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.