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