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.