Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are you connected?

The downside to my desire to read deeply and intentionally comes into full play when I post as a viral blogger, in that so much has already been shared there on Dwight J. Friesen’s Thy Kingdom Connected that I find little original content to add to the discussion. But here goes…

I too was apprehensive on the value of the content when I read the words “Facebook”, “Internet” and “Networks” in the subtitle. However, I understand that the inclusion of these buzzwords may spur some to give the text a chance. After reading, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the content was not a direct critique/defense of social networking nor a handbook for pastors on navigating social networking media to share Christ. What Friesen offers is a thought-provoking spark to how church leaders and members can work together to actualize a networked kingdom of God.

Unlike some of the reviews, I appreciated Friesen’s willingness to admit that this text was neither a comprehensive nor complete treatment of the subject and enjoyed exploring the links and suggested readings at the end of each chapter. It was like a treasure hunt, each turn leading one deeper into the individual points Friesen himself explored to make up the whole of the idea of the networked kingdom and connective leadership. I believe this lends credence to Friesen as a networker in that this is what great networkers do: point those who engage them to dig deeper and share the works of others to continue and deepen dialogue.

That being said, I can see why some would read Thy Kingdom Connected and claim that Friesen fails to offer a complete, comprehensive work . I believe that it must be read in the context of community to be truly appreciated. I found myself continually reading, digging deeper into the suggested readings, and bouncing the ideas and questions off of colleagues and close connections. Therefore it would be a text I would recommend as a small group study or discussion piece for a cohort or house church group rather than to a colleague for individual, personal reading. It is a text that begs connection and in that way, I believe Friesen accomplishes something that others who have written about the benefits/dangers of connective nature of social media networking technology fail to accomplish. Friesen gets us to actually connect.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

do you wordpress?

i am also on as pomopilgrim. if you wordpress, please feel free to look me up there as well.

not THAT Christmas story...

so i have been discussing Christmas practices and traditions with other young parents and families, esp. regarding whether or not we include a certain fat man in a red suit in our celebrations, which we do not. many questions and generative conversations ensue so i thought i would share some of my observations on this particular topic with you.

this should come to no one's surprise, but for me it all comes back to story.

to clarify, we do acknowledge the story of Santa Claus with our son. we acknowledge that the story of Santa Claus develops historically, finding its roots in Saint Nicholas. we acknowledge that the story of Santa Claus reveals the central idea of sharing all that we have with others. we acknowledge that, for some reason, some of our friends and family feel more comfortable calling themselves "Santa Claus" so that they can have some fun when they give us presents. but we also acknowledge that Santa Claus as a person does not exist. we do not celebrate Santa Claus nor do we display images of or countdown the days to Santa Claus' arrival. instead, we focus upon the arrival of the Christ child. the central story of Christmas for our little family is that we share ourselves, we give gifts to others, and we celebrate Christmas in remembrance of the gift given to the world in Jesus Christ. as the years go by and our son gets older, we are working on helping him understand that Christmas is not some historical once-in-a-lifetime event that happens over 2000 years ago. God breaks into our world in new ways every year and that the celebration is not limited to one day but our entire lives. we are also still working on helping him connect the baby Jesus and the bearded man Jesus as one in the same person.

when we do this not be giant party poopers but b/c we believe that when we include alongside or allow the story of Santa Claus to overtake our celebration, i believe that we tell our children, others, and the world that the story of Christmas, the story of the birth of the Christ child, of God breaking into the world and "moving into the neighborhood" (thanks Eugene Peterson) is not magical, mysterious, majestic, or mystical enough; that we must include some mythical figure with a mysterious backstory and magical abilities to freshen it up. this is simply not true. check it out: angels delivering messages, virgin birth in a stable, stars in the sky, shepherds, angel choirs, wise men, epic journeys, a paranoid king, mass genocide, epic escapes, and on and on. the story of the birth of Christ, of God breaking into the world and sharing human form, is magical, mysterious, majestic, and mystical enough without flying reindeer.

or massive amounts of consumerism for that matter...
i haven't even touched on the fact that the current image of Santa Claus we have is the creation of the Coca Cola company as a part of a marketing campaign to sell more products and is currently used to advertise black Friday sales and perpetuate massive consumerism (and subsequent debt).

what has been so surprising to my wife and i is the resistance we have received from others, from people who believe the story of Christ to be central to their own stories and the stories of the communities they associate with. we are not attempting to ruin Christmas or, more importantly, YOUR Christmas. or maybe we are. maybe we are trying to ruin the idea that Christmas is all about individualized consumerism, where we all get, materially speaking of course, what our little hearts desire so that our Christmas will be "good" and we get through one day to move on back to our regular everyday, individual lives. we are trying to ruin THAT Christmas story. we are attempting to discover a Christmas story about how we help others, how we share what we have with those around us because we are passionate about focusing our entire lives holistically on the love of God and neighbor. we are passionate about informing and focusing our family and community on, what we understand, is the true meaning and story of Christmas. we are passionate about proclaiming the story of Christ as big and beautiful enough without a pudgy, gift-giving mythical figure sneaking into our lives and stealing cookies.


What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Recently found myself in situations where I overhear or notice very
private conversations occuring in very public places (son and mother
discussing finacial hardship, a marriage ending, a relationship
disintergrating over competing understandings of spirituality, a
friend sharing their deepening depression). Trying not to be a creeper
or eavesdrop, assure you that these situations have literally fallen
in my lap and, in all cases, had to actively work against listening in
b/c of volume and proximity.

It leaves me wondering how much of our lives we spend not noticing the
lives of those around us b/c they fail to invade our own in some way?

Friday, November 06, 2009

stay thirsty?

over the past year or so i have really struggled with the most interesting man in the world ad campaign by a certain beer company. i haven't really been able to put my finger on exactly what i have been struggling with until this past week. to celebrate halloween, this ad campaign produced a radio spot touting the most interesting man's accomplishments re: halloween, including his alleged ban from cemeteries b/c he brought someone back from the dead. whoa. i've got to throw a flag on that one and share what really bothers me about this campaign.

one, this beer company has supposedly found "the most interesting man in the world" without accepting nominations or suggestions from others. i would elect a certain someone else to hold this office and i am not speaking of chuck norris. that person would be Jesus Christ, who btw HAS actually raised someone from the dead and been raised from the dead as well.

two, the tagline for this campaign is stay thirsty. the tagline for the other nominee i would like to offer up is come to me, those who thirst, and I will offer living water and those who drink it will thirst no more. the idea being that those who drive marketing to popular culture desire us to thirst, desire in fact that we STAY thirsty so that they can continue to sell more product, to prosper off our desire to remain in line with what they are selling. Christ offers us rest from this, offers us more than a product or brand name. Christ offers himself as living water to quench our thirst and transcend the desires of the world.

three, i found out that the guy that plays this supposed most interesting man in the world is an actor and fakes his spanish/latino accent to sound more exotic and remain in line with the product identity. also, the product in question is about as spanish/latino as the actor, being that it is brewed in white plains, new york. and lastly, the product in question does not even quench thirst but in fact keeps one thirsty. he and the product he promotes are not even genuine.

four, in thinking about story and storytelling, the existence of this ad campaign is doubly disheartening in that it tells the story of a fictional character in a quasi-factual manner. it tells the story that the most interesting man in our world is some larger than life character that we know doesn't even exist in reality. the story it tells is that our world is not interesting enough, not great enough to hold a person that could do some of the things he is reported having done. it is completely contrary to the story that Christianity has to tell: a true story of a man that is completely human and completely divine who really does these amazing things (we call them miracles) that he is reported having done. it pushes a counterfeit story when a real, authentic (and i tend to believe a better) story exists largely ignored.

and i think that's what my whole problem is with this campaign: it offers a life-draining fantasy alternative when a perfectly good life-giving reality exists.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done. They may wait awhile...perhaps a generation or two...dropping off by degrees. A superior breed shall take their place.... A new order shall arise, and they shall be the priests of man, and every man shall be his own priest. The churches built under their umbrage shall be the churches of men and women. Through the divinity of themselves shall the kosmos and the new breed of poets be interpreters of men and women and of all events and things. They shall find their inspiration in real objects today, symptoms of the past and future.... They shall not deign to defend immortality or God, or the perfection of things, or liberty, or the exquisite beauty and reality of the soul."-Walt Whitman, preface to Leaves of Grass

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

a blast from the past...

recently i posted responses on twitter and facebook to an article that shared observations about the business practices and working philosophies of microsoft and google and how the church could learn from these observations.

last night (10/26/09) as i was watching a documentary on the decline of the newspaper on PBS it hit me that we have a more low-tech example. a newspaper exec was being interviewed about the failure of the newspaper to make the leap to becoming an online presence, which subsequently has led to its decline as a information medium and news source. the exec remarked that often the project to make that leap was given to newspaper execs who simply took the printed newspaper they were producing, scanned it, and posted it online; vainly failing to seek outside input from others on how to innovate and make it more accessible to an online community. he said that the responsibility for the failure lies in the hands of newspaper execs and identified their fatal flaw: they continued to operate under the assumption that there was no way to innovate on the form and function of the newspaper, that people liked the newspaper the way it was. they operated under the assumption that the newspaper in and of itself was impenetrable; much like the mindset of the USAmerican automobile industry towards the product they were producing. they had every opportunity to keep themselves from becoming obsolete but pridefully and vainly dug in their heels, believing that the newspaper, like the USAmerican automobile, would never die.

this is much more in line with what we are dealing with in mainline Protesant Christianity. there are those who are pushing against leaving it in its current form and function are desperately trying to update it and keep it relevant, keep it from becoming obsolete. there are others who seem to vainly sit back and operate like those in the newspaper and automobile industry, with an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy (while their definition of "broke" accomodates for more and more slippage down the slope to obscurity and antiquity each day). the main problem being; as it is in the story of the newspaper and auto industries, that those who take the latter view tend to be those holding the most power.

will the church become completely obsolete? no, we are told that the even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. i do, however, believe that the most sinister force moving through any organization, including the church, is apathy. when we allow ourselves to vainly believe that the world cannot function without us, we offer the world very little outside of a challenge to show us that it can.

re: Who Keeps Our Story When We Are Gone?

interesting article posted on CNet re: Facebook and memorialized profiles that touches on the earlier post re: who keeps our digital story (10/20/09), which seemed to garner some feedback. Thanks to Jason Valendy for bringing this to my attention first.

Monday, October 26, 2009

redeemable metaphors...

i have been giving a whole lot of people a whole lot of grief for their continued use of applying business model metaphors and terms to the function and identity of the church and its agents. though i believe that no institution or power is beyond redemption (thank you walter wink) i also believe that at this moment the business model may be temporarily bankrupt of integrity when it comes to models we should follow (e.g. enron, worldcom, aig, citicorp, bank of america, the list goes on...which is a major part of the problem). one of those folks challenged me to supply them with a model or models that might be less problematic. so i threw out three and i would like to see what you think...

pioneers: (ala Walt Whitman & western US expansion) moving out into an unfamiliar area with little professional expertise but a boat load of common sense, the church could reclaim its pioneering spirit of not only reaching out into new areas to establish community but also rediscover the value of relying upon natural or readily available resources in a respectful and renewable manner to thrive. could also breed creativity and innovation as we are asked to rely on the gifts and expertise we bring rather than going out and hiring one/some.

tribes: (ala Indigenous/Native Americans and, more recently, Seth Godin) playing off of the innate human need to group itself into communities or tribes, the church could rediscover what it means to live in a self-sustaining community where each member has a unique role and brings unique gifts to the table. tribes need leaders; sometimes that's one person, sometimes it's many people.

movement: (ala history) working out of a metaphor that in and of itself is a verb, the church envisions itself as a community on the move/in action. a movement often involves a greater number of people and employs decentralized leadership as a survival mechanism: having one leader centralizes power and possibly redefines its ideals as one person's philosophy and also risks that the movement will live or die with that leader. decentralized leadership doesn't mean the community is "leaderless", it means that leadership is spread throughout the community making its survival and growth reliant upon the many rather than the few. also, movements have traditionally been perceived as counter-cultural and if we cannot claim Christianity as counter or at least transformational to popular culture we may be in more trouble than we realize.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

this year, give presence

its not too early to be thinking about Advent and its not too late, Christmas can [still] change the world...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

who keeps our story when we are gone?

great comments on "re:Post..." on 10/8/09. thanks to all who contribute and offer thought-provoking comments and questions. wanted to add to that discussion and our current stream of storytelling with a thought-provoking post by my friend Gavin Richardson re: a session at barcampnashville that got him thinking. find it here, the post is called "we're all gonna die : so who is your digital executor?" thanks to Gavin for sharing his barcampnashville experience.

it got me to thinking that in this digital age, when all that we share/post/contribute online outlives us, who do we trust with our story after we are gone?

i have a friend that died years ago but still has a facebook page, which myself and other friends still post on from time to time. even though it was unintentional (no one thought to take it down) it has been really therapeutic for us as we remember her light and energy.

i also think about the fact that i desired greatly to record the stories of both sets of my grandparents before they passed away but never took the time to sit down and collect their stories in one place in a way that i could get their perspective on before they passed. missed opportunity.

who do trust with your story (online or otherwise) after you are gone? how are you contributing to that story with your online presence? do you have a plan on how that persists beyond your life here in this plane of existence?

Friday, October 16, 2009

prayers for a friend...

Don't normally post prayer requests on this site but wanted to include one that has come to my attention over the last 24 hours. Project 44 is a local non-profit organization seeking to do the work of the kingdom by gifting cars to those in need and developing and maintaining community gardens. They have hit a snag in their car ministry as the laws surrounding the gifting of automobiles has changed and they would now be forced to pay an additional cost (tacked on to the cost of repairs, maintenance, and a years worth of insurance) upwards of $500 per car before they give it away. They are not in any financial position to do this and are obviously quite flustered about these recent developments putting a stranglehold on such a vital part of their ministry. Please be in prayer for Project 44...that they may find some assistance in continuing this facet of their ministry. Please be in prayer for those who need this is an ongoing need. Please be in prayer for the church...that it find ways to assist non-profits working towards building the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is powerful and when it is focused can accomplish amazing things. Remember, nothing is impossible for God.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

openspace student ministry

decided to get together with like-minded friends in student ministry and launch openspace student ministry, which will over time become a collaborative site offering connection, innovation, and the unrestricted sharing of ideas re: ministry with students and families. launch date is November 30, 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Favorite interpreted by Levis

So I am watching SNL this week while surfing the net and updating social networking sites and my ears perk up when I hear a voice reciting one of my favorite Walt Whitman poems, "O Pioneers!"  I am somewhat flabbergasted when I realize that this poem is being used to hock Levi jeans in their "Go Forth" commercial campaign.  Though the commercials are visually brilliant, shot by director Michael Gondry, I am supremely conflicted, believing in my heart of hearts that Whitman most assuredly would not be down with such shennanigans of selling jeans with his poetry.  As I milled it over, however, I began to think that Whitman might actually enjoy being associated with something so ingrained in Americana as the blue jean.  I will let you be the judge...check out the link and let me know if you think it is simply exploitation of fine poetry to sell jeans or an homage to a great American poet who captured the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical landscape of this country in its pre and post civil war era.

Here's the other one from this series that uses Whitman's "America" as it's soundtrack...which is good but not one of my most favorite of his poems.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

what story is the bottle telling?

check this blog archive from Mental Floss about stories told by one of the oldest mediums of storytelling: the message in a bottle.

rePost: I will not let this go...

No, this rePost does not have anything to do with the theological validity of potlucks but one I posted last Friday that I believe is worth looking at again, as no one posted comments on it....

As I have been delving into creating an open source CMS and continually engaging in social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others I have begun to ask myself (and be asked by others) about the connective tissue between these and my previous stream of posts on story/storytelling (which I greatly appreciate Jason and Steve's comments upon).  My intial observations are these
  • we often tell our stories without even being aware of it, in ways we are no longer even conscious of  through what we listen to, what we read, what we consume and how we publicize and encourage others to consume.  recently, I found that my re-tweeting excerpts from morning and evening prayers from TheUrbanAbbey was inadvertently encouraging others to follow these prayers as well, adding a whole new dimension to their prayer, giving them some indication of my own attitude toward prayer, and creating a new "community" of folks in this geographic area that follow TheUrbanAbbey.
  • what some see as passing fads in the areas of social communication, news sharing, and the exchange of ideas are actually deeply held and future/ancient mediums that natives now use for sharing story/storytelling
  • that there is an ever-deepening quality in culture to what Marshall McLuhan and Shane Hipps state/maintain: "The medium IS the message."

Thoughts?  You have been on some of this journey with me and I'll really like to hear what you have to say....

Sent from my of the many mediums through which I share my story and connect to the stories of those around me. 

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Valuable Gift...

"One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is
listen to each other's stories." ~ Rebecca Falls

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

for all you moderns out there...

Reading an article from BBC news my friend Charles Harrison posted on
his fb profile about the Billy, the most popular mass-produced
bookcase in the world sold by Ikea, I was intrigued and inspired. The
author not only chronicled the design and development of the Billy but
also raised some great questions about the importance of displaying
books and what a collection of books says about the collector. So,
similar to my recent post on the iPod, I ask the question, "What story
do your books (and how you display them) tell?"
As I reflect on this question, two particular items are brought to
mind: church libraries and the bookcase of a mechanic friend of mine.

What do church libraries, how they are set up, where they are set, and
how they are accessed tell you about a church? I believe these
collections, their location in reference to the main flow of the
church, and their contents tell a particular story about that
congregation. It has, however, always been a mystery to me to walk
into relatively new church buildings that have church libraries. Is
their existence a commiment to a previous a
memorial? Or coukd their presence serve as an indicator about the
information acquisition of the membership and possibly it's age and
mindset? Could it be a "tell" to visitors about the age/era the church
finds itself most comfortable in? What does the existence of a
resource center/library consisting largely of printed material in a
conference office tell you about the organization and how they see the

On another note, I will never forget the bookshelf of a friend of mine
who happens to be a mechanic. Amongst all the auto repair manuals and
countless volumes regarding the inner workings of particular cars
there is tucked away a book on collecting antique glass paperweights.
Upon further prodding, I found a softer, gentler side to my mechanic
and friend (who often comes across as gruff) and was introduced to a
whole new world of collecting I was previously unaware of. It taught
me that books and how they are displayed can speak volumes to the
story of a person.

What about you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

"story" = dirty word?

Does identifying the Bible as "story" diminish it's importance?

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, September 24, 2009

what story is your iPod telling?

From Andre Corescu:

As I read this article, wondered what story my iPod tells? What
memories would the music on my iPod ellicit? Do you use your iPod as a
legitimate storytelling device?

Sent from my iPhone...not my iPod or my MacBook.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avast Me Hardies!

Admittedly, when I hear the word "pirate" my mind conjours up images of eye patches, hooks, knives btwn teeth, and Jerry's puffy shirt. However, as I came across these two seemingly different (but in retrospect quite closely connected) articles on "pirates" (see links below), I began to think about archetypes (in the Freudian sense) and how our perceptions of archetypes influence the language of our stories.  Pirates have played a role in many pillars of literature as villans, revolutionaries, and heroes.  It left me with a couple of questions: -What are some of the archetypes/character types that make recurring appearances in your story?

-Are there archetypes/character types beyond redemption? If so, why or why not?  

Peter Rollins on pirates:

Political Pirates in Sweden:


Once had a mentor tell me that they coyld tell so much about the
theology and theodicy of others by listening to them pray. How is our
story and the story of God (and the way these two unite/connect/
diverge) told through public and private prayer?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Infusing Stories

At what points do your story and the story of others intersect and
At what points does your story and the story of God intersect and

Sent from my iPhone...intimated?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How Do You Tell Your Story?

What medium are you most comfortable with to tell your story? Realize that I might have limited some of you by utilizing the printed medium to ask your story.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's Your Story?

Been intrigued lately with the power of narrative therapy and the
impact of storytelling on a culture that supposedly no longer operates
from a unified metanarrative. What is your story? (share as little or
as much as you feel comfy with). How do you find your story linking to
the stories of others? How do you find your story linking to a
metanarrative (larger stories that tend to shape worldviews)? Thank
you in advance for sharing!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, September 14, 2009

Post It Note Storytelling

Chek it out:

Sent from my iPhone

After this short break...

Back again blogosphere after a long sabbatical, new job, and a new
home I return to my blog to unleash my inner thoughts on an
unsuspecting world...enjoy!

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, August 03, 2009

Yes, that IS the dude who sings "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the event "Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus", from the 2009 World Science Festival, June 12, 2009.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A Spiritual Journey

"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

-Wendell Berry from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982

Friday, June 26, 2009

We Have Enough

"Being mindful is hard for us because we are always anxious about time.... Learning that we have enough---money, time, love---may be our most important lesson. Even when we eliminate the apparent obstacles of working and consuming too much, we still have trouble relaxing and enjoying the present moment. So the problem is not just the scarcity of time, it's our attitude toward time. That little voice always creeps in: You'd better hurry, you've got a lot to do, you're not getting enough done, time is running out. What does this mean in terms of feeling alive? Surely, if things keep on this way, when we come to die, we will discover that we have not lived."

-Cecile Andrews from The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life

What is preventing you from living in the moment?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ancient Musical Intstruments Found in Cave!

In an article recently posted by NPR, I read that scientists recently unearthed musical instruments, flutes to be exact, dating almost 35,000 to 40,000 years ago in caves in southwestern Germany. The flutes are made of hollowed-out mammoth tusk and vulture wing bone. You can hear a simple song played on one of the flutes by clicking here.

I find this idea fantastic, that in the earliest days of our species we sought to create music. As I was reading the article, I began thinking about the cave paintings in Altamira, Spain that date back roughly 14,000 years ago. This would mean that the flutes pre-date the paintings as one of the earliest forms of creative work that our species produced (tools and weapons notwithstanding). I began to reflect on my own experience of the arts and music and how both move me (with great emotional force at times). I can imagine that the sound created by the simple flutes were accompanied, as one of the archeologists proposes, by hand claps and chest thumps as well as possibly some form of audible singing. As I wondered what this earliest music sounded like, I began to think that art, though remarkably engaging, cannot produce the kind of solace that sound can. As I stated earlier, I am deeply moved by works of art in all its many mediums but sound offers me considerable more solace. Sound communicates emotion: a fast tempo with high-pitched notes communicates excitement, possibly happiness or joy while a slow tempo with low notes communicates sadness and elicits reflection. All that being said, what moves you? Are you moved by the visual stimulation that the visual arts, in all of its mediums allow? Are you moved by the sounds and intonations of song and instrumentation?

P.S.-Please forgive if my terminology is off, I am neither a trained visual artist or a musician.


"Whoever joins God's liberation movement must be content to spend time in the wilderness, to live in tents and not know what the morrow brings."

-Elizabeth O'Connor

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Settling for Reality

"We must reconcile ourselves across racial and cultural barriers. I hear people talking about the black church and the white church. I do it too---it's reality. But it's not in Scripture. We should not settle for the reality our culture presents us with. You see, the whole idea of the love of God was to draw people together in one body---reconciled to God. That's supposed to be the glory of the church!

When reconciliation is taking place across cultural lines---between blacks and whites, between rich and poor, between indigenous and those who are new in the community---the quiet revolution is ready to spread."

-John Perkins, from A Quiet Revolution

What realities are you faced with? How are you dealing with reality? Where are your searching for possibilities when you are up against situations that seem to present the impossible?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Church's Primary Task

"The very existence of the church is her primary task. It is in itself a proclamation of the Lordship of Christ to the powers from whose dominion the church has begun to be liberated. The church does not attack the powers; this Christ has done. The church concentrates upon not being seduced by them."

-John Howard Yoder from The Politics of Jesus

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Joining the Liberation Movement

"We do not have to sit around immobilized, waiting for help to come. We can learn to care for our society, which in large part means learning to care for our cities. If our streets are to be redeemed we will have to commit our own human and financial resources to that goal. We will have to recover our gifts of faith and hope and endurance, evoke the gifts of other persons, and thus develop leaders and facilitators for the building of a global network of small, disciplined, self-critical groups whose reflection will issue in purposeful action. This is a way to join in the liberation movement that is going on in all the poor countries of the world. We are not the initiators of this movement. Even the suffering ones of the earth are not the initiators, though they are the genuine leaders. The movement is God's."

-Elizabeth O'Connor from Servant Leaders, Servant Structures

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

trying to get a handle on this simplicity thing...

Alright, so it has been a while since i shared anything original here and i wanted to explain why. i move through cycles of information/inspiration gathering followed by a cycle of expository on my reflections after said gathering. i am still in gathering mode. i have finished Affluenza and Cecile Andrews' masterpiece The Circle of Simplicity and moving into her main source text, Duane Elgin's Voluntary Simplicity...also reading through Richard Foster's Freedom of Simplicity again, it has been a while...also moving through Marie Sherlock's Living Simply with Children, as i want to incorporate simplicity in all aspects of my life. wish me luck. i really resonate with all that these authors/thinkers/theologians are sharing, it will take some courage, strength, and hard work to implement it into all areas of my life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seeing the Sacred...

"No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggest that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it. The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need."
-Barbara Brown Taylor

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Possessed by Possessions

"The affluent are literally possessed by their possessions. Money and the things it can buy stalks the rich countries like a demon. Mammon offers comforts and pleasures to delight the flesh but demands the soul in return. The attachment of Americans to their standard of living has become an addiction. We can't stop shopping, eating, consuming....

A successful life leads not to love, wisdom and maturity; progress and success in our society is instead based on adding more to one's pile of possessions. Our natural course is toward a better job, bigger house and richer lifestyle....

Material goods have become substitutes for faith. It's not that people literally place their cars on the altar; rather, it is the function of these goods in a consumer society. They function as idols, even though most affluent U.S. Christians, like rich Christians throughout history, would deny it."

-Jim Wallis from The Call to Conversion

Friday, April 24, 2009

The World Says...Jesus Says

"If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully---the life you save may be your own---and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks we can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion."

-Frederick Buechner from Listening to Your Life

Thursday, April 23, 2009

McLaren on Recovery...

Brian McLaren shares some really interesting views on recovery at inward/outward...check out the complete article by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Every Day is Earth Day

I have received a number of advertisements and postings from organizations or companies that encourage some form of consumption to commemorate Earth Day. I am refraining from posting these or advocating for consumption today. I believe that as we celebrate Earth Day today, we should instead be asking ourselves, "How we can make EVERY day Earth Day? What are some of the small and big ways we can simplify our lives, refrain from indiscriminate (or discriminate for that matter) consumption, and help conserve and allow the earth to renew the resources we share with our global community?" Not just b/c it would be the politically correct thing to do but b/c Christ calls us to care for the least of these, calls us to live life and live it abundantly.

Just a thought...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WJDND - What Jesus Does Not Do...

"Jesus does not declare money worries unimportant. He does not call us to live only on the spiritual plane. He does not criticize the materialism of the person who has nothing. He does not say that we are wrong to be worried, because we ought to live in a carefree manner. He does not suggest evasion, and he does not judge us. He frees us, which is another thing altogether."

-Jacques Ellul, from Money and Power

Friday, April 17, 2009

we really enjoyed our day, though Cordner and Joy could not participate due to health code conditions in the workplace and school, i let my feet free for the entire day. Cordner and i took a barefoot walk around our community and walked on different things to feel how they felt on our feet. then we traced our feet and made "happy feet" to commemorate our day. all in all, we and our bare feet had fun. and for a good cause, no less. thanks to TOMS and to all others who participated in ONE DAY w/o SHOES. don't wait around for another official event to let your feet free. take your shoes off today and let your tootsies roam. when someone asks why you have no shoes, tell them that there are children in some developing countries that walk miles w/o shoes to get clean water, food, and other essential items...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


TOMS shoes; a small, grassroots start-up that manufactures simple shoes with the notion of one-to-one: for each pair of shoes you buy, a pair goes to a third world citizen who needs shoes, is asking that people go shoe-less for ONE DAY to raise awareness about this ongoing situation and the mission and goal of TOMS. that ONE DAY is tomorrow, April 16th, 2009. i am participating and encouraging all of you to participate as well. i fully realize that some work and commerce in settings where this is not acceptable so i would ask that you go shoe-less at your desk or during lunch and possibly re-consider commerce period but at least commerce at establishments where shoe-less-ness would not be acceptable. let's show our feet to show our support for the shoe-less. for more info, visit

Duane Elgin on Simplicity

Duane Elgin, the author of Voluntary Simplicity contributed to inward/outward an examination of the different varieties of simplicity, which he calls the "garden" (i love that image). although the article is entitled "Planting a Lenten Garden of Simplicity", i believe the article holds a great deal of wisdom re: simplicity. i have found it extremely helpful as i am seeking simplicity in my own life. you can find his article here. enjoy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


now i am reading The Circle of Simplicity by Cecile Andrews, in an attempt to voluntarily simplify my own life and the life of my family. came across this early on in a section entitled "Getting Started" and thought it was worth sharing:

"You begin to do this with everything. Do I really need this? Do I really want to spend time with this person? Do I really want to work for a promotion? You may be wondering if this really simplifies life. Be aware, we're not talking about efficiency or convenience. Sometimes living simply takes longer. We are talking about our quality of life-whether it brings joy and serenity rather than frustration and aggravation. Whether it brings a sense of congruence or fragmentation. But while simplicity may be more complex, it shouldn't be more complicated. Something that is complicated is confusing; something that is complex is challenging. A life of simplicity is complex and challenging."

recommend this book highly, also just finished Affluenza, another great book that touches on the cause, effects, and remedies for the world's largest life-draining epidemic whose side effects include rampant consumerism, mindless destruction, and excelling greed. also reading Simple Church by Rainer and Geiger, which I DO NOT recommend, as a part of a staff book study. Geiger and Rainer attempt to tackle the simple v. complicated issue as it pertains to life of the church. someone really needs to come along and do a better job on this subject...could be highly instructive to the church at this time. what Rainer and Geiger offer instead is a numbers-driven "formula" that promises church growth and the elusive (and extremely hard to measure) "vitality" ensconced in conservative theology.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Crucified God...

"Reconciliation is not something accomplished by Christ for God, nor inflicted on Christ by God, but forged by God through Christ. This wreaks havoc on the medieval (but still widespread) doctrine that Christ's death functions to placate an angry or offended deity. Rather, the "crucified God" represents a fundamentally restorative initiative by the Divine victim towards the human offender."

-Ched Myers, from the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, E-News Aug.-Sept. 2008

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

reflections on Palm/Passion Sunday

The Triumphal Entry...
"For more than two years, Jesus had been engaged in a public ministry.... He had learned much. So sensitive had grown his spirit and the living quality of his being that he seemed more and more to stand inside of life, looking out upon it as a man who gazes from a window in a room out into the yard and beyond to the distant hills. He could feel the sparrowness of the sparrow, the leprosy of the leper, the blindness of the blind, the crippleness of the cripple, and the frenzy of the mad. He had become joy, sorrow, hope, anguish, to the joyful, the sorrowful, the hopeful, the anguished. Could he feel his way into the mind and the mood of those who cast the palms and the flowers in his path? I wonder what was at work in the mind of Jesus of Nazareth as he jogged along on the back of the faithful donkey."
-Howard Thurman, from The Inward Journey

this past Sunday night, offered a prayer station to my students i called "the road to Jerusalem". i got the idea from Kimball and Lewin's Sacred Space, recently published by YS. printed thoughts and meditations like this one lined the "road" made with brown butcher paper. i also used the leftover palms from Sunday morning to line the road as well as smooth stones, which students were invited to take with them as a reminder of Jesus' words re: the quieting of the crowds and the fact that the stones themselves would cry out in the absence of the crowd's "Hosanna." Students were also invited to share their own praises, thoughts, concerns, questions, and fears on pre-printed "palms" and leave them along the road with the other palms for Jesus Christ. i set up the road to end at the foot of the cross that was already set up in our worship center. we got some really thought-provoking observations from the palms and i felt that it was a great opportunity for students to quiet themselves and reflect on the event as well as prepare their hearts and minds for Holy Week.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Kneeling Before the Mystery of Death...

Read Wendy Wright's entire article at inward/outward by clicking here. Her experience at a veneration service in a Spanish Catholic community is both deeply moving and humbling as we approach Good Friday and Easter. Scroll down to read the comments as well. I especially like "Jesus is the seamless garment that unites us all."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Thought on solitude...

"Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one's self."

-Parker Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness

Friday, April 03, 2009

More on the Buffet...

i received some interesting comments in response to my posting re: a church's attempt to set a world record for the world's largest potluck buffet. i also received an email from one of the organizers of this event, which sheds some light as to the focus and direction of the potluck. the potluck serves as a mission/outreach event for the church and local community organizations like the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, local missions and night shelters, and other local churches and civic organizations were invited to attend. the church decided not to pay extra fees to ensure its "World Record" status and a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records will not be on hand (which apparently is an additional cost) to verify. the burden of proof will be upon the church to prove its claim to "World's Largest Potluck Buffet" with pictures and other verifiable data. the email also stated that the record was not the focus but a benefit of organizing the event; its main purpose is that of outreach to the community as a "one mile mission" endeavor to reach out to those who live in the roughly one-mile radius around the church building itself and offer fellowship and community over a common meal.

i appreciate the comments regarding this event and earnestly pray that it is a success in reaching its intended goal to combat hunger and reach out with the love of God through Christ to the surrounding community. i also applaud this effort as a means of outreach to the community by a mobilized laity within the local congregation.

i am still left wondering if there was some other way to reach out that did not rely upon traditional stereotypes regarding southern, USAmerican Protestant Christianity as well as the excess, gluttony, and affluenza of USAmerican culture? those outside of the church are looking on (especially in a time when the news and media inform us that the US is in "crisis") to see what the church holds as important and necessary issues to address. hunger is certainly an issue worth addressing but i am still left feeling that the means through which hunger is addressed in this instance reflects an absence of a "flat" worldview, one that is keenly aware that what we say and do no longer exists in a vacuum of geographic and/or social location but is being watched and critiqued by a world that is connected like never before. with the world watching, then, what is it that we are offering?

Doing my Part for Women's History Month

in honor of Women's History Month, i am reading through some of my favorite women theologians work. already posted about Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence, now onto Robert Ellsberg's compilation of the diaries of Dorothy Day, The Duty of Delight, and then stopping back by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki's God, Christ, Church: A Pratcical Guide to Process Theology. i know that this is only scratching the surface so i am putting it to you, the reader, to suggest your favorite women theologians to me for further reading. also, if you know of a good treatment of the church and female imagery, would love to have titles on this as well. as a sidenote, i have already received a ton of rec's for Diana Butler Bass so if you are recommending her, please be specific about which of her books you would suggest go first on my reading list.

thanks, in advance, for your reader participation.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Confessing Christ...

"Confessing Christ is not a matter of parroting biblical truths. It is possible to say all the right things, to be impeccably orthodox in one's theology, and still to be fatally disloyal. Loyalty to Jesus Christ occurs only when our confession of him is concrete.... The confessing church is a radical alternative. It rejects the individualism of the conversionists, the secularism of the activists, and a matter peculiar to them both: the equating of faithfulness with effectiveness (or with working for effectiveness).... It is committed first of all to restructuring neither society nor the heart but the church according to the will of God. The church restructured will be a church of reconciliation, a church of nonconformity, and a church of the cross."

-George Hunsinger from Disruptive Grace

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Buffet for Jesus...

a local church will seek to make the impossible possible this Sunday by attempting to set a world record for the world's largest potluck buffet. which makes me it events like this one that contribute to the feeling that the church has nothing of great import to offer them? i am certainly not pinpointing this one event as exhibit A but it is a compelling example: a community of faith attempting to build a monument to excess and gluttony. it is my hope that the proceeds of the potluck will benefit some greater good or that the potluck is open to those truly in need of a warm, filling meal. i am reminded of Ronald J. Sider's seminal work entitled Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, which exposed thousands within the church to look outside of themselves to see the realities of world poverty and world hunger, that as they enjoy the benefits of affluence each day, roughly 30,000 children worldwide die of starvation.

my wife says that my posting on this is offensive to those producing or putting on the event and it is not my intent to be offensive or rude, but to simply point out what i perceive from the outside observer looking in. i will take full responsibility for being the debbie downer/wet blanket on this one but i can think of at least a thousand other elements of church tradition we could be celebrating (esp. at this time in the Christian year) that would have an equal or greater unifying and uplifting effect upon the surrounding community. i am simply attempting to utilize this space to share my thoughts and observations in a way that is not only cathartic but also thought-provoking and conversation-starting. i will admit and take responsibility as well for the immediacy of this post, this is all coming from the gut and the back of my brain. as the conversation continues and i have had time to allow this to make its way to the frontal, processing parts of my brain, maybe i will think differently. if so, watch for re-tractions or re-flections on this subject here. i would love to hear comments and thoughts on this, maybe i am being too quick to judge.

all that being said, pass the potato salad mildred.

But WE Are the Church...

But WE are the church. The "institutional church" is the last thing Jesus had in mind. Nor is there a scintilla of evidence that he thought his presence in history would prevent us from worshiping with his Jewish brothers and sisters. And so when we say we are the church, we ought to include all ... all who trace their origins to the way God revealed God's self to Abraham. (And we cannot be exclusive about that, either.)

So, okay. How many times have you heard it? We are the church. So what does that mean for those who continue to struggle in institutional churches, synagogues, mosques where the vast majority do not get the Justice message of Yahweh, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Prophet? What does it all mean for those of us who have expended an unconscionable amount of energy trying to work for reform and Justice from within the institutional church?

Some, I am sure, are called to continue to work from within. But for those to whom the "unconscionable" adjective applies ... well, let's grow up. Let's figure out more effective ways to get back to what Yahweh, Jesus, and the Prophet intended. Basically, it's a no-brainer: Truth, Justice, and (only then) Peace.

And we need to find ways to do that TOGETHER.

So, more meetings? No very large meetings; small groups will do it: discern what is likely to be an unconscionable waste of energy on the one hand, and what, on the other, has some prospect of becoming a witness that might, just might, be ... well, a witness.

Henri Nouwen wrote: "If we decide to wait till we have time to touch all our bases, nothing exciting is going to happen."

So who wants to do something exciting? In my view, if we "get it"---the gospel message---it is we. WE are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

We have learned from experience to start small. But let each small group decide on its call and DO that call. God knows where such a thing might lead!"

-Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, writer and speaker

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jessica Chane' Waldron, You Are Missed...

On Sunday morning, a car drove by a Dallas club and opened fire on the crowd gathered outside. Jessica Chane' Waldron and friends were waiting outside for the valet to pull their car around. Chane' was shot during the incident and died later of her wounds.

I had the incredible opportunity to work with Chane' at SMU while in Residence Life and Student Housing. Chane' brought her energy, excitement, and bright, shining personality to everything she encountered. She was an excellent RA, an authentic life-assistant to the young men and women of McElvaney who were attempting to navigate their first years at SMU. Chane' will be greatly missed by so many people. Please join me in prayer for friends, family, and all those touched by the life of Jessica Chane' Waldron. Please join me in prayer for all those affected by senseless violence. Please join me in prayer for those who take an active role in senseless violence, that their hearts and lives may be transformed and that they may experience the grace, love, and peace of God.

Here is a link to the Dallas Morning News Story, which covers the incident but does not do justice to her amazing witness and life.

What Seperates Us from God...

"The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God."

-Thomas Keating from Open Mind, Open Heart

Monday, March 30, 2009

To Be the Church...

"I confess I'm still not sure what it means to "be" church. Been in it since infancy, and still don't know what it means---to be it, to do it. Yesterday's poem reminds me how tricky it can be even to find the entry points when folks have such different ways of trying to open the door ... some that turn out to be threatening, deadly even. I haven't lived through bodily bloody "Christian" violence, but I've had enough of those "Are you saved?" moments, times when "the preacher would trounce my tender sins"... and "true believers come knocking to tell me that flaming hell is real" to run from overly eager saviors of my soul, bearing their ideas of 'truth,' 'right answers' and 'one way or no way.' Sometimes I don't step away fast enough and my eyebrows get singed, my heart contracts, and I find myself scanning the room for exits. So I'm thinking if love is the mark of the church, then I'm still not living there full-time...."
-Kayla McClurg, posted on Inward/Outward

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If you care to know...

If you care to know what is going on in North American Christianity, please read Phyllis Tickle's The Great Emergence. In it, Tickle outlines the rummage sales the church has engaged in every 500 years or so and outlines what is at the heart of the rummage sale the church currently finds itself engaged in as well as the ripples that spread out from it into surrounding society and culture. A must-read for those seeking to hear a constructive message of hope regarding the "death" of the church and what might possibly might move the church forward.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

creative and concious use of social networking....

interesting observations regarding social networking usage by author Charlene Li, speaking at SXSW on her book Groundswell. think the church could really utilize her advice regarding how companies and corporations use social networking media.

this was passed along to me from fellow blogger and friend Gavin Richardson, check out his observations on this topic by clicking here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"The Church Should Die"

Check out the post, links, and comments on "The Church Should Die" on, think it provides some thought-provoking material, especially for those of us working within the church today.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


check out Brad Cecil's article regarding "truth" by clicking here. posting this mainly in response to some recent discussions i have had with others on this topic, think it frames what i and others are attempting to communicate about this concept.

Friday, March 20, 2009

whole-life democrat

The following is Cameron Strang's, one of the editors of RELEVANT magazine, First Word column from the November/December 2008 issue of RELEVANT. It has been in my "drafts" section way too long so I wanted to share it with you.

"In August, I was invited to pray at the Democratic National Convention. The invitation came as a surprise, considering I'm not famous, not a minister, not a Democrat and have differences with the party on several issues. But the Democrats have been proactively addressing some moral issues that should be of concern to all Christians. I thought, what if more Christians would be willing to cross party battle lines and work through disagreements to champion issues of common good—ones that should be bipartisan anyway? Maybe together we could rise above the political fray and see lasting change happen.

And, after all, I'm a nobody who would probably get the 2 p.m. workshop prayer slot. I'd be no big deal. So, I accepted. Then, a week later, they told me I'd be giving the benediction on the opening night of the convention, as part of the national broadcast. That changed the stakes a bit. What I would have intended as a bridge-building gesture would have been seen by millions as an unequivocal endorsement, which I wasn't comfortable with, considering my differences with the party on issues like abortion legislation.

Nevertheless, I was interested in continuing a positive dialogue behind the scenes and challenging the campaign to address issues of concern to Christians like us. For instance, if we can't agree on abortion legislation, can we at least work together to proactively reduce the number of abortions? You have to be present to have a voice. So, I withdrew from giving the prayer and instead participated in a forum discussing these issues. It was a positive dialogue, and frankly, I wish the Republican convention had done something similar.

You would not believe the firestorm of calls, email and media attention that followed me during that journey. Thousands on the fringe right wing sent me emails ranging from all the reasons I'm going to hell for even talking to Democrats, to actual pictures of aborted children. On the other extreme, after pulling out of the prayer, I was accused by the extreme left for being a coward and representing all that's wrong with Christianity. It was an interesting few weeks, to say the least, and yet another reason I'm glad the hate-filled political season is over four days after this issue hits newsstands.

Some critics used the invitation (and my willingness to initially accept it) to "prove" that RELEVANT has gotten too liberal, that we've chosen a works-driven social gospel over promoting a relationship with God. And while I acknowledge the magazine has begun covering harder-hitting issues over the last year—as well as spotlighting people who are living counterculturally, giving their lives to make a tangible, eternal difference in the world—I strongly disagree that this is a liberal shift. The spiritual foundation of our magazine is unchanged. We believe the Bible is the only complete and infallible written Word of God.

We believe God is moving and still speaks to us today. And we believe Jesus came to provide eternal salvation to a lost and dying world. It is actually a better understanding of our faith in Christ that compels us to care about the social issues we've been covering. If Jesus said it, we believe it. If Jesus modeled it, we want to live it. If Jesus commanded it, we want to obey it. We believe everything Jesus practiced and preached is as relevant for us today as it was at the time of Christ's earthly life.

Jesus stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Ultimately, he gave His life to save those who could not save themselves. And we should model the same mindset today. My primary disagreement with the Democratic party, and the source of so much of the controversy I experienced, is my belief that life begins at conception, and it is our moral duty to protect innocent lives. To me, that is not just a matter of faith; it is a matter of objective fact. "Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction, but a demand of justice," Cardinal Justin Rigali reminded pro-choice Catholic candidate Joe Biden in September.

However, and this is where many on the right miss it, the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day—systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on.

In April 1859, Abraham Lincoln wrote these words in a letter to Henry Pierce: "This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, cannot long retain it." It's simple, folks: Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. Christians shouldn't just be known for being "pro-life," a term which will never be disassociated from 1990's abortion clinic bombers. Instead, we need to embrace a more holistic definition of Christ's love and example. We need to be "whole-life."

Whole-life means standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. It means seeing a need, like Scott Harrison did (pg. 60) and giving your life to serve it. It also means more everyday things, like being conscious consumers and not supporting companies that subject people to illegal, exploitative working conditions, or promote slavery, like our cover story uncovers. Being whole-life means living out Jesus' example in our world today—fighting injustice, promoting life, being good stewards of our natural and financial resources, and showing God's love in a tangible way. A Christian's compulsion to stand for what's right should be far deeper than someone who does not have faith in Jesus.

To dismiss these as liberal issues is to miss the very heart of God. It's only our Western, partisan mentality that has blinded us from this practical application of scriptural living."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

i like to call them my friends...

click here check out what's going on with my friends at Tolstoy House, a neo-monastic community house here in Cowtown that has been together for about a year. some really neat stuff coming up this Saturday, March 21st.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You Alone

"Give me the strength that waits upon You in silence and peace. Give me humility in which alone is rest, and deliver me from pride which is the heaviest of burdens. And possess my whole heart and soul with the simplicity of love. Occupy my whole life with the one thought and the one desire of love, that I may love not for the sake of merit, not for the sake of perfection, not for the sake of virtue, not for the sake of sanctity, but for You alone."

-Thomas Merton

Source: New Seeds of Contemplation

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

sorry it's been a while...

after braving what i think was a combo of sinus infection and the black plague and entertaining my in-laws this past week, i return unscathed to post yet again!

recently a friend posted this observation on his status update on Facebook, attributed to Marcus Borg, "Church 50yrs from now: Fewer professional clergy. But intentional groups of Christians will be around. Tents in the wilderness."


not a big believer in predicting the future, much less the future of the body of Christ (b/c i am asked often to do so), but feel that Borg is on to something really revelatory with this observation. if current trends continue and the spending habits of institutions (including the organized religious denominational institutions) continues to be put under a public microscope, the trending towards less professional, specialized clergy staff does not seem like an unlikely possibility. more and more, in discussions and dialogues i am a part of, hearing a downtrend among those seeking to serve the body of Christ away from professional clergy and towards a more bi-vocational ministry approach, a tent-making approach, if you will, where those leading communities work in the public marketplace to provide their salary and benefits while serving the body of Christ in ministry. this is a very liberating approach for some, who believe that b/c they would not rely upon the community for financial means, the pressure to provide leadership would rest less upon them and more upon the entire community, enabling the leader to be more of a partner in vision-casting and creation than the vision-doer. this might allow the body of Christ to become a people-centered community rather than a leader-centered community. though Moses leads the people through the wilderness, he enlists a great deal of people from within the community to do the work of administration. often too, it is the reluctance of the people and not Moses to take a greater role in leadership and administration and it is Moses that has to shake them loose from their preference for doing things the "Egyptian" way, the way things were done when they were under oppression.

which brings us to the Exodus imagery. i also like this "tents in the wilderness" image, casting the people of God not as firmly planted in the promised land but seeking out God's promises while following God by day and night in the wilderness of our current culture. i like the image of the church building, the place of meeting as a tabernacle, a temporary structure that can be unstaked, moved around, and placed in various settings. God moved with the people in the wilderness and it was when they got complacent and comfortable in the promised land that they built (against God's wishes, i might add) a permanent residence for God.

not sure where you fall on this, but would like to hear from those who follow my seldom-updated blog.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

40 day giveaway

Check out to see a project my friend Flip Cadero is working through for his 40 days of Lent. Check out especially Day 2. Flip and I met through my wife's involvement with the Wesley Foundation at SMU in Dallas. Flip is Catholic and I am catholic so I always look forward to our conversations. Also, just being seen with Flip raises my cool factor proportionally so that's always a plus. Flip and I share a man-crush for Richard Rohr and Shane Claiborne so we have so much, from saints to the social gospel, to discuss when we hang out (which is not enough). He urgently facebooked me last week with a request to get together for coffee ASAP. At coffee we spent some time admiring one another's facial hair and he presented me with his fantastic ostrich belt which had the Virgin de Guadalupe buckle attached. Needless to say, I am a much stouter man than Flip so I am proudly donning the buckle but will need a few months to slim down in order to don the belt. Thanks to Flip for the outstanding gift. My prayers are with him and with all seeking to grow in this season of Lent.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

questions for lent

As Lent approacheth, still working through some of my spiritual dryness, thanks to all who left encouraging and helpful comments. I believe that I will be giving up my selfishness and self-centeredness as well as my self-created complacency regarding my actual, physical involvement in real ministry with those on the margins. It is on this note, ministry with the least of these, that I feel compelled to ruminate upon today. Still working through this so please poke holes and challenge my assumptions.

I recently read Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor by Dr. Robert Lupton, which was compelling for a number of different reasons: one being that it was succinct and compact handling without being over-simplified and another being that it dealt frankly with the church's approach to ministry with the poor, which one can do with years of real-life experience working in ministry with the poor like Dr. Lupton. This book got me to thinking about what I am seeking to accomplish when I work in ministry with the poor. In my experience working with those in need (which really is all of us isn't it?) I am often the recipient of a request: "I need...fill in the blank" So often, I get caught up on meeting that most immediate need of the person I am working with: food, clothing, bill payment, gas, etc. and lose sight of involving that person in acquiring whatever it is that they may need. So often I hand over money or buy the gas or a bag of food or pay the bill and forget that Christ calls us to much more than this.

Yesterday, I took part in a Faith Community Leadership Summit on mental health organized by Texas Health Resources and involving leaders of faith communities all over Tarrant county. Dr. Len Sweet and Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, among others, spoke about the issue of health and spirituality. Dr. Len Sweet is also engaging as a speaker and teacher and yesterday was no exception. He spoke of our need to implant Christ rather than our desire to imitate Christ. Imitation, he maintains, leaves little to no room for innovation or creativity while implantation allows Christ to work through us and become implanted in the lives of those we work in ministry with, including the poor. He also went on to say that as faith community leaders, what we seek to imitate about Christ is incomplete. We try to be great preachers and teachers, while failing to imitate Christ as healer. I do not believe Dr. Sweet was advocating we all become faith-healers but that we acknowledge that what Christ did more often than preach and teach was heal and in acknowledging this truth seek to be healers more than teachers or preachers; that in our relationships with those we minister to and with, we must seek to provide authentic, transformative, healing moments in which Jesus Christ is revealed rather than expounded upon. Dr. Stevenson-Moessner chose the framework of the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10 for her presentation. She reminded us that as we read the parable and focus on the Samaritan's solitary, self-less act of compassion we not forget that the Samaritan enlists the assistance of the Innkeeper and the donkey to care for the traveler and that the Samaritan views his assistance to the traveler as a long-term project, which would need follow-up and re-visiting rather than simply getting the traveler what he needed, filling his most immediate need. Dr. Stevenson-Moessner also reminded us that the directive is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, which means we must love ourselves, know our limitations, and know when to resource. She pointed out that though Jesus feeds the hungry, heals the sick, and raises the dead that there were still hungry and sick people and that people still died during his ministry here on earth, Christ did not heal and save everyone and Christ did not work alone in feeding and healing those he was able to while he was here.

What if, instead of the "least of these" or the good Samaritan we took seriously our directive to be healers (not just triage workers but real HEALERS) and used "Go and make disciples..." from Matthew 28 as the model for how we minister with the poor, the hungry, the homeless/houseless. What if instead of just simply meeting the immediate need (which certainly needs to be met) we established a relationship with those we serve, challenging them to take the blessings that they receive and share them with those around them who may need them just as much or even more?

I cannot recall who originally wrote this story but it was shared in a sermon I heard recently. A pastor was delivering Thanksgiving baskets in an apartment complex with church members. They found that they had a whole basket of items left over, with no particular individual in mind. The pastor approached an older woman whose door was opened and said, in an attempt to cover and appear non-creepy, "Excuse me, we seem to have some leftover, do you know someone that could use this basket?" He fully expected the woman to say yes and accept the basket. Instead, the woman grabbed her coat and led the pastor to another apartment where a single mother and 4-5 children lived. This story tells me that amazing things can happen and our gifts may get into the hands of those in real need when we engage and involve those we are seeking to help as co-conspirators in the ministry of care in the name of Jesus Christ. This is what Dr. Lupton seems to be advocating for in his book, the real involvement of the poor in our ministry and not just targets for our ministry.

I am also reminded of the story in the book of Acts of Peter and John heading to the temple to pray and stumbling upon a man unable to walk who asks for an alm. Peter and John's response is, "Silver and gold, I have none...but what I have, I give you..." and heals the man then and there. This story reminds me that the alm would have been enough to meet the man's immediate need but what Peter shares with him is life-changing. If we are handing out money, filling gas tanks, and filling bellies we do great work but if we share Christ in an authentic, incarnational moment that seeks to form a relationship then we offer something so much more transformative.

What if instead of simply handing someone money, a sack of food, or a sack of clothes we asked them to join us in our work, asked them to be a blessing as we are seeking to be a blessing to those around us? What if with every plate of food you asked the person you were serving it to to pray for someone they knew who was in need? What if the next time someone asked you for gas money that you prayed with them as you put your hand in your pocket to get the money out or asked them to share themselves with someone around them as you are sharing yourself with them? I don't know, maybe I am asking too much but it seems to me that Jesus himself saw the hungry, hurting, and sick, heard the cry of those in need, and acknowledged that we would always have the poor with us. In light of all that he himself experienced, Jesus leaves his church not with the directive to feed, clothe, and alleviate suffering and injustice (which he was certainly interested in and wanted his church to be interested in) but instead left his church with the directive that began "Go, and make disciples..." I am not asking us to stop assisting and ministering to those in need, I am asking us to look at how we can offer much something much more lasting, something much more transformative alongside our assistance: the relational love and grace of God through the life of witness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ by implanting Christ rather than simply imitating Christ, by sharing our work with those we are seeking to serve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

hit a little snag...

kind of in a spiritual dry place of sorts, any suggestions on how to get out...?

Monday, February 09, 2009


so i am watching CNN this morning and on the crawl i read this, and i quote, "cell phone rings amuse, annoy some."

really?!? these are the up-to-the-minute news details that the world needs to know?

this is like posting "socks with sandals deemed by most 'not a good look'" or "many choose not to wear flip flops in the rain because it may cause foot wetness" or "study of junior high aged males shows many find fart sounds comical" or "nation-wide poll reveals some enjoy coffee, others choose tea" or "another baseball player found using steroids" or "many believe our last president is a big dumb-ass" or "study reveals the endless war in Iraq actually claiming the lives of young people on both sides who displayed a great deal of potential and could change the world."

is this what has become news? are we so ill-informed that we don't actually know these things? or have we become so apathetic that we just don't care about what scrolls along the bottom of the programs produced by those who have devoted themselves to reporting the most current news-worthy items to the world?

a month or so ago, a report came out of austin that someone had hacked into one of those signs that dot the major highways around texas and made it read, “The end is near! Caution! Zombies ahead! Run for cold climate!” i wonder how many cars drove by it completely unaware of what it said and how many people actually read it and kept driving? is this a further sign of the apathy with which we handle information or is it a further sign of the impending idiocracy?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the speech, full text

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.