in order to see something funny and relax, but this movie is stupid. I'm all for dumb movies with no plot just for some gags, but this movie was a huge disappointment. It just lacked timing or something, everything that could have been funny, wasn't. It was just stupid. I'm thinking the folk who love it were either inebriated or stoned. I'm still searching for a comedy to laugh to and relax. The closest thing I have to it right now is the Reds bullpen. But then I don't laugh, I cry.

Here's to sweeping the Cardinals this week. (ok, that was funny)


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Friday Night BBQ

Well its almost 1:00 a.m. and the last folk just left our house. Some of the students and I stayed late around the fire in the backyard talking of old times and more importantly, our life in the Kingdom now. I crave these kind of conversations, they center me right in the Story I want my life to be intertwined with. Friday night bbq's at our house are just our way of wanting to host Kingdom folk and seeing life happen. All the kids are loved, cherished and cared for by everybody. Adults are connecting at deep levels and the everyday levels. My students are constantly hungry for more understanding and its such an honor to be in a position of influence to them. Its a role I take very seriously. I will be baptizing a few of them on Sunday and its something I've been thinking about all week. How incredibly serious it is to take vows to Jesus in the company of witnesses.

I spoke earlier of seeking a new monasticism. I wonder if our Friday night bbqs aren't an ancient expression of the fellowship of the common meal. Life happens around a shared meal. My favorite place in the world is my backyard, at midnight, on a clear night, around a fire, talking the Kingdom of God with fellow followers of Jesus. This is Kingdom Now.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Consume or Contemplate?

This is the Meditation for the 2nd day of the month from Celtic Daily Prayer that I try to follow. Frankly, I'm disappointed at the fractured and compartmentalized lives we live in American, suburban culture. Where do we go to comtemplate? I have work demands, and church demands (even simple church takes time and preparation), and kids in sports, and hobbies I can stress over, and people who need counsel and . . . What rythymns exist to keep our hearts and mind in check with the bigger Story? Frankly, its all that matters but we settle for far less in the day to day. Without a heart centered in Christ, my life is a disappointment. Nothing fulfills, nothing quenches my thirst . . . Where do we go to contemplate and be quiet? Being successful in any consumeristic, American entitlement kind of way is just plain fool's gold. In Christ is where there is meaning.

I am yet on a never-ending search for a New Monasticism.

Meditation for Day 2

There is a contemplative
in all of us,
almost strangled
but still alive,
who craves quiet
enjoyment of the Now,
and longs to touch
the seamless
garment of silence
makes whole.
Alan P. Tory

Let each stay in or near
their own cell
meditating, day and night
on the law of the Lord,
and vigilant in prayer,
unless otherwise employed
by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Peace in the Middle East?

Sitting here at the dealership waiting as my car is being worked on watching the latest pictures of Israel vs. Hezbollah and Israel vs. Palestinians and it just is not good. Everybody has their own opinions and everybody has their own theology of Israel and the middle east. Should the U.S. blindly support Israel? Should the American church blindly support Israel? Is the fighting birthpangs of end times? I'm sure as I type, books are being written w/ new prophecies and its a hot topic for several pulpits in America.

Call me a liberal, but I believe in the New Israel, which is not about land and nationhood, but now all the people of God building His Kingdom on earth. I don't have a prophetic (i.e. Israel mandate) nor a theological attachment for the nation of Israel (i.e. dispensational theology). They are not righteous and I don't suppport them. But in the same breath, I cannot support dehumanizing tactics of Hezbollah nor Hamas. What a mess. I'm for the people of the nations and for peace.

This fight is escalating and with Israel having killed 4 UN peacekeepers last night, it is not good internationally. US & Israel vs. UN & the World is not a good thing. It is all water under the bridge now, but I believe the forming of the nation of Israel in 1948 was unrighteous and forced by the hand of man, not governed by God. Of course, I live on land that was also taken by the hand of man from the native American. What a mess we all live in. Our world is broken. There is no one righteous, not even one.

God, may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

peace in the middle east,

Monday, July 24, 2006

You Say You Want A Revolution


This is going to be a serious party. I'm a huge fan of Off the Map and loved the times I spent investing into them when they were first getting going. One of my mentors, Jim Henderson, has gone global now and there's gonna be some good conversation happenin' there. I don't pimp much on my blog, but this one I will throw out there and say "be there" (if you can).

Rains and I are going to do a workshop on neo-monastic simple church stuff and spiritually reflecting on this past year as we see the Kingdom moving. As well, we're gonna talk back to Barna in an interview re: his book "Revolutionaries" and spout off the things we agree with and particularly the things we don't. In the words of William Wallace, "I'm goin' to pick a fight" (insert Scottish accent).

Some of my favorite peeps are goin' to be there: Bean the Large selling books, J-Evans representin' left coast, the Lloyds of Portland, B-Mac (Mclaren to book readers), Rich and Rose of Seattle and Jason Clark (beloved Mac fan) of the British Isle.

All said and done, it looks like a great party and I'm looking forward to being there.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Back to reality

We left Orlando at 6:00 a.m. and just got in safely after dropping off the rental car and picking up our homesick dog.

What were the highlights?

1) Getting a call at 7:30 this morning stating that our car that we left parked outside Nicki's aunt's house near the airport where we picked up our rental car had all 4 tires slashed in the night with about 15 other cars in the neighborhood. Spent a half hour on the road making insurance claims and arrangements for towing and 4 new tires all while driving in Florida. And . . . this just in . . . its also been keyed all down both sides of the car damaging numerous panels. Can you say "Center City Collision" (i.e. Rains Auto Body)? I can. Talk to you on Monday, Kevin, as soon as I talk to the insurance adjuster.

2) 17 hours on the road and we only made 1 1/2 hours in stops all day. My kids Rock!! It helped that we had 3 different screens for DVD players and Nicki and I had 3,000 songs on the iPod. Either way, no kids puked and no major meltdowns.

3) We visited the Bishops in Jupiter, Fla on Sunday and they took us out on Amber's Dad's boat for a bbq south florida style. We hung out on an island that is a park in the middle of the channel and Mike grilled up some incredibly tasty burgers (we're stealing the recipe) and the kids swam and played on the sandbar. We were surrounded by million dollar yachts and multi-million dollar estates on the bay. Always good to hang w/ the Bishops of Florida.

4) Universal Studios is always a great time if you get there when it opens and leave before the crowd comes. We road all the rides we wanted in 3-4 hours and left as the crowd was still rolling in. Ali and I were able to do 6 roller coasters by 9:30 a.m. which always left my stomach in an uneasy state. The heat was . . . well . . . hot. There was not enough water in florida to keep my less than svelte body hydrated.

5) Great family time. Memories made and quality and quantity time spent with the wife and kids. After our 4th year in a row to Orlando, we're ready for a new vacation spot. Any ideas?


Thursday, July 06, 2006

we be outta here

vacation time w/ the wife and kids. peace out.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

early morning

a neighbor's house alarm woke me up at 5:30 because apparently their cat set it off and they didn't know how to turn it off. yet another reason to dislike cats, i've never been a fan.

its Sunday morning and the TV preachers are all over the television. it all makes me nauseated. what a production. they come off as pompous and arrogant, i just don't get it. speaking in cliches, utilizing theatrics, more entertainment than substance. apparently in america, TV christianity has its own sub-culture of hollywood celebrities, movies and music. In the words of Bono, "I'm a Christian, but I feel very removed from Chrisitianity." I would say I'm embarassed because its a joke, but I don't even think we belong to the same faith.

we leave for vacation on Friday, I'm just counting the days.

peace and hope you got more sleep,

Thursday, June 29, 2006

when God speaks

Every once in a while, if I get quiet enough, I can hear the whisper of God. Its always a mixed bag of reactions from me. Today, just driving a 30 mile trip between Dayton and Cincinnati, I hear the voice and a myriad of things begin to happen.

1) I'm absolutely floored that the One who is orchestrating the universe is taking time for me. By definition, that makes me valuable because He is ascribing value to me. For a kid from a divorced home who always thought he had to "achieve" something to be valuable, I get overwhelmed by this reality. I am His son, and I matter to Him. un-freakin'-believable.

2) The overwhelming realization that I'm not worthy. There is sin that must be confessed, failures of selfish living that don't measure up to the Kingdom reality. His presence is Holy, and I realize quickly that I am not.

3) He reveals the blessings in my life, particularly relationships. People I am in community with and I just begin to pray for them. My physical family, my spiritual families (OCC and Elpida), the people in my contexts day in and day out. I realize how much affection is in me for these people. I long for them to be blessed by God.

4) Then comes some sort of challenge. I hear Him say, "Chris, do you want to go all the way w/ this?" What does He mean? What is His point? The Spirit reveals and its all about the Kingdom now and the spiritual war we find ourself in. I miss Palmer, I miss Chad and I long for more Kingdom. I want their legacy to live on. I want to see and experience the spontaneous expansion of the Church into the broken places of our earth. I want those outside of Kingdom community to come inside and beging to experience the Truth of their existence. I dream of more, much more. More for me and the world I live in. In every sense, I want to see His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

5) With a challenge comes responsibility. To go all the way, will I deny myself more? To be more humble, am I willing to be humiliated? To dream long-term, will I be disciplined in the short-term? Will I make my life not about myself, but about Him and my neigbor? Those are the questions my life has to answer.

When God speaks, creative things happen. I want to be a part of that Creation.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

i've been a bad blogger

I've been a bad blogger, not doing well to report or give views on stuff that's happenin'. Safe to say a lot has been happening and its mostly good stuff. Had dinner last night with K-Rains and Jim Henderson of the Off-the-Map empire. Its so good to hear OTM doing so well and Jim having the conversations he is so passionate about creating. He is changing people's minds about evangelism, little by little, its good stuff. Rains and I will be at the next OTM event in Seattle November 3-4 to stir up some trouble (i.e. teach a workshop)and perhaps be in on a forum with Georga Barna, Brian McLaren and a couple other folk in the emerging church world. We'll see what works out but should be a good time nonetheless.

Our house church has begun reading McLaren's "The Secret Message of Jesus" one chapter a week to discuss and I just really like Brian's writing. Its a very easy read but gives a basic overview of a Kingdom theology. I think its perfect for a community discussion format. This week is ch. 2 and the Political Message of Jesus.
I've become convinced that although Jesus' message was personal, it was not private. . . (Jesus) challenges every existing political movement to a radical rethinking and dares everyone to imagine and consider his revolutionary alternative. What is that alternative? It is to see, seek, receive, and enter into a new political and social and spiritual reality he calls the kingdom (or empire) of God, or the kingdom (or empire) of heaven. . . And you find your identity - your citizenship - not in Rome but rather in a spiritual realm, in the presence of God. . .

You won't nestle snugly into the status quo, but you'll seek to undermine the way things are to welcome the way things coud and should be.

So with July 4th right aroung the corner, when was the last time you considered the political message of Jesus?
Am I thankful to live in and raise my family in America? Yes.
Do I pay my taxes and vote? Yes.
Do I support the troops even while I disagree with the war policy? Yes.
Do I pledge allegiance to a flag? No. I swear singular allegiance to the King and cannot bow to a man-made idol.
Do I agree with the American policy in Israel (or for that matter the American evangelical church's view)? No! I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the freedom for the Palestinian people and an end to the hatred and dehmunaization that causes terrorism.
What am I working on to be more true to my beliefs? Living more simply, eliminating all debt in my finances so that I am not a slave to this world's system. With that freedom, I can give more freely and affect change in causes Jesus cares about. (of course its not mutually exclusive, I'm just saying I could do more w/out debt)

I hardly ever talk politics, and I know its always a lightning rod, but I thought I would leak out a few of my views for folk to hit me back with.

In all things, in agreement or disagreement, peace of Christ unto you,

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Father's Day came early

My wife allowed me to go out w/ 2 of my good friends tonight and it was just what the doctor ordered. Joe Long, Craig Spinks and myself ate dinner and talked around an outdoor table at an English Pub in Northern Kentucky for about 4 hours and it was a great time. Its so good to have friends that can seamlessly talk about work, music, movies, families, church issues and the larger themes of the Kingdom of God all w/out skipping a beat. I have been going out on these kinds of nights with these guys and others for about the past 6 years every so often and they always leave me appreciating such good guys to hang around with and generally give each other a hard time.

One of our topics was now that we have discovered how to become the people of God organized in small communities, how can we now get this message out to those around us that are living outside of the Kingdom message? I am as burdened today as I have ever been about not letting this be a secret. We don't want to build structures and systems that require unlimited amounts of resources (time/people/money) to maintain and become the tail that wags the dog. But . . . we're also not okay with keeping private such a freedom giving message as Jesus' invitation to the Kingdom is. We want people to know it and experience it and we're not sure we're doing a great job at that. Its a question we want to continue to wrestle with. In some ways, we're doing a lot better than we ever have been, and in other ways we want to do more. It was just really good to talk about it at length w/ a couple bros.

Thanks to my wife for blessing me with a night out w/ the boyz, it scratched me where I itched. It was a Father's Day present come early.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Achilles update

Jan. 29 - went down in pain as my achilles had a complete rupture

Feb. 2 - Achilles repair surgery

Feb. 7 - diagnosed with blood clot in leg

Early April - walking cast came off

Early April - began swimming, biking and elliptical training in gym

End of May - began light treadmill training

June 15 - ran outside on track (1.5 mile jog, 10 40 yard sprints)

Am now back running outside, begin training for Fall races.

Nov. 4 - Will run the Mason Mini-Marathon 15k (9.3 miles)

Nov. 23 - Will run the Thanksgiving Day 10K downtown (6.2 miles)

Am going into 4 months of training. I want to run like a monk. Slow, deliberate, focused, on mission.

On November 4th, when I cross that finish line, I will proclaim a full recovery.

Until then, I train my body and mind.

As always, I'm running for Palmer.

peace to whatever your training to do,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On suffering

A very dear friend is entering into a painful place and suffering is at her door. I would do anything to keep her heart from breaking, but I know its not my place. She emailed me some questions and this was my response in reflection today. Thought I would blog a bit of it.

I have had a year where suffering has had to be my friend. I lost my niece, 2 of my best friends and suffered a debilitating injury. I have spent many nights
asking "why?"

Here is what I know, God has set up the world in such a way as to give us
choice. All of our choices have consequence, positive or negative. Sometimes
those consequences cause suffering to the individual and the community living
around them. Some of the suffering we go through is a result of our wrong
choices, some is the result of Adam and Eve's wrong choice which created a
fallen world. A life with God is not w/out suffering. Abraham suffered, Moses
suffered, David suffered, the prophets suffered, the apostles suffered and Jesus
suffered. The difference is that suffering is not our end, but a temporary
reality. And that we have access to strength while we suffer. We get our
strength from God himself, and God working through others.

God's will is that we make choices that honor Him and obey his teachings. When
we don't, suffering usually is the result whether great or small. Jesus created
a way for us not have to suffer eternally for our choices, he took on our
suffering on the cross. However, the suffering we have in this life is actually
a means to grow deeper in Christ and become more mature in His Kingdom. That
depends on how we face our suffering. Will we run from it and avoid it? Or
will we have the courage to walk through it, no matter how painful it is? Those
are very big questions. You have an opportunity to hold the hands of those
around you and walk with them through this desert. Face the pain and believe
that healing is on the other side.

I hate suffering but the Kingdom even Now is not without it.