Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reflections of Lessons Learned

It is natural for me to reflect a bit in this time of transition and I wanted to mention a few lessons I've learned over the past 4 years while at CCS.

1) Yeserday I mentioned that I wasn't sure I wanted to work at a Christian School with overtly Christian students, what I learned was that my perception was wrong. I grew up in public schooling and my kids are in public schooling. Its as much for financial reasons as philosophical reasons but I certainly understand why parents are looking for choices out there. What I learned is that students are students the same everywhere. There is pain, hardship, brokeness, lostness and needs everywhwere. My stereotype of a Christian School wasn't exactly accurate. I believe I was called to CCS for this season particularly for those with many questions, doubts, pain and longings in their hearts to understand how the Gospel of the Kingdom was for them. As well, I think that the "good" Christian students from great families saw a different perspective, learned to think for themsevles and we found great mutual respect for one another.

2) The reason why parents should send their students to CCS is because its a place where students are not a number, but can be cared for as individuals. There is no question in my mind that the #1 strength of CCS is that the staff genuinely cares for the students and the students know it. Even as there is conflict or complaints over teaching styles and academic difficulties, students will tell you that the teachers genuinely care for them and want the best for them. I'm not sure I ever had that in any of my academic experiences.

3) The Gap between the traditional church and any streams of emerging church (still not sure what I think about that term) can be bridged through genuine relationship. I told the administrators hiring me 4 years ago that I didn't think I was their man, that I didn't represent what was typical of their shareholders. They disagreed and so I re-entered the traditional Christian culture and learned a lot. I always tried to explain my views and flavor of doing church as my own reflection and story and not as "the way" to do church. I sought to honor all the Christian traditions represented at CCS and let everyone have a voice. I hope that I was successful in this because models of church are not the "Big" idea, the Kingdom is the "Big" idea and there is plenty of room under that umbrella for many expressions of Church. I learned that regardless of Christian tradition, there are real people who care about the Church on all sides and are seeking to live out the old faith in a new world.

4) I learned that I love teaching. About 6 years ago, I fired myself from vocational ministry. Believing that I wanted to plant small communities of faith that were not dependent on pastor salaries or church facilities. Rather if we did it right, 80% of our income could be available for ministry. In doing that, I entered a dark transition and identity crisis. I had always been a pastor, I have a Youth Ministry degree and a Seminary Masters of Divinity. What could I do in the real world? Well, that has been a journey. CCS was a place and a training ground for me to develop teaching skills and philosophy of doing that. I learned how to present content, but keep the atmosphere relational and interactive. I am constantly learning how to make the classroom student oriented and not teacher dominated. I now believe that this is the vocation I could spend the rest of my life in as I use it to support my habit, which is planting communities of faith.

5) I learned that God provides. When I signed my first contract at CCS, it was for less than my first job out of college. The difference was that I now had 2 kids and one more on the way. After the 1st year, I transitioned roles from administration to full-time teaching and took a $5k paycut from there. All the while, I had no idea how ends would be met. Literally, on paper, I had no idea how to make it work. 4 years later, my kids have never missed a meal. Now I'm hardly the martyr, because as $ is always tight, we not only made it but have done it relatively comfortable. All along, God provided. Sometimes in unexpected gifts, sometimes in providing for me side jobs, sometimes just teaching us how to manage what we have. I learned that income is relative, We don't make as much as public school teachers, public school teachers don't make as much as other public servants, public servants don't make as much as those in private business . . . but all make more than 98-99% of the rest of the world. In America, the large majority of us are in the top 1% of wealth in the world. Its all relative, less we start feeling too sorry for ourselves.

6) I learned that the Gospel of the Kingdom is more like a virus than academic content. It is more caught than taught. I have given hundreds of "celebrations of learning" :) (quizzes) and exams over the past 4 years but I bet you that students barely remember any of it. What they will remember is if I embodied the Kingdom theology to them. Students don't remember what you teach, they remember what you value.

7) I believe my largest accomplishment is what my daily goal was. "To prepare students for a lifetime of Christ-following". It grieved me to know that students at Christian schools were not just graduating from Christian schools, but they were graduating from Christianity. This was my written goal each year and my biggest thrills come from hearing back from graduates how they are continuing to incorporate their faith in the middle of who they are and who they are becoming. That is really all I cared about. I wanted students to join the revolution of Christ-following and find that the Kingdom of God was not a place we go to after we die, but the experience real life now. To belong to God and let Him belong to you. To know that you are the beloved and He is yours. Then to pariticipate with Him in the ushering in of a new heaven and a new earth. To live in the reality of "your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

I will greatly miss my students and my colleagues who have been another kind of spiritual community to me. I know that some of these friendships will go on for quite some time.

I also pray for the leadership of CCS because there are many roles to fill and it takes wisdom, discernment and God's provision for that to happen. That is not an easy task and they are having to do it while working other full-time jobs to suppport their families on. I wish CCS nothing but the best and a prosperous future.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Last Week at CCS

This will be my last week at Cincinnati Christian High School as the Bible Dept. Head. When I came to CCS 4 years ago, I came unwillingly. I wanted nothing to do with a bunch of spoiled Christian kids and represent traditional Christianity. Every year, I thought it would be my last, but God seemed to keep calling me back. Then I got to the point where I thought I would be content to be there for 10 more years. That's about when I was approached to consider going full-time at Indiana Wesleyan University in administration and teaching. I will be working in Student Services for the Cincy and Dayton campus as well as continuing to teach night classes. My job will change dramatically and so will my hours. Its a great opportunity for me to continue teaching at the University level while improving the resources for my family. The benefits and salary will be a much needed improvement. Plus I can pursue a doctorate in Education through IWU for free, and that's a good price. Its more administrative than what I do presently, but I will have a full time administrative assistant working for me to do the detail work. I wil be doing a lot of life counseling with adults trying to improve their life and 1/2 of them are not followers of Jesus. So I remain on the front lines of inviting people into the Kingdom Story, which is my passion.

So, then there's leaving the students I have invested my blood, sweat and tears into. I'm not a person who does things halfway, so I fully gave myself to these students to try and show them a Gospel worth following. I was not there to give them more Bible content, I was there to war for their hearts and invite them to a lifetime of Christ following. In the midst of doing that, I became close to them personally. I actually enjoy being around them and looked forward to each class. I tried to teach that the only proper rebellion is the Jesus kind of rebellion. In particular, this senior class I have journeyed with for 4 years and it grieves me to leave them before their final year ends, but I'll be around. I will be back for senior trip if its allowed and I'll be at graduation to see them move on. Student House Church continues as well on Sunday nights with no limits.

This is going to be a hard week, like I'm breaking up with a serious girlfriend. But God just keeps writing the Story and all we can do is be present in our moments and then turn the pages.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Zach update amongst other thoughts

autism senior

Check out that link for a pretty heart warming story. Yesterday, Zach had his autism evaluation test which is the latest in a long line of tests dating back to July. The only one left is a hearing test that depends on the fluid in his ears clearing up in the next few weeks. The diagnosis will come after all the tests are put together and evaluated.

Nicki and I are seeing real improvements in Zach since he started the special-ed pre-school program. He is open to cooperation with others and is trying to speak more and enjoy it. When I see those things happening, I just get all geeked up. Plus, Nicki was gone for 6 days to Florida for her annual "girls trip" so Zach and I logged a lot of hours together, I cherished every minute of it. He is more responsive to me now than ever and I'm loving it. I know with his limitations that the world can be confusing and frustrating, but when he makes progress the stress can roll off his face and I see a smile ear to ear.

Nicki and I were both high achievers in athletics, it was somewhat our identity. Its natural that we want to see our kids find something they love and be great at it. With Zach, we have to wonder what his limitations may dictate for him and what he'll have to overcome. When I saw the above story on SportsCenter during breakfast yesterday morning, I about cried. I'm filled with hope for my son and am just enjoying the moment.

On a final note. Pray for Palmer. I will never give up the fight. I hate sickness, I hate disease . . . they are not of the Kingdom that we belong to. Creator of our Being, heal my brother completely.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Student House Church

For those participating in Student House Church, here's an announcement. My house is not done yet, the floors are still being finished and lots of clean-up has to happen but I still want to get together because its been too long. I thought we could something social and have a little community time. I will be at the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble on Union Center at 6:00 for coffee. Then I would be interested in going to a movie @ the Rave @ 7:00. We could either see "Second Chance" (don't know much, seems interesting) or Pink Panther (not sure if its good but I loved those movies growing up). If any of you would like to hang, come on out. I had no other way of communicating, so the blog will be my message board. e-mail me if your interested in hanging out tonight > cmarsh01@fuse.net

Had a great night last night for dinner, then coffee & dessert w/ Kevin Rains and Joe Long. A little Andy's Mediterranean is always the perfect spot for good food and conversation. I'm blessed to have these Kingdom friendships. A lot is going on with all 3 of us in our vocations, transitions and deals being made. Good to have others to talk things over with. I will share more about my vocational transition here soon.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

I've been Podcasted

I believe this is a first, but Klinefelter podcasted our school chapel today where I shared some words on solitude and launching into our world with Power. IMHO the preacher is a bit long-winded but you can judge for yourself.
Chris Podcast

Cuthbert's Holy Island

A couple years ago when Palmer and I were traveling and retreating on the north coast of England, we stayed for a couple nights at Northumbria Christian Community. We hitched a ride on one of the days to Holy Island where St. Aidan and St. Cuthbert spent a lot of time monking and where the ruins of an anciet monastery was. Off of Holy Island is another very small island called "Cuthbert Island" that is only accessible at low tide. It was here that St. Cuthbert got away from his daily tasks and ministry to commune with his heavenly Father. Palmer and I both have very fond memories of that island, it seemed holy.
In my mind today, I'm sailing away there. To walk over its earth. To sit under the cleft of the rocks and stare at the expanse of the North Sea. To let the wind blow over me and ponder my existence. I'm a pretty extreme extrovert, but over the past few years, God has been pruning me to find times of quiet and solitude. To meet Him in this kind of encounter and find my being. Not to escape my world, but to monk in the real world. Train my mind and heart to slow down and be centered in my belonging to Christ. I am speaking in chapel today on this topic, I pray that my words would be His words.

‘The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount.' Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Find peace to monk in the real world today,

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Great OCC Weekend

Man, was I due for a great weekend and it delivered. My stomach flu was gone by Friday afternoon, my blood thinners have effecitively ridded myself of the extreme pain and I was ready for some spiritual community time. There were about 40 folk all had a blast. We partied, we played, we ate alot, we worshipped, we prayed, we learned together. It was a Holy Spirit love fest. We're all quite exhausted but I'll be rested enough to return to my teaching duties tommorrow and that is well overdue.

The things that were shared on Saturday night were quite significant. Testimonies of how this little church called Ordinary Community has brought healing, restoration and hope to individuals and families made me pretty teary eyed and proud. I had a dream of a church like this back in 1997, it took til 2001 to plant it, and now 5 years later we are continually yielding the fruits of lives lived in real community under the Rule and Reign of the Kingdom of God.

I don't spend a lot of time in the larger "emerging church" conversation, rather just try to live out what we believe is authentic Christ following and the critics can label it what they want. I believe that if the Church is emerging or reforming, it is to happen in the local context where relationships are happening. The Church is the movement of the People.

While I take the time to celebrate these victories, I also recognize the Enemy's footprints still in our camp. So War is always upon us. As we practice His presence, we have Power to overcome.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

To War

http://www.asbury.edu/press/chapelcontinues06 check out this link

So if everything else I'm dealing with wasn't enough, I contracted the stomach flu last night as well. Have had a fever of 102 off and on and many slow trips to the restroom w/ crutches. All of this has completely wiped me out. But I oppose this crap.

Palmer was supposed to come down and be interviewed by me in CCS chapel today and we had to postpone it due to my condition. We both feel strongly that something important in the Spirit was supposed to happen so we will make sure to re-schedule.

Our OCC retreat is this weekend and if I feel the way I do right now, I can't go. And in my heart, I feel I'm supposed to be there. So I have to fight this sickness in prayer tonight.

The revival happening at Asbury College right now (I'm an Asbury Seminary graduate) is in line with the revivals that broke out there in the 1950's and 1970's. They started chapel on Monday and its still gooing. These are consistent with things we experienced in the mid-90s around many college campuses, including Trinity where my wife and I went. Are they authentic? I guess thats a matter of discernment. But they are marked not with emotional worship, but with a heavy realization of sin and repentance. I want to be open to the waves of the Spirit. In the Spirit, I sense that this weekend will be significant for our community and I would like to be there.

So tonight I go to war against my sickness.

Dr. appointment

I got another shot of blood thinner this morning and will be giving myself 2 shots a day for the next week. I am also ramping up with medication that I will be taking for the next 6-9 months and will have blood drawn often to monitor the progress. The Dr. was very confident that the shots and medication will be highly effective to deal with the clot.

So on top of my rehab process for the next 6-12 months to get my left leg back, I will also be treating my blood condition. 2006 looks like a year of joy for me. But, in the midst of all of this, God has protected and provided for me and for that I give Him my worship . . . all of it.



Had an okay night, slept about 5 hours or so. Im having a fever that is kind of making me achey. At the ER it was about 102, had about something like that early this morning. They say it could be from a low grade infection somewhere. But with my foot up, I had no real pain all night and no other symptoms that the clot has moved. I'll be leaving in 30 min. for my Dr. appointment and will get some more info. then.

thanks for the prayers.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Please Pray

The reason for all the abnormal pain I've had since my achilles surgery came to the surface today. I went back to teach today for the 1st time since my surgery and it didn't go well at all. I was in such pain that I was nauseated even while sitting down. Something just wasn't right, so I called the orthopedist and they agreed to see me around 1:45. The Dr. cut into my cast and saw that there was no infection and all looked normal. Then he realized that all my pain was not at the incision, but higher in my calf. He began to get immediately alarmed. He poked and prodded then sent the nurse to make a phone call. He feared it was a blood clot so they were rushing me to the hospital to the vascular lab to get a doppler ultrasound done right away. I speeded there, crutched for about 15 minutes til I found it and then had the test done. The Dr. expected to find nothing because it would be extremely rare in this kind of surgery and at my age, but it was a positive test. There is a blood clot in my left calf. I spent the next 2 hours waiting in the ER to see a Dr. to get a shot to my belly w/ blood thinner. I just got home and will go to see my family doctor at 9:00 a.m. to talk through a long term treatment, the shot will last about 12 hours.

The seriousness of a clot is that if it releases from my calf, it could go straight to my lungs and cause heart attack. I'm kind of on alert for those symptoms tonight. The good news is that its below the knee which has a less likelihood of releasing to my lungs.

Friends, this ordeal scared the @#$% of out my wife and I. I had a really hard time keeping it together. To go from a sports injury to something life threatening kind of took the wind out of my sails, and my wife who has been working so hard keeping so much on track as I've been down and out. I don't know what this means yet for my life. I have to look into disability insurance as I'm not sure when I'll be fit to get back in the classroom and that makes me quite sad.

I'll be honest, I'm still scared and need your prayer.

peace to you and your house this night,

stuff from other blogs

just reading other blogs give me items for humor, deep thought and sometimes changes my mind on things. Here's a few from today:

Rick Meigs
The nine core practices of emerging churches are well-defined and illustrated with comments from those who are “practitioners” of contextualizing the gospel of the kingdom of God in the postmodern world.

1. Identifying with Jesus (and his way of life)
2. Transforming secular space (overcoming the secular/sacred split)
3. Living as community (not strangers in proximity at a church service)
4. Welcoming the stranger (radical and gentle hospitality that is inclusive)
5. Serving with generosity (not serving the institution called “church,” but people)
6. Participating as producers (not widgets in the church program)
7. Creating as created beings
8. Leading as a body (beyond control and the CEO model of leadership)
9. Merging ancient and contemporary spiritualities
“Emerging churches destroy the Christendom idea that church is a place, a meeting or a time. Church is a way of life, a rhythm, a community, a movement.”

John Henson
The other article I just read was on the Ooze and deals with the need for less manager Christians and more who are described as mystic, poet, and dreamer. I love the quote:
"When I meet a Buddhist monk, I meet a holy man. When I meet a Christian pastor, I meet a manager.." A Chinese Businessman traveling in America

Jeremiah Smith love this bro.
Build your own church PC game

This from Rains a few days ago.
"In conversion you are not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action -- you are attached primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things... You are not called to get to heaven, to do good, or to be good -- you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. The doing good, the being good, and the getting to heaven, are the by-products of that belonging. The center of conversion is the belonging of a person to a Person."

E. Stanley Jones

all good stuff.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Launch from Center

Our annual family retreat for Ordinary Community Church is coming this weekend and our theme this year is "launch from center". We will be talking about the spiritual disciplines and living a centered life in Christ in which we launch our life in this world. We will be utilizing 2 of Henri Nouwen's teachings, his book "Way of the Heart" and "Reaching Out". The sessions for the kids will have a "space" theme and will talk about the values of prayer, scripture reading and loving neighbor.

We will be staying in a lodge together about 45 min. from our homes, its so good to get away and be community together. We will have about 40 adults and kids, good times. There will be highly inter-active teachings for kids and adults, experiential learning is our DNA. There will be crazy fun, extended late-night worship session, times for solitude, prayer for one another, time for the prophetic . . . all to receive from and give to God.

Friday night will kick off with a kickin' family karaoke/dance party. I will be mixin' the jams from my iPod, since I can hardly move, at least I can serve my community from my seat with 80's tunes that rock hizzy. Just some time to blow off some steam and be together inter-generationally. Ain't no party like an OCC party . . .

I am a bit down given my newly lame leg. I am looking forward to teaching from my heart, being with God and around my spiritual community. I can be authentically me around them, and that is a gift. I don't have to be strong or have it all together, I can be broken and yet I am loved. That is what Kingdom community is all about.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Off the Map hires an Atheist

Jim Henderson and Off the Map is at it again, doing something crazy to try and raise awareness about doable evangelism and engaging some of God's missing in authentic conversation. They won an eBay bid on an atheist in Chicago who agreed to visit one church for each $10 raised. Its a very funny scenario and has gotten local Chicago press attention. Jim is always looking to do something innovative to keep the conversation going when it comes to evangelism.
OTM atheist

If you like this kind of "off the map" thinking, you should check out Jim's book here at Bean books:
aka lost

Its a great easy read on new evangelism and Jim is one of the smartest and most creative guys out there on the subject. Oh yeah, and he's a great friend of mine and mentor.

for those who care, my swelling has really decreased and thus so has my pain. much more manageable now. thanks for the prayers.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Super Bowl XL

I am rooting for the Seahawks because of all my friends in Seatle and its the coolest U.S. city to visit by far. And I will carry out my grudge vs. the Steelers as the Bengals rival. But my mind tells me that Pitt. will win this game. They are more balanced, extremely physical and I think the defense will dominate. The only weakness for Pitt. is if Ben's youth catches up to him and he chokes. But he is showing no signs of that. He's a good Ohio boy :)

Prediction: Steelers 31 Seahawks 21

On a recovery note, I'm in a lot of pain. Started last night and all night. Dr. said that will continue through day today. Looking for relief.
As I wait, I have to watch Joey Porter of the Steelers run his mouth over the audacity of a Seahawk player suggesting they would like to win the game. I hate Hype, play the game and shut your mouth. Joey is coming off looking like a fool, like Clubber Lang from Rocky III.

well, off to more rest and hopefully more comfort.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Out from under the knife

Had surgery this morning to repair my achilles tendon and according to the doctor, all went as planned. I have some Kevlar threads tieing my tendon together to encourage a complete healing. What is left is a hard cast to my knee which isn't much fun. I'm having some pain, some soreness and swelling, but nothing too major. I'm loaded with supplies of percoset, vicodin, anti-biotics and muscle relaxers. So I have all I need to stay comfy. Nicki rented me some movies, otherwise I'm watching a lot of ESPN Classic, The Learning Channel, History Channel, Discovery Channel and VH1. I can't remember the last time I've sat down and watched this much TV.

We're hosting our annual Super Bowl party on Sunday regardless of my condition. If you're in the area and need a place to watch the game and hang out w/ cool folk, you're invited. That includes those of you active in the Sunday night Student House Church. The party starts at 5, bring something to pass around.

* I need to say a HUGE thank you to somebody out there who responded to my frustration a few posts back about the financial implications of my procedures and Zach's test. I received an annonomous card in my school mailbox with an extremely generous gift of cash. There are not many people at our school with disposable income so I know that this was sacrificial giving and I can't tell you how much my family is thankful and how much it communicated hope to me. Thank you.

The Percoset is starting to kick in, I better stop typing or I might say something unnatural.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An Invitation to the Desert

It is completely against my nature to slow down, be patient, be quiet or seek solitude. My identity is as a doer, a mover and shaker, one who makes things happen, someone who gets things done. My strength has been as a doer. It is apparent that because of my injury over the next 6-12 months, I will not get as much done.

So what does that leave me with? It leaves me with an invitation to the desert. 2 of my favorite contemplative authors, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, talk about the desert as the place where God forms us. Sometimes we choose the desert, sometimes the desert chooses us. Its a metaphor remembering our church fathers who left their place in the world to seek solitude in God's presence in the wilderness of a physical desert and eventually formed monastic communities there. Bill Bean and I have talked in the past of how we have been mostly formed through the "Seminary of the desert" as opposed to the Seminary training we spent a lot of $$ on.

The desert is a way through suffering. The desert can be lonely and challenging, but it is formative. My heart is still reluctant to receive this invitation and give up my identity for this period of time. To alter my expectations, to change my mentality, to learn to be quiet and meditate. Aaron Klinefelter said it could by my "year of contemplation". Joe Long said I could finally have the time to write a book. (not a bad idea, Joe)

Nouwen says that for the spiritual leader, we have to learn to be irrelevant. That when we ultimately die to our need to be needed, only then can we truly love our neighbor. That its a positive experience to contemplate your "nothingness" in the desert and be embraced by our Beloved.

I'm holding my invitation to the desert. I just haven't sent in my R.S.V.P. yet.