Sunday, December 22, 2002

But blessed is the man who for Thy sake, O Lord, grants leave to depart unto all creatures, who does violence to his nature, and through fervor of the Spirit, crucifies the lust of the flesh; that with a serene conscience he may offer a pure prayer unto Thee, and all earthly things both outwardly and inwardly being excluded, he may be admitted into the heavenly choirs.

-Thomas A Kempis

I'm having trouble just getting to the audition.

Friday, December 20, 2002

From paper boy to bus boy.........

I got my temporary CDL today and felt like I had stumped Deep Blue. Especially after flunking the air brakes and passenger part of the written exam yesterday (to which my old lady and dog-child found humorous).

So, I cried "do over!" and came back today and yakked up a 100 on the air-brakes test, much to the amazement of the test facilitator who asked me if I was a mechanic. (You see, I am told, "no one really makes that good on the air brakes test.") Responding in the negative, I warmed with a sheepish and inward pride as I mused on the past 12 years in professional ministry, the Master of Divinity degree (yak, yak, yak)- all hallmarks of a career that couldn't be further away from the mechanical.

The ministry couldn't be better.

Now with all this talk about simple church, home church, movements and what not.......I'd like to pose a query.

Here we are in Oxford with our two little house churches just over two months old as of this posting. We aren't experts in this realm but we know/sense the "rightness" or "oughtness" of doing church this way. And we're not even sure what this "way" is......whether it should be THAT way or THIS way or the OTHER way. That we aren't in the forefront making waves, drawing all the crowd, stirring the buzz amongst the big-name competitors.....the hip, the cutting edge-- poised to ride the next new confirmation enough. (Granted, we could be oblivious, sluggardly bums).

Some miss the adrenaline rush of having to pump up the next big "show" (a la the Sunday-to-Sunday big event). I don't. A decentralized, flattened leadership structure and slim overhead is way out of control and methinks I like it. It isn't as if this is something we did because some of the coolest people I know are doing it (and they are.....they are cool for divine reasons). Through a curious string and a network of interpersonal relationships God has placed in our lives, he has shown us a stepping stone in our direction for creating community, making disiciples, etc. We spent a year-and-a-half simply seeking (okay....alternately seeking and watching) just HOW we were going to do community and WHAT it would look like. We abandoned some preconceived agendas and "puttered" around to see what God had been doing here. Over this time period, the waiting and watching was fruitful and everywhere we looked, our vision was funnelled through this sieve of simplicity.

We are passionate for young adults. That is why we are in Oxford. God has given us ample opportunity to spiritually "father" and "mother" several of these whom God has placed in our lives and hearts, many of them having shared our house for months at a time (and some still lined up to come live with us). We have taken in spiritual children because they have been brought to us. They come in because we invite and I know we are not the only ones, but this is new to us and we (my wife and I) are growing into this. I know it has something to do with what God wants to do here and in this emerging generation.

I don't know if this is a prototype of something better to come....probably it is. But what I see now is SO foreign, compared to my expectations upon entering this field. This is the way God is doing discipleship....only now, the classroom is our house and the text book is our open lives. We have been priveleged to even disciple pagans in this kind of live-in set-up. I think God might want us to take this even further. More on that later.

Is there much evidence pointing toward a simple church movement among strategic age-ranges or even with attention to sub-cultures contained within the emergent post-modern generations lurking the globe now? Is a simple church movement possible within a highly transitional community within a university setting? Can there be strategy that avoids the peril of programmatica? Can there be a true, grass roots "house" church movement among students that doesn't have to masquerade as a "campus ministry" or a "para-church" thingy or be qualified as "student ministry".......(all terms which I find quite limiting)?

Maybe I am myopic. Maybe my young-puppishness betrays what reality is. I know I haven't seen it all yet. I know we are not breaking new ground in God's grand tapestry. But I like what I see so far and can't our little thread be something special and unique for this place?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

"We don't need another he....."

Just teazin-

I know I ain't been blogging. Even my wife has gotten on my tail about it. Sorry bout that dudes.

It's not that I don't have anything to say right now because I have too much to say about a whole lot of non-sensical things ranging from the esoteric to the blatantly mundane. And maybe just for a wee bit o' time I was lamenting, wondering, "when am I going to do something about my abysmal-looking blog?" So I punished my blog and went anti-postal.

I am "tweening" right now.....somewhere in the valley on the way to gainful employment. Fortunately, I flew from the paper job before all three sphincter locations on my bod eternally locked in revolt. (There are only three sphincter muscles that homo sapiens harbor.....can you tell me where the other two are located?). I could become a PO-liceman at the university (long shot). I could become a bus driver for the university students (closer shot). I have made my applications for both.

(HINT: two are external).

Monday, November 18, 2002

"We don't need another hero."
-Tina Turner

Monday, November 11, 2002

Just watched Waking Life by Richard Linklater. Poses the question (as those of you who have seen it know)...."are we sleepwalking through our waking life or wake-walking in our dream world?" Found myself sitting transfixed at times (like the unnamed main character)........eyebrow cocked, scrubbing my chin, wading alternatingly through the hubris of empty philosophy and chewing on nuggets of wisdom. A young man returns to his town, where years ago a young friend showed him the words with a folding paper toy: "dream is destiny." He seems to be in a dream but can't awaken as throngs of ideologues engage him, pouring out their worldviews with passion. Not much in the way of Judeo-Christian perspective (if any), but it is a surrealistic and worthy contemporary reference (if not a roll call) of philosophical approaches from historical thinkers ranging from nihilism, Darwinism, empiricism, positivism to passionate existentialism- as they might play out in the hearts and minds of "everyday" people.

If the movie is (arguably and at the least) a partial "who's who" on Christianity's contemporary rivals, who amongst us is helping formulate the new Christian apologetic in this pomo transition? The world hosts it's philosophical roundtable and too few of us in Christendom have taken a seat. So, in the shadow of academia, Miami-style, we stand somewhat accused. Just a bit, though because we at least do have plans.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

I think now I am over the shock of losing our gallery come May 2003. That eerily familiar sound of getting peed upon came and went. Rich guys need more money, I guess.........buildings must come down- even ugly ones being re-vamped for the overall purpose of serving others. But that happens a lot 'round here in these parts....big guy vs. little guy in an economic game of crash up derby except the little guy doesn't get to use a car. But really, I'm over it.

I am so over it that I am starting to believe that maybe our vision was too small. But God help me not to think that I am the one to trek up the mountain, get the vision and come back down to the commoners, saying, "lookie here." Someone else has got to see it, right? When Buzz the Coffee Shop folded late this summer, the marginalization monolith that is corporate America chalked up another casualty. That was about the same time we were getting a whiff of our destiny with the gallery. Now, the tangential masses that called Buzz "home" are once again out in the cold, noses pressed up against the picture windows of the establishment. Only the spectre of what was and what could be haunts the innards of that old building. I gaze through dirty windows there rather wistfully asking God what's going on here.

You know, I don't know if God has a plan for that space, with our people and if it involves Veritas. I just don't know yet. But if money were no object..................

On we go on looking for a physical location wherein we can take root. Here now, I dispense with baby faith and ask God for the go for broke. I am weary of safe ministry. I am starting to loathe the glassy harbor in which I am moored while a storm rages at sea. For the love of God, isn't this boat seaworthy?

Monday, November 04, 2002

Oh and guess what? I am quitting that punk-butt paper job. It was good at first but being tied down 365/24/7 didn't fly well with the wifey and doggie. They are right.

Okay. So I haven't been blogging. I thought I would spin a web in what I presumed would be my relatively obscure corner of cyberspace......piddle a bit........... until I could emerge as a hardy denizen of the blogmos.

I took a look at my blog site and thought "I'll learn a little HTML." That was a month ago and a "little" was all I've learned to date. My blog teeters still yet. I had hoped to get it real cool-like with pics and other neat stuff and get it organized better by my own bad self.

After sifting through the charred ruins of that nifty idea, I think I'll splurge and ask my new friend Alan Creech to whup up a blog that freaks......especially since I have been exposed by Kevin as a neophyte blogger (by the way Kevin, after the trek up to Greenhouse last Saturday, I am thoroughly convinced that your family ROCKS!......especially the kidlets..........thanks to you and Tracy for letting me bum the ride- you guys are awesome........and tell Zoe to "look at the pits!").

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

I remember a conversation I had with a good friend way back in the early 90's when I was in seminary. There we were- poor, really young and ludicrously idealistic and somewhat lamenting the fact that our prospects for a comfortable financial future were quite bleak. I think it had just dawned on us that we were going to be in the ministry for the rest of our lives. We were doomed to have to circle "Other" on various and sundry applications when it begged our occupation. I could only picture myself in a tiny, rural church with struggling farmers for parishioners (this prophecy would become reality) and having no money. How were we going to make it in ministry? How were we going to provide for our families? Shucks, we deserved to have our needs taken care of after having worked 4 part time jobs, pastoring a church an hour and a half away and being a full time student for three and a half years. We were in training to be professional ministers and stuff.

I got a taste of the professional ministry. Oh, I don't think......okay, I know I never reached "professional" status but I sure tried to be all polished and on top of the "game." The game was really a front for trying to be something I wasn't and trying to please people instead of God.

Now it's all "stuff." I don't know if I'll ever know what it's like again to be JUST a minister.......where that's all I do and get paid for it. I sometimes gaze in wonder at my compadres with their full-time pastorates.......where I used to be. But I left that and I was supposed to.

Veritas may never get to a point where it can support a couple of pastors. I have three part time jobs........I am a professional janitor, a professional newspaper delivery boy and a professional high school basketball referee. My wife rakes in more dough than I do. I get to do ministry for no monetary gain now.

I'm not so sure about this decentralized ministry/church thing................

Alright........I'm sure now.

You know something? I am happy. Even more, I am infused with joy when I think about what I get to do. We are up here for one reason alone and that is to see God do something magnificent here in the Oxford area in us and through us as we touch people for Him. It's just life. It happens outside my ability to predict it or comprehend it. Admittedly, I do sometimes crave the naivete of those halcyon days of yore, plugging away at my professional ministerial aspirations- but I would never go back to it.

Now the healthy disengagement as I go deliver papers..................

Monday, September 30, 2002

Tonight was a pretty incredible night at Veritas. We had our typical "crowd"..........around 30 (not that we count or anything- that's just the random number that seems to appease the pastor-types when they press). Many of these were first and second time guests checking things out. Lucky for them, they witnessed our commissioning of our first two house churches that will launch on October 13th.

We processed into the theater, taking the Supper and 2 candles and sat in silence while a candle-bearer placed a candle stand in the center of the congregants while the "I am the light of the world" scripture was read. After a brief homily marking the significance of the symbols and the moment at hand in the life of Veritas, the "YOU are the light of the world" scripture was the cue to the people to take one of their candles and light it at the center flame and plant it into the sand station on the stage. The last person planted their candle and then went back to the center candle and lit the remaining candle and brought it back to the circle surrounding the sand station and- one by one- we lit one another's candles. The last person to have their candle lit set the flame to two candles that represented our two house churches. We then prayed and layed hands on the house church leaders in the center circle and ended in praise and worship. It was simple and beautiful and conveyed the momentousness of what God was doing. I love those moments.

Much later, in our usual debriefing after the evening gathering, my wife quipped rather jubilantly with this observation after assessing who was there: "we are the church for the misfits."

Thank God.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I want to create a weapon of mass construction.

From what I can divulge from my intel sources, I have ascertained that all of the raw materials are being and have been smuggled in on the white market as planned. All of the components and the personnel necessary to create the system and deploy it are being mobilized well within enemy territory. The delivery system is certifiably grass-roots, if not simple and subversive. The ignition system requires the frequent gathering of Elite Commandos who cleverly pose as graduate/undergraduate students, teachers, computer technicians and University employees. The most exotic material- the verifiable Wildcard in the plan- is the Fuel that generates the explosive force. Some recon reports assert this Fuel is indeed “other-worldly.” Zero-hour approaches and when the Commander gives the go-ahead, the results of the detonation will be nothing short of spectacular.

No large, towering mushroom clouds and ensuing illness from unseen particles………this cloud spreads underground- infusing new life and infecting with freedom.

When this bomb goes off in the middle of my new city (and certainly others), the blast’s electromagnetic pulse, the searing heat flash and the overpressure from the blast wave will shatter the windows of the enemy, cripple his vehicles of personal destruction and utterly cave his fortress walls. There will be no fallout shelter for him…….concentration camps of the wounded will spew forth in incredible Light.


Okay……..I can’t build such a bomb. But God can……..and he has. And he will. My newfound brothers and sisters have willingly shown us the blueprints from their own war theater. Thank God for these warriors laying down their lives. I want to be like the Jesus in them.

No more pock-marked craters with shrapnel and a wide debris spray. No more lost limbs in the killing fields. This bomb smartly penetrates and crumbles the concrete fortress/temple of Me. This bomb builds a body.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

I have been thinking about how the Church should really look and act and I can say I am at a loss on the experiential level. As my community of faith has mobilized over the last several months to become part of a house church movement, much of what I think God has intended for us we have only approximated at best. Coming from a good, pagan family that never went to church (in East Tennessee, mind you), I can remember the freshness of discovering the Church at age 15 when I finally converted. By the grace of God, he placed me in the middle of a loving and nurturing people. (They had to be.......the first sermon I ever preached was when I was 15 on Youth Sunday...............I whupped out the back-masked copies of AC/DC and Judas Priest and sprung a one-and-a-half-hour sermon on the dangers of Satanism and rock music. Thousands were added to the fold that day). Despite every obvious reason not to, they hung with me and saw something God was doing in me that needed nurturing and clarification.

So here we go headlong into the world of house churches and we don't really know how to do it. But you know- that feels really good. It reeks of being right. God knows how to take a raw and pulpy mass and fashion something beautiful out of it. I am ready to slay the old habits of maintenance-level Xanity and get out of the way for God. I am weary of trying to be "cutting edge" and I am tired of worn out terminology that sometimes only succeeds in semantics what I want to see in practice. I want to see God do what I cannot do and stop acting like the church depended on me........and I need perspective as I demythologize.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

The Domesticated Jesus In A Feral Culture

(This article- my first blog attempt- is a result of the cringe factor experienced upon perusing the trinkets, paraphernalia and apparel found in almost any Christian book of the Christian mass marketing monolith. Until I get this blog figgered out, you'll just have to email me if you want to cuss me out.)

It would be a silly picture to see my German Shepherd dog, Vega, blow a fuse and escape to the wild- never again to return to "domestic" life. Even IF she wanted to, my black-faced push-over would be mincemeat to the intiates of the feral dog kingdom.

But it happens- domesticated animals get a wild hair and go rough it for good- seemingly to escape the unnatural and cultured setting of which they have been a part for the last ten thousand years. Consider it a rebellion to the efforts of humanity's invasion of the canine way of life.

The thought of my dog in the unknown surrounded by her more wily canine cousins with snarled teeth and bony ribs protruding is unsettling (can you tell I don't have chid-rens?). Even more disturbing are the phantom projections of a pseudo-Jesus on the fringes of a culture gone feral. What the modern 20th century churchianity experiment has left us with is nothing short of a rebellion- or better- a pilgrimage of the rejected masses to fend for themselves in the dark woods. The Jesus that the feral culture sees (when it looks) is a carnival mirror distortion of another by-gone reflection- an echo of an echo. We obviously no longer live in a churched culture (if we ever did) and emerging cultures have little or no authentic Christian "memory."

Establishment churchianity accuses the surrounding culture, crying, "you're anti-God," when, in reality, they are just anti-whatever-the-Church-as-institutional-demagoguery-substitutes-for-authentic-biblical-spirituality (read, pre-packaged Jesus by-products).

I confess..........I bought them. When I first discovered them, they were a cool way for me to express something that, as a new believer, I was still trying to figure out how to communicate- and there are some clever ones out there. But now, my "Won By One" tees (and their ilk) remain in the bottom of my drawer. My Christianized tee shirts are not going to convince the 24 year-old Satanist with the tattooed pentagram to whom our church gave out a free pack of gum and a hemp necklace last week. Nor will the neo-pagan, crew-cut, lesbian college freshman be swerved by screen-printed Christian cliches. It may have made one a bit more chummy with oneself for having the gusto to wear it in the presence of the heathen (and thank God we have a few of those).......but that's about it. Relational mutts though we may be, I never cease to be amazed that the desire to publicize our affiliation is only surpassed by our longing TO affiliate.

Are all of the tee-shirts, the W.W.J.D and F.R.O.G. bracelets really doing more than unifying the already-convinced? A self-described pagan dabbler in both Hinduism and Buddhism (but reared Jewish) has started hanging out with us. He has an antidote in the form of a bumper sticker on his car. I can't tell if it's a sacrilege or just a plain funny indictment on the Christian marketing juggernaut of which I reads, "667, Neighbor Of The Beast." This one puts in its place the veritably un-Christian bumper adornment, "God Is My Co-Pilot."

So we further segregate ourselves from an unregenerate culture and become an unapproachably peculiar people for no real redemptive reason.