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,