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 altogether....it will certainly spell the further decline of the kind of inwardness necessary for serious reading...as 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............

Dang.....it'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 Johnson......you get to see IMMEDIATE results from your effort.

Nah.....really.....it 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 die-cast.....it 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, "hey.....you'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.