Sunday, December 28, 2003

Back in Awksford....Ahksfurd.......Ahxvurd......Oksvird.......Oggsfurt......Oxford.

What a ghost town without the stoodints. Just rolled in with our 9-year old niece who'll be padding down with us till next year. Should be cool times.

This year, Christmas was just downright wierded out. Nothing too much out of the ordinary I suppose....just the same ol' stuff. Didn't get to see mother......was fearing that.....I guess maybe later. But I did get to relish the time I did have with who I was with. Got to see friends whose families are families to me as well.

Bought two roof-top cargo carriers for the Smellement as well. That was a first. Sears pulled a big one by stating that the one cargo carrier that should fit our Honda should do so WITH its twenty dollar attachment hardware. Nuh- uh. Didn't find that out till hours before leaving. The only thing that will fit it (that I know of) is the Honda carrier (go figure). We needed one for the return trip back since we were bringing back our niece plus the doglet we already had with us. I called all over the known world and one dealership in Lexington had one (only one in this region that did, turns out). So we went and bought that one on our way to Tennessee. I thought I would be able to mount the carrier lickety-split at the dealership and be on my merry way, perhaps with just a wee bit of assistance from the quality service staff. Hah. Had to make an appointment. They wanted $150.00 too. (They said it'd take their trained staff about 2 hours to put it on.....lots of hardware and stuff. I guess they took me for less than able to read a schematic instruction sheet). I suddenly really wanted to find a way to pack that thing up and get on down the road and figure out how to put it on m'own bad sef when I got to Tennessee. But the steady rain that day dissuaded my intentions to mount the thing even in the parking lot.

But I had an idea. They did let me pull our vehicle into their bay, fold the other seat up and pack our stuff into the roof top carrier and put it into the Element on it's side.....alongside our German Shepherd dog as well. And it all fit too. That's the first time I ever rode with a loaded rooftop cargo carrier inside the vehicle with a dog to supervise it. And this is the only vehicle I know in which I could pull off such a fiasco. And so, I left them, bidding them adieu: the service manager, personnel manager and a sales tech all standing in a mild amazement at this feat of functionality. I think we all kind of learned something that day.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Here in the Gap de la Bull, in frosty Tehnuhcee on momma Grubb's computer. M'ladee fast sleeping behind me in the bed, m'dawg fast asleep on the bed in the next room (she gets her own now).

Tis the day of Christmas and in mere hours, I'll be heading to Knoxville to see some more family. There will be some people I probably won't see because of the level of relational fragmentation that continues.

I don't really mean to cast aspersions on our double-barrelled holiday season over the last two months, but things are a-changing in my life and in the family I thought I knew. Doggone it, MY friends are starting to talk about getting illnesses and fearing some hereditary health risks. Since when did coming home for Christmas become about our infirmities that we don't yet have?

Some mainstays in the remaining fam are aging and I am really coming to grips with the fact that these holiday times [in which I really only get to be with my family of origin (FOO)] are going to change abruptly, sooner rather than later.

We come home, barge in on our FOO's lives, and don't really know what's going on. But we all try to connect because we do have a history together.....mottled as it is. We are missing out on their lives, no doubt. And it is, no doubt, because of the fact we are serving God elsewhere. We know that, we knew that and we grow deeper contending with that. I know we're not the only ones, but it is no small sacrifice. It does cost. It costs time spent with your dad golfing and conversations costs hanging out with your aging grandmother- the one most responsible for your coming to faith in Christ and who raised you from high school costs seeing the ballgames of your sports phenom 13 year old costs seeing your friends kids grow up. It just costs. Jesus told me that somewhere.

This is not about wanting something somewhere else. This is about being vocal about my identity formation as it emerges in this Christ, who beckoned me from His Somewhere out of my nowhere. They are thoughts, perchance, on an ongoing assumption of this One's identity as a cloak or a mantle on my own nakedness and waywardness resulting from my first loving community that blew up in my face in 1977. Though it should have been in the context of me, mom, dad and sis that I was to have learned of the blessed acceptance of the love of Abba, it (my FOO) went belly-up. It may be tripe to some, but God knows how much of a relational mutt it has made me. And let me tell you, in so many ways, I still am discovering ways I suffer today from that damned mess back there.

No anger faces to blame.......I love the principals too much and see them too infrequently for that and God is doing something else in my heart. It's just that coming home causes you to see how easily you forget how deep the void in your heart is until His Light shines to the bottom.

Prally not what you want to know, but it's my crap, my "issues" and part of what makes me up. So this is Christmas.....perhaps another one without my mother, I dunno. I'll let you know later. Sometimes I find myself grieving over something I still long for.....(a mom and dad together with me and my sister)........ but know I'll never have that because I intuitively sensed its death long ago. Emotionally, it has been for me like a death unmournable with a body unviewable. Maybe a part of me died back then too. I am 34 and still coming to terms with the fact that mom and dad couldn't stand the sight of each other. This is divorce. This is half of my generation.

But my God has something to say......

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Nice to have snow here in Oxford.....close to 3 inches worth. Tis a welcome change to the drab scenery of dormant winter vegetation.

We tend to think of snow in terms of it's "purity." Its white appearance no doubt lends to that. But if you ask a snowflake (and I have), it may be anything but pure.

We see snow as "white" not because of its purity, but quite the contrary. Snow is just frozen water droplets that are no longer light enough to be carried by the winds in the cloud. The size of the flake may depend upon the moisture content available in the atmosphere.

When a cloud forms, and subsequently, precipitation, it is because tiny water droplets coalesce, or fuse/join with microscopic particulate matter in the atmosphere called aerosols. Much of these aerosols can be free-floating pollutants. When enough moisture joins the aerosol, it can become too heavy to be suspended in the cloud and it falls to the ground as precipitation.

We see white because of the nature of the ice crystals' alignment. The snowflake crystal has multiple facets which bend pure light into a variety of directions so that we a wash of not one pure color, but many. In fact, we have misjudged the snowflake; it is not an entity of purity. We have just assigned that quality to it.

I'm not a subject of purity either. I suffer from a multiplicity of faces that cover for what's really underneath. As such, I bend, refract pure Light as well. I, too, become a product of pollutants to which I have been attracted. Thankfully, it is because of the worth assigned to me by Someone else that warrants an assumed purity that is not my own.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

I have been moved to a level of cinematic appreciation in a theater unlike I have been in quite some time, after having viewed The Last Samurai. Though far from a "masterpiece" (what does that mean, really?)- there is much to glean in the way of honor, servanthood, friendship/loyalty, tradition vs. modernity, justice and redemption to boot. Prediction: nominations for......cinematography, musical score, costume, best supporting actor (Ken Watanabe) who actually overshadows Cruise in performance, though Cruise holds his own.

Though getting panned a bit in some reviews for predictability, character development issues and some cliche, I was refreshed by the above themes touched on throughout. Perhaps a Munkebyte on it later.

Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to emerge from a theater satisfied and not guilty, shamed or having to explain myself for having seen the movie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Life is so freekin' crazy around here. Working three jobs, trying to stay on the ball with our communities and just be available for when God wants to move. People who need you, people who bleed you and so much vying for attention.........the call to a more disciplined life still beckons and still eludes......

Did get to spend a very pleasant evening with Kimmy and Ryan, two Veritasians who graciously prepared a yummy dinner for m'ladee and myself. It was swell to hang with them, laugh, recount old times and get to know one another even more. It made my heart warm.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Okay, for allyall 5,654,454,234,534,786,865,456.456733 readers who think I'm still getting ready to head for Tenny in 24, well, I'm back. For what, I don't know.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Getting ready to head to Tenny in 24 hours to see moi famille for T-giving. Like most of yours, our families are so splattered about that, within the twenty four hours that is toikey day, we will have had to go to four different locations for four of the same dinners. Shew!

Oh, and, we're freaks down there too, although our friends and fam are a bit polite about it and just accept us as we are (we think). But we know they don't understand why we are up here doing this crazy church planting stuff way up "north" and why we aren't pumpin' out the yung-unz and settling in down in Big Orange country. Sometimes with where God has brought us, it's pretty hard to share about the inner healing, the maturational growth and the God-stuff going on all around us because there's no frame of reference for them to understand. And I'm not being narrow on this or's just that we're at different places and callings, I would suppose.

As you know, going back to your family system of origin is no easy thing. In fact, you come back just plain stressed out sometimes. I think that when God effects some healing in your life and you go back into the same stagnant, cyclical system of familial woundedness, you only stir them up and GET stirred up in return because you want to fix them. You want them to experience the same freedom you are in the process of receiving. But sometimes they only look at you like you got a third eye in your noggin. And you come back......and they stay, literally and figuratively, in the same habitual patterns of defeat.

Makes me wonder how- after seminary, etc.,- those in ministry are "called" back to where they grew up, to where mom and pop still abide. I'm not saying it's a bad thing or God doesn't call us back home, I just know Cathy and I have struggled in the past with the family "thing" and that every longing to go back home may not be a calling. We've had to sever some unhealthy family dependency issues at the bud. Had we not, we would have missed our calling and our present place. We just simply need to be willing to look at some of the unhealthy emotional bondage issues that we assign a more noble significance when they might be a sign of our instability. Seems Jesus had some stuff to say about family ties too, so I defer to Him.

We only harbor love for our family (or what's left of them). I don't know if it's that we're without honor in our own "country" (and it really is country), but I know we can't stay there for long. Here is where we live, move and have our being.

It's 1:52 a.m., and I know most of you-uns are snoozing, but I don't go to bed 'till 3 a.m. (cuz I don't work until 1pm).

Rain is starting to ping and patter the gutters, my wife sleeps after we've snuggled and prayed together and my dog is on MY side of the bed rattling the timbers with her snoring.

I love this time of the night.

Welcome to da Freakshow!

Good times on Hester tonight.......wildly unpredictable........consistently scrumptuous blackberry cobbler by friend to Hester house (Kelly) unbelievable amount of distractions tonight (even for Hester), but we are learning how to let Jesus show up and we took our rest in that.........Holy Spirit coming, ministering, refueling.

The freakiness freaks on, but the Christ knows our name.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

You know, when I get zapped physically, emotionally and spiritually, God seems to come through in a nifty way to alleviate and bring some levity into my existence. Granted, I don't often take note, but I did early on Friday morning.

I just take myself too seriously sometimes. I bog down and spazz out over fringe technicalities of my self-important agenda and lose touch. A little after midnight on Friday I step out under inky, moon-less darkness with a star-sprinkled canopy of the heavens overhead. The night was warm, the sky was clear and the seeing was good. In the northern sky were the aurora borealis, indeed a surprise and a rarity for mid-latituders, especially given that we are a couple of years past the solar maximum (when such activity is more common). Blue-green shafts of light and shimmering curtains would form, undulate and reform on the horizon. This is my fourth encounter with the northern lights.....all since moving here to Oxford. The Leonidmeteor shower was still managing to hurl a few slow-movers toward the auroral light show as if to compete for my attention. For the first time in months, I set up my 6-inch reflector to take in the beauty of the universe around me and for the first time in months, I am immediately reconnected to the Creator of it all through the celsetial handiwork before me.

My infinitely wee place in the scheme of things became a reality washing over me as beautifully radiant as the aurora. Who can paint a night sky like the Almighty? Come over one night and let me show you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I'm just tired, bored and feeling minimized and marginalized.......I don't know how much to tell the cyber-spaced-out blog-world about it because it all really kind of reeks of emotional voyeurism. And who really has the energy to care beyond a comment click? I don't know if many can understand the wasteland this is. (And this ain't about end-of-the-rope stuff , etc......I'm fine).

Right now, I'm tired of reading/talking emerging church paradigms and how good it's gonna look. When can we get past the ecclesial one-upsmanship and bartering for recognition and start talking about the hell of people's lives we have belly flopped into? Or are we just overlooking it? Isn't it about people after all? Screw my credentials, screw who knows me or who I wished knew about me- what is this really about?

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The rapidity with which Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was dispensed this Thursday by that state's Court of the Judiciary only hints at a more troublesome current, if we are cognizant enough to see it.

The outrage should not issue forth as a result of the obvious removal of the stone monument of the aforementioned 10 commandments. Nor should we be enraged by the apparency of the higher rulers to be removing God from courtrooms (and schools, incidentally) and debasing the law codes founded on the higher moral standards of the God of the Old Testament and ancient Israel.

Instead, we should be inflamed that we are being fooled into believing "they" are relieving us from something that we have never had. In truth, what has only been crumbling away is not the Christian foundation of this country, but only its facade, erected long ago, having rendered its now no-longer needed service to the true pagan underpinnings of at least some of our founders and current rulers.

In fact, many would decry these legal goings-on of the last 50 years as a slouching away from our Christian roots as a nation.

For that persuasion to hold presupposes the truth of the claim that this country was founded as or has been a "Christian" nation. Such a claim is arguable at best, though one cannot deny references and cursory inclusions in our documents, bills, etc. to "God." If, as "nation," we are referring to the populace at large as opposed to the governmental bodies assigned to represent us, then the common people have fared better historically at times in tenaciously adhering to the tenets of Christianity. Perhaps, to our demise, we have implicitly or directily imposed these same values/worldviews upon our own government. And, what if, perchance, elements of this governing body harbors an agenda diametrically opposed to the core constructs of Christianity according to Jesus?

Should we boldly dispense with the notion just as well? How is it that a nation "under God" could find Roy Moore guilty of "acknowledging God?" This is precisely what- (according to his recounting of his interaction with the courts)- Moore claims is principally at stake. (We should expect much more to be revealed that can elucidate the case given that the proceedings were private). How is it that Attorney General Bill Pryor can term Moore's defiance "utterly unrepentant behavior?" Isn't the AG conceding to a higher code of morality or prime source of truth when he uses the word, "unrepentant?" ANSWER: To whom Moore is expected to repent is certainly not to his God, according to the Court of the Judiciary. Law itself has become god.

One does not have to fall into the foray of the political siding and the one-upsmanship game. It's not about conservative/liberal, party lines, etc., though one is welcome to circumnavigate the dead-end loopholes in trying to logically define the behavior of some therein. The admirable thing about Moore- despite what you think of him and those who support him- is that he stood up to the system, stood only on his principles and in the end lost his livelihood. His refusal to acquiesce stands hardy enough as a testament to the fact that one's faith and God cannot be taken away, no matter how imposing or potentially tyrannical a state may be.

Suffice it to say that the Kingdom has not lost out. It just grows stronger, unimpeded even by the officialdom of the system of this world whose ruler posits a thin veneer of God-by products where needed.

I love my country (it's people), pray for my rulers (in obedience to God)..... but I am a citizen of the coming Kingdom of God which garners my total allegiance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Hearings began in the case against Alabama Judge Roy Moore over the 10 Commandments monument.

Rant Alert in 3...............2..............1.................

Really, what point is there in displaying an icon that represents what most have already functionally and practically abandoned in their hearts to begin with (i.e., God's law)? Do we assume by proxy a kind of righteousness just because the monument is present, thereby making us feel a bit less guilty about our waywardness- without ever really doing anything about it? Notwithstanding our need to protest something, what are Christians really sacrificing by losing this monument? I doubt society gets any more evil than it already is. In fact, I presume things continue along the lines of the same incremental debauchery and decadence and the presence of a stone monument never had, nor will have had, the power to make a man or woman do something they do not want to do in the first place (like be a genuine Christ follower). I guess we need our Christian idols too.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Yeah.....Saturday was dandy......hanging out with some rokkin' fowlkes at CMarsh's.

I love going over there and huddling around that little concrete yard-hookah that incessantly spits out bullet-coals and emits floating, cellulose orbs of fiery death. All of this while watching a lunar eclipse wane in the frigid, crystal clear night. (Still can't feel my behind-o, Paul). And what a setting to try to fathom the richness of Mr. Canipe's knowledge of the feminine fashion world against the backdrop of, "I used to work in a department store." Let me see your references again, Chadwick.

I love all of these guys/gals and their kids. You see we are the only ones without kidlets. And being around all of that makes Cathy and I

............see MORE of our friends' kids! They rok too. Kev and Tracy, how dare you take Zoe out of the house without her froggie galoshes on!

Friday, November 07, 2003


It was a good movie.

Now let me qualify that.

Regardless of what "professional" movie critics have to say about any particular film, one can find a masterpiece underneath all the rotten 'maters hurled by the naysayers. Coming into the film's opening night, I was readily aware of the buzz of negative reviews concerning Revolutions. In my estimation on that night (as with previous movies), I was relatively open and unswayed by the ill press, somewhat captivated by Rave Theater's 50 foot screen (I still can't believe Laurence Fishburne's head was that big) and the recliner seats (no wonder Rains snoozed.....I think he took his seat home with him).

For me, what hurt Revolutions was not that it didn't deliver on the goods we have come to expect from the 'ski Bros. The fact that any sequel is judged by it's own predecessors may not be any fault of the movie's own either. It's just that the sheer, radicalized scope of the first installment is etched indellibly into our motion-picture connoisseurship, perhaps to be forever unrivaled, even by its successors. The four-year eager anticipation for Reloaded was a phenomenal leap in most respects, whetting the appetite for untried effects and furthering the intriguing storyline. And waiting that long paid dividends in the long run whereas waiting five months for Revolutions left something to be desired. It sure felt a lot different sitting in the theater after four years of Matrix DT's and to be infused with the bliss of the green-hued opening credits. After only five months, it felt a wee bit revisited. But still, it got me in the theater.

Sure enough, the effects were dazzling, but I was left wondering if there was to be any progression in the magnitude.....any new ground to be broken. Admittedly, my imagination was not as apprehended as it was in Reloaded, which may be my own issues. I was satisfied with the effects (mainly the battle for Zion) but left with wanting more than the conclusive fist fight. Perhaps on a second viewing, I might think differently as it's hard to take in a Matrix film in on one showing.

Some of the characters teetered on a bland predictability, often coming across as flat. Morpheus waned into the background, but perhaps out of necessity due to Neo's transformation. The Oracle wasn't as provocative as in Reloaded, fading into a tired reiteration of the primacy of "love" and choice- arguments we were well convinced of in number 2. Some of the emerging and somewhat more tantalizing characters (the Merovingian and Persephone) were left dangling and unresolved. Sometiimes the characters appeared somewhat self-absorbed, almost self-aware that they were "actors" in the Matrix film phenomenon (which was a trait in Reloaded, i.e., the way the camera would painstakingly catch the characters glancing knowingly at each other as if to compel us to go, "hmmm," -chin in hand).

I was half expecting the Oracle and the Freud-esque Architect to snuggle at the end, given the waxing propensity of the film toward lovey-doveyness (a sentiment shared by a few males in the theater that night as I heard a mumbled, "get a room!" during one of the many smooch-embraces in the film). Maybe this direction was in default to the feminine principle given attention here as opposed to the masculine, overt visual stimulation afforded the male movie-goer in number 2 (concurrent to a definite yin/yang-ness applied to the Oracle and subtly throughout the movie.........if you're not convinced, listen to the content of her conversation with Neo in the kitchen and then take note of her earrings).

Many good film genres employ type-scenes to tell their story. For instance, in Western stories, we all know the meaning of high noon, town square, blowing tumbleweed and ten-paces-then-shoot. That is the Western's way of resolving the protagonist/antagonist conflict. The Matrices offer us many new type-scenes that will be employed for generations to come even as they are being copycatted as we speak. The curious variable is that any and all type-scenes can occur simultaneously or detached, in layers and in multiple sequences on corresponding or unrelated planes/dimensions. That is the grandest contribution herein. The linear progression of the Western shootout by comparison is over-and-done-with....the viewer walks away with the finality of what has just transpired. In the Matrix, one walks away not with finality but with contradicting multiplicities that only converge paths, not resolve them. Fuel for the mystery and a wanton invitation to another sequel. Or not.

Now for my sappiness.............the best part of the whole evening was that I got to hang with my buds! That trumps any movie.

The film overall was an acheivement on many levels and it will garner its accolades from its most ardent supporters while lacking major critical acclaim. We can begin to fathom what an interesting ride this was, now that it's over. Or is it?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Lest we get too uppity on bad selves......


Friday, October 31, 2003

Meh-himm. Mey-hihm. Maih-hehm. May-ee-hemm.


In fact, there's no such thing as lone-ranger Christ-followers or stand-alone churches. That's why by innocent proxy or in our arrogance we suffer in relative isolation.

As our world slides headlong toward oblivion while calling it progress, Jesus still walks our bleeding streets and hearts pointing out the crumpled human mess and refused lives laying in the gutters, imploring us to come on out with see what He sees and to be instruments of His love and wholeness.

Some have jumped ship and are treading icy, shark-infested waters. We suspect God poked a hole in our dinghy somewhere when he said for us to go, but we're not for sure. But there are others out there and we're pulling together and mounting the debris for this final voyage because there's a storm ahead.

Mayhem. Called....commissioned.....together.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

This past Saturday night was definitely sweet. Anytime you gots the impeccable Kopp Farm cabin, a thunderstorm popping bolts and thumping the atmosphere, Veritasians and Kevin and Tracy Rains, you gots a good time.

After we determined that the unending parade of wasps were not actually from the yawning pit of Gehenna and were not out to peg us, we were able to proceed with eatage, hang-outage, verbally blessing one another and listening to the Kev and Tracy impart some wisdom to our green souls on the timeliness of intentional simple churching and its significance in our particular setting.

Lots more to be said lata.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Music currently impressing upon my tympanic membranous if you care a bit.

INFINITE KEYS.....ester drang......its the drang, what else to say?

REGIONS.....jacobstone.....this album comes off initially as oddly disconnected when you ponder why there were only 4 songs with lyrics and the next 11 are a cacophonous collection of shackles, planes, spoken word, music and more. Then it makes sense when you understand the thrust behind the album is reconcilitation between competing communities in the war-ravaged Balkan region.......the more I listen, the more it haunts. More to check out here

Check out the newest sunspot 484 (directions here)- largest in several years and as big as Jupiter.

For all you chit-rens out there, DON'T-LOOK-DIRECTLY-AT-THE-SUN!

Monday, October 20, 2003


Just what I needed.......a little infusion of the sweet, yet fascinatingly convoluted life of our church in all of its wildness and unpredictability.

Lasagna......brownies out the wah-zoo.........Southern sweet tea that a freekin' northerner from Waldo, Ohio makes (northerner at least to a Tennessean) -who incidentally is getting good at it............conversations happening all over the household (including the loud one outside that continued through the open kitchen window from dinner THROUGH the still, quiet moment after the worship music subsided)..........a spontaneous drum circle and rhythm worship session erupting...........Joe blurting out his approvals and spontaneously welcoming Jesus to the living room on our behalf.........hearing the words "dragging" and "ass" used in the same sentence (a first for me) in reference to witnessing to/inviting a recalcitrant unchurched friend to our community........this by a very precious Veritasian, whose continued presence with us and growing trust in the God-stuff going on here continues to unfurl, amaze and warm me. I am thankful to God for the chance to show love right where this person is at. To hear this person talking about inviting a friend to what we are doing here has God written all over it.

And I would not have it any other way. Raw, uncut, uncensored, amorphous, unplanned- pure life on the cutting block. This is Veritas. Not neat, incessantly messy, not boxed, not cozy to yours or my sensibilities, not keen to imposing impractical piety and sometimes unapologetically irreverent to my puritanical persuasions. It is people where they are at spiritually, emotionally, physically- minus the false pretense. Certainly, it all does not surprise our God who never slumbers, though we be as perpetually wide-eyed and befuddled as a calf at a new gate.

Tonight, we dreamed a little bit together of what it is going to mean to go deeper as a community. We dreamed of being more intentional with communal housing as a natural outcropping of what's been happening, of an invitation to a journey to more effectively shepherding this city into relationship with Jesus and what that entails for us. What a joy it is to see and hear the coming-alongsidedness of our people.

And so, like the ditzy Molly Shannon Saturday Night Live character, I point my legs skyward, crying, "I luhvitt, I luhvitt, I luhvitt, I luhvitt- AH LUHVITT!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Just a teensy post prior to our gathering at Hester tonight..........

The Church just took in a deep breath of life this weekend and is in exhalation mode. The fall 2003 version of the Regional All Group is past, yet the Kingdom connections still infuse life-blood into our veins. For me, the faces of soul friends existing only neural synapse and bloggable cyberspace incarnate for too brief a time. But it is a time to be relished and an investment well worth the energy that, incidentally, seems to be Otherworldly.

Having been in North Carolina last week and missing my very own community of faith, I find myself curiously longing for their touches, both physical and spiritual. Regional All Groupings tend to make me especially fond of these Veritasians and puts me into dream mode. The big picture with other brothers and sisters on this train from around this nation puts the wind in my sails even though I sit marooned in the doldrums at times. It gives me license to dream again and that is the food from God that mobilizes.

I was reminded of- or rather, apprehended by- a feeling this weekend while in the Brownhouse. It was a feeling of belonging that I used to feel when I would visit my grandmother's house in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her house was the only place I would have to get to feel this way. I haven't had that feeling since I was a child and since my parents divorced when I was in first grade. It was a feeling that washed a warming acceptance over with a promise of "more to come." As a relational vagabond of sorts, it is a God-oriented innoculation toward my inward selfishness. It was more than a feeling, in truth. Better stated, it was the promise of a coming Kingdom that spoke to me through the language of the memory of a lost family, but in the context of a newer family in the making that'll never call it quits.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Sorry.....again........for not being up to snuff on my blogging (or lack thereof). I hope all 8 of you can forgive me........HAHHAHAHAHAHA! My dog has, so there.

Was in Winston-Salem speaking at a youth retreat last weekend........went great, with some decisions made to follow this Christ, of whom we talk, live, breathe and have our being. Cool stuff.

All Group this weekend and my man, Kevin Rains comes to Oxford next weekend to facilitate a conversation and bequeath upon our green-eared Veritasian souls the sage-like wisdom needed for a doing church like this. So there'll be more to come on these tidbits.

I'll see some of you goobers at da Brownhouse soon, so see you there.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Okay....been a lil' bit since I blogged. So watchee gonna do bout it?

Tell you what I'm gonna do about it.....I'm gonna blog.

I'm supposing at this juncture that we have a lot going on. The Hester community is talking about birthing another church, which is all-out sweet. Pretty much right now we're just trying to get our peeps in the package so when the "go" order is given, we're ready. We'll culminate the conversation amongst ourselves with an amazing friend and compadre and pioneer in the ministry on October 25th at the Kopp Farm just north of Oxford. Kevin Rains will make the trek from Norwood to spearhead this conversation with our young church as we reflect on what it means to dream big for God. Heck, just to get to hang out with the guy and whoever he brings is food enough.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


In time we will all live, at least partially, inside a kind of network consciousness.....Our spells of unbroken subjective immersion will become rarer and rarer, and may even vanish will certainly spell the further decline of the kind of inwardness necessary for serious we slip into the web of neural linkages..."

-Sven Birkerts, from The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age......former professor of reading at Harvard

.....and one might wonder about the additional decline upon the kind of inwardness necessary for depth and solitude apt for spiritual formation.

Not intending to blindly bash technology utilized appropriately here either (speaking as one presently availing myself of it to post this missive.....)

"Birkerts is part of a small but growing circle of adherents of technological recidivism (dubbed, 'Luddite' after the machine-breaking movement of the early 19th century England whose collective non-de-plume was romantically personified by the mythical figure of 'Ned Lud'), who have come to deeply question the modern world's obsessive and uncritical acceptance of technological metamorphosis; in the case at hand, the supplantation of book and print culture by the regime of TV-video-computer machinery." (Michael Hoffman, Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, p. 138).

In the Kingdom of the Connected, are we hurtling toward being connoisseurs of bits and pieces of informational vomitus, rather than retainers and right dividers of the metanarrative, the bigger picture- unable to sustain inquiry long enough to discern our sense of self and "oughtness?"

Monday, September 22, 2003

heh, heh, heh, heh..............

just got a couple more hooked on Pocket Tanks tonight......

Dave and Erica, there's no lookin' back now............'s 3:30 ante meridiem.......just spent the last 4 hours buffing the fellowship hall in the Lutheran Church where I am the Maven of Custodial Arts. THAT was really fulfilling. Seriously! To see a dull floor emerge in all its radiant splendor. That's the one cool thing about being Janitor get to see IMMEDIATE results from your effort. IS cool......

You're right.......I'm hitting the sack.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

How to make it all work...........I don't know if I can "make" it work. I wish I could just go somewhere into my brain's hard drive UTILITIES and do a big DEFRAG. Just to get things to run smooth enough to get to some original files 'cause I'd delete the code line suggesting that I try to find balance in my life, i.e., my awkward pursuit of the Kingdom, nurturing my church planting habit, my family, my friends, my 3 jobs, my relationships across the board, my dog, my recreational endeavors..........('nuff with the list already).

It's such a keen, psycho-socially correct term to banter around.........BALANCE. I ain't found it yet but I can sure talk and counsel others about the need to find it. But maybe no more. So much in this way of life seems like anything BUT balance.

There's a saying coined by a veteran Metro driver regarding driving the Red Route, the Metro's feistiest and most tiring route, with which it is IMPOSSIBLE to stay on time. I was lamenting last semester about being consistently behind schedule while on Red. My colleague chimed, "The faster I go, the behinder I get."

The more balance I seek, the more teetering I do. In chasing after this elusive balance, am I just chasing after the wind? The momentary sensations of "balance"......are they just illusory lapses in cognition before the next monumental load to be encountered on the path?

I'm not staging a complaint here. I am just saying I am more willing to betrothe myself to the idea that finding balance in my case is sometimes an attempt to avoid pain/conflict/discomfort/chaos. Into my cistern-stew of self-effort soup, I dip my ladel only to find the same raunchy froth that neither nourishes nor satisfies. I cannot tame the churning mass of chaos on the edges of my ordered world. Its fingers infringe, sometimes incurring damage but always fostering the potential for inner contemplation and restoration. That is why prior to the furnace, there is not an "IF/THEN-GOTO" line......IF you encounter difficulty of circumstance or affect, THEN GOTO your reaction mode and avoid discomfort.

I suppose God creatively ordains the allowance of imbalance to deepen my shallowness- to question my neurotic aversions to the imposition of another's agenda upon mine. That the majority of the impositions are perceived and not manifest is evidence to the fact that I need the untimely inversions of my will being subjected to Divine interruptions. These teach me that balance is not an end unto itself. It's not trying to get the bigger kid off the see-saw for a more spindly companion. Permanent equilibrium is not a realistic possibility when there is so much self to crucify and fleshy parts that try to wry free from its cross. Spiritual formation is not machined from a is formed from a pulpy mass with raw roots exposed. There is, however the Spirit's call to discipline, to submission, to denying onesself, taking up your cross and to the fellowship of suffering. There is movement between the extremes and the real possibility of joy in the journey.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Two years ago, seven hours and fifty-two minutes from now, our world changed forever.

Emblazoned like a red-hot branding iron are the feelings and images of that day and all it would portend. We were on campus giving away free candy bars. I recall having noticed a change in the demeanor of the students passing by. I did not know why. My co-pastor at the time raised me on our two-way from in front of a TV in one of the student halls.

"A plane has hit the World Trade Center........have you heard yet?"

I whimsically pictured the scene unfolding in NYC, seeing a small commuter-type plane accidentally having hit the tower.

"......another plane just hit.................."

As I hurried towards his location, I ran into another church member on the way to joining our outreach and he filled me in on the latest.

Attack? Our Pentagon on fire? BOTH towers? Terrorists?

For the majority of the masses of the world, especially our Western world, time and life would be measured penultimately from one side or the other of 8:46 am, September 11th, 2001.

In what was to be a blinding-flash release of pent-up psycho-emotional energies, we would- on that clear Tuesday- forever be caught in a never-ending replay of those events as they were indellibly etched into our memories like no other day. Current generations shall never be able to ease nor erase them.

Naivete would come careening down with those towers that morning. Indeed a part of us died. Forever lost would be the illusion that we were safe within these borders. We were caught asleep at the foot of the god of "me"-ism and consumerism. Yet for some shining moments and in light of the sheer scope of the human tragedy and drama played before us, we seemed to "get" it. But only TOO briefly did we seek God. Only for TOO short a time did we endeavor to love our neighbors. We again are lost in the crowds of Wall Street, Madison Avenue and the crowded lines of the twenty-first century temple of the commoner, Wal-Mart.

It's no secret......we're being told our government "knew" of the attacks and indeed had leads many months before 9/11. The talking heads and mouthpieces have trumpeted such news since January 2002. Nothing, obviously, was ever sufficiently acted upon.

The world is a far more evil place than we ever imagined. Our kings and "protectors" at the highest levels may be more compromised than we are ready to accept. Is it possible we might be pawns in a game of those who have interests beyond our own? Why can we not sustain inquiry long enough to give ourselves a chance to see all the angles on what's unfolding before us? This is a battle for our minds and it's far from over.

"Hello- welcome to Wal-Mart."

We know that we are God's children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. -John, 1 John 5:19

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Back from a night in Cincy area after milling about, perusing good art, absorbing good music and laughing with good friends at the Save Elizabeth benefit. I thought it did swimmingly well. There may well be redemption yet for those fallen angels, huh Kevin?

Cathy and I got to hang a little with Isaac Rains on the steps of St. E's tonight. What a bright and thoughtful kid. It was neat to see how he processed things while talking about vowel sounds, adding 1 billion + 2 billion, riding his bike in circles and wondering out loud about changing his riding habits lest he "bust his tire." Then Zoe bee-bops by in her lil' dress and bright green frog rain galoshes replete with bugged-out frog eyes on the bottom. Reminded us as we had been reminded in times past..........great kids those Rains' tots are. Kevin and Tracy, you guys are doing a swell job parenting them. Just wanted to say that.

Topped off the evening with a fantastic couple, Chrisand Nicki Marshall. M'ladee and I have a tremendous appreciation and admiration for these guys and relish their wisdom, perspective and camraderie. This, despite the fact that Chris can hob-nob with world leaders and pack away plate of Squash Medley (ick!). (I'm just jealous.)

Friday, September 05, 2003

I'm In The Land of Crazies and I'm The Land Manager

.....and I'm loving it I might add.

In fact, I'm indigenous to the colony.

After four years of being in church planting, I couldn't dream of a wilder ride than this. It has been predictably unpredictable on a quantum scale. I hasten to say that the only thing that has been predictable is the guarantee that church planting thrusts one right into the foray of rather dramatic human brokenness as well as celebrative victories. Okay, perhaps the other predictable tenet is that my old habitual pastoral patterns want to interfere (with greasy, manipulative gloves donned) wherever a raw work of God emerges.

The illusions of ministry past are the old haunts of the spirit of "Me." It's not that I intended it that way. It's not that in spite of myself that God could not and did not accomplish things because I see he did. I now have a greater clarity with which to see how so much of "ministry" was done under the pretenses of my own strength. Believe me, you can get a lot done under your own strength. And I "did" a lot....... and derived not only exhaustion, but great satisfaction. My pervasive busyness of the olden days were, however, a cover for something else.

My "something else" may very well be the same things with which we all struggle, no matter who we are or what we do. Suffice it to say that endeavoring to follow Christ with the singular totality of one's being for the sake of the Kingdom Come/Coming is enough to magnify the struggle on a cosmic scale.

My/our "something else" is our woundedness and we CANNOT minister out of it. Church planting places us right in the midst of a massive human pile up. It's downright messy. If there is a conceptual model for what we are doing, it might be that of the triage. We no longer wonder who's wounded.....who's hurt.......who's got baggage and issues.........we're just learning how to pull them from the wreckage. Some are walking and spout blood all over you, exclaiming, "'re bleeding......what's wrong with YOU?"Some are so dead and gangrenous that, in their rigor mortis,they castigate you for your returning patches of pink, healthy tissue (while forgetting you emerged from the same calamity). Yet we love them all.

We could choose the safe sterility of a nice hospital but most die before they even think about needing to get there. And a lot of hospitals have had their life-giving nutrition and meds closet raided by the healed who refused their discharge orders.

We should, however, choose these bombed-out netherlands where there's a human wasteland because God has given all of us the tools to proclaim life, liberty and release to these captives. Isn't that what church planting should be about? And why were we deifying and lauding church planting models when we should have been talking about: how to prayerfully encourage someone on the phone while they end a homosexual relationship and drug relationship with the person right in front of them? Or about how to befriend the pagan/Wiccan family two houses down? Or about how to disciple a newly baptized, former Wiccan? Or how about the demonized schizophrenic calling at 3 am in the morning and the ensuing months of minstering to someone who appointed themself your church's "new prophet?" Or how to handle investing a year and a half in the lives of people only to have them leave it all and leave it all in a relative state of shamble? Or how about how to handle the knowledge of higher level occultists in your community? Or how to handle two solid weeks of 2-3 hang up calls per day when you launch your church? Or how to minister to your church when, as a whole, at least 75% of them have had some encounter or experiences in the occult? Or even when the very ones who say they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, demean, gossip and speak all kinds of evil against you?

How do you train for what is really needed to intervene supernaturally in lives such as these? You don't. You can't really. For a real move of God to occur requires a real move of our will. Knowledge and skill are necessary accessories, but not if they sub for real Spirit work. And since God wants to do it through you and me, we can't give out pieces of bloody bandage from our gaping cuts and expect much to happen. That's why church planting is NOT primarily about what I/we can DO FOR God. It is first and foremost about Him and what he wants to do IN US to change our hearts all along the way.He wants our hearts as they are but dares not leave them that way. If he doesn't have the church planter's heart and soul in total, then he'll have nothing at all and we'll have all of nothing. He can use a BROKEN man or woman, but he can't a wounded person unwilling to acquiesce to the Gentle Healer.

For me, that has been the challenge, the joy and the incomprehensible mystery of church planting- that I am neither the same person I was starting out in this four years ago nor am I the perfected saint I once and for all will be. Bondages, strongholds, lies and the demonics that perpetuate them have been revealed for what they are and are being replaced with the One Who speaks Truth into those places. I am believing that God places us around messed up people to not only show us how messed up we are, but to lovingly and gracefully offer us the chance to see the possibility that, if we let Him, He can and will heal us from our brokenheartedness and our historical hurts.

When it boils down to it (and it will), this is really- and quite simply- all about people and what God's doing with them. The gift of God is that he grants us the choice of being Church rather than DOING it. So what if it's a freak show? Let's step right up.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

I know it's late (2:43 am) but this time of day is my most productive it seems. After a week back of driving the Metro, I can say that I am glad to be back in the driver's seat- literally. After this summer's break, I welcomed the necessary distraction of driving a 36,000 pound, 36 foot long behemoth around in circles all day. And that, despite the fact that I may as well have been sitting in the flaming garbage pits of Gehenna, circa, Jesus' day. It would have to wait until this past week to soar into the 90's because it sure wasn't enough to have the searing heat of a sun baked pavement underneath you PLUS astronomical humidity levels PLUS soupy dewpoints in the 70's PLUS the fact that I am virtually sitting on top of a 220 degree oven (well, it's actually a diesel engine). Did I mention that there's no air conditioning?

Hung out with Dave tonight at Three Trees and was reminded that the students are back and Oxford is a circus again. Regardless, I do like it better when they are here. Was also reminded again of the dead end train ride that the bar circuit is as I observed what appeared to be (under normal circumstances) otherwise salient and composed young adults stripped of their God-given inhibitions. In the ever-present pursuit of the never-ending buzz and tawdry sexual conquests, our youth impale themselves on the altar-sword of relational meaninglessness. Perched and somewhat removed in our corner booth and downing our coffees, we could fathom the depth of the interaction at the bar from our distance.......the gestures, the comings and goings and the body language mostly pointed to hopes of "hooking up." Players hoping to score and would-be scorers getting played. I can imagine that for some poor souls, the experience of human community in their tenure in Oxford will be limited to who it was who held one's head up over the toilet. That may mark the depth of what it means to know and be known as our town continues to contribute to the creation of our future alcoholics. Good ol' alkyhol is god (one of many) here in O-Town and it charts the course of our local uptown economy. But it's not just us I know.

It's a crying shame to be compelled to rely on alcohol and other chemicals as the relational bridge that gets some people where they think they want to go. I got that ticket punched starting in 7th grade but the ride ended my freshman year in high school when I met the real Conductor. I didn't even like the effect of the speed or the marijuana or taste of the cheap beer and Malt Duck I was downing, but it got me "in" with some people. And I sure as crap didn't like having to clandestinely rescue my mother and my 4 year old brother in Atlanta with my Granny and Pap from my drug-crazed step-father while he was out selling some more of their furniture in order to support an alcohol and coke habit. And what's good about my brother now on the tracks of following in his footsteps as I speak? And what of the alcoholics to whom we presently minister in our house church? And what of my friend who came blasting through my door, weeping, falling on his knees seeking and coming to Christ and confessing to me that he was addicted to alcohol and other drugs- this only six months after arriving here in Oxford? What of the hellish isolation from his family that he experienced during his month-long detox? For the grace of God, this guy came out and hasn't used since then, (over three years ago).

I am not talking about people who can, in responsibility, take a drink and not rely on it's ability to alter their consciousness in order to enjoy the company of others. I am not talking about those who can consume and yet not need to chemically bolster their existential significance while isolating others via their drunkenness. And I don't care about toting any denominational positions on the vices of alcohol. All I need is my experience with my own and other's brokenness. I assume no esteemed pedestal for this rant either because my own folks supplied me with the booze when I was a kid.

We cannot do ministry here without confronting the false god of Budweiser from time to time. We're seeing enough to know that we need to continue to pray that, should there be a showdown, God would ignite with fire from heaven the booze-soaked altar to his glory. That's just life here in Oxford and I'm sure elsewhere too.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

"Living in a community with very wounded people, I came to see that I had lived most of my life as a tightrope artist trying to walk on a high, thin cable from one tower to the other, always waiting for the applause when I had not fallen off and broken my leg."

-Henri J.M. Nouwen, In The Name of Jesus

So what happens when you step out onto the wire, drop your balancing pole-ma-thingy (or whatever it's called) and then notice the shame of your vulnerability like being naked in a dream? Instead of the applause you might have been straining to hear for so long, you finally determine they're not even looking. Or caring. Why'd you step out on that wire, you fool? You have neither the name recognition of a Walenda nor the credentials to match. Besides, most everyone's crossed over or they bait you from the other side........ and who do you think put the wire up in the first place? It's the heart that precedes the leg and the break before the fall.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Getting ready to take my 6,897 pound King James Authorized Church Altar Version and ad-minister the elements to my rather behemoth and furry peons, a.k.a., FITE KLUBB. I'll learn these jobs a thing or two. And I don't care if they all are bigger than I am..........I GOT THE WORD O GOD TO TAKE TO THEIR DAWDLY NOGGINS!

Sunday, August 17, 2003

The freekin' Brownhouse rocks! Well, actually, the cats that live and hang there make it that way. What a privelege it is to be witness to the construction of the Kingdom in the way that He is doing. I know we just have a glimpse of what this is or could be and based on our time together Friday night, it's going to be something really nice and refreshingly new (at least in my experience of the Kingdom).

This is joy: that you can be about the Kingdom work, have fun, provoke one another to laughter (with the help of the fiesty Maple-Dawg) and mutually encourage one another while fathoming the immensity of what we're called to do. Thank God we've got folks who've been down the road a bit further than we. In many ways, Veritas is still sucking its ecclesiastical thumb, often rounding the corner bewildered like a wide-eyed child on X-mas morn. Am I to expect that kind of excitement will abate? Heaven forbid it.

As replenishing as this is for me and others, I relinquish the tendency toward hoarding just for me what God is doing in all of this. I know it isn't for me alone. Perhaps we are just forerunners for those who will follow. Could it be we are laying the foundation for the only authentic expression of the Church to come in a world hell-bent on neutering and sanctioning their own version of Jesus?

Short of that and short of digressing into an "us-only" mentality that serves no one, I nevertheless risk to err on the side of a prophetic unction roused within, having been stoked by what I see going on a decaying world and a lifeless Churchianity around me. While I shudder when so many fall by the wayside on this journey and the wolves infiltrate with destruction dripping from their lips, I see and know nothing compared to what God endures. But for the life of me and despite myself, he invites me to tread this way. My toes are stubbed from the rocky path and my back is studded with fiery darts (many fueled by the flames of my own captivating passions).

This is the Dance of my life that I have been invited to and I am a wallflower no more. And forgive me if I step on your feet during your favorite song.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

no words

just remembrance and a hope for that coming Day

Monday, August 11, 2003


Veritas Pastoral Intern Struck By Lightning
August 10, 2003

by Glenn Johnson

(Dissociated Press) I have been known to bemoan the lack of significant weather events around here this season. Ne'er more my friend.

I finally got to report a 60 mph wind gust on July 4th. Even before then, there was flooding in Oxford. A few weeks ago, some more storms dismantled a barn roof next to where my wife was teaching summer school and left debris strewn for hundreds of yards into the school parking lot. Though I do not revel in the misfortune of others, as a weather junkie, I can finally heave a sigh of "at last."

But I could have never dreamed of what happened here at 6251 Hester Road on Saturday, August 9th.

At around noon, a slow-moving thunderstorm formed rapidly over Oxford. This storm would start popping lightning and dropping heavy rain and basically park right over us. The lightning was so intense and close that we didn't often hear the rumble of thunder but only concussive explosions. At a time when this writer was rather indisposed in the lavatory, the power had even gone out three times in rapid succession because of these bolts. If I had only known that my intern was a weak conductor for the massive power surge during the second outage....

At one point, Jason had stepped into his room on the second floor to peer out his window at the storm (which is warned against during a thunderstorm but I admit to doing it as well). In mere thousandths of a second before he could become consciously aware of what had just happened, his senses would finally register: 1) the bright flash; 2) the current running up his right leg; 3) the uncanny realization that he had been struck.

Mr. Birchfield was blessed to have not been the conductor for the main lightning channel. That was why he was able to continue unlabored in his breathing, consciousness and general well being. He did, however, complete a "circuit," albeit a rather weak one.

When Jason stepped up to the window, his flip-flopped right foot rested upon the metal grate on the air register. Unbeknownst to him and few thousand feet above him, vigorous winds and updrafts in the thunderstorm were stripping the water droplets of their proper valence, shearing the electrons from the atoms and falling to the bottom of the cloud in an electron avalanche, where the heavier negatively charged electrons gather and punch downward below the cloud. This channel, called a "stepped leader" is the beginning of the strike and is made possible by the leftover positively charged protons. It pushes downward at a rate of about 10,000 meters/second. As it gets closer to the ground, it attracts contact streamers which are basically positively charged streams flowing upward to meet the stepped leader. They basically flow up any object in the area where this is occurring. This woman and her friends was severely injured when lightning struck a few seconds after the photo. This is what it looks like for a human being to be in the process of becoming a contact streamer (the hair stands out on end as a result of the protons flowing out the strands). Had Jason been in the main channel area, he would have experienced the same sensation.

There was no telling how many contact streamers there were in the area for this lightning bolt. It was a blessing that the channel that made the connection was not the streamer that made it's way from the ground into our heat pump and through the duct work that Jason happpened to be standing on at that moment. The bolt was close enough however to fill the Birchfield streamer channel with a mild electric current and give his right leg a start while busting out our power and my weather station. Undoubtedly, the major current that did make it into the house was routed by the wiring.

Well, that's the science of it. And the theological significance? After this summer, I'd say his stint as a human lightning rod is apropos.

Here are some fun lightning facts since we're talking about it:

Average number of thunderstorms occurring worldwide at any given moment - 2000

Average number of lightning strikes worldwide every second - 100

Average number of lightning strikes worldwide per day - 8.6 Million

Average number of lightning strikes in the USA per year - 20 Million

VOLTS in a lightning flash - between 100 Million and 1 Billion

AMPS in a lighting flash - between 10,000 and 200,000

The average lightning flash would light a 100 watt light bulb for 3 months.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Sunday we did something that we've never done before. We said goodbye to one of our own- Libby Marks- who's moving to Colorado. We wanted to make the gathering special and kind of give it a Libby-flavor as a way of communally bidding our blessing. I wasn't sure how it would come out, being that this was a new thing for us in our young life as a church.

In honor of Libby's penchant for hats, we made it "Libby Day" and wore the craziest hats we could find throughout the whole gathering (Dave, your inquisitor's hood was massive!). Each person brought a card with a message that she was to open only AFTER her last gathering with us that night. After eating, we sang her favorite song and took turns telling her how she had blessed us. Then she shared how much of an impact the community had been for her. Next, we coerced her to get into the "Love Pit" (our prayer circle where we lay on hands and pray) and prayed for her and blessed and exhorted her. We capped the night off with an impromptu volleyball game in the dark. It was as much celebratory as it was tearful and far exceeded my expectations for a send-off.

This is life. Despite the transitions and changes, we are learning how to live and to love more perfectly. Ain't got it figger'd out yet, but it's just grand to make the relational investments and take the risks.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Got back from a brief trip to Tennessee to see some family and was glad I did. My Granny Ruth- with whom I lived through my high school and college years- seems to be dealing with some health issues and that is hard to take. She's always been the tough, "go-get-'em" type and is now displaying minor forgetfulness, some recurring malaise and is undergoing some scans and tests. I was amazed at how much weight she has lost. She just did not look like herself (have I been away this long)?

My Granny Ruth was the main person in my life at age 15 who was instrumental in leading me into a relationship with Christ. After my grandfather died and my divorced parents decided to move out and away, she brazenly took me and my sister into her home, which was too small and looked like a faded Easter egg. My bedroom was the food pantry/TV room/laundry room (amazing what you can do with a fold-away cot). It did not help my lone but devout grandmother to have two heathen pagans living with her, especially with our inclination to innebriate ourselves on the weekends. Besides, we were invincible and knew everything.

But she persisted as best as she knew how, dropping the invites to church and talking a lot about God. I figured her to be behind-the-times, relatively uninformed and irrelevant when it came to understanding the world as it was. After all, what did a fifty-something granny know about the Cold War and the inevitability of a devastating nuclear war? Hadn't she seen "The Day After?" Who was she to tell me I needn't worry about things and that God was in control as I loaded up her closet with milk jugs of water in preparation for the coming holocaust?

At that time in my young life, I was consumed by fear. Fear of not being loved, fear of not being accepted, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of fear. I was driven not to repulsion of things I should have been taught to avoid, but fascination with the things that were beyond comprehension....especially with the spiritual realm, which I pursued with a vigor and without any bounds. So I naturally gravitated toward the supernatural, the paranormal and the occult.

But Granny Ruth was there. She gave me the book that contained the prayer I prayed to invite Christ in my life. She noticed that something in me was different even though I had told no one for two weeks after I had received Christ. She was the nurturing presence in the initial stages of my Christian journey. She took me in, took a chance in laying down an opportunity for life and became the vessel through which God would intersect my life and say, "Here I am.....what are you going to do with me?"

I just can't believe that was eighteen years ago already.

Monday, July 28, 2003


Tis very invigorating to do church with no major agendas and spiffed up programs to have to "pull off." How do we concoct such a spectacle? What would that recipe look like?

1) Say we just come together around a baptism in the backyard and 18 people huddled around a cattle feeding trough and an approaching thunderstorm looming on the horizon.

2) Add a dash of quizzical looks from the pre-Christian neighbors.

3) Toss in a ripe, 90 lb. German Shepherd alternately circling the baptismal trough like a buzzard and diving in snout-first while the baptismal candidate is sharing how and why he came to Christ.

4) Sing and celebrate the newness of life as a community what is about to happen.

5) Watch Veritas' first intern baptize his brother.

6) Gather around a meal, have someone spontaneously share some scriptures they were discussing and glean some life-giving truths about the Christian journey (spurred by Abram's call in Genesis) and Jesus' harsh sayings about family (Luke 14:26).

7) Pray.........pray more........but begin by telling God "thanks" for all that he is and does and do it BEFORE we come with our barrage of requests........then surround and lay hands upon the girl who is going to have medical tests tomorrow............pray for those who have travelled many hours to be at the house and who must travel.........listen as the church offers spontaneous words/phrases of encouragement to the new convert (this is always cool)

8) Hang out some Sasquatch imitations from the Patterson/Gimlin film made in 1967 (yes, you've seen the famous clip of the said best filmed walking away from the photographers and looking back at them before disappearing into the Northern California woods. We started competing to see who could do the Sasquatch walk better when we went we do it just to laugh at Jason, whose Sasquatch more favors the gait of "J.J.", circa, "Good Times").........fetch Burt, who got off work early and was upset because he couldn't make house church........hang out some more.

I know it goes against the rules, but we don't have a real beginning and ending time for our gatherings. We typically go for 3-5 hours from the point in time the first person arrives until the last person leaves. It's just what winds up happening. There's no sermon to prep and drop. And that's what's so cool........tonight, the community was the sermon and there were about 18 points and, though there were no "poems," there were many poetic interludes throughout the evening as we partook in each other's lives. Mostly, we don't really know what might happen and I like that.

I don't know what we're doing to deserve this, but it sure feels right.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

We have yet again descended 'pon our little abode, again with two-fourths of the Birchfield clan in for the weekend. What a spankin' good time we had camping and caving in Harrison-Crawford State Forest. Cathy and I were the only two experienced cavers in our bunch. However, the six other brave souls tackled Langdon's Cave with gusto and panache and I am much impressed with their dexterity and fortitude. We have some brand new cavers to add to the fold......... Dave, Erica, Jason, Spen, Chris, Susie- thanks for being part of a great weekend together. I look forward to many more similar life-experiences with you all....and with those of you who could not be there this time. There's always more caving to do!

Got to camp in the Element, which was pretty funky and amazingly comfortable as advertised. We brought our tent and stuff, but we just wanted to do it since we could. Nice to know if our bums ever get booted out on the street we'll at least have a place to sleep.

The cap for the weekend will see another baptism at the Hester house church. Jason will be baptizing his brother, Spen, in the Veritas Baptistry (read, cattle trough), also in the Veritas sanctuary (read, the Johnson backyard). Remind me to clean up the doggie doo, will you?

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The Hester house church will be off to southern Indiana in a lil' over twelve hours for a camping/caving combo trip. These caves were my regular haunts back in those halcyon days of seminary. Not only will immense fun be had by all, we'll also see that there's nothing like some adventure recreation to teach you about trust and dependency in community. And we get to do it underground, beholden to the Creator for his fancy handiworks upon which no one can improve.

Okay… I’ve been a blog-slacker (blogacker?) here in the last few days. I was not the first, and - I dare say- I will not be the last. Excuse? I’ve had to return our new computer but we’re up and running again now.

What a phenomenal two days at the Brownhouse! How refreshing it is to be able to gather with like-minded, sold-out Kingdom emissaries and not have to explain your requisite eccentricities and the general phreeky things you do for the sake of the Gospel. How revitalizing it is to experience belly-laughing hours after the saline streams streak your face. Where else can the level of church-planter-type buffoonery run wild as it did this weekend at the Brownhouse? Where else can one begin a weekend with unknown faces and leave as a family? And, where else can one- as the Fine, Most High Reverend Saint Allantious Creechosporous deftly pointed out- be alone in a crowd and still be “there” if you need to? And, for the Leonardo Di Sweetio minions- how’s that for a “double ring”- community and solitude all at once?

Where else can one discover the kind of hospitality such as we see at the B-house? I expect we shall all begin to see glimpses of it in our own communities to be sure…..we cannot but impart the same grace we have gleaned from the days and lives shared on those grounds and between those walls.

Everytime we all gather together from our planted locales and then disperse again , I liken it to the Church taking a deep breath in and breathing out again. This is the kind of organic/ecclesiastic respiration I think is pleasing to Jesus and much more closely reflects the purest intentions of His Church from the beginning. This kind of breathing is natural and unlabored. Let us press on with our Jesus generators as they pump out this rarified air that brings life. Let us relish this atmosphere while we can yet still thrive in it.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

So we did it. We bought a new vehicular structure- a Honda Element. It is the first time Cathy and I have ever bought a "new" vehicle, replete with new car smell and such. We were long overdue in doing so and definitely needed a more functional and practical vehicle and this is it.

After: 1) our tranny going goofy in our Intrepid; 2) numerous other tidbits of nuisance things going wrong with the engine; 3) the whole Nashville Metro Police Dept. grounding their new fleet of Intrepids in April 2003 because 3 of them caught fire and Daimler-Chrysler had the nerve to pretty much deflect the blame; 4) finding a website solely devoted to disgruntled Intrepid owners documenting hundreds of complaints and finding my car's problems detailed therein.........we decided it was time to unload.

One tends to learn a lot about onesself in the process of researching, shopping for and negotiating for a new car, especially knowing that the moment you drive off the lot the thing depreciates 30-40%. I choose depreciation and a Honda to boot in place of a transmission going belly up on I-75 at 3:30 am in Tennessee.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Finally......recorded a 60 mph wind gust at my house on July 4th at 8:55 pm. In the three years that we have been here, that is the first time I have been present to witness severe weather at the Johnson digital weather station. This is only the second time we've had weather severe enough to report (the official criteria for a severe thunderstorm is wind gusts over 57 mph and/or hail 3/4 of an inch in diameter or greater). The first time we had golfball sized hailstones about 3 years ago that my wife got to see. Even though she is a spotter too, she did not call in the report as she was probably revelling in my dogs incessant munching up of the hailstones thinking they were ice cubes from heaven.

And in the three years that we've been SKYWARN severe weather spotters for the National Weather Service, I actually got to call in my report. The NWS relies on real time reports from trained spotters on the ground to verify what's going on so the public can be warned. jolly......I called in my first report! (...jump back and kiss my-seff...


Saturday, June 28, 2003

Back from our vacation, but showing signs of wear for it........the tranny on our 99 Intrepid pooped on us, albeit 5 miles from Cathy's mother's house at 330 am on the way down. Seemed it preferred locking into 1st gear........quite an experience limping down the road at 30 mph and 4000 rpm's. So we scrambled on the day we were supposed to leave trying to find alternative transportation. We got Cathy's mom's truck, re-packed everything in plastic boxes, arranged for the car repair and left late that Monday night and finally arrived in Nantahala and set up camp at 12 midnight.

It rained every day but one but I had a good time. Cathy thought she saw a bobcat at at our camp. It looked like a fat housecat to me but I won't deprive her of the experience. I also managed to soak in rain all our clothes that I thought my double-wrapped suitcase would avoid. So our last day at camp was spent in the next town's laundry mat.

BUT..........we found over 150 carats of rubies/sapphires..........the largest I found was only 24 carats. Granted, most of the rubies I found are only of specimen quality but a few are going to cut down really nice it appears. So far, in the past three years, our total has topped 600 carats of rubies/sapphires found. My dad and stepmother came to the mine with us and within the first hour and one-half, my dad found a 40 carat ruby on his first day there and instantly became a member of the Sheffield Mine Honker Club (free bucket o' dirt for life) for the find.

Sheffield Mine is the last one of it's kind in that part of North Carolina. No other lode mine produces the native rubies and sapphires of such quality and abundance. Tiffany's actually owned the mine property there in the Cowee Valley for a while in the last century. Now it is privately owned and operated as a recreational mining venue. When I get my blog capable, I will post pikchers. It's a great spot to hang out for the family

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Getting ready to go to the wondrous Nantahala ("land of the noonday sun") National Forest in North Carolina to camp and go prospecting for rubies and sapphires and spend some nifty time with the lil' lady. 'Twill be a splendid adventure as it always is. Maybe I'll come back with a 400 carat ruby. It's going to happen. I feel it......I can taste it. You just hide and watch.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Will we in Deconstructionist Christendom ever get it right? Or are things changing with such rapidity that we'd just better hang on for dang dear life? There is no cutting edge anymore in church planting circles as far as I'm concerned. It's more like a magnetic three dimensional throwing star for anyone with an axe/blade to grind. Once you think you've got a handle on it, you look down and you've got a bloody mess. But the ecclesio-scape is still roiling with change.

One thing is for sure: we're tired. We're tired of decaying hierarchical structures bent on self-preservation that have dogged churches/denominations/organizations for a good part of modernity. We're tired of the lifeless, maintenance-level Churchianity and its patron Churchians robbed of and robbing life. If you read that as a condemnation, thou shalt not be so presumptuous......I've been there. And for want of lesser, mundane things, there but for the grace of God go I.

We pine for refreshment. We long for the gentle yoke of a new paradigm that will free up this idealized Church from it's shackles like a greased piglet in a Tennessee Sausage Festival.

So as we continue to deconstruct, we simultaneously lay a foundation. We who pour in the ready-mix ogle and protectively cherish the bland appearance. The hawks circle, conspiring to swoop it up into grandeur and a nest of marketablility. Some have dared to whisper into its "virgin" ears and name it. Or call it a if it were something truly new under the sun. And wittingly or not, in the very act of naming it, they seek control over it.

Our nomenclatural efforts are steps toward finality. When I "name" you, you are marked as "this" and not "that." Our labelling compartmentalizes and minimizes. But one must also recognize the value of naming. Our ability to apprehend our cognitions and our reality depends on our sound, letter and word-forming capacity. Our knowing and being known relies on it.

But our language almost consistently and ultimately fails when we try to grip the mystery of our experience of being. Especially as "beings" who are the recipients of the loving attention of he who is Other- and more pointedly in reference to this ongoing story of the Christ seeking residence in broken human vessels. "Church" doesn't fully capture the essence of "ecclesia" in much the same way as "Word" loses its mystical impact when translated from "logos." If we call the house church phenomenon a movement, do we endanger it to the lot of past movements that have come and gone, ebbing and flowing- (such as- but not limited to- the apostolic, spiritual warfare, Charismatic, deliverance, healing and reconciliation movements)? When we see God doing something, how do we avoid hijacking it by naming it?

Consider the word fagot. Read this way, it means a bundle of sticks. Add yet one more letter "g" and you have something entirely different. In usage, the original denotation is forever lost to the culturally assigned connotation and we lose the original word meaning. Are the few who are apprehensive to "name" the simple church emergence in the West already recognizing this potential? Granted, many are calling it something (house church, home church, simple church) and those doing so express difficulty explaining what it is because of the limitations and finitude of human language and complex multiple meaning systems. We still have to have some way to talk about it though.

I admit it's arguable that by naming it we may not even imperil a real move of God. But heaven must know we don't need another model.

"Please come to my anti-nomial, anti-modal ecclesial communal structure that meets in my abode" doesn't wax inviting yet either.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

an open letter to my Fight Club...

To what shall I compare with what I've found in you? To sit at your feet- gleaning your wisdom and being openly invited into the sacred ground of your struggles is but another treasure in this field sprawling before me. On the surface, this parcel of land sure doesn't look like much but it seems I've uncovered the Kingdom. You guys are reminding me that giving up all I have for this venture is the only way to go. I don't look back anymore, wondering why in the presence of the lingering protestations in my mind of those who question....those who should support me the most but only see my claim staked in what looks like a craggy, untenable thicket of brambles. But hanging out with you puts me in detector mode, scanning the crannies for more treasure. You- my new friends and constant spring of blog fodder- are the shiny gold coins in hand......a blessed spillage from the Kingdom Treasure Chest.

Monday, June 02, 2003


Here's how I know God is doing something in our midst. Our man, Burt, suddenly gets called in to work at his pizza joint during the time when we gather. Over a lunch a few days ago with Jason, our intern, Burt literally breaks down when he told him he was going to have to miss on Sunday.

So the Jaylord (a.k.a., Jason) takes it 'pon himself to ogernize an impromptu house church gathering before Burt went to work, replete with a meal and acquaintances of Burt who are not reg'lars at the Hester HC. So we had our first HC at Burt's ("Burtitas") and the first such one we know of in an area of town called the "Ghetto" area we are praying over.

That smells like Kingdom stuff to me..........

Sunday, June 01, 2003


The Church Father Tertullian writes in his Apology about how the early Church gathered...

"The nature of our meal and it's purpose are explained by it's very name. It is called Agape, as the Greeks call love in it's purest form. However much it may cost, it is always gain to be extravagant in the name of fellowship...The participants do not go to the table unless they have first tasted of prayer to God. As much is eaten as is necessary to satisfy the hunger. When satisfying themselves they are aware that even during the night they should worship God. They converse as those who are aware that God is listening...After the hands are washed and the lights are lit, all are asked to stand forth to praise God as well as each is able, be it from the Holy Scriptures or from his own heart. In like manner the meal is closed with a prayer. After this we part from one another...pursuing the same self control and purity as befits those who have taken in a truth rather than a meal. This is the way the Christians meet."

Tonight, the Landing Place Community gathers for an Agape Meal. My prayer is that God will be present, and that we would leave haven eaten of truth, and not simply a meal. (Mark Palmer)

I continue to be blown away by such kingdom-mindedness in the midst of the Palmer's suffering. Blessing and cursing; pain and joy; strength and anomalies imparting a fellowship of suffering that most can only glimpse from a distance and into which one may never fully enter.

For the Palmer's, Father, healing. For us, and in their honor, may we dine on the crumbs of truth from their table as we watch and pray.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Let us not underestimate the impact that our families of origin have on our undertaking to serve Christ in the establishing of His Church. Every time I am buffetted by the winds of change (or at least the impending prospects of such) or when I am confronted with difficult people with difficult needs, I immediately face my ineptitude. In the presence of my limitations I want to compensate and this out of my own efforts and attempts to self-heal. This is precisely where I operate out of my woundedness and pain. God can't use that.

I am learning that to let God do what he wants to do in his church, I must needs be freed up from my own hurts. And I am discovering that there has been much in the past and ongoing dissolution of my own family that the Lord is healing. The hurts have not necessarily come from what someone has DONE to me but from the lies that I have believed about myself and the misinterpretations I made along the way when it came to my identity formation. It is not that I harbor blame toward anyone. As I continue to learn about the perilous track my brother is choosing to take at present, (despite all counsel and wisdom), I just wonder will when the destruction in my family (and other families) end?

Just wanted to let you know that the Gentle Healer continues to bind up my hurts and replace it with His truth in the most remarkable ways and I got to see that last night about 330 am. I am learning to dance to His rhythm. And to think He promises me that my home and place is with Him.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I know there is some theological profundity in this somewhere............letting a stranger pull, poke, twist, lift, tilt, grip, tuck, tap, fold, spindle and mount- first one hip, then the other- with his full weight borne upon his knee while pulling on your limbs in ungodly I'm thinking, "I ain't all here." But he did his internship in Tennessee, so he couldn't have been all bad.

Breathe in, hold it.......let it out.......(one pull, then), pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop (all at once). Adjustment # 1 under my belt. Can't wait till my reflection stops looking straight in the carnival mirror.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I was just remembering how I used to be..............I mean just mere months ago. I used to think that planting a church had to drip with such relevant coolness that our level of coolitude would fragrantly exude from us- drawing in cool-tuned folk with the irresistable attraction of a honeybee leg to pollen. And then, when they would see just how dang cool we/I and the Church could be, just WHO could resist? I got tired just thinking about how we could try to keep up with the Coolios. I had to make sure I had the right ticket so I could board the next Cool Train when it came sweeping in that I spent most of my energy just looking for the porter.

Well, he never punched that ticket. So into the blogosphere, I establish this hallmark of truth: I ain't cool. My mom used to tell me. My wife tells me. And they're cooler than I can hope to be. I rekkin' they're right. Now, I didn't say that I won't give up trying to be (insofar as I can impress m'lady). I just don't think I have to impose that on His Church. He doesn't need a cool Church. Just a real one where He is front, center and Lord. Tis all. I can't find it where it says, "If Coolio be lifted up, then I will draw all people unto Myself."

What a relief. Really! So what do we have to do to bring people in? Get out of the way and get my grimy paws off of stuff that only fits the healing hands of a rugged Carpenter Messiah. Oh, I get a mini tool belt, but I'm only assisting the Master Builder. And He has even better tools than that wood-wizard extraordinaire, Norm Abram, on The New Yankee Worshop(tell me what tool does that sucker NOT have?).

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

11 a.m.
On the morrow
Chiro-doc-dood poking, prodding, ascertaining
Spine rejoicing
12 p.m.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I've seen Matrix 2: Reloaded twice to date. I will probably see it at least two more times to sleuth out some more information in order to make a more in-depth evaluation of it. My tack regarding my future review will decidedly venture into an approach that is not as optimistic concerning the much aforementioned Christ-parallelism (especially that which surrounded the first installment, The Matrix......for a taste, go here). I do want to take different angle and pose some questions about this genre-nouveau that I feel not many are asking with much clarity.

I did like the film, just for the sheer spectacle of the accomplishment. As a sci-fi buff, I found myself laughing at times with glee at the technological marvel of the effects. In this, the film delivers. We are taken to realms of sight so stunning as to sit transfixed, beholden to our techno-gods with rapt attention. Is this inherently and potentially a dangerous place to be or is it just plain fun- to be attuned to a much anticipated satiation in the form of matter how metaphorically/allegorically imbibed it appears?

Sunday, May 18, 2003

I phreeked out my back last Thursday. In my consummate manliness while pumping iron (specifically, squatting), a certain portion of my musculature in my lower back decided NOT to maintain its stabilizing efforts on a certain area of my lumbar vertebrae and disengaged, pulling my lower back out of alignment. I have gone through this once a few years ago and a doc of chiropractic literally straightened me out, making me a believer in the practice in the process. Now my pelvis has been jerked inward toward my front side while at the same time, I have a noticeable tilt to the right. Too much information? You oughta see me in the mirror. My wife laughs at the sight of me. My dog ponders with quizzical looks. I can't get into my Dodge Intrepid right now. I can only sleep on my recliner. When I enter a room, people grimace in mild sypathetic pain. Even now, as I contemplate a cessation from my normally physically active life in the recuperation, I admit I am somewhat down in the dumps.

But hey, nothing like looking forward to having pix taken of yer innards and having some stranger push and poke on your back and hearing the refreshing "POP" of the vertebrae surrendering back into alignment.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Just saw Matrix 2: Reloaded last night. I'm still sifting through the massive images and layered storylines and cryptic innuendos unleashed on me as a result of this motion picture. As the messiah-figure in this story takes on greater depth and detail, so too, does the double, triple and even quadruple-mindedness of the storyline as it waxes inexorably more ethereal. We are bamboozled by not-yet-seen state-of-the-art (but soon to be outdated) sci-fi effects. What more does this modern-day parable of our own plight and destiny have to say about the shadow side of who is really in control of what (which is arguably what this picture and it's predecessor wrestle with as a key question to understanding the whole genre....especially in light of the sequel!) More later perhaps, if I can get the red pill unlodged from the back of my throat.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Solitude is the furnace of transformation.

-Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Many are quite familiar with Nouwen's observation on solitude. Seems good to be able to relegate it to the realm of nifty comments as opposed to the halls of personal experience. But that doesn't produce inner regeneration and life change.

You see, I belong to a Fight Club of sorts. We had been talking about the spiritual disciplines a week ago, mainly lamenting how undisciplined we tend to be (or maybe it was just me). We acceded to the fact that such disciplined spiritual pursuits contribute to the spritual giantism in our forefathers/mothers who have paved the way. But for me, I effectively wane toward spiritual mongoloidism. I get stuck inside, stymied by my half-hearted attempts to shed the mantle of self on my own terms. Besides, the glossy-smooth, "everything's okay" church planter, got-it-all-together, hand-shaking, ear-ticklin'-butt-likkin' veneer is quite a suit to don and doesn't peel off easily.

Well, we say, "why don't we skip meeting next week and spend that time in solitude?" Ain't no thang. We agree to it and depart. Turns out, the day (yesterday) we chose to mount our spyerchul dissaplen horsey on our solitude saddle was ALSO the day of fasting and prayer for the Palmers, which I found out this past weekend. Somehow I had conveniently displaced from my consciousness the plans for solitude in recognition of the call to fast, which I was all too eager to do. But come Wednesday, I was not to be left off the hook. Two disciplines in one day to see what I'm really made of.

Through the fast and the solitude, I did not stand to gain anything. I was not supposed to. I got to see glimpses of myself as my mind would be bombarded by my mini-idols and vagabond thoughts demanding allegiance to their crowns. It was about Mark, Jennifer and Micah and the Christ. In His amazing stillness immovable, I saw my quirkiness and vacillation and was bewildered at such fluid instability. I don't deserve to stand in the stead of a brother and sister in need nor do I deserve to bask in the solitude of the presence of the Almighty. But He gives more grace I'm told somewhere. Why do I spill that cup like a tin-can of marbles on a slanted floor?

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

So we try to make sense of this house church-home church-simple church thing..........whatever it is we want to call it. The vast amount of wisdom to be gleaned from those far more experienced and sharpened than I exudes like honey from our veritable slew of blogs on the subject. And believe me, I lap it up. Practicalities, how-to's, personal philosophies on the form and function of community building within the house church/monastic centers (whichever applies to you) permeate our posts as we scope out the horizon ahead of us and fine-tune our vision as church planters extraordinaire. But there's something of which I don't see a whole lot.

There's something that Jesus told Peter (Matt. 16:18,19) that applies to us by proxy, if for nothing but the sheer nature of the fact that we as church planters join Peter in his confession/recognition that Jesus the Christ stands front and center in this effort.......that He is the Master Architect and foundation. Jesus even volunteers information about that other kindgom diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of Light emerging.

When Jesus tells Peter that the "gates of Hades will not overcome" his church built on the Rock, there is a locational presupposition here that is often overlooked. This presupposition is based on the existential reality of church planting.....namely that two opposing kingdoms are in spiritual conflict and the church plant CAN (but is not a guarantee to) become a repository for the "walking wounded" to find healing.

To say that the gates of Hades will not overcome His church presupposes just where He chooses to plant it. The implication is that Jesus seems content to establish His church right where the yawning, gaping throat of hell lies- not in the rural, pastoral fringes away from the strife and contention. In fact, the gates of these two kingdoms clang in proximity to one another because Jesus calls us to go to where the ravages of chaos, deception and demonic rage abound. In a time long past, these forces glided along, seemingly unchecked in their apparent upper hand. And even in light of the Christ event, we still reckon these forces of deceptive darkness as something to be reckoned with, as an enemy on equal footing in power. But why aren't we talking about storming the enemy's camp, proclaiming the victory, sidling up to the blind captives and dangling the keys of victory in the bewildered faces of a declawed, defanged enemy? Because I think we still assume it's a battle.

Doesn't Hebrews 2:14 say the devil is defeated/destroyed.......rendered powerless? How much power does a powerless enemy have? Are we not more than conquerers in Him (Romans 8:37)? Why do we still battle a defeated opponent? It is true many believers are still in an experiential battle with these dark forces but that doesn't make it theologically sound. Why do we often agree that Satan is defeated but buy into being instructed on how to battle a defeated foe? Is Christ's victory on the cross more notable than complete? If the enemy is vanquished from his prior position of power, why do we progress trying to conquer enemy territory, especially as if he were able to somehow take it back? Why does the church seem to "functionally" believe that until the Lord returns in "final victory" we will still be engaged in an ongoing battle against the enemy?

These beliefs SEEM reasonable and profoundly impact how we view church planting (that is, if we recognize the imperative to "proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind," etc., ALL of which point to not only the prophetic element of Jesus' work and identity, but ours as well). There is no New Testament mandate to seek out and fight the devil. There is, however, a great deal sad about rescuing the "blind, poor and emotionally and spiritually downtrodden" (Luke 4:18-19).

Church planting has brought me to realize experientially what true victory in Christ is as we allow Him to be Who He is, to do what He says He can do as He displaces the father of lies person by person, memory by memory and time after time. There was once a time when I thought that we could/should be the "coolest" church thingy around. I was gearing up to try to be able to do that. Thank God I know better now because there's nothing about our "hip-ness" that Jesus says will actually bring freedom and healing to those he seems pleased to bring in our midst.

We are a haven, a "cabin in the woods" (thanks Chris Marshall) for these walking wounded. This "restoration discipleship" is the best kind, because when a young adult who was sexually abused as a child hears from Jesus that she's not dirty- she is better able to choose her relationships based on how Jesus sees her and ditches a dead-end relational cycle. Because when the Man of Sorrows shows that He took upon Himself my nakedness, shame and sense of abandonment, I find I don't have to be doomed to a life of relational isolationism in perpetuity. I am not really alone. I heard those words and a I knew those words, but I needed the Word of Life to speak in the midst of my darkness. There's nothing like being "freed-up" that allows discipleship to blossom.

Therefore, I expect the calls at 3:30 am like I got last week from a demonized guy who's seeking freedom. I expect to see scores more of those "diagnosed" with various and sundry ailments of spirit and mind come into our fray. As I think on it, there's not any less than 80% of us Veritasians who do not have some sort of "issue" that we bring to the table. And it's not that we are any different from any other church, newly-planted or long-established.....God's making us pay attention to these wounded masses in our generation and he wants to do something about it. Furthermore, we've all been given the equipment to handle it. No demon-hunts, territorial reclamations for Jesus.......just doing the Kingdom work and deal with what we have to deal with in His name. The Kingdom and His righteousness suffices to cause the enemy to be displaced.

I see His church a lot differently now in light of seeing what Jesus has done and stands ready to do. I hope it's not all about doing things in a new way.