Wednesday, December 03, 2008

This life is but a vapor

I was talking with a good friend today and this statement came out of me:
"Life is but a vapor, suck the juice out of it daily"

I've been thinking about this vapor thing for quite some time. You try and hold onto things in this life and they have a way of just slipping through your fingers, you just can't quite get a grip. Even on a conservative level, you try and value the right things and work the plan but then it can all evaporate and leave you with nothing tangible to hold onto. There are a myriad of fleeting goals that are obvious: search for wealth, power, sucess, notieriety, status, prestige, accomplishment etc. But even in the plan of simple job, simple family, simple friends, simple church . . . all that can be taken away too. At times, it just all feels like a vapor, nothing sure to hang onto.

My faith in God and his eternal Kingdom are quite sure, the reality of that realm in some ways seems more tangible than this one in the flesh. The more I am sure of that world, the more this world looks somewhat pointless. Now, I'm not a dualist. I have full recognition that this realm and that realm are tied together in a cosmic sense and will be united again at the Resurrection and the coming of the new creation. What I'm processing is how arbitrary this life seems to be. I know that choices I make here affect the eternal realm, but exactly what and how is more of a mystery to me now than ever.

I suppose somewhere along the way I was supposed to pick up "mystery" as one of my assumptions about this life. But I suppose in a world of self-help guarantees and humanistic sciences, "mystery" is left out of the curriculum. It's amazing to me how much the American church reflects more about self-help and humanism than it does the Kingdom of God, but that's another topic.

Perhaps this is all because my birthday is a few days away, but I'm wondering about the mystery of this life and the vapor that it is. What I do know is that there is good and its in relationships, that's where you need to suck the juice out of.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


There's a reason that I haven't blogged in a bit, been in a spiritual funk. There are some things happening around me that have and are absolutely breaking my heart. I have a dear friend peddling at the table of the Enemy and I have to let him go. I don't want to, i care so deeply for him, but I cannot affirm the choices. I have spent a lot of time being very angry and feeling betrayed, but not tonight. Tonight I weep. Tonight I long for a turning in his heart. Tonight I want Easter Sunday but all I have is the darkness of a cross. I pray for him with all my soul and it hurts.

Tomorrow morning I will run the Thanksgiving Day 10k race in downtown Cincy for the 4th year in a row. Well, run is a bit of a stretch, I will run/walk. I am trained for perhaps 2.5 miles, but not 6.2 so it will be a total push and have to walk out the distance. I do it 1) to earn my turkey and 2) to remember losses in my life. My niece who passed 3 years ago, my brothers in Christ I lost to death, my brothers in life who have turned from Christ to the table of the enemy, I grieve all of them. I don't just grieve though, I also receive grace upon myself and I receive hope that for every brother lost to the enemy that I will pray for and go after 10 more for the Kingdom of God. I am very sad this year but I look forward to a time of painful reflection.

Give thanks in the light and give thanks in the dark, his mercies are new every morning. I've been beaten down but I don't accept defeat. Resurrection is always shining through. In loss there is always gain somewhere. May the Glory of his Grace fall upon us and make us whole. Don't give up on us, God! May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

peace to your times of giving thanks and remember my friends, don't ever give up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Time to unplug

The suburban world of much and many, the dehumanizing tasks of working for the "man", the artificial realities of a modern world with many promises but few results . . . it just ain't what it's cracked up to be.

I can't wait to leave in the morning and unplug for the weekend. Going camping out in the wet, cold, rain, snow & wind with some very good friends and I don't care about the weather, I just want to be unplugged. I want the pace to slow down, the agenda to be reduced and the sights and smells to improve. Working in an office is degenerate to the soul at times. The rat race we call life is just a vapor, I want the outside air to clear the stench.

I will be camping with fellows bros of our lost brothers, Mark Palmer and Chad Canipe. I still often reflect on them and their absence now from this life. And I can't help but hear Solomon speaking:

Wisdom Is Meaningless
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
15 What is twisted cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I thought to myself, "Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge." 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief.

22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

This life, this work, this race . . . it's all just a vapor. Take time to unplug and remember what really matters. What you learn when you do, is that the list is shorter than you thought, but sweeter than you thought.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted Libertarian

Warning: Overtly political blog opinion follows

I think the 2 party system is a fallacy and uniquely broken in all the right ways for those in power to remain in power and control. Democrats are not much different than Republicans and vice versa. Look at the way they united over the bailout plan for the credit crisis. Neither side had a unique idea or antithetical thought, they were in bed with the present broken system and philosophy and therefore perpetuated it.

Keep the people blind. Let me go conspiracy theory on you. I would go as far as to say that the false dichotomy between these 2 parties is just a distraction for the masses so that they don't raise real questions about how far we have strayed from our constitution. If the people knew, we'd have another Boston Tea Party and King George and his pundits can't have that.

Here's the Nolan Chart just to see it visually:

There is no perfect system nor party, therefore I vote for smaller system and smaller party and more freedom for the citizen to be a competent and responsible individual. I want the gov't to build roads, provide military defense and protect state and national parks. Other than that, keep their greedy incompetent hands to themselves.

Ok, rant over (probably not, but that for now).


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy all hallows eve

On this day the Celts believed the veil between this world and the next was so thin that it was almost permeable. It was thought to be a day of transition, from summer to winter, where the dead from the year previous would passover to the eternal realm. I do not worship my ancestors and friends who have gone before me, but I do honor them.

So today I honor the lives that touched mine but have moved on either to the realm where God is or are asleep awaiting the final Resurrection (depending on your theology). These are the people that led me in my faith.

Rest and Reign well my beloved:
-Mark Palmer
-Chad Canipe
-Greg House
-Grandpop Povey
-Grandpop and Grandmom Marshall

Hebrews 12 (The Message)
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Have a happy hallows.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Freddie Mercury let it rip!!

We Are The Champions
The Phillies have waited 28 years to sing this song again. It's on repeat on my iPod today, it just doesnt' get old.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Check out my April 2, 2008 post

In that post I have my pre-season baseball prediction where I said:

World Series will be the Red Sox vs. the Phillies and the Phillies win in 6! Ryan Howard NL MVP and Series MVP. The man can rake.

The Red Sox of course lost to the Rays, didn't see that coming nor did anyone else including the Ray's mothers. And I'm certainly hoping the Phillies win in 5 tonight and if Ryan Howard has another night tonight as he did last night, he will be the MVP.

If this all comes together, regardless of my homerism, you have to give me some props for the prediction. (Don't cha?)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

28 years is a long time to wait

Its been 28 years since the Phillies won the World Series. They lost the World Series in 1983 and 1993. Tonight begins their next attempt. They started as a franchise in 1883, have 6 World Series appearances but only 1 championship which was in 1980. The famous scene from Tug McGraw above after the final out is one of the best moments in Philadelphia sports history.

My favorite all time Phillies team is definitely 1993, the all mullet team. They were a weekend softball team disguised as the National League Champions. At least 2/3 of them had classic mullets, a true representation of Philly at the time. I will never forget that fateful night when Wild Thing Williams let that ball fly and Joe Carter connected it over the wall to win the World Series. Dramatic to say the least, but only if you were a Blue Jays fan.

So my prediction starting tonight, I'm gonna go with the Phillies in 7 games. I like the Rays a lot and pressure doesn't seem to get to them. I'm literally just hoping the Phillies can claw out 4 wins, I think they are favored in close games with Lidge as the closer. My key to victory is the spark plug, Jimmy Rollins. If he sets the tone and the table, I think the Phillies offense will roll. He's the veteran leader and he can take pressure off of Utley and Howard. Rollins is my pick for Series MVP.

Enough talk, its time for the Fightin' Phllies to bring home another championship, 28years is a long time to wait.

Monday, October 20, 2008

American Entitlement revealed

Listening to the talking heads of the media and all the empty promises of the politicians seeking election, one could be seduced to believe that we are entitled to quite a bit more than our daily bread.

Here is what I've learned. We aren't entitled to crap. God doesn't owe us anything. Not one of us brought ourselves into being, we are creation and the Creator doesn't owe us anything. We are not entitled to prosperous economies, safe neighborhoods, secure futures, good health, home ownership etc. etc. etc. What we have, we have for today and that is a gift of God to be thankful for. If you desire to be a follower of the Way, your inheritance is not of this world, it is holy other. Do not be seduced by the words of the worldly wise, its not about you. You are promised daily bread, nothing more, and that as well is a gift from God.

This passage came to mind today on this subject for me:
Matthew 20
A Story About Workers

1-2 "God's kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work. 3-5"Later, about nine o'clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
5-6"He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o'clock. At five o'clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, 'Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?'

7"They said, 'Because no one hired us.'

"He told them to go to work in his vineyard.

8"When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'

9-12"Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'

13-15"He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'

16"Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The night I fell in love with baseball

Growing up in Philly, my parents had divorced before I was born, so I was raised primarily by my grandparents for my first 5-6 years of life. My Mom worked all day and went to school at night to try and make it as a single mom in the 1970's when it wasn't cool. We lived with my grandparents in a duplex in Northeast Philly. It was a summer night in 1976, I was 4 and my grandfather took me to my first major league baseball game. It was the Phillies vs. the Astros and Steve Carlton was the pitcher. It wasn't long til I realized that Carlton is considered one of the top 3 left-handers of all time. He struck out a ton of Astros that night. My grandfather said in the car on the way down to Veteran's stadium, "the Phillies are lousy, except when Carlton is pitching". I can only guess that's why he took me to that game on that night, but I'll forever be grateful.

I was only 4, but I will never forget walking up to the ramps of the Vet for the first time, It was all bigger than life. The lights, the smells, the hot dog, the people, the major league players, the Philly Phanatic, I mean I fell completely in love. It got in my blood, in my veins, I couldn't wait to play this game. I became a Phillies fan that night and now forever. I've also adopted the Reds now that I have lived here in Cincinnati so long, but Philly remains a big part of my heart.

Baseball got me through some tough times in life. When i was really hurting and angry as an adolescent, I always had baseball. I used to tape "This week in baseball" and memorize it before the next episode ran the following week. I played with a ball, a glove and a wall for hours and hours and hours. Anytime whiffle ball or stick ball was happening, I wanted to be there. I turned out to be a pretty decent player. Excelled through junior and high school and played through college. i loved the smell of baseball, I loved the feeling of manicured grass under my feet, i loved getting dirty and I absolutely loved playing under the lights. I get goose bumps just remembering.

Well, the Phillies kicked the Dodgers butt and are now going to the World Series most likely to face Amercia's sweethearts, the Tampa Rays, but my heart will remain with Philly. Nostalgic feelings are running through me tonight watching the Phillies clinch the National League pennant. I will never forget the night I fell in love with baseball. Thanks, grandpop, rest in peace the Phillies are BACK in the SHOW!!!

(insert the Rocky theme song here) peace,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Re-cap of my sports weekend

Ok, LA, you made it a series, now your only down 2-1. But do you seriously want to get into a brawl with the city of brotherly love? Botox ridden, juice drinking, left coast liberals do not want to incite physicalities on the city that bleeds Irish violence. Hollywood, have you not seen Rocky I-IV? 90210? Seriously, you do not want a piece of this. See ya tonight where this movie for you won't have a good ending. Manny, the next one is coming at your ribs.

Ohio state won, but they are not the best team in the Big Ten. Penn State is back, Joe Pa is eternal. Kudos to Texas, Florida and Ok. State as well on huge victories. And to my newly adopted team, continued Guns Up to the Red Raiders of Texas Tech.

Bengals suck oh so badly. Do we have the desire and the perseverance to successfully pull off an 0-16 season? Let's at least make history if we're gonna suck so badly.

apparently there is more to life than sports, but its a nice outlet none-the-less for me.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Let's Go Phillies!!

Up 1-0, the East Coast over the Weak Coast. Let's keep it going.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Things I noticed from John 8

I shared this narrative in Texas last week and I'm not sure if it was for them or me but as I was studying it, I noticed a few things.

John 8
1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

1) If they are really "teachers of the law" and religious leaders, why are they interupting Jesus' teaching? (translation: judge a leader by their fruit, not their title)

2) If the woman was caught in "adultery" then she was married. The Law of Moses in Deut. 22:23 says that stoning is required for a betrothed or an engaged woman, not a married one. Should teachers of the law know their own law? (translation: Often our absolutes in theology are actually just representative of our bias preferences and not gospel truth)

3) "Jesus bent down" and said nothing. This is a genius communication skill. In the event, the Pharisees held all the power and momentum by interupting and throwing at least a half-naked woman in the middle if not fully naked. How does Jesus diffuse the situation, steer the power away from the bullies and protect the dishonored woman? He uses silence and it was deafening. He doesn't honor their cruelty with a verbal response, he does the counter-intuitive. Then they are exposed for their cruelty like a giant spot light is upon them. Jesus takes on the eyes of the crowd to what he's drawing in the sand (and away from the vulnerable woman, perhaps even giving her time to cover up).

Jesus' non-verbal skills utilized in this event are just genius. He does not have the title of a "teacher of the law", rather he just embodies and lives out the very heartbeat of the Law of God, to honor and love his Creation. I find these values of humility and strong compassion very rare for male leaders I've observed and come across in my lifetime. The stereotypical strong male leader/CEO type is the easy way out, its mostly just leadership in the flesh. Show me someone with the inner strength and character like Jesus instead of the outside bravado and I'll show you genius leadership.

4) If anyone of you is without sin throw the first stone. The law says the witness to the event is the one who starts the stoning. So which man and religious leader is gonna be the one to say they were peering in together and watching the adulterous act. Or even more so, was one of them the male witness involved in the act? This sounds less like activities for the teachers of the law and more like a scene from the Porky's movies triology.

5) The woman finds herself not alone, but in the presence of the only one who cares about the true her and sees beyond her sinful behavior. Jesus fought and protected her dignity, treated her as the daughter of God that she was. Jesus gives her words of compassion first, then follows with words of discipline and holiness. Notice the order . . .compassion then a call for holiness. The mercy of God is not earned, its freely given then leads us to change out of gratitude.

Just some things I noticed.

Peace to your moment of genius today,

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Beautiful Rebellion

Texas Tech Guns up!

Just got back from Lubbock, Texas today where I spent the past 5 days teaching at the Texas Tech Wesley Foundation Fall Retreat at Sipapu Ski Resort in New Mexico. My best friend from seminary, Al Martin, is the director of the campus ministry there and arranged for me to come out and I accepted his hospitality. It was a great few days. I spoke at their weekly gathering in Lubbock on Thursday evening and then 4 more times over the next couple days at the retreat in New Mexico. I haven't done a lot of speaking in the past couple years but this time I actually asked God for an opportunity, Al contacted me and I said yes pretty much immediately and I'm glad I did.

I did my best to try and communicate life in the Kingdom of God and I entitled the series of talks, "The Beautiful Rebellion". There were about 110 college students on the retreat and they are a pretty special group of kids. They love worship, emobdy community and were earnest learners in our time together, can't ask for much more. Particularly on Saturday night, after I was finished speaking on "War in the Kingdom Now", the worship team came back up for a time of reflection and then the presence of God and his grace began to move pretty powerfully through the learning community. It led to God doing a lot of healing, convicting, speaking and setting captives free . . . the good stuff.

For me, it was an important time personally. I really sought to sit in reflection during the worship times and just listen and receive cuz my past few weeks have been pretty dark and even agonizing. I was able to get some rest, do a lot of reading and just reflect away from my day job which has been sucking me dry. I'm waiting on God and there is just no short-cut for that. He is sufficient and I have to submit to that and trust in a hope I can't see.

For now I'm glad to be home but finding myself very thankful for this blessed trip.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ron Paul for President

Ron Paul on Government Bailout

This is why I wish I could vote for Ron Paul on November 4. The federal bailout of the financial crisis in America is the continual death of a free market economy that we claim to love so much. The reality is that America is increasingly becoming a bigger slave to their lenders. This is not freedom, debt is enslavery, how can we be so foolish?

Rome is burning, anybody concerned?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Does sadness have a place in the Kingdom?

Tyler Durden:
Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God ---- it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy ---- we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

You feel sad or cry a lot and it doesn't go away.
You feel guilty for no real reason; you feel like you're no good; you've lost your confidence.
Life seems meaningless or like nothing good is ever going to happen again.
You have a negative attitude a lot of the time, or it seems like you have no feelings.
You don't feel like doing a lot of the things you used to like-- like music, sports, being with friends, going out-- and you want to be left alone most of the time.
It's hard to make up your mind. You forget lots of things, and it's hard to concentrate.
You get irritated often. Little things make you lose your temper; you overreact.
Your sleep pattern changes; you start sleeping a lot more or you have trouble falling asleep at night. Or you wake up really early most mornings and can't get back to sleep.
Your eating habits change; you've lost your appetite or you eat a lot more.
You feel restless and tired most of the time.

Are you even allowed to lament when the AIDS epidemic is sweeping across Africa wiping out entire villages?

Are you even allowed to lament when there is genocide still present in Darfur?

A friend sent this to me today, and for that I'm thankful. A passage from Psalm 27:
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

I'm just sitting here and waiting, Lord.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Collision at the Coliseum

I updated this post reflecting back now below:

OH - IO!!

Alright, well here we go again. THE Ohio State Buckeyes find themselves in another huge spotlight game coming off of 2 embarassing performances in the past couple National Championship games. By the way, we get tons of smack for that, but I was just wondering where your teams were when we were in the championship game? just checking ;)

So, Chris "Beanie" Wells may or may not play cuz of his toe injury. I'm not sure if that's going to be the difference maker anyway.
Here is my breakdown:
- Can Ohio State overcome big plays early to keep the L.A. Coliseum crowd from being a factor? Nope, they didn't
- Boekman or Pryor at QB for the Bucks? I think if Pryor plays a lot then the Bucks are in trouble and desperate. If Boekman plays the majority of the game it means we're in control of the tempo and momentum. Buckeyes got desperate
- 2 great defenses with lots of playmakers, who will force the most turnovers? USC did easily
- Execution, Ohio State cannot afford to leave any points on the field. Down 14-3, chance to make it 14-10 going into halftime had TD taken back cuz of holding penalty then missed Field goal.

My prediction:
Even though there are 2 great defenses, I see a lot of big plays in this game so it won't be so low scoring.
The Ohio State University Buckeyes 28
University of Southern California 27

We lost big time!

have a blessed weekend,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Stick gods?

Jeremiah 10
The Stick Gods

1-5 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 together
And pays special attention to Israel.
His name? God-of-the-Angel-Armies!

draw your own conclusions.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tropic Thunder 2 thumbs up

Saw this flick with Johnson and McGillivary last night and it is ridiculous and hilarious at the same time. One of the best satires on the entire movie industry I've ever seen. It pains me to say this but Tom Cruise's part was my favorite as he portrayed a middle-aged Jewish movie mogul, amazing. Do not bring the kids, but see this movie if you just need to laugh at things you probably shouldn't be laughing at. I'm looking forward to my second showing sometime in the future.

On another note, I have to propose a new MAN Law. As I mentioned earlier, Glenn Johnson and Paul McGillivary were out last night. We try to get together every other Monday evening typically for Starbucks and conversation but last night we opted for dinner and guy movie. We met for dinner at Red Robin, Paul and I gorged ourselves on chicken/burgers and fries and Glenn came late. He had already eaten so all he ordered was a "Hawaian Hearththrob Smoothie". And the it came, a spiral glass filled with a pink smoothie topped with cherries and pineapple. MEN can not order tropical pink smoothies out with other men for dinner, with your wife maybe if you're splitting it with her, but not as your only order at a table of guys. That's a MAN Law. Johnson, your Man card has been suspended until further notice. I couldn't help but ask our female server if she had ever seen a man order in such a way and she responded, "never". In his old age, Johnson is transforming into his boyhood idol, George Michael. Please, Glenn, snap out of it and wake me up before you go go. MAN LAW! (rant over)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to Victory!

Since the Bengals have decided to not even compete this year and the owner is ready to throw us into another decade of vomit-inducing play and decisions, I'll have to check back in with them next August to see if they want to be a real NFL team. For now I have no other choice but to pick back up on my Philly roots and give the Eagles first place in my football heart again. Typically for me each season its Bengals first, Eagles second, providing the Bengals field an NFL team. Since we havne't done that this year, it will be Eagles first now.

So let's let the fight song rip:

Fly, Eagles fly, on the road to victory
Fight, Eagles, fight! Score a touchdown one-two-three
Hit 'em low, hit 'em high,
And watch our Eagles fly
Fly, Eagles fly, on the road to victory
E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Thomas Merton speaking to Me

A few quotes from Thomas Merton that struck me on my sabbatical time.

Re: The Spiritual Man
In all that he does he acts freely, simply, spontaneously from the depths of his heart, moved by love.

Re: Not having a Mentor
Naturally, one who has sought direction and not found it will not be held responsible for its lack, and God Himself will make to the soul what is wanting to it in His own way.

Re: The Care of the Director
His first duty, if he wants to be an effective director, is to see to his own interior life and take time for prayer and meditation, since he will never be able to give to others what he does not possess himself.

That's the good stuff, still chewing on them.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Monking at work?

Tomorrow i head back to work to give it a try in a different frame of mind. I'm thankful for this short sabbatical and thankful for the grace that follows me daily. I take comfort knowing I do not go back alone, but I go back in the communion of Christ. He goes before me, he is beside me and his grace follows me every step I take. Stress and anxiety are not Kingdom qualities, peace in Christ and His sufficiency is. Work however is a part of our life in this earthly realm, but it is to be done in communion with Christ, not according to our own selfish ambitions. There are many things at work that I cannot control, but my internal world, the world of my soul belongs to God and I want to remain in communion with Him there. I largely am just moving on in faith, no promises, no guarantees, just faith in the One who doesn't let me go. This job may or may not work out, but this I know, I will reign in God's Kingdom forever. That's a good thought.

Time to give monking in the real world another try.

Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

2 week Sabbatical update

By far my highlight was spending a couple nights here: Bethany Springs Hermitage
I highly recommend it, a one person hermit's cabin with everything you need. I sought solitude, quiet and the beauty of God's Creation and got it all. I walked, I prayed, I worshipped, I healed up some, I learned, I listened, I longed, I wept, I dreamed, I blessed, I got blessed . . . in short I loved it. For an extrovert like me, 2 nights was my limit by myself but I'm looking forward to another time like it in the future.

The facility was a part of The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living Contemplative living is something that I'm working on and is my learning edge coming out of this sabbatical. I am learning the discipline of "going monk" to protect my inner world if the external world is nothing but a storm. But that inner world is a garden that needs daily and even hourly tending, its not just for weekend or quarterly work days. The weeds are sneaky, gotta look for them daily and take them out by the root. Jesus did this well, this is how he slept on the boat during the storms. I want some more of that action.

Meditation is a matter of finding that inner "happy place", I found one at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Abbey
This place was beautiful and peaceful. It was what the Celts called a "thin space". A portal to the eternal space where God reigns, it was a land prayed over 7 times daily for over 150 years, the glory of God was a hushing peace to my heart. I sensed this same kind of presence in 2 other places on earth, 1) Northumbria Community, the ancient Celtic monastery in northern England and 2) the western wall of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem (wailing wall) The moment i stepped onto this land at the Abbey i was immediately reminded of those 2 places on earth. I will blog more on the monks life hopefully tomorrow and what I'm learning.

For now, I'm off to pursue some more monking in the real world.

peace to you,

Thursday, August 07, 2008

2 week leave

my 2 week leave from work has just started, i'm ready to relax and listen I think. not sure how much i'll blog, trying to unplug. we'll see how long that lasts :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Theophostic Prayer

Glenn and Cathy Johnson from Veritas Church and a part of my spiritual family came over last night and with Nicki led me through a intense few hours of theophostic prayer to get at the root of some of these painful and core lies that had me all tied up inside. All I can say is "holy maccaroni, batman!" It was an amazing healing experience. Healing memories guided by the Spirit of Christ. I have had healing visions for a few years that I had no idea were just keys unlocking deep places of anger, betrayal and disappointments and the hold they had over me.

These memories remain places for me that I can go to and see a revealed Christ, one who has never left me alone. There seems to be a real identity shift within me and I still have some depths to explore, but I'm looking forward to taking this new outlook for a spin.

I'm off to a night of extended worship and prayer with Ordinary Community Church tonight, let's get this party started.

theophostic prayer

peace to my journeyers out there,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

time to mold the clay

i think today i finally gave up, literally hit that wall and couldn't go another step. cancelled the rest of my appts. for the day, went home and requested a 2 week leave of absence from work to try and get some perspective and deal with the source of all this anguish. I would say half is overwhelming work and half is a deep, personal wrestling in me with God himself. I'll give you 2 guesses who is winning that particular wrestling match.

I will start that 2 week leave of absence/sabbatical from work on Friday August 8. Until then, I'm going to try and get as much taken care of from work as possible, but I'm letting it all go.

I have come to the end and giving myself over to surrender. Whatever God wants is what I want. What following Jesus looks like, its the path I want. If I'm to leave this job to seek the next step for me, even if I don't have something else in place, I'm gonna trust Jesus to bring us there. If I'm to stay and reinvent this job situation with boundaries and God at the center of me, then I'll follow him through that. I'm done controlling what provision looks like, I made a mess of it and it made a mess of me. I'm a large hump of clay, time for some molding.

This day has been very revealing and I find that to be encouraging. I'm encouraged as I head to bed, I think I'm ready to go toe to toe with some of these root issues within me.

I think I'm finally ready to ask God to heal my heart for Him not healing Palmer. there, i said it, only took me 2 1/2 years. I think I'm ready to ask God to heal my heart for a fatherless and abusive childhood. there, i said it, only took me 35 1/2 years. My pride has held onto these pains and stuffed them down deep within me. My pain has too long been a source of my identity, its time to crush that clay and remold something new. I can't make any of this happen, I'm just here saying I'm ready and open.

peace to your heart of clay,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Book Review Endorsement

I highly reccomend this book review site on Kingdom topics and issues, simple and missional living for followers of Jesus. Chris Smith is a friend and I think does a great job for busy folk like me to get some helps on future reading. Check it out.

Englewood Review of Books

Sunday, July 27, 2008

sliver of light

I chose to stay home tonight with my kids while my wife is still away instead of going to house church tonight. I hate to ever miss house church, its an anchor in my week to be with the church gathered in community. But I was/am exhausted continuing to wrestle with the unravelling pieces of my inner life. I'm going to guess that at some point tonight in that meeting, they were praying for me, because I saw a sliver of light in my dark thought processes. I kind of feel like I've been a plane spiraling out of control and i kept looking to the horizon just to see and know which way was up and which way was down. Something kind of broke through to give me just a glimpse of perspective tonight and its a thread I want to keep pulling. I can only assume its because there are people somewhere else praying for me, caring for me more than I care for myself.

I'm doing what i can with what I have to be productive in my turmoil and darkness. I know that I need to keep my heart open because it has been hardening and that just isn't me. I have gotten my guitar back out this week, just had my second gig all by myself playing and singing some old songs and seeing if they connect to that person deep inside me. I think i heard at least echoes of a former self down there, there were some slivers of light, it wasn't all darkness. Its important for me to admit that I am a heartfelt, passionate and emotional person and that I can't keep that bottled up, even if its dark I need to rage towards God. Keep myself open in the hopes that He is going to show up again.

I'm also asking some pretty difficult questions about myself. I'm finding patterns of self-loathing and criticism, remnants of displaced drivenness and perfectionism, and roots of a people-pleasing imprisonment that has left me completely burned out and bitter. mmmmmm, the inner self is just so dang tasty.

I scoured my bookcases for books, old or new that may need to be picked up and thrown at the wall of my mind to see if they stick. Tonight's choice is a bit our of my normal reading cuz is so mainstream christian sub-culture but it's "Get a Life" by Reggie McNeal. I think our denomination sent this to all church planters, i know i didnt' buy it. Here are a couple snippets:
The way you are living today is how you are living life. None of us get today back. . . . We can choose to defer living until some circumstances are met, but that means every day till then is another lost day of life. . . . If you choose to get a life, get ready to ask yourself some hard questions.

Not half bad thoughts, I'm gonna peruse it further. I do know that my circumstances are not nearly bad enough for the inner turmoil I'm feeling, I've got some demons in here that need confronted. Jesus slept on the boat during the storms, I need a piece of that action.

a sliver of light tonight, keep praying church!


Friday, July 25, 2008

A trip to the ER

Well, nothing like physical manifestations of emotional turmoil.

Thursday afternoon while at work, I thought my appendix was bursting. Started having very sharp pains in my right lower abdomen that kept coming in waves. then came the nausea and then vomiting, good good times. the beauty was as well that my wife had just left for one of her annual "girls" trips with friends, my daughters are at summer camp and so I'm responsible for my son. He was left at an aunt's house and I took myself into the ER, that drive was excruciating and a bit scary, I know that the appendix is nothing to mess with.

6 hours in the ER, some morphine, blood work, urine test and CAT scan and my appendix was pretty normal as well as the rest of my vital organs. Went home and slept off the morphine. Back to my primary Dr. today and he's pretty sure that I have a flared up intestine that is stress induced. That would mimic all the same symptoms of appendicitis. That explains the sharp pains and why they come in waves. Felt okay today, much better than yesterday but I still feel twinges.

So, all the wrestling and anger and stress etc. ended up taking a physical toll on my body. I'm gonna have to look at some changes to me or my circumstances or both, what I'm doing or how I'm handling it is not sustainable.

Had a fun day today with my son and look forward to picking up the girls from camp tomorrow morning, being around them is a constant sabbatical, they keep things real.

well, to my brothers and sisters out there in similar struggles, take care of yourself.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Sound of Settling

I have not done a good job at making peace with my vocation and the fact that it makes me feel like I'm becoming a completely different person, one that I don't even like. One of my former students when I taught high school saw me today and said to her Mom who works with me, "Mr. Marshall doesn't look happy anymore". I've heard my oldest daughter say similar things to me. On the outside it appears I'm giving off sounds of settling. Settling for a life disconnected from my heart and gifts. Settling for letting others use me in their own pursuits of pride and greed. I never wanted to settle for anything short of the dreams and passions on my heart but I feel trapped and I admit I'm losing hope in it all. Settling says this is all there is, it doesn't get better and the sooner you wake up to that fact the better off you'll be. Settling sucks.

Above is one of my favorite pics of my lost friend, Palmer. I still miss him so much. He wouldn't have let me settle, he never did. He lived his life on purpose and in simplicity. His life was his art, it was quite beautiful. It was a life I felt was worth fighting for. I longed, prayed and fasted for his healing. I never believed in his death until i left his coffin and even then I still wasn't giving up but it was for naught. Either God has some master plan he doesn't feel like telling us or I lost that fight. Both answers as you can see haven't left me with much peace about it all. I'm sure its connected to all the other disappointments and shattered dreams I'm wrestling with.

I took that pic of Palmer, it was on Cuthbert Island off the North coast of England. In the background was the ruins of the ancient Abbey and behind us was the coast at low tide. We sat with our Irish pints and journaled on that day and in that place. I remember that being a day that my heart was fully alive, not as it is now. If I would have known then that Palmer had cancer, I would have prayed over him in all those ancient holy places. Rather, we just enjoyed what we had and although I'm severely disappointed with the outcome, I'm thankful to have those days and the memories of the adventure with him.

Palmer never settled for the death of his 1st wife, Jennifer. He held out hope for her until the very end. I really have never seen anything quite like his faith. And then for himself to be diagnosed with cancer, suffer greatly and leave this life with the same disease is quite puzzling. But he never lost hope, he never settled for anything less than a resurrection and that's what I prayed for him. I wonder if he can pray resurrection for me tonight? I don't have a freakin' clue where to turn or what to do, so I will ask Palmer wherever he is sleeping tonight to pray for me. He wouldn't listen to the sounds of settling, here's to hoping he'll help me not to listen either.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's "what were you thinking?" post

1) Going back to the post about when Rains and I met, this was about that time period, 6-7 years ago. I guess the pic shows a pretty immediate friendship.

2) Is that the beginning of a mullet? Who let me out of the house with that hair? A true "what were you thinking?" moment.

3) Thanks to Creech the always present photographer with a great eye for the sacred and spontaneous.

I'm going to try and rid myself of this melancholoy disposition this weekend, we'll see how that goes.

peace to your weekend,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

a life less complicated?

When I was younger, I had vigor and passion. I had a sense of calling, I dreamed of a preferred future, life lacked complication. I had time and space to think, reflect, read and be. This just isn't who I am anymore.

I wonder if its just a season of life. I work a job that mostly sucks the life out of me to provide for my family who are seemingly having a good life. They are healthy, present with one another, have daily bread and much more, good schooling, participate in their preferred extra-curriculars, friends, loved etc. Generally growing up in a safe environment both physically and emotionally, that can't be underestimated. There really isn't anything I wouldn't do to provide this for them, it makes just about anything worth it. Its part of growing up, its about them, not me.

I wonder if I'll ever be that other guy again someday? Will there come another season where I don't have to give my firstfruits of energies to the "man" in things I largely don't believe in? Is there such a thing as a job you love, or is that a myth?

Here in America, the present economic realities are rough and the future looks rougher. Having a job w/ benefits is to be considered a blessing, my mind tells me that. My mind also tells me its all relative, there are Kingdom brothers and sisters all over the world who are suffering greatly in poverty and under abusive government power structures. Who am I to complain? In fact I feel overwhelming guilt for just asking these questions, perhaps I should privatize these thoughts. (the reason I don't is because I don't think I'm alone in these questions)

How do you live the life of a monk as a Father of 3 in suburban America? How do you keep touch with your heart and deep dreams in a world of speed and greed? Whatever the answers are, I'm not doing a good job of it. I lack space and time to do much searching for it, mostly hoping that if there is an answer that it will find me.

Perhaps in the future I will walk in a field of a life less complicated, but for now I'm just trying to make peace with the mire I'm in.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Entering Politics

thank you, Rains

I needed encouragement today, and it came in the form of this:
the Kedge

In his sabbatical, Kevin is practing the art and discipline of remembering stories of his past. Our past shapes us doesn't it? Our past is a look into the who we are now. I am very thankful to be a part of Kevin's past and hopeful to be an eternal part of his future as well.

I needed encouragement, I have been in a physical/emotional/spiritual rut for a couple months (thus the complete lack of blog posts). I have felt a complete disconnect with my heart and that leaves me rudderless, wandering in the mundane, trying to stay above the waves, but mostly just choking on the salt water. Its been a bit of a wilderness and I'm not sure when its going to end, so I just look for markers on the course that assure me I'm not alone. Kevin's words did that for me today. I'm hoping to reconnect and remember who I am, or if this is to be a transformation, I'm hoping to get out of this cocoon and shed these scales. Perhaps this bout of existentialism is just the product of getting older.

Perhaps I'll need to blog on some stories of the past for me and see where it takes me. No promises, but I do miss blogging.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Open letter to Ordinary Community Church

Hey OCC family,

Man, our weather was a lot to overcome yesterday at the park for the baby dedication and I just wanted to pass on a few thoughts I wanted to share a bit more but couldn't really communicate as my pages were ripping through the wind.

First, thanks all for coming (and for those who couldn't share in this gathering, you were thought of and missed). Its so incredibly important that we make time for each other and to be in community to one another. We are literally spread out all over the Cincinnati metro area, including northern kentucky, and its a real legistic challenge to come together, especially with
these gas prices. But community is not an option for us, its a calling and our spiritual lives can't live without it. As you journey in your individual house churches, I want to encourage you to practice the spiritual discipline of presence to one another. There are many things that creep in and steal our time from being together, guard your house church times fiercely. Put up boundary lines around that time, budget it in as a non-negotiable and then reap the benefits of a loving, spiritual, Christ-filled, Spirit-Driven community that deeply loves you and is committed to you. When it all comes down, this is all we have that is eternal. Invest in such things. (Matthew 6:33)

Secondly, the vows we made to each other and the parents to their children are a really big deal and also eternal. We are a subversive community living out the values of the Kingdom of God, not the values of the culture and empire we live in. Pay attention to your children, cherish them, love on them, make them your vocation, bless them, discipline them gently, learn from them, show them appropriate touch, give away encouraging words, be their protector, be their provider, show them the ways of the Kingdom of God. In doing so, you will knit within them a healthy sexuality, a sense of wholeness, intimacy and communion with God and one another. Our world and ourselves cannot give this, it comes from parents and a community that lives by a different set of rules, ones submitted to the heart of the Father.

One of the things I wanted to do but scrapped in lieu of the weather was to take communion together before we prayed over the families. We need to emphatically state that we can't do this on our own. It is only because of Christ and his
Kingdom that we can share in this life. Everytime we can celebrate the table of God in communion or a shared meal, we are participating in part of something we will do forever. Christ invites us to his table of blessing, one overflowing with the life of God. Eat of it daily, drink from it deeply and don't forget to give it away to the hungry and thirsty around you and in your neighborhood.

I am reminded tonight of the ancient vows of the early church who committed themselves to:
1) Simplicity - not participating in the wealth of this world. Making decisions to deny self in order to be freed to love our neighbors. In a sure or an unsure economy, simplicity is the model of Jesus who had no place to lay his head. Its not about having wealth, its about not desiring it and being content with daily bread. Contentment is the language of the free in Christ.

2) Availability - not participating in the pace of this world. Making decisions to be quiet, seek solitude and budgeting time to be available to God and to one another. Loving our neighbor does not come naturally, it comes from an inner commitment to be available to them first.

3) Vulnerability - the admission that we are yet broken. Being broken before God and our brothers and sisters we trust to allow the healing of the Cross to continue to wash over us. It is in our honesty and openness that we make our wounds accessible to God, and whatever He can touch, He can heal.

My love and affection for each of you is sure and forever. I choose to belong to you as my spiritual family, my Church on earth. I don't know exactly what God has in mind for our future, but I believe He is not done adding to our number. Be open to giving the Kingdom away.

King Jesus is on the move amongst us, let's submit ourselves once again to follow Him. As we do the curtain to heaven becomes just a thin veil and His life will pour out all over us more and more the deeper we go. Let's not give up now, we're just getting started. Can't wait to see y'all at the finish line someday.

May the love and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection be upon you and your home this night,


Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Revelation of Hope

So we all have good days and bad days. Last Sunday night, I had a bad day. A series of things triggered me and I felt trapped, alone, codnemned and accused. All I felt was pain and it brought up childhood issues that I haven't felt in a long time. In a conversation with my wife where we were processing things together I lost me temper in a way I can't remember since I was a teenager. Where do things like that come from? That's for another day.

Today, I feel a bit of that revelation of hope. Its not in circumstances, that hasn't changed much. Its mostly in relationships. A relationship with a God that is not done w/ me yet. A God who is calling me to deeper intimacies with Him. A God who is calling me into deeper works of redemption on earth. A God who is breathing in me words of prophecy that haunt my dreams.

I feel hope in a wife whom I celebrate Mother's Day with today. A woman who is exactly my opposite. A woman who is the best partner I could hope for. A woman who is committed to me in the good and the bad. On our wedding day she vowed that "when the tough times come, I'm not going anywhere" and has proven just that. She gives me my space, but she also pursues me and I never thought I would find somebody like her. She actually does complete me, its more than a movie line.

I feel hope from amazing friends. Like really amazing friends. Friends I've gone to war with and friends I'd go to war for. I can't mention y'all by name but I need you to know that your words and presence have brought hope to my life. You love me in ways I can't hope for myself. You believe in me and stick with me when I can't find my way. You affirm the places I find myself and earily your lives and thoughts often parallel my own. You have been the revelation of a Kingdom come for me.

I don't always know who I am and where I'm going, but for tonight I have the revelation of hope and that is enough.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly of church

I'm doing final teaching prep for the second night of a New Testament Survey course here in a few minutes and just reflecting on tonight's topic of Acts and the explosion of the 1st century movement known as Christianity.

I want to make sure to challenge traditions, expose myths, reveal truths, make space for reality, talk the good, bad and the ugly. I can't think of a topic I care more about. Being the people of God on earth in mission to a fallen Creation is my vocation. With all the talk in blogdom on being bi-occupational, building the Church is my vocation, just not my occupation.

We need to continuously ask a lot of questions about how we're doing being the people of God on earth. We can't be comfortable nor content so long as their is suffering, hunger, injustice and lostness in our world. Until the final consumation of all things and the Resurrection, we have work to do. We are invited into this redemptive work and that's a pretty big deal. The author of life invites us to participate with Him in His restoration. We can become agents of His restoration, that's a pretty freakin' big idea.

I hope to pet the dog's fur the wrong way tonight. Shake up commonly held positions so that we come together not on how we do church, but that we ARE the church to the world. Some days we're good, some days we're bad and some days we're ugly, but never give up. Ever since the first Century, those followers of Christ have always had a pesky habit of Rising Again!


Monday, May 05, 2008

Blog Lesson

In the 5+ years I've been blogging, I've learned at least one thing. Never blog at 3:43 a.m. in the midst of a sleepless night, nothing good can come of it.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Joey Gruber passed on to Kingdom Fullness

On the right of my blog has been a donation PayPal button for a 3 1/2 year old incredible little boy who had been suffering with a form of brain cancer and last night passed on to Kingdom fullness peacefully at home in the arms of his Mom. Please pray for the Gruber family, this breaks all of our hearts.

Here is the last blog post a couple days ago from Joey's Dad:
We are always glad to type messages here to share information about Joey. It lets us update everyone without having to repeat ourselves too much. We get so many messages, in many loving ways, and wish to send only a brief reply. Thank you in advance for giving us some privacy right now. Joey needs some rest and would be better without too much stimulation. We continue to pray and we will talk to you soon. To our great friends from work, Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for your genuine concern for our situation and protecting our livelihood in our absence. May God bless you and yours. To our friends and neighbors, Each morning and night we live of our lives so close to one another. We realize that our daily activities, even hardships and trials, are shared like family. We know that you are here for us even when our response is quiet. We could not ask for more than friends who are like family. To our dear family, Every time we face trouble, alone or together, we remain bound. Our strength and value has been built growing up with you. As youngest siblings, we will always look up to our brothers and sisters, and we have learned all the best about parenting through our moms and dads. We are blessed with strength from the love you always have for us. To Joey’s friends and caregivers, You will always have a most special place in Joey’s heart. Remember childhood all of your life. Try not to be sad for long periods of time. There is always a new episode of your favorite show coming up soon, or a book to read, or another game to play. And, To Claudia, I have rarely seen two people look at each other with such comfort, and share each others company with such great compatibility. It is like your souls have known each other long before you ever met. God bless you, your beautiful sister and your mom and dad. To Stacey, You mean the world to Joey. To say that you are #1 would be an understatement. Every single thing that you do is with love and good intention for him. Your motherly intuition has protected him and kept him safe all of his life. In no other arms has he felt so safe. With no one else does he enjoy himself as much. He loves you more than he could ever bring to words, and he loves you most of all. I also love you with all my heart. My love for you has grown because of Joey, and because of your love for one another. May God protect us and keep us together, as His, forever. To Joey, You are the best part of our lives. You have been given to us. We are blessed with you as our son. We have come to know great things in this world because of you. We have also learned how delicate these things, and our lives, may be. The fear of losing you is terrible and only God knows how much your mommy and I can endure. But, please know that we are best able to face each day because of you, and that our love for each other is greater because of you. We find everything we need in life, and many of the things we want, but the very gift of you, is the greatest thing we’ve ever had. Continue to be our beautiful son, always with God, and prayerfully here with us. More love than we could ever say, Mommy and Daddy.

Father, our hearts break for them, come and be their hope and peace this day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Being Ready

First of all, to keep up with the conversation, Check out Aaron's roll here:
blog roll

I want to state emphatically and upfront that I am Pro-Church. I am pro- the people of God on earth living in and asking for God's Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. As I pray for God to build His Church, there is a flipside to that . . . that means everything is negotiable and needs to be willing to be sacrificed at the altar. For me, that meant firing myself from paid ministry and taking a bi-occupational role. Thanks to Kevin Rains for reminding me that our bro, Chad Canipe (who passed onto Kingdom fullness in March 06) would say that we have one vocation, to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). However, in that, we may have dual occupations or even a triad occupation. I'm not alone in having had worked as many as 3 jobs at a time to make ends meet to follow the calling of God on my life.

Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat—I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I'm leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn't, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God."
Luke 19:23-27 (The Message)

But what I want to re-iterate is that everything needs to be submitted before God. Our expectations of what a comfortable American living has to be submitted. Our expectations of where we hold community meetings has to be submitted. Our assumptions of what we envision our role in the church being has to be submitted. Our financial margins and use of physical resources has to be submitted. Our sense of comfort and security has to be submitted. Where God calls, God provides and that will come at least in the form of daily bread. If we claim to follow Christ, that has to be enough for us. We have to be very careful to guard against making "professional" what is a spiritual role.

It is the sense of entitlement that I am speaking against when it comes to vocational roles in ministry. I am not against the idea of being paid, I am against the assumption that its the way it always has been and always will be. God does not owe us anything! Not a job, not a title of honor, not an air-conditioned office nor full time hours a week to be a spiritual leader. Now his provision may emody all of that for you, but we have to be okay if it doesn't. Truly, his grace needs to be sufficient for us and its not our place to demand more. Don't run from suffering, embrace it. Let it change you. Let it bring you to deeper exeperiences of God's hand on your life. Sweating blood on your night of Gaethsamane crying out to God to take care of your family is what dependence on Him looks like sometimes. If he desires to move in a different mode of paradigm, in submission, we have to be ready to go with him because there is no one else who holds the words of life.

So in this discussion I want to say that we as the Church need to be ready and willing to do whatever it takes to be the people of God on earth and embody his mission here. If it means bi-occupational for a generation or two because of economic and cultural factors, then so be it because the Church moves on. The Church is not bound by the factors, figures and the oil prices of this world. We can change, adapt and transition in new ways because we listen to a differnt King. And that King demands singular allegiance.


Friday, April 25, 2008

striking a nerve

Ok, this issue has some really thoughtful and reflective people/friends posting on this subject so I wanted to list them here so you can check 'em out. I'm really digging their thoughts, experiences and voices on this issue of money/vocation/future church.

Steve Lewis

Kimberly Knoll

Mark Evans

Alan Creech

Glenn Johnson

Daniel So

Mike Bishop

Jason Evans

I'm sure much more is to come. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Church, Money and the Future

This conversation has a lot to unpack, check out these links to continue the conversation.

Mike Bishop

Jason Evans

Here is where this conversation has me today. Going back to 1998 (10 years ago) I saw all of these trends coming and internally felt a great disconnect between my identity as a paid vocational pastor and as a follower of Jesus on mission to release the Kingdom to my community. I found that they were not the same thing. I went to Seminary to leave ministry and try to find some answers.

Here is one of the things I learned:

- My Anthropology class said that if missionaries were to have a voice in thier missional context they would have to take an "acceptable" role in that community. You can't be a vocational missionary or pastor into a tribal group with whom that role doesn't exist. I knew that my context was with those that were well outside the church walls and that for "postmoderns", they had complete disdain for organizational structures and distrust in traditional pastoral roles. So to me, if I cared to be incarnational to this group of people, I had to sacrifice my vocational identity as a pastor and take a different role in culture to support my family. So I fired myself choosing to be something more like a bi-vocational
pastor/missionary and planted a house church network.

- This has been enormously difficult. From a physical standpoint, I have a Bachelors and a Masters degree that in one world (ministry) carries heavy weight and in another world (outside of ministry) had me laughed at in job interviews. It was a transition of total surrender, personal suffering, marital suffering etc. etc. I had to learn to follow Jesus and not have pre-set assumptions of what His provision would look like. I'm not even sure how we have paid the bills on paper looking back at some of those points but I can say most assuredly that we were/are never w/out daily bread. I've done everything from managing in the food industry, teaching and administrating at a Christian High School to teaching and administrating at a Christian University.

- From an emotional/pychological standpoint, it has been brutal. I guess it has some of the same attributes of a mid-life crisis. A loss of identity which is only somewhat healthy, this loss reveals how many false-idols you had in place, places where I should have had only a trust in Christ to begin with. Its a lot of pressure to process this internal identity shift with the realities of daily life, family and work. I had the opportunity to sit on a panel discussion last Fall in Seattle with Brian McLaren and George Barna who see these shifts and are writing about them and asked them how they think people like me can deal with this identity shift as ministry culture is changing. It was a little painful to realize that they had no answers and seemed had never even considered the question previously. I suppose in their vocations of writing and speaking they haven't had the same experience. So there is little help for this area within our culture except for one another.

- From a ministry standpoint it is both a taste of amazing freedom and a challenge of transitioning away from a role of "providing" to "empowering". My experience is that even in house churches, there are still a dose of folk who just want to be fed and have large expectations for leadership to do just that. However, there are a growing number of folk who embrace the community model and bring to the community as much or more than what they are withdrawing. That is the really good stuff. I'm learning as well to not care about other's expectations of me or my performance for them. I'm just a fellow sojourner with them figuring it out and wanting to give the Kindom away.

- What is the future? I have no idea. I encourage students (high school or college) to get degrees in fields that can support them regardless of their ministry aspirations. Get your theological training from the church community and not to see ministry as a professional, but as a missional servant. From there let God lead you and provide for you in the context. I would suspect that within 10 years due to these emerging church trends and economic realities in America that the number of vocational pastors may decrease by as much as 50%. Endowed churches and denominations will be able to hang in there longer and I suspect there will be a movement of consolidating local churches to regional churches to deal with the dwindling cash flow and top heavy debts.

- What is the future? One thing I do know. God and His Kingdom are an unstoppable force and is all pervasive reality. The spread of His Kingdom will not be squelched, it will continue on to the end of all things. It may be a process of purification but that is our calling anyways as the Bride of Christ. Our identities may end, our vocations may end, our buildings may end, our paradigms may end, our assmumptions may end . . . but the Kingdom will never end nor our invitation to participate in it. I'll be around for all of that, hope you can join me ;)

peace to the coming of His Kingdom,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This hurts

My truck is paid off but the gas prices are killing me. I don't drive that much and its over $300 per month, not including my wife's car. So what does this project to as a national economy? Recession seems inevitable, will it go way beyond that? A nation already ruled by fear and over-spending with no margins by individuals and the government, what will be the consequences?

How will this impact churches and mortgages and credit lines that can't be fed? As builders pass on who are the committed givers what is left? 1/2 of boomers are there to give and the other 1/2 are driven past their financial margins with consumerism and can't help. Gen X and Millenials have very little value in long term comittments, are all about instant gratification and consumerism is their native language. Commonly this group of up and comers are living on 125-140% of their income taking on exponential debt per year. What will be the result of these decisions having no margins when the shoe drops?

Will American churches go the way of their European counterparts? Becoming really funky coffee houses, restaraunts, art galleries and dance clubs. Just things I wonder about.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

House Churching

So, we've been house churching for over 7 years now and there are just some nights where you walk away and say to yourself, "wow, now that is what church is all about". (of course you can have that experience in any church model, but I'm just speaking from my story) Tonight was one of those nights. Great meal together, great laughter around the table, great stories told, great discussion of Luke 19 and re-constructing what evangelism is, great further discussion on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, always great partaking of communion elements and great sense of being sent back out into our missional contexts for the week. So I guess what I'm saying is that I think it was pretty great.

peace to your week,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vasectomy completed, recovery in process

Boy, that was an interesting procedure. I won't go into details, but I'll just call the whole experience peculiar.

Kept a lovely conversation going on with Dr. Haaff, we covered the following topics:

* University education
* sons with developmental disabilities
* commercial development in our home of Liberty township
* running marathons and half marathons
* the astronomical rising inflation of Zimbabwe
* vacationing in South Africa
* WWII stories of his family immigrating from the Ukraine
* His grandfather having survived Siberia
* my desire to bring water and education to developing countries

So we got a lot accomplished on an intellectual level and I'm sure hoping he got accomplished on a procedural level what needed to be done.

I have very little soreness so I'm free today and throughout the weekend to watch the Masters tournament and anything else I'm in the mood for.

peace to your weekend,

Monday, April 07, 2008

Random happenings

* I used to be the biggest fan and promoter of Skybus airlines that we've used a few times, most notably with $35 round trip tickets to New York City for Nicki and I in January. But Nicki and I were using them this past weekend to speak to our college's youth ministry senior retreat in Northern Illinois and after our Friday afternoon flight, they went out of business and stranded us in Wisconsin on Saturday. We had to rent a car and drive home from Milwaukee to Columbus to get our car and then down to Cincy. So a one hour plane trip turned into a 13 hour drive and no reimbursement plan, we have to dispute the charges on our credit card. So, not that Skybus cares, but I'm no longer a fan.

* I'm hoping for a good game tonight for the national championship in college hoops. It just started and its such a frenzy pace, makes me tired just looking at it.

* Last week I was accepted into a Doctorate of Organizational Leadership program with Indiana Wesleyan University. I now have to decide if I want to actually do it or not as it will define all my free time over the next 3 years. I sure like my free time but it may be a tool for me to eventually teach full time at the college level and get involved in the kind of non-profit work in developing countries that I have in mind.

* After one week, the Reds look pretty salty, I'm impressed.

* Took my kids out for ice cream tonight for really good report cards. I'm so blessed to have 3 great kids, I'm only truly "home" when I'm around them.

* If you sense the trembling in my typing its because I'm getting a vasectomy on Thursday afternoon and it has me fretting all week. The upside is that I will be sitting on frozen peas and watching Tiger Woods dominate the Masters tournament.

* I agreed today to run in a 4 person relay for the Flying Pig Marathon in 4 weeks. Not sure which leg will be mine but it will be slow plodded. So I'm trying to up my running and down my eating for the next 4 weeks to kick start some weight loss.

* I loved the extended time with my wife this past weekend, can never get enough of that.

that'll do for now.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

MLB Baseball Preview

Well, since my boy Al Martin called me out, I can lay down some wisdom on the 2008 MLB Baseball season. First of all, I quit my fantasy baseball league so that I can focus on my doctoral studies I may be starting this summer. That allows me to now focus on teams and not just my individual players. Here is my take on the divisional winners-

National League:

East - Philadelphia Phillies, ok I'm a homer but they have the best line-up in the NL in a hitters park and their pitching is maturing in time to win the division. I see the Braves making a run and competing with the Mets for the NL wildcard. The Mets are the best team on paper but injuries will hurt them.

Central - I'll go with my homer call of the Reds due to much improved starting pitchers w/ 2 young studs named Cueto and Volquez. the addition of Cordero as a closer should mean the difference of 10 more wins. This is an above average team winning a poor division. Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers have little to no pitching to win enough.

West - Arizona Diamondbacks. nice young line-up but Webb and Haren are a lethal 1-2 punch. They both may win 20 games and their bullpen is solid. I saw them on opening day here in Cincy and I can't wait for them to leave town. LA and Colorado will compete, but I'll give the nod to Arizona.

American League:

East - im tired of the hype of this division so I'll just say the Red Sox because of their balance of talent. nuff said and purposeful omittal here of the team in pinstripes.

Central - wow, great division. I'll go with the Tribe because of Sabbathia and Carmona 1-2 punch but the Tigers will be right there and will win the wild card.

West - Angels. Loaded with talent as well, I love Vladi, most exciting player in baseball in my mind.

World Series will be the Red Sox vs. the Phillies and the Phillies win in 6! Ryan Howard NL MVP and Series MVP. The man can rake.

Feel free to fight back on these with your own comments, just know that your comments are wrong ;)


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

i remember

i remember when i used to be a good blogger

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He is Risen!

that rocks hizzy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

X Madness

Ok, I'm a pretty big Xavier University Musketeer fan and this is one of the best all around teams we've had in a long time. We have potential to do a lot of damage to some brackets as a #3 seed in the West. Senior guards, inside-out game, very athletic, strong defense, tough schedule and a deep bench. That is a recipe for a deep run, but there is a reason they call it "March Madness" because you just never know. Today is Georgia, a freekishly hot team coming off their SEC tourney championship, but this was after a sub-par regular season. Xavier is clearly more talented, but Georgia more than anyone else in the tournament is truly playing with the house money which makes them dangerous. I don't want a close game today, my heart can't handle it. But I'll take a close victory over having to pack up my X gear for the summer by this afternoon.

This is a beautiful time of year, amateur sports at its best (well, amateurs producing billions of dollars for others).

I'm posting today to support my Jesuit Catholic brothers from the Nati. Let's go X!

peace to your madness,