Friday, December 21, 2007

The vocation of God

Philippians 3
12-14I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
15-16So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.

I turned 35 this month and I am 100% committed to a vocation I'm still learning about . . . changing the world. Once you do a bit of it, it's really addictive.

I am an academic advisor as a full time job to support my family. I also have a part-time job as adjunct faculty for a University for extra money and I love teaching. I have a pastoral role to my house church community and network. I am a husband, father, son, brother, neighbor, friend, boss, citizen, mentor etc. to others. But all of these roles fall under my big picture, umbrella vocation of changing the world. I think I am here in this realm to change and be changed. To myself be transformed into the image of Christ and in turn work at changing the world to answer Jesus' prayer that "your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven". That is a really big idea.

I think one of our issues in humanity (in the church and outside of it) is that we have small ideas about ourselves and our world. We serve little gods, we aspire to small ideas, we dream small dreams, we liimit our expectations to what we know. But a life wrapped up in the worship of the One true God brings you to a different place altogether. A place where you see outside of yourself, you see the world as God sees it and you begin to dream bigger dreams. It is time with God that feeds my vocation to change the world. He is utterly amazing and fills my soul with such life, I wish I spent more time in His presence.

But be careful. To get wrapped up in the vocation of God requires everything. Literally, everything. Death can't be a barrier, comfort can't be a barrier, personal status can't be a barrier, suffering must be embraced, accusations must be expected, rejection must be acceptable and so on. But as you dip into his life, you find more life and it is completely addicting.

This Christmas I worship at the feet of the One who came and called me to bigger ideas for me and my world. On the day I die, may I be found faithful to the vocation of God.

peace to you and a Kingdom Come,

Monday, December 17, 2007

For us!

This was our advent reflection from this weekend, I think I read it over 20 times through this weekend and I'm still pondering its significance. The promise came for us, thank God!
Isaiah 9:1-7A Child Has Been Born—for Us!
1 But there'll be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he'll make that whole area glorious— the road along the Sea, the country past the Jordan, international Galilee.
2-7The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
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.

God is good. Peace to your reflection of a Kingdom Come.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"I Got JESUS!"

Now before you jump to conclusions, let me explain.

I was talking on the phone with my wife last night while I was driving home from work. I heard my 5 year old son, Zach, screaming in the background but couldn't make out what he was saying. (He's on the autism spectrum but developing well at his own pace). My wife said, he screaming, "I Got JESUS!" and running around. Now it may be the dream of every parent to hear their 5 year old scream such words of allegiance, but let me finish the context.

He is taking his air-action, nerf-ball pump gun and snipering baby Jesus out of the Manger scene on our family room coffee table. Wooden baby Jesus was getting picked off by the skills of his nerf gun which sent him into exclamations of, "I Got JESUS!!"

I longed to hear Zach speak these words, but I thought they might be in a different context. I think even Jesus thinks its funny.

Ha! Peace,

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Eve of turning 35

Tommorrow I turn 35, here are some highlights of the first 35 years of my earthly realm so far.

1) I was a decision of my Mom's during my parent's divorce proceedings. They had already decided to divorce but my Mom thought that God wanted her to have one more child, so my Dad obliged. That's the story as I understand it. My Mom hid her pregnancy of me because the church folk knew the marriage was breaking up and as church folk do so well, they came down on her with judgment and condemnation. So she never saw a Doctor until she walked into the hospital in NE Philly in the snow late on December 7 in labor. She delivered me as a single mom at 5:00 a.m. on December 8 as the nurses and doctors from the night shift were finishing their philly cheesesteaks. I've always had a love affair w/ those cheesesteaks ever since. I was predominantly raised by a single Mom who worked all day and went to school at night to provide a life and opportunity for me and my brother and sister. She paid for my college education and everything else I ever needed growing up. We have had our differences, but that woman is a stud! Because she chose to persevere and provide, I got a chance in this life. Thanks Mom.

2) My growing up years were dominated by sports. They were my outlet for my anger and intense emotions. They were as well my identity, I was how I played. (Talk about a recipe for disaster) I had talent, but my real gifts were my mind and passion. There were always more talented players, but I was determined none would be smarter than me and none could match my passion. Most days I was right about that. But with that came my fatal flaw as an athlete, inconsistency. A streaky player in all the sports I played, always ended with quality stats but it was a roller coaster to get there. I played a little college baseball but largely gave up this entire identity to pursue other passions.

3) Ministry has always been a passion area for me since January of 1990, it was then that I became a follower of Jesus. At 17 I preached my first sermon and been in some form of ministry ever since. These past 17 years have been a whirlwind of activity in several contexts always trying to pursue the Kingdom and offer it to others. God has allowed me to travel to study, teach or be in mission to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Ukraine, India, Israel and Palestine. I absolutely love to travel and be on adventure or pilgrimmage, I hope to do it the rest of my life.

4) Relationships define me now. I belong to Abba God, he has my singular allegiance. I belong to my wife Nicki for going on 15 years now, she is an amazing support to me and my best friend and smokin' hot! I belong to my 3 kids, Ali, Megan and Zach, I am not home anywhere unless I am with them. I belong to Ordinary Community, my spiritual family, they spur on my Christ following. I belong to Elpida, a network family of other Christ Followers who are some of the most intimate friends I have ever had (you know who you are). I belong to Paul McGillivary and Glenn Johnson as my accountability brothers, they have full permission to speak into my life to say what needs to be said.

5) I have become a pretty decent teacher over the years with teen, young adult and older adult students all over the world now doing some pretty amazing things that I feel so blessed to have been a voice in their journey. Each teaching experience for me is another opportunity for me to learn and connect and spread a dangerous way of thinking, that is the virus known as the Kingdom of God coming straight from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

Well, tomorrow I turn 35. Sounds good, bring it on! I still think I'm just getting started.

Peace to you to stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Missional Fight Clubs?

I think this was done in 2003 or 2004, but Jim Henderson from Off the Map interviewed Kevin Rains and myself about our experimentation in building relational networks with like-minded Kingdom folk and this is the transcript. I still find myself closely akin to these thoughts.

Missional Communities--Join the Fight Club!

Kevin Rains and Chris Marshall lead missional communities in Cincinnati. They've been brought together by a mutual interest and a need for support. They've invited several other missional leaders from the region to join with them in something they're calling The Fight Club. Kevin and Chris recently sat down (at their computers) with Off The Map to fill us in on their view of the missional community movement. How did you guys meet? And why, since you live in the same city, did you not meet sooner?
Kevin: I met Chris because a guy from New Zealand mentioned him on his website. So essentially we lived for years in the same city, share a near identical vision for church and ministry, but met because a guy seven thousand miles away wrote a couple sentences about this experiment in Cincinnati called "Ordinary Community." We probably didn't meet any sooner because we're more interested in flying under the radar and stirring up trouble quietly and in hidden ways... guerilla church! I guess if we were good at marketing and promotion we would be running a big business or a big church.
Chris: I actually knew of Kevin's group of communities but had never taken the time to make the connection (choosing instead in my youth to believe that I had an original idea). When Kevin contacted me, we got together at Starbucks. He asked me straight up what my intentions were. I told him that I wanted to live in Cincinnati for the rest of my life and ask God for his Kingdom to come. It rang true with his intentions. That was the beginning of a brotherhood.

What's your church background. Which groups/denominations have you been a part of?
Kevin: I was baptized Episcopalian as a baby, grew up Baptist, spent a couple years in an independent Reformed church in high school, and eventually migrated toward the Vineyard via YWAM during my college days. All my current heroes are Roman Catholic. I'm a spiritual mutt.
Chris: I'm from a broken family. We attended my Mom's fundamental Baptist Church three times a month, and my Dad's basement Pentecostal Church once a month. I grew up either spiritually confused or angry, depended on the day. I got suspended from Catholic school five times, got married and ordained in an independent Bible Church, attended Evangelical Free college, served as youth pastor in the Disciples of Christ and Reformed Churches, interned at the Cincinnati Vineyard and went to a United Methodist Seminary. Yup, I'm a mutt too.

What's been happening in the Midwest in relationship to the missional community movement?
Kevin: I recently heard Bono, the lead singer in the band U2, speak in Indianapolis and he said something to the effect of "One could easily grow a movement in the fertile soil of the Mid-west." That resonated with me and confirmed what I have felt since I was a kid. I grew up in Cincinnati and have dreamed since high school of a disciple-making, church planting movement in my hometown and this whole region. What started happening a few years ago is that several like-minded young dreamers started finding each other (mostly via the internet) and began relating. There's this informal web of relationships that exists from Cincy to Lexington to Columbus to Indianapolis to Dayton.

Chris: We're also finding that there are people who are dreaming up their own dreams in their own neighborhoods in every part of the country. Some of them are coming this summer just to hang with us a bit and see what we do (it’s pretty ordinary), but any excuse to throw a party and we're all for it. Hospitality is one of the key spiritual gifts to this gig and so having others come and receive hospitality from us is a great way to catch the missional community focus. We also are hosting our 3rd worship gathering this Easter which will consist of four different missional community networks. Quarterly gatherings say we're not alone.

Let's keep it real. When it comes to being edgy, Cincinnati isn't the first city that comes to mind. How did that happen?
Kevin: Cincinnati rocks! We just don't want everybody moving here so we keep it kind of quiet. It's truly an amazing city, but I can't tell you why in this public forum or there might be a mass movement here and we'll lose that small town mixed with big city flair we have. Oops. I may have just told you part of the secret. The rest will require a decoder ring.
Chris: We say that Cincy is like Nazareth: "Can anything good come out of Cincinnati?" God's got a sense of humor.

What's the reason you guys gathered a bunch of like-minded missional community types?
Kevin: We're desperate. Pioneering is lonely, slow, and hard. It helps to have a few other people who really get it to speak into your life.
Chris: Tying our boats together give us a broader view of the murky waters known as the future. More personally, when I hit the wall, these guys cared for me. Brotherhood is irreplaceable; life's too short to be isolated.

Why the name?
Kevin: Actually it's just a nickname. On the way to the first meeting I was strongly impressed to not name it and not try to make it anything. Just build a few friendships and let Jesus do what he wants with it. So we decided to not name it. Perhaps a name will emerge. Chris can tell you how we got the nickname -- he said it first.
Chris: Brad Pitt is cool. Actually in the movie "fight club" these underground pseudo communities pop up out of a desperate attempt to find something "real." They attend neighborhood support groups because "it's cheaper than a movie and there's free coffee." I suppose this is ordinary enough for us to shoot for.

What are you hoping to accomplish through Fight Club?
Kevin: To support, mutually equip, resource, love, and network a few guys that dream similar dreams... that are interested in being a part of a movement that Jesus leads and they facilitate... and to pick a few fights along the way.
Chris: What he said. For the first time in my ministry life I am doing something I believe in. I'm no longer turning the crank and running the machine; I wear my passion on my sleeve daily. I want to network with doers who feel the same way. If you're interested in waxing eloquently about postmodernism and deconstructing Church but you're not attempting anything in the real world, you're not invited. Fight Club is for doers who take risks, partner with God for the future and put feet on their dreams.

From your perspective, what is a missional community? What sets it apart from say a traditional church?
Kevin: They tend to be smaller by design. They are more like AA or Fight Clubs than institutions. They talk more about reproduction than growth, relationships more than meetings. They are poorer. They rarely have buildings and don't dream of getting one and when they do get one they're not really sure what to do with it. They have no super stars. They read Nouwen more than Warren, and Church history more than Barna, but they love the whole church and are not angry or reactive against the traditionalistss or the mega-church guys. They just dream something different. Basically we want to be part of a kingdom movement, we're not about building an empire.
Chris: We count differently. We count relationships as our main event. We have to lower the bar of performance; excellence is not in our vocabulary. If it's not doable, we can't do it. Eighty to ninety per cent of our giving can go back out in mission; it isn't used to keep the organization running. The gift of teaching is not as crucial as the gift of hospitality. The priesthood of all believers is not an idealistic theology, it's necessary for survival. There aren't any power seats, nobody's getting paid. The focus can remain on authentic community and relational mission. Missional Communities are a way to do church in the new world that happens to fit our gift mix and passion areas.

What is it about this movement that you enjoy most? What worries you most?
Kevin: I sometimes feel like I'm carrying around this secret in my pocket. Sometimes I take it out and look at it and feel like giggling. Other times I pull it out and it scares me like maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be.
Mostly I love the room to create and experiment and try things and fail and nobody in the big world of evangelicalism really cares all that much. I guess I love feeling like a scientist who is banking his whole life on an idea or a designer fooling around with prototypes all the while putting the idea/prototype through the most rigorous tests and refining it, reworking it, rethinking it... at times nearly starting over. But there's that sense of possible discovery, of finding something that actually works and ends up being helpful, a blessing to lots of people. That's what I enjoy... the experimentation for a purpose.
What worries me is that we'll succeed at being "communities" but fail at being "missional." I think the community part is happening pretty naturally. The missional part still needs a lot of work. At least with the communities I'm a part of and most of the ones I know of. I'm hopeful though... we have time. We'll figure it out. We have incredible resources like the Spirit of Christ, models from church history like the Celtic missionary monastics, some good mentors are emerging like Todd Hunter, Brian McLaren and the wonderful Jim Henderson.... and time is on our side. Most of the folks I'm tracking with are in their twenties and thirties.

Chris: This fits my two passions, relationships and evangelism. Being in this fulfills a sense of destiny for me. I enjoy the fact that its authentic and creative, not words I associated with Church growing up. It lowers the bar so everybody can play. Celebrities have to get over it.

For the first time in my life, I'm doing ministry and feel comfortable in my own skin at the same time. What worries me? At times, its really @#$% hard. It's painful, it's vulnerable, it goes hand in hand with suffering. Not everyone is wired for painting outside the lines. People will leave and go back to "big" church and you take it personally. Friends and family may never understand you. It will stretch you during this transition time in culture because it only exists on the margins of evangelicalism. When it is mentioned, it's seen as a church growth strategy (Big Mistake!).
Community is not a means (strategy) to and end (church growth). It's an end in and of itself (Kingdom of God expressed in the now). The worry is half of the exhilaration!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why He Came

Advent has begun, the time of the Church year where we "prepare for His arrival". On Sunday, we reflected on the shoot that comes from the stump of Jesse. Yet the readers of Isaiah had to wait 750 years before the fulfillment of that prophecy. Sometimes waiting in the Kingdom of God requires a lot of patience, but it always soon ends in joy.

It was 2 years ago on that early December morning that I received the call to get to the hospital ASAP because my 21 month old niece had stop breathing in the night. I remember racing with my wife to the hospital with one singular thought, I wanted to get my hands on that child and raise her. My only thought in that moment was that its what our Gospel is all about, new life. When we got into the room w/ Becky still holding Kate I became overtly aware that a resurrection was not to be. As I stroked Kate's hair I found myself praying words of Thanksgiving to a God who created us out of dust. A resurrection in the way I had hoped was not to be and we were left with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss.

There has been an amazing amount of healing and beauty as we as a family and a church communiy have grieved and mourned these past couple years, but it will always be a part of my Advent reflections. It is Kate's death why Jesus came. It is Chad's death of why Jesus came. It is Jennifer and Mark Palmer's death as why Jesus came. He didn't leave us to death!! He showed up in our death, he came to our broken world and changed all the rules of death. The oppressive nature of death's finality has been abolished, completely dismantled. It no longer exists as a tyrant, Jesus brought a coup. And he didn't come with a frontal assault, he slipped in the backdoor in the middle of the night and brought a subversive Kingdom. I'm in awe of why Jesus came but in this Advent season I am unspeakingly grateful.

The sting of death is gone, it is now just a passage into deeper life. Kate, Chad, Mark and Jennifer have made that passage. I sometimes long to be where they are. But until then, I want to drink deeply from the fountain that flows from the manger under that Star. In times of deep disappointment I find hope in that light. Sometimes you have to wait, but I assure you, it will soon end in joy.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I support Ron Paul

I think I will spend some time around this ordinary blog corner spouting my political thoughts here and there. Let me start today with the basics.

1) Ultimately, I am not a citizen of this world but of the Kingdom of God which is eternal. So all my allegiances are fundamentally there first. I have singular allegiance to King Jesus. My hope is not in a political or governing system, its in the eventual fullness of the Kingdom of God.
2) While I am here on earth and in this particular context/culture named the USA, I have a responsibility to be "salt and light" and incarnate the Kingdom in every way I see how. This is the arena where I see politics having a slight role.
3) I fully understand my brothers and sisters who have a more strict view of not participating in this world's business. They are strict pacifists, dont' vote and don't get involved politically and would argue that the stance represents Jesus. Some of that I couldn't argue with as long as our views are consistent. If I could find some land that wasn't attached to a nation and live out the Kingdom there then I could more understand. But I am in this context and to feed my kids I cash my check in these banks so I have to assume that it is this system I am here to be salt and light in. I am however largely a pacifist except in particular cases of self-defense and am not comfortable pledging the American flag or pledging allegiance to anything or anybody except Jesus alone.
4) I do not belong to nor can I support the "religious right", "moral majority", "evangelical Republicans" etc. etc. They are in bed with this world's political systems and with arrogance they thirst for power. I don't buy their "values", their approach, their motives, their theology and I could keep going. They are narrow and simplistic in their politics and claim to be the only representation of God's heart and mind. I reject that notion.
5) I have extremely little hope in politics. To me its a broken system that justifies its own existence and has nothing to do with serving the people it represents. The difference between rich, power mongering Republicans and rich, power mongering Democrats is in my mind hardly a difference at all. Our 2 party system is a fundamental flaw in our gov't, one less party and we have a dictatorship. I admitt, I still vote but with a lot of apathy. Its always choosing the least of evils.
6) Dr. Ron Paul (libertarian running as Republican) may be curing my apathy. He's human, he's no demi-god as his most militant supporters out there seem to place him as. But I find him extremely smart and consistent. That's leadership I can vote for.

I will spend some time unpacking why I support Ron Paul in specific to his policies and also indicating the areas I disagree with him in. In summary, I love his foreign policy (get out of Iraq and stop nation building), his economics (free market and a tiny gov't) and his progressive ideas (abolish Fed. bank, opt out of social security, stop alligning with UN etc.). I think I disagree with his immigration policy and am looking into it further. Thanks to Jason Evans for muddying the waters on the immigration issue for me. Now instead of an issue on paper, I see people thanks to Jason.

That suffices a political blog for now.

The real Kingdom is the one that is all around you today if you stop to notice it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Stumped

Isaiah 11
A Green Shoot from Jesse's Stump
1-5 A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse's stump, from his roots a budding Branch.
The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him,
the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength,
the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God.
will be all his joy and delight.
He won't judge by appearances,
won't decide on the basis of hearsay.
He'll judge the needy by what is right,
render decisions on earth's poor with justice.
His words will bring everyone to awed attention.
A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked.
Each morning he'll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots,
and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

I'm trying to multi-task and prepare for our family devotions this Sunday morning for the first week of advent and I read this passage and it just crippled me. Out of the stump of Jesse will come a Hope that I just cannot relate to. Everything He does is not what I tend to do.

I am impatient, he is nothing but ever-patient.
I am self-focused, he is sacrifically about others.
I make quick judgments based on externals, he looks at the heart.
I want fairness for me, he seeks justice for the needy.
I complain and grumble, he rolls up his sleeves and works on a new creation.
I speak prideful words, his words spark life.
I toil and work to control my meager outcomes, his very presence causes the cosmos to worship.

Are you kidding me? Jesus is all that I hoped for and long for. I am trying to deny my flesh and wait this Advent season. I'm awaiting that coming Hope that sneaks in the backdoor on Christmas morning announcing to the Shepherds of a Kingdom that has come.

Maybe its the coffee speaking, but I am just in awe reflecting on the One that comes from the stump of Jesse.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Bengals 35 Titans 6

Chad & T.J.

Where in the world has this team been all year? As I predicted, after it was already too late, they would start pouring it on. I can only shake my head and wonder, its not the first time they broke our hearts and then showed us they were capable all along. As well as they played yesterday, we only have next year to look forward to regardless of the fact we have 5 games left to play this year. This team is a roller coaster of emotions. I tried not to care, it didn't work. Good to see the Bengals play to their potential.

On a Buckeyes note: Go Oklahoma and Pitt! If one of them wins, we're in the big show game again and let's hope if we get there that we show up this time.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Saying No to the Golden Compass

I have gotten several forwarded emails to boycott the Golden Compass movie coming out. How it was made by an atheist author who was combatting C.S. Lewis' books and in the end its a metaphor of killing God. * * sigh * *

I'm always skeptical of the truth of these emails as it has a mob mentality of fighting a great and wicked evil. I admitt, I know nothing about this author nor the movie. However, are we so insecure that we (Christendom) can't handle an opposite viewpont of our own? Its a movie, even if my eldest daughter saw it unknowingly, would it wipe away 11 years of spiritual formation from her home? If the conclusion to a moving picture causes her to "kill God" in her mind then someone should take away my wife's and I's license to raise kids.

Seriously! This culture war is ridiculous. Do we fight consumerism, selfishness, greed, pride, lust, lying, contempt, homelessness, poverty, injustice, social epidemics, distribution of wealth, plight of orphans etc. etc. as hard as we do our culture war? All the attention to combat this movie will no doubt cuz its box office earnings to rise all the more. Legislating morality has never worked. We need living, breathing, thinking followers of Jesus who can walk amongst the muck and still follow because it is Truth, not because its our only option.

I generally oppose the culture war, in my mind, its a very small idea. Now if you want to talk subversive incarnation . . . that's a big idea.

peace to your Thanksgiving celebration,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today's Sports News

At the age of 79, the ole lefthander, Joe Nuxhall has passed away after several ailments he had been fighting. Youngest player to ever play MLB but more importantly around here in Cincy, a beloved long-time broadcaster. Joe was Joe, he often got the call incorrect and mispronounced player names, but he's a Cincy icon nonetheless. RIP Lefty.

Barry Bonds was indicted on federal perjury charges . . . yawn.

The Bengals aren't very good and they are playing the Cardinals at home this Sunday who as well aren't very good . . . yawn.

A-Rod signed a 10 year, $275 million contract with the Yankees . . . double yawn.

I will be heading down to UC stadium tonight to see the biggest high school football game in the country tonight. According to Sports Illustrated, nationally ranked #2 St. Xavier High School is playing #8 Colerain High School tonight in the Ohio state playoffs. I have no dog in this fight, no connection to either team but I like great football and take pride that we have kept the Division I state championship down here in the Nati for the past several years and away from the schmucks up north in the state. Ohio is arguably the "best" football state in the nation, this is where football was born. (Are you listening Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and California?)

The Ohio State Buckeyes have business to handle in Ann Arbor Michigan this Saturday afternoon. A loss there is not an option and not acceptable. The national championship does not matter, beating the team up north is all that matters.

peace to your weekend,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


"I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples."
--Henri J. M. Nouwen

Man, this is just a topic that I keep coming back to over and over again. I ebb and flow in disciplines. Now I know that's just part of being human, but its frustrating that it is that way. When I am living a more disciplined life, spiritually, physically, emotionally etc., I am experiencing the best of life. When I mostly am lazy, I will only have instincts to feed my flesh and that sucks life out of you. It just hardly makes sense that the very things that feed us life are the very things we avoid.

I have always believed that there are 2 kinds of people in life: 1) Those that dream and 2) Those that experience their dreams. The only difference typically is discipline. Do we do the things necessary, over and over, to experience the things we long to see? I have been successful in the past and am trying to get a grip now. What I know is that an undisciplined life doesn't work for me, it leaves me feeling worse than when I started. My flesh is a lie. It claims to offer release and freedom, but its a fools gold. It leaves you lethargic and burdened.

Creating space for God as ole Nouwen puts it. I believe in that, now I just need to act on my belief a bit more often. That may start with a walk during lunch today, God and I need to have a chat.

Stop and Notice the Kingdom around you today,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Celtic Midday Prayer

So I just took a few minutes to go through this meditative discipline in the middle of my work day and its just unreal that God approaches us as we approach Him. Prayer like works and stuff.

Midday Prayer

Said or sung all together.
+ indicates that you may make the sign of the cross.

+ In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening Sentences

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
Establish Thou the work of our hands;
establish Thou the work of our hands.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil. Amen

Declaration of faith

We believe and trust in God the Father Almighty.
We believe and trust in Jesus Christ His Son.
We believe and trust in the Holy Spirit.
We believe and trust in the Three in One.


Teach us, dear Lord, to number our days;
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Oh, satisfy us early with Thy mercy,
that we may rejoice and be glad all of our days.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us;
and establish Thou the work of our hands, dear Lord.


Let nothing disturb thee,
nothing affright thee;
all things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
who God possesseth
in nothing is wanting;
alone God sufficeth.

+ In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Monday, November 12, 2007

For you are Good

"For you are Good" was a chorus line in one of our worship songs from last night at house church and for a follower of Jesus, this is a statement of our assumption about God and I guess we hope it lines up with our experience, but its hard sometimes.

I'm teaching a philosophy course presently discussing the Christian worldview in the midst of a world of competing worldviews, namingly Naturalism. One of the largest challenges from a human perspective in the belief of a good God is the problem of evil and suffering. Can we confirm God's goodness if our experiences in our present context involves suffering and pain? If within our life it seems God is silent can we uphold the belief that he is worthy of worship? Well, belief is the right word here I think. Its simply faith and a belief that God is present in our suffering even when we can't discern his presence and belief in a hope that our present suffering is not the only chapter to the Story. That he is writing a larger Story that will make sense of our present suffering or perhaps not sense, but a final victory nonetheless.

For you are good? Sometimes the faith in that belief is difficult. But what are the options? Like Peter in John 6 and the Daily Declaration of Faith from Celtic Daily Prayer:
"To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory."

Belief in God's goodness is a step of faith, but its not blind faith. His Scriptures are filled with stories of his faithfulness. The Christian tradition is chock full of evidence of his goodess. My personal life experiences had led me to the validity of this belief. And now my intellect at times wrestles with the concept but leaves me at this same place this morning. For you are good, Lord. Its not fun sometimes, but I believe you are good and I want to follow you again this day.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Heavy day

Got some news today that took my breath away. Its job related and just weighs very heavy on my heart. Creates an atmosphere of uncertainity for me about the future and I just don't welcome that. Maybe some day I'll figure out what I want to do when I grow up. The bi-vocational life of a missionary is pretty hard most of the time. I know a lot of people doing it but I know of nobody who has it figured out. On the flip side, I don't know if I could ever do vocational ministry again and yet its what I'm most wired relationally and gifted to do. The trade offs are enormous. That's all kind of discouraging today.

I want to believe that God has something in mind, but my cynical self wars against that voice. I suppose they wouldn't call it faith if it didn't involve trust, eh?


Monday, November 05, 2007

Turn back the clock

So this weekend we turned back the clock to "fall back" and the Bengals have decided to take it to a whole other level. They have turned back the clock and become the Bengals of the 1990's who were the most losing professional organization for a decade. It is hard to watch them, they are not a good football team. They are still my team and always will be, but its painful. The season is over as far as playoffs go, so now all that is left is to show what kind of real character they have.

The so-called prolific offense has scored 14 pts. or less in 2 straight weeks.
The siv of a defense is on pace to give up more points than any other previous Bengals team at over 30 pts. a game. And this is all w/ a soft schedule.

"You can't pinpoint one thing or another," free safety Madieu Williams said. "The point is we have to find a way to win a football game. It's getting tough each week to say the same thing with the result being the same."

All I can say, Madieu, is the only thing I can pinpoint is that these are the same results we suffered through from 1990 - 2003. I need some Pepto.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Humanity acting inhuman

This is from my bro's, Jason Evans' blog in San Diego. Getting the word out on the other side of the humanity efforts. Even amidst so much good, evil lies waiting for its opportunity to spread darkness. These are the places where Jesus followers need to stand up.

sd firesd fires + harassment
October 25th, 2007
As many of you know, many of us in our community have been feeding the volunteers collecting donations at the Chicano Park donation drop point.

Yesterday, our group of primarily gringos experienced some resistance to serving the primarily Latino volunteers. We came to find out that earlier in the day, they were harassed by the Minutemen and some people came to take away donations, which the volunteers at this station allowed. Why did this happen? Because this drop point is trying help undocumented, non-English speaking people as well as others directly effected by the fires.

Because of this, the volunteers were hesitant to trust. Were we spying, trying to hurt them somehow? We talked with the organizers and some of the tension was relieved. Trust can be hard to come by sometimes.

This morning, Brooke, my kids and others from our community went to the donation drop point again. Our group was delivering breakfast to the volunteers. Four police cars arrived aggressively questioning the intent of the people working this drop point. It was an ugly scene. Seeing only kindness and generosity expressed by these volunteers, my children drove away now afraid of the police because of how they treated the volunteers.

I was planning on sending out a hopeful note this morning. I wanted to share with you about how beautiful it has been to see San Diego’s often divided groups come together and work together peacefully in such a dark hour. But instead I feel I need to get the word out on this.

This is not the time to put citizenship or skin color over humanity. Some of you may not agree with my ‘political leanings’ and that is okay. I will be honest with you, this is not political for me. I don’t want to sound pious, I say this with the utmost sincerity, I am compelled to stand with these people because I am a follower of Jesus.

Please get out the word about this. If you are in the area, go to Chicano Park and use your presence to provide protection to these people. Yes, I am asking you to trust me that the intentions of this group are for good. You are going to hear otherwise. Be prepared. But please act, pray and publicize this.

As a last note, SD IndyMedia may be the best place to find out about this stuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Celebrating Harvest

We no longer live in an agricultural influenced economy. We don't even live in the industrial age anymore. We now live in an age of networking, information and technology. Our Christian history is dominated with societies and cultures built around agriculture where life was cyclical and experienced in seasons. Seasons of sowing and hard work, and seasons of reaping and harvest (also hard work). They were dependent on the soil, dependent on God's creation, in tune with the land they lived on. The Church calendar reflected these seasons of living and it was common for the church to take time in the Fall to celebrate Harvest. Celebrated God's provision and but in touch with the Creation all around them.

Times have changed. I've never farmed a day in my life. I sit in my inside office, under electric lights and stare at a computer screen 95% of my work day. I am blessed to have 3 large windows in my office but it oversees a parking lot and the Interstate highway. If I don't plan for it, I can't be in touch with God's Creation and stay in my digital/electric world. I think its important for Christian community to celebrate the harvest time of year and keep in tune with the thousands of years of God followers in our past and give thanks with them.

This Saturday evening, my wife and I are hosting a harvest party with many of our church community and friends to celebrate God's goodness, his provision and (weather permitting) enjoy outside. That means lots of chili, cornbread etc. and a fire outside. I'm looking forward to this feast as a time to reflect, remember and celebrate within God's Creation and with His Community.

peace to your harvest celebrations,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego Cali fires

I had to call my bro, Jason Evans, last night in San Diego to make sure him and the family are okay. Mike Bishop and I went out to San Diego for 4 days of rest in August just to visit and had an amazing visit. I fell in love w/ San Diego and more in love with our friends there and their Kingdom community. Praying for those who suffer today, praying for mercy, praying for the Church to care for the needs of the people.

On a lighter note, I'm stoked (no pun intended) that the Evans' are coming to the Nati this weekend for a short visit. My wife and I are hosting a Harvest party at our house on Saturday evening with community folk and hoping them and the Rains clan can chill with us. The Harvest is a time of year to stop and give thanks for the blessings in our life. I am not thrilled with every aspect of my life right now but I can tell you emphatically that I am filthy rich in friendships and community. For that I give thanks and I look forward to breaking bread with some of them this Saturday evening. mmmmmmmm, chili!


Monday, October 22, 2007

welcome back

wow, i didn't know i was taking a 6 month hiatus but i guess i did. i think i'm ready to come back. i miss many of my reader friends and being a bit connected to a larger community.

Nicki and I started a new house church several weeks ago as a part of the ordinary community network and its been really fruitful in a short amount of time. i think its the way community is supposed to be, organic, natural and authentic. we're just getting started yet but intimacy has been there from the beginning, that's a God thing. Last night we talked about our need to control and the anxiety that comes from it. We're workin' on trust, faith and giving it all up to Abba.

Just got back from a week vacation to Disney world with the family and read a kind of book i never read. Read Tony Dungy's book "Quiet Strength" and it kind of scratched me where I itch. Just reading how a guy dealt with so much external adversity but yet kept a quiet and inner strength. Not sure I'm very good at that a lot of times. I know how to lose my temper, need to work on that calm beneath the waters thing.

Apparently Jesus slept through a storm. So a lack of peace can't be blamed on external circumstances. No peace is a lack of faith and controlling things that we can't control. Its insanity and I do it daily. Jesus sleeps through storms, I want a piece of that action.

random note: I still think of Palmer and Chad all the time. i miss my bros and long to see what they see right now in Kingdom come.

I'll keep writin' and try to earn some readers back.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Taking a break

Since 2003, I have really enjoyed writing this blog. I'm going to take a break for awhile from writing. No timetable, I'm just gonna intentionally push myself away from the keyboard. I seem to be transitioning some of my own thinking and I'm taking a break from a lot of the things I've been doing over the past few years. I really don't know where I'm headed.

Feel free to check back in periodically to see if I have found inspiration to write again.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Cross is a Necessary Night

In an hour starts Good Friday. Because God allowed, I had time tonight to reflect the way I needed to. I am relating to the cross this night more than I wish. What did Jesus feel that night? betrayed, lonely, wounded, heavy, tired, beaten, broken, weary, gasping . . . heart full of pain and fear. These kinds of nights are never easy. They seem to last forever. They are designed to overwhelm, meant to anihilate spirit, purposed to darken the heart, on target to crush a soul. The cross is a heavy, heavy night.

The cross of Jesus is shameful to me. That it was required at all brings shame to me. If I could take it all away I would, but I can't. My pride makes it necessary.

The cross is a necessary night. One cannot enter fully into the Kingdom of God unless the cross is used as a key, it opens the portal, the opening between this one and the realm where God's fully is. The cross opens the portal to God, it opens us to the place we were always meant to be. Without the cross, we are quite literally lost. Missing in this realm with no direction, no connectedness, no hope, no story. As far as I am aware, there are no other keys. There is the cross of Jesus and no others.

I relate to the cross in my constant battle with depression and anxiety. I can hardly separate the causes and triggers from natural to super-natural. I just know that its quite debilitating. Hope sometimes seems so far away. But its in the darkness that I relate to my Jesus. Sitting in the caved dungeon below Caiphas's house, falsely accused, condemned to death, cursed by those who praised him entering Jerusalem on the back of a colt. If I take the time to open my heart through the pain, I realize that I'm not alone in this dungeon. My Jesus is here and he's been here before. The night isn't over, but that's enough to make waiting for the morning just about worth it.

Am I thankful for the cross? Today more than ever. It is a neccesary cross, perhaps this night is the same. An unwelcomed but neccesary night. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Jesus thought. He endures the night with me in mind, ascribing unspeakable worth to me. Now that's a thought that dares to whisper hope in this night. Its a neccesary night, but not altogether dark.

peace to your reflection of our triumphant Jesus . . . he is pure love,

Friday, March 30, 2007

What does the Kingdom look like on earth?

Because I decided a few years ago that I was going to teach, talk and live in and around the Kingdom the rest of my life on earth, I'm often asked this question: "What does the Kingdom look like on earth?" Most of the time you'll hear me labor on with words that are abstract and concepts that aren't concrete enough to put into practice.

In Matthew 25, Jesus becomes very pragmatic as to what it looks like. He says:

34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

If the Kingdom is only a place called heaven we go to after we die, then we miss the experience of communing with Jesus even now as we love and serve those in need around us. The idea that the Kingdom is in the future is linear thinking. I think Jesus here is showing us that the Kingdom is not linear, but cyclical. The Kingdom is a circle, all we do and are is given and received within that flow. What is given to others is actually given to Jesus. What is given to us primarily came from Jesus. Everything is in the Kingdom, nothing is outside of it. There is no separation of the sacred and secular, there is only the Kingdom and its war against the forces of evil on earth.
Ok . . . I better stop. . . I just made Jesus' simple and concrete statements abstract again.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thanks Palmer

One year ago today, I got the call that Mark Palmer had passed after a more than year long battle with colon/rectal cancer. It was a day I'll never forget because honestly I never saw it coming. I was fully convinced that he would be healed in this life. I either was completely delusional or don't yet understand how to discern the Spirit. It propelled me to a year of confusion, pain, darkness and wonder. But, as Bono says, with every darkness there comes a dawn. I'm a different person now than I was a year ago. I am absolutely not afraid of death, at 34, I think that's a gift.

Therefore, I'm free. I'm free to create, I'm free to say "no" to the things that aren't best, free to love, free to wonder, free to serve, free to lead, free to be a good Dad, free to be a godly husband, free to be a compelling teacher, free to be a good friend, free to pastor and shepherd as the Spirit leads. Freedom is a by-product of living in the Kingdom. It is not w/out suffering, but it is freedom nonetheless.

On this day, I just wanted to say thanks to Mark Palmer. He spoke wisdom into my life. He taught me about the importance of Jesus' Resurrection. He walked holy lands with me. He prayed blessing over my life. He was one of my best friends. And even now, in a place not far away, he is cheering me on. He's catching waves on the river that flows from the Temple, I can see the smile on his face. Its what he lived for. And now, he lives that reality for evermore.

Thanks, Mark. I always wanted to be a good friend to you, I pray that I was. Your passing from this life forced a lot of us to grow up and I think the teacher in you would be proud of that. Landing Place is taking more ground, a true spiritual force of the Kingdom on King Ave. Everything you dreamed of. Your son, the little prophet, has annointing all over him. He lives in a community of protection and love, I suspect he has a bright future in the Kingdom on earth. You will never be forgotten, your life here is honored. Someday, on the other side, I would like to walk with you and discuss the Kingdom as we did here.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Chad Canipe

One year ago, tomorrow, March 10, Chad Canipe passed to Kingdom fullness.
I'm remembering him, thinking about him and praying for his family always.

Chad was kind, compassionate, faithful, consistent, loyal, contemplative, loving, creative and great thinker in the Kingdom.

Chad was such a good friend to me. He was so much of what I'm not and he made me better.

More than anything, I was envious and had nothing but respect for his relationship with his Dad. I've never experienced that myself and I always admired that relationship him and his Dad had. They had love, respect and were truly best friends. There are so many of us that have nothing but pain in regards to our fathers, their relationship is the way its supposed to look like. I'll never forget when Chad's Dad graciously brought me back to pray and talk to Chad while he was in a comma. Knowing that Chad could hear us well, even in his state of rest, his Dad on one side of Chad, me on the other, took Chad's hand and said something like, "you see, Chris, Chad is my hero".

Father and son, as God intended it to be.

I miss you, Chad. Teach me how to care for your family.

the Kingdom is Now . . .

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Way of Suffering

12-13Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. (I Peter 4 The Message)

Glory just around the corner eh? Some days those seem like pat answers to complex questions. Sometiimes, all I see is rain. The "I" in that last sentence is precisely the problem. For those who have to carry the weight of depression, it is our own perceptions that wrap us up so tightly. We can't get out of the way of our own faulty and broken perceptions. Walking through suffering can be a long and heavy road, it will strip you down to your bare essentials. I am in no way saying that I'm strong w/in it, but it is at these times when I feel extreme pain, that I know that I am alive and in the fight. And I think that stands for something.

The sufferings of Christ were not those of ordinary people. He suffered "according to the will of God" ( 1 Peter 4:19 ), having a different point of view of suffering from ours. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us. When it comes to suffering, it is part of our Christian culture to want to know God’s purpose beforehand. In the history of the Christian church, the tendency has been to avoid being identified with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. People have sought to carry out God’s orders through a shortcut of their own. God’s way is always the way of suffering— the way of the "long road home."
-Oswald Chambers

I may not like suffering, but I do want to be home. And my home is in Christ, I have no other.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Ordinary Retreat

Psalm 125:2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

This weekend was our 3rd annual Ordinary Community Church family retreat and it just keeps getting better. As I've mentioned here, the past several weeks have been very difficult for me personally and I needed a break through, it came this weekend. Part of it is just having extended time with my church community. In the giving and receiving of love in these organic relationships just carries power. You feel surrounded and sheltered by love from one another as the whole community is sheltered by the love and Spirit of God.

We had 3 sessions and the topics were 1) Vulnerability - Being open to God and His Creation 2) Accountability - Being open to one another in community 3) Mission - Being open to our world.

Our times of worship and sharing in community were particularly powerful. We rarely have extended and secluded time for intimate, corporate worship and so we soak it up when we can. The Holy Spirit was present in power and there was a great depth in our sharing. OCC is in its 6th year and what I'm seeing now is the people taking complete ownership of what it means to live in christian community. Hardly perfect, but they see it as there's to mold and invest themselves into. It has changed their worldview and that takes time and journeying together. We have walked through a lot of darkness together, we're ready for a dawn, so let it come.

In the midst of this community, I also heard the voice of God in that still, small whisper. Saying words of affirmation that helped to bring some restoration to my own relationship with God. When this primary relationship is not in line, my whole life doesn't work, thus these past few weeks of struggle. I was filled with guilt and fear, God had nothing but words of love and affirmation. God is good.

Often retreats can lead to refreshing, this one did just that.


Monday, February 19, 2007


just finished reading my blog posts from last february, march and april. the pain of the loss of chad and palmer is still so fresh. but its different, it used to be a sharp pain that came and went, now its a deepened, dull pain that feels as if it will always be there. i admitt I am still angry that Chad and Mark weren't healed in this life. I'm sure and I know that there are reasons I can't see, but it bothers me. i hope i'm not being prideful, but I think God can handle it.

life has not been fun, been wallowing in an ongoing depression for several weeks. its something i've had since childhood, i go through seasons where i feel overwhelmed with pain and questions. i'm angry, i'm disallusioned, i'm sad, i'm discouraged and i'm tired. i wonder about a lot of things, things i won't blog about. i've been reading what henri nouwen calls a "suffocating loneliness" . . . that about sums it up.

there are bright and dark sides to wondering, i find myself in the latter category tonight.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Feast of St. Patrick update

So far we have 11 states represented in communities that have RSVP'ed:
Ohio, Florida, California, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan, Vermont, Washington and Pennsylvania. Plenty of room for more if you like that sort of thing. Food, friends, community, teaching, networking, worship, prayer, reflection, Scriptures, conversation, spiritual gifts etc.

Its March 16-17 at St. Elizabeth's in Norwood, Ohio. Our main conversations will be led by Todd Hunter, Bob Ekblad and George Hunsberger. Check out for details and to RSVP. There's no cost, just asking for donations to cover meals and facility.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Stick Gods

Jeremiah 10
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.
11-15"Tell them this, 'The stick gods
who made nothing, neither sky nor earth,Will come to nothing
on the earth and under the sky.'"But it is God whose power
made the earth, whose wisdom gave shape to the world,
who crafted the cosmos.He thunders, and rain pours down.
He sends the clouds soaring.He embellishes the storm with
lightnings, launches wind from his warehouse.Stick-god
worshipers looking mighty foolish, god-makers embarrassed by
their handmade gods!Their gods are frauds—dead sticks,
deadwood gods, tasteless jokes. When the
fires of judgment come, they'll be ashes.
16But the Portion-of-Jacob
is the real thing. He put the whole universe togetherAnd pays
special attention to Israel. His name?

Even though we have tasted of the Kingdom of God, we still yet choose stick gods. I don't understand it, but I do it.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Feast of St. Patrick

March 16-17, 2007. St. Elizabeth's in Norwood, Ohio. You're Invited. Go here The Feast of St. Patrick

Check out the site for all the details and who is already coming. There is no cost, rather we are just asking for donations to cover our meals and utilities costs. But we do need your RSVP on the website for planning meals.

Every once in a while we like to have a gathering of like-minded Kingdom folk. March 16-17 is that kind of gathering. For starters, we are gathering to honor our brothers who last year in March passed on to Kingdom fullness . . . Chad Canipe and Mark Palmer. We're still not sure why we lost them, it still hurts, and its important for us to gather. Those 2 guys were immensely passionate about planting Kingdom communities, so we wanted to have a weekend centered around conversations about just that.

There will be a diverse set of people leading several different kinds of conversations. Some of the conversations will be in large contexts, some in small. There will be time to reflect and meditate and there will be time to worship and to pray.

In a world that often resembles war, it is important to gather to remind us that we are not alone. And because we are not alone we have access to power that is beyond us. That power is present as we gather and we will seek it together.

I am beyond stoked for this gathering and hope that many of our friends will be able to make it. Housing will be provided for all out of towners that we can handle.

Come one, come all. Come and be not alone.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007


"A poustinia is a small sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God. The word poustinia has its origin in the Russian word for desert." (Wikpedia)

I learned this word while I was retreating at Northumbria Christian Community off the north coast of England with my bro, Palmer. Its a very old, celtic monastery and I fell in love with the place. As Palmer and I walked the grounds, there was a small, rubbled, musty stone room in the middle of the woods with a sign on it with white paint that read: "Poustinia". I had no freakin' idea what that meant, Palmer said "its Russian for solitude retreat". That dude was/is brilliant.

I found a book in the library at Northumbria on Poustinia and I read it. Then one of our days there, I went into that little stone shelter, I would say it was 4' x 4'. If the home we stayed in dated back to the 11th century, i have no idea how old the stone chapel was, but it was alot older than that. I lit a couple candles and then began to pray. I think I prayed for hours. The place was stinkin' holy. I prayed for every friend and family member I could think of and for most of them I got Revelations about. The stone chapel was oozing with spirit. Spiritually there, I could sense the face of God, I'll never forget it, He was laughing, really enjoying our time together. This image floored me. God enjoyed me, I don't think I had/have a category for this. But it stuck with me. When you go into poustinia, you go to change.

For a multitude of reasons, tomorrow and for the next 4 days, I'm going into Poustinia. I'm leaving home, getting alone in a distant place for the sole purpose to fast, pray and seek the face of God. I have learned to love these times of Sabbath, but I don't do it often enough. My wife is so gracious to bless me with this space, she believes in the work of God in my life and wants me to sharpen it. Please pray for her while I'm gone.

In Poustinia, my initial response is usually weeping. My sin and brokenness are just raw before a Holy God. And eventually I get marching orders. some specific direction for my calling to lead. But most of the time is spent enjoying God and letting him enjoy me. Reading, talking, worshipping, walking, eating (when I'm not fasting) . . . just communing. Its something I'm really looking forward to. I am my beloved's and He is mine. Everything I'm so busy doing seems so important, until I enter Poustinia. Then perspective happens and I realize most of the stuff I worry about is just me worshipping false idols. This is like spiritual chiropractory, a proper realignment. I'm so tired, I'm looking forward to rest.

The Sabbath is not a law to follow, its an invitation to enjoy. Make time for Poustinia, its a discipline to help you be the human you were meant to be.

Stop and Notice the Kingdom around you,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Children of Men

McGillivary and I went to see the movie last night based on this book. Although there was quite a bit of left-wing, political propaganda, it was intriguing. The movie is based about 20 years into the future and for the past 18 years, all women have been infertile. So there is a doom of hopelessnes over the earth as everyone is preparing not just for their own death, but the death of all humanity. Interesting plot.

Here are some observations:
1) The movie did a good job of demonizing the 2 political entities to show their depravity. The "Establishment" government was shown for its institutionalized cruelty towards immigrants for the "security" of the homeland. The end justified the means. The liberal "revolutionaries" were self-absorbed and chaotic in their leadership. Again, their end justified any means. Their grand ideals were actually self-serving which made them no different than the government they opposed. The warring between these 2 groups displayed openly the depravity of man.
2) There was a great conversation between the main character and the mid-wife who were trying to protect a miraculously young pregnant woman. They reflected on how the world has changed since there have been no noises coming from the playground. They were set in an abandoned elementary school, no longer needed since the youngest people on earth were all over 18. What a great philosophic conversation! You could just hear Jesus' words about the children and how they are the key to understanding the Kingdom, take them away and you have hell's rule.
3) There was a sensationalized scene towards the end where they bring the baby out into the public in the midst of the great war going on between the establishment and the revolutionaries. But this scene was great in its contrast. A mother carrying the only baby on earth out of a rubbled building under siege, everybody stops shooting. They forget about their war for a moment at the sight and the idea of hope in that baby. They very much portrayed it as if it was a renactment of the Nativity. As soon as the baby was past, they went right back to warring. Ah, the contrast. The innocence and goodness of an infant, the prideful arrogance of man.
4) The real help came not from either of the groups vying for power and wanting to use the baby for their own seeking of power, but rather from the humble and pathetic humanity who sought to give the baby passage for the good of all. They had nothing to gain and only something to give. They sacrificed whatever they had to contribute to the miracle. They were the dirty, the uneducated, the seemingly powerless, the crippled, the ugly, the outcasted and the poor . . . sounds like Jesus' kind of people.

So I left the theater with this thought:
Which one am I?
Am I a part of the inhuman establishment upholding the status quo?
Am I a self-righteous so-called Revolutionary, thinking I'm different than the establishment, but rather I have the same poison in my veins?
Or am I a part of the humble and broken whom God invites to be a part of His great miracles on earth?

I like movies that make me think. Next stop: "Epic Movie" ;)


Monday, January 22, 2007

Kingdom Now

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV) Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I agree with Dallas Willard in that the Great Omission in the Western/American Gospel is a life in the Kingdom Now. The evangelical dogma is a means to forgive sins so that one day we can live in heaven. I see and understand this as about 8% of what the gospel story of redemption is actually about. Its a part, but it is not even a majority piece of the pie. I believe that in our communion with Christ and His Kingdon now, that we are already experiencing a quality of heaven that is yet to come. Its not about pearly gates, streets of gold and mansions so great you don't even need a "no interest" loan to acquire. Heaven is perfect communion with God like we had in the Garden. A reality of being one with our Creator as Christ said, "I and the Father are one". We don't have to wait til we die to live in the reality that He will be our God and we can be His people. As westerners, we always look ahead to more progress, we need to learn to stop and notice that Kingdom is already all around us awaiting our communion.

What I believe is that now we have access to the "quality" of heaven and what we get after we die or at the final resurrection will be the "quantity" of heaven, all of it for eternity. We suck the joy and power out of our Kingdom lives now if its all about going to heaven someday. And that's what we have in America, a powerless and pathetic Christianity. Our best idea to judge and condemn the world, so that everybdoy knows that we are right and they are wrong. To become blood-thirsty for political power where the ends justify any means. To be seduced into the arena of corporate America and apply it to our church growth agendas. We are not showing the fruit of a people who are content and rooted in our identity in Christ, rather we show the fruits of a people who have forgotten who we are.

I believe each of us have the opportunity to access the quality of heaven now, just not yet its quantity. We yet live in a broken world and will taste tears, but its not wihtout hope and not without the presence of the Power of the heavenly realm. I also believe that many are already living a quality of hell now. The results of making choices away from God leave us in a state of misery and tasting death and isolation. Hell is alienation from God and Creation. Its a miserable existence trying to feed the abyss within with things that only make us more dead.

Kingdom Now, evangelicals have harshly criticized me for this view and put me on the pedastal of being a heretic. When I study the stories of redemption from the Old to the New Testament, I see a God offering the hope of a full communion with Him both Now and for Eternity. That is Kingdom Now and I'm glad I found it.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Back from the Caribbean

Nicki and I took a 4 night cruise this past weekend just to relax and get away. It was our anniversary gift to one another this year on a great last minute internet deal. This was our first cruise and first trip ever in 10 years without the kids. It was very relaxing as we visited Key West (our favorite) and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It was like a 5 day date and a 2nd honeymoon, can't beat that. We also got a chance to have lunch with the Bishops outside of Miami before we flew home on Monday so that topped off a sucessful trip.

While away, it seems Ordinary Community had meeting and talking about what it means as a community to be more missional in our culture and dream on about what God may have in store for us. To be away and know that our church does not depend heavily on any one particular leader is what really gets me excited. Each one pursuing their gifts is what makes a church, not a paid staff to do all the work. I'm thankful to be a part of a faith community that is pursuing their gifts with power and in love.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Congrats to the Gators

Yikes, that was U-G-L-Y

Congrats to the Bishops and the Gators fans out there, definitely were the best team on the field tonight. Dominated every facet of the game for the 6th underdog in 7 years now to win this game out-right. I just wish we could have made a game out of it. In my lifetime of a Buckeyes fan, I've never seen a team look so poorly over the period of an entire game. Much credit to the UF defense and Tressel clearly got outcoached.

First the Bengals pathetic ending, now the Buckeyes. Its going to be a long off-season of bitter taste til next season.

What a disappointment. I'm glad I'm going on vacation this week.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Go Bucks!

Tonight, coach sweater vest, Jim Tressel and THE Ohio State Buckeyes are going for their 2nd National Championship in 5 years. 5 out of the last 6 underdogs have won the championship game outright (including when OSU beat Miami in 2003), and tonight the Buckeyes are favored by 7, that's not a good sign.

But we don't worry about the history with other teams, we are building a history for ourselves. I expect a good game. Each team has had 6-8 weeks to get ready for this game. They have 2 of the nation's best coaches and will be over-prepared to scheme against the other. The UF defense is good and fast, but so is Troy Smith and Teddy Ginn, perhaps faster. I think the Bucks will struggle a while offensively before finding a rythymn. However, if the Bucks defense does not dominate the line of scrimmage, then we may be in trouble. I expect our defense to win this game for us by winning the turnover battle. Chris Leak has a history of bad choices under pressure, but one never knows when a guy decides to get hot at the right time. There is no question of his talent.

Prediction: Ohio State 27 Florida 17 (I may be a bit biased)

I will be watching it in HDTV. College football is by far my favorite sport which makes tonight the icing on the cake of another great season.

Little known fact: One of my life goals growing up was to play middle linebacker at OSU.

Go Bucks!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Blood Diamonds

Glenn Johnson and I went and saw Blood Diamond tonight and its a worthy flick. The issues are heavy, the situation is grotesque, but its all humanity as it can be. I couldn't even begin to sort out the truths from the fiction, that mostly is not the point. Its a story of horrors on earth, atrocities of humankind. This story will not be a remedy for cynicism in this world, it will leave you with disdain for the potential of evil within each one of us.

It leaves me with these thoughts:

1) I am a world citizen. Its not about God Bless America. My God created humanity, not just my 200 year old land/nation that we stole from another people. If there is a part of humanity that suffers, we all suffer. Our world is not whole, that's not somebody else's problem, its mine. The issues of a broken humanity ought to be personal to me.

2) I am a consumer. I have the ability and the means to acquire stuff. Do I think about the ramnifications of my purchases? Do my eyes see past the sale price to the story behind the product? I'm not worried about purchasing diamonds, I've only done that once in my life and thank God my wife has very simple taste. In actuality, I only bought the gold for that diamond because the gem was actually my grandmothers. I shop at Walmart and Target and I'm deeply aware of the fact that those prices are passed onto me because China is not free. The trade deficit between China and the U.S. because of our consumer appetites will be a contributing factor to the demise of our econmoy throughout my lifetime. So what kind of choices will my kids make? the same ones I model for them now . . .

3) We are not free. We watch war-torn nations like Sierre Lionne, Rowanda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo etc. and we pity them because they are not free and safe like us. But are we really free? Our wars are not from without, they are from within. Our souls are not free or we wouldn't have greed. The growing reality is that America wreaks with addictions, we have a culture full of idol worship. We think we choose but the idols are choosing us. We have given ourselves to whatever pleases us without care for the state of our soul. Our slavery is yet within and it keeps us in the same torment we have always known. We hunger for things that are dead and have forgotten what life tastes like.

4) I am not free. What I accuse everybody else of, lives in me. this reality ought to keep me up tonight.

5) I pray the fullness of Kingodm Come is closer now than ever. I long for the final resurrection and a new creation. My heart groans for this tonight.