Sunday, March 30, 2003

There seems to be something deftly sinister underlying the machinations of war (whether present or past)......something intangible, amorphous and hiding in the shadows.......something with a feeler web in the past and a finger on the pulse of the present......something neither pro-American nor pro-Iraqi........something that doesn't appropriate our un-critical, un-discerning and un-holy matrimony of God+Body Politic, but feeds off it......something that can be seen riding an apocalyptic horsey with the fringe-waves of Chaos and Hades cresting behind it.

Biblical history is replete with examples of God taking nation-states and sovereignly using them to exact his will, often with war as the vehicle. Should such nations on the winning side associate divine favor as well? Is 227 years of domination sufficient prerequisite to establish such a position? Is it a guaranteed status? Is God bound to those nations he incites to war as part of his divine activity in the world even as they tumble progressively down a slope of immorality? And what do we mean by nations/countries, etc.? Perhaps we should not confuse the general populace with the political entities that often don't ultimately serve the people they are supposed to represent, especially when they claim to be something they are not. With the growing social/spiritual/economic polarization and disparity, can we expect our best interests are going to be kept on the forefront by the establishment when the carrott of their own greater prosperity is dangled before them? I ask these questions of myself and my own motivations.

If we only knew what we didn't know. In the meantime, I am working on an ameliorating position somewhere between an unhealthy theo-nationalism and a "heavenly-mindedness" that waxes toward practical absent-mindedness. Methinks we may not be able to fathom what we would find if we dug deep enough.

Why is it that the only viable work God has for us to do is somewhere else? When we think about being on mission with God, why do we inevitably think of somewhere other than our "hereness?" Why are we drawn to fields of mission that invariably come across as more exotic than our present station? Is mission work always "out there", somewhere away from "here?"

How come campus ministries don't take the energetic funding and resourcing that often go into spring break-type mission trips and strategically and practically invest them into their own communities of which they live and breathe and have their being? If they do, how come we don't hear about that? Is it that there are no mission needs surrounding us that require the same amount of investment? Does Mexico only have the hungry? Does south central Appalachia only have the impoverished? Does New York City only have the spiritually hurting and wounded?

Why is it we are always on the move, ready to get out of the "joint" at the first sign of opportunity? Is there nothing here? Why are we not called to remain in one place for very long? Why is it that God "calls" us back to our cities/homes of origin? What about our inflated piety and false pride that has us sold on the illusion that we can fix our families of origin? Has functional familiarity replaced the fellowship of suffering in Christ? Shall we bow to the gods of convenience while leaving a trail of dust in the God-forsaken wastelands of the mission fields of which we are presently a part? What about the outrageous fallacy that we have lived a life of faith when we have never ventured far into the realms of the deep unknown that truly require faith?

Who will be the faithful remnant for our God-forsaken little place?

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Gadzooks! My squeeze and compadre Jaylord be bloggin'. He's the phreek in the church in my house in whom God is doing some neat stuff.

Socrates said that the most important thing in life was to know thyself.

When I look at my dogged existence, I say the man was only half right. Such wisdom leaves me hanging.

I say thou canst only know thyself when thou art known. I think I know myself only too well. It's just that I sometimes deem what I know about myself to be too detrimental for the common knowledge of those closest to me. What if they knew what I'm really like? That I am notoriously unpredictable? That I can falsify my outward emotional/spiritual states of being to service my reclusivity? That my cycles of being "on" spiritually seem to be overshadowed by my waywardness?

What can I really know about myself that is not validated and affirmed by another......or the Other? How much of what I perceive about myself is folly? What is gradiosity and what is cold reality?

Oh, I don't know where all this cacophony is leading to. Maybe just bending my ear to the emerging discordant harmonies of my life I suppose.

Monday, March 10, 2003

As my man Burt continues to revolutionize and appropriate most of what I read about church planting, I am becoming closely acquainted with the God of Intinerant Schedule-Busting.

Although I am hastening to render our infant house church to the dividing line of pre-Burtendom and post-Burtendom, I do mark his entry into our lives.....or, at least another installment into my experiential knowledge of the self-revelation of God.

You see, my Southern Baptist lineage has allowed me voluminous opportunities for programmitized training regarding planting a church. A tenet of admonishment that I came across more than once from established planters now looms behind me as a curious oddity. There was a tendency to avoid the overly "needy people," lest they steal your energy and focus away from establishing the plant. The "clear" implication was to center on building the church around "healthy" people- those who seemingly have "it" all together. In principle, I bought into this and in some ways still do.

But what if you have a church full of people who don't really have much of anything together? What if God is bringing in reject after reject from the collective human waste pile adorning the fringes of society? Am I to think that God would surround us and establish us with n'er-do-well's who either don't know the Christ or at least have no stable concept of Christian community? Even paltry or absentee tithers? Heaven forbid! This goes against all the correct models I read and hear about.

Most of those who come to us have not connected elsewhere and it's not always the other community of faith's problem either. Veritasians have some big baggage that they lug into our midst. But we, in our push to be open and inviting, welcome them in. And we have been hurt before in doing so. But I, by proxy, find myself in welcome concurrence with the Neil Cole's of the disciple-making world in that we have missed the whole point of the Church if we only attend to the "healthy" people. He says bad people make good soil. It's a good thing there are some vegetable species that subsist and bear fruit even on rocky surfaces (seasons of death and regeneration will eventually provide the soil, God willing). Should God establish this level of vulnerability as a birthmark upon our countenance, then so be it. I'll take a church full of lichens.

Our community of faith is presently ultra high-maintenance. This is just what I was being warned to avoid. Our spiritual/emotional/physical energy reserves are often on the edge of depletion. But that's not unexpected. Incorportating into my experiential reality the cycles of emptying-refilling, pouring-out and pouring-in has been a surprising divine intervention that I presently know too little of. We often get the Jesus sucked out of us. Psycho-spiritual vampires (sometime unwitting to their disposition) prowl the staked-out enclaves of the new church plant. And sometimes my cup won't runneth over until it's upended.

I got a little in my cup Sunday. Nothing major, just got to see Burt literally horse-laugh at one of my playful analogies. I likened my 85-pound GSDog (who lives indoors with us) to our "child." I shared, as I had before, that we didn't need one of those because we wouldn't be able to tell our five-year-old to go out in the backyard and poop and come back in when she was ready. Upon hearing that, I heard Burt laugh from his belly like I had scarcely heard from anyone in a long time (let alone from him). While everyone turned to watch him laugh it up in his own world, I wondered when the last time was he had laughed that well. And had he ever done so in church? And ain't it sweet to be able to say "poop" in church without consternation?

So be it. To hell with the detractors in my mind. This is God's Church and he can do with it what he wants.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

I was relishing the near-70 degree respite from winter yesterday. My haven of rest was tirelessly cleaning and piddling with my car in an effort to rid it of the corrosive elements of a winter's worth of road salt treatments. And I had to take off a rear wheel and reprove the dandy job the Sears technicians did on their last rotation and balance.....they couldn't even put the little valve stem through the little hole in the little wheel cover. COME ON GUYS! PAY ATTENTION! And even before I could do that, I broke the retaining cap holding the trunk panel down in the access area to the jack and spare tire and lug wrench. *PFFFBPHBPHT!* It was going to be good to get the church cleaned tonight and finally get some dinner.

Then my wife emerged from the house.

"We're going to take Burt some dinner tonight. Will you be done in an hour?"

I was tense now. Burt has our number. Literally.

"He said he was feeling sad and was going to eat potato chips for dinner."

Last Thursday, during a good accountability meeting with two other guys in my house church, the phone rang. We all looked at each other when we heard my wife say Burt's name. We dropped what we were doing and prayed for Burt, which wasn't something we had intended on doing that night. Forty-five minutes later, the phone found it's way to Jason, Burt's bestest buddy. And when Burt calls, it ain't just for a minute either. Another thirty minutes later, the phone convo ended and Jason wondered aloud-

"You think we could go over and pray with Burt? He's started bawling on me." Over to the one room apartment we go, banging on the door several times, smelling the cigarette smoke seeping through the door cracks. I wonder if he's passed out. Or worse.

We remain until 1:30 in the a.m., and depart with a circle prayer with Burt weeping, seemingly and hopefully connecting the twinge of loneliness with the presence of newfound friends.

Now my wife is whupping up chicken and vegetables for Burt and I am adjusting to the itinerary changes of God.

Driving over to Burt's, I am conscientious of the sensory overload about to ensue. The dozens of empty Milwaukee Light beer cans......the 3-4 sodas and pizza boxes jammed into the refrigerator..........the smoky haze constricting my air passages.............the TV that probably hasn't been off in 4 days..............the outpouring of grief from Burt's hurting heart. I can tell this is a high maintenance situation. God enable us!

I just hope he did not forget his dinner on the counter because we sat for an hour listening to him circle his wagons around the same issue of hurt. We tell him he has to eat and that we must go. I pray for him. Then he surprises us.

"I got a prayer for you" Burt offers.

Burt thanks God for us and prayed in Jesus' name that we wouldn't worry about him.

I pray in Jesus' name that God uses us to bring Burt up from the pit.