Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Can We Do This? Are We Allowed?
Here's the deal. Kim and Kara are two young Veritasian ladies who've been tracking with us quite a while. They are finding themselves in a transitional time in their lives calling into the fore issues of vocation, calling, economy, ministry, location and the Kingdom of God. They've waded through the decision to remain in Oxford- here in our community- foregoing other options and opportunities to go elsewhere and be and do other things. That says quite a bit there.

This is coinciding with a phase in the life of Veritas that many of us are encountering on many different levels. We have people who are staying put and taking root here. Jobs are being secured here. We're buying houses in the same neighborhood and really only beginning to ask what that means. We know it's significant.

The major point is that we are revisiting what our community is all about. Why are we here? What are we to do? Who are we to be? We're feeling the need to solidify our community around some vows pertinent to our place and people. And yes, we've been influenced by many friends and communities in what could defined as the new monasticism but not because we read a book or two. Perhaps that's a dog to chase a bit later.

For the Dana house, we are embracing the fact that in many ways we are a training house and a "retreat" for leaders in training. And we're also just a simple, warm and inviting cabin in the woods for some wayfarers. Our calling is to be navigators in this terrain we've been given. We've toyed with that, but it's time for us to go full force into that placement. And God is giving us people with whom to verify this calling.

We've always had people living with us since we've been in Oxford. Well....not ALWAYS as in 24/7/365...but many people have been with us, living under this roof, for multitudes of reasons. There is definitely a "thing" of hospitality that we are seeing God enact by just opening our home. God just does things with this. We're only just now seeing how being intentional with it makes Kingdom possibilities become realities. We've done "intentional" things with people in the past (such as community leadership internships), but this is an occasion of not only exploring this dimension of community and what it means for us as a church, but also in the creation of another intentional community.

Suffice it to say, God is making a move of some sort that seems rather pointed and concerted amongst more than a few of his people here in Oxford in our own little abandoned place of Empire....the Oxford trailer park. In some pretty supernatural ways, he's laying this area of town (I call the College Corner Corridor, or C3.....I know, I know) on our hearts and we're discovering a common vision for the C3.

So Kim and Kara are finding an inner urgency to "be" there...in the trailer park, as residents- even buying a trailer and essentially becoming one with the people in the neighborhood, serving them and doing their part to love them into the Kingdom. Nobody, especially not I, had ever suggested to them to do such a thing to my knowledge. And from what I am gathering, they are not loners "out there." There are pioneers who've laid a path. And if it is that Kim and Kara are to go there, there will be others to follow if they are faithful. They won't be the only ones.

Still yet, there are quite a few unknowns and uncertainties in making this move, if it indeed happens. And having lived together the last year and just recently coming to the end of their lease, Kim and Kara are finding that the decision to move is forced upon them. But this time, in ascertaining where to go, they are submitting it to the scrutiny of what this particular move can mean in context with what God is doing in us and them. A move with this kind of Kingdom-minded intentionality is somewhat of a precedent for our faith community.

So this is what the Dana house is offering and has indeed morphed into.......we have invited Kim and Kara in to live with us in a structured, intentional community as we delve into and decipher just what it is that God is doing in them as well as in us. There are no real preconceived notions and token naivetes in the formation of this community here at 1361. We are laying a bed of disciplined routines and a structure to our common life together for as long as we are together (until God says to move). Through common prayer, meals, conversations and routines borrowed from the rich history of the Church, the new monastic ideals evident in other local communities and through careful support of the wisdom of brothers and sisters in Christ, we are basically seeking out a way of life that is indeed sustainable and reproducible and faithful to the (hopefully) prophetic witness of the KOG here in the intellectual capital of Butler County, Ohio.

Sure, it may be prototypical and exploratory, but what we have formed is real. We are even in a suburb, but not the kind of suburb you might think if you've never been here. We are one of a few single family residences on our street where the rest are duplexes, some mainly run down. People are in and out of these places like the seasons, and most of these people are in lower income situations, or at least, transitional income circumstances, if you will.

But here we are, and we're going for it- or something, whatever "it" will be. We know that we are fashioning a disciplined bed where the seeds of the possibilities of God are going to be nurtured and grasped in due time. For a split second, I've thought, "can we do this in this kind of neighborhood?" Does the place we are in "guarantee" a legitimacy or not? Are we trying to be "new monastics" and therefore up our stock on the hip guage? No, not really. This kind of life we are choosing at 1361 Dana just makes the most sense. And mainly, we need discipline and depth because we think we are on the cusp of some pretty inspiring things here in Oxford and we need depth if we're to be an incubator for what God wants to entrust to us.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

If you were a child of the 80's you may really appreciate this.

Brings me back to times on our cardboard in our friend's carports....breakin' in East Tennessee for sure.

Days do indeed go by.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bellythink: Stability's Arch Enemy

Currently, there is only one Veritasian who's still a university student and will be graduating in December. Quite frankly, the fact that there aren't any students (or won't be in the near future) means a several things: one, our community is coming of age; two, our outreach into the student population has waned a bit; and, three, it reflects a bit of the direction our community has taken.

Part of this coming of age is begging a few questions as well. Who are we? How are we to grow? What are we supposed to be doing? We are asking questions that even challenge many of the ways I've conceptualized about what it means to be the Church.

We are nonetheless primarily a church of young adults. Many of these have graduated and some have moved on to other parts of the country and world. Some of these still track with us.

Now some are staying in the area and getting jobs and buying houses. This has been a long time coming when you are intending on sustaining a church plant amongst primarily students, as we had purposed when we arrived in 2000.

For us, there are some Kingdom issues that are taking on new light. It is heartening to see us starting careers here in the area and buying houses and thinking about staying here and serving God in our "hereness." This is a phase I think that bodes well for us as a church because I believe God is faithful when we embed ourselves for the long haul.

This is why stability is becoming more of a meaty issue for us...one that can truly be embodied in tangible ways that reflect back into the community at large. This means we are at a place of seeing how such a vow can impact really what is already taking place in our lives.

Stability embodied in the presence of such cantankerous consumerism as can be found on a campus such as Miami (which is only a microcosm of our culture) may seem ridiculous to townie and student alike. Why would a student want to remain in Oxford, which offers next-to-nothing in terms of the kind of life and income "promised" to the Miami graduate (if not by virtue of its reputation alone)? Jon Stock, in his chapter on stability in Inhabiting the Church notes that we, from an early age, are taught to think "with our belly." He is essentially saying that our appetites virtually drive us into a frenzy of purposeless mobility and restlessness. Our culture dictates that not attending to our desires is to impose disaster to our sense of fulfillment and actualization.

What does it mean to stay together in a city where dispensing/dispatching people is economically and systemically necessary? How does THAT bode for the Church in our context, especially when we devalue attractional modes of being and "doing" church? We shall try and find out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Although it seems like an eon ago since we were there, the total impact upon my soul from our journey out west is still reverberating within. People who've been to Yellowstone inevitably say to people who haven't: "It's so hard to describe. You just gotta go!"

I agree with that conclusion. Comprehending the massive bombardment to the senses there and what that portends was staggering for me, sort of an existential paring of my soul on a level for which I was unprepared.

It was no difficult task to be utterly reminded of the grandeur of God's creative supremacy while you are out there. You might be driving for hours in the color-washed reds, pinks, browns, tans and whites of the countryside spanning visibly for miles ahead and suddenly you are taken in by a wash of emotion and humility in the Creator who seems to say, "Look what I did."

The contrasting ironies are at once preposterous as they are invigorating. It is unnerving and freeing to have gone from suburban "civilization" to tremendous landscapes resulting from great and terrible forces that could, in a moment, end your life.

I was simply not prepared to process the enormity of the experience that is Tatanka. I must say, having surfed the channels one week before our trip, I happened across Dances With Wolves at the part where Costner's character is getting pummeled while trying to show the Native Americans that the bison were on the move. The only word he knows that they understand is "tatanka," which he indicates with two pointed index fingers attached to his temples. They got it and so did I.

So I issued an edict to Cathy, decreeing that we shall not refer to the bison as such, but they would be called "tatanka" and we had persmission to correct one another whenever we strayed.

These dudes were everywhere. They were wandering in our campground through the tents. That's about 1500-2000 lbs. of them, doing what they wanted. Approaching six feet tall at their shoulder, they are visual markers of bygone days of graceful innocence and rugged strength and power. To me they became icons of God, pointers to his grace and affirmation.

White man nearly decimated the creatures not so long ago. After coming to within 10 feet of one for the first time in my life, (in addition to seeing them in their natural places that I had never seen before), I began wondering: what is God's experience of these animals? does he take pleasure in them? are they "aware" of his pleasure in them? what is their "experience" of their Creator? It became nauseating to me that these animals could not have an existence outside of a park created for them. Is our current subduction of the globe as it is the kind of stewardship God intended, having traded the earliest Garden for ones wraught with concrete and steel, mostly at the expense of the creatures with which we are to coexist? Certainly, this begs the fullest expanse of the questions of consumption and sustainability.

It became amazing to me, that- in spite of our history with the tatanka- they tarried with us...in their home, almost seamlessly weaving us into their ways, our unnatural
interruptions with our cars, tents and selves, gawking with mouths agape. They jam our roadways and lumber onward in their tantanka-ness, with a slow toll and pace that invites onlookers to relish the same. Irony...in their behemoth heads rhythmically flowing up and down as they reveal a grace from time immemorial. Irony.....in such docility while knowing that they can run about 30 miles per hour and with one thrust of their horn...well, you get the picture.

But there we were...us and them. We didn't deserve to be there. Not after our atrocity perpetrated upon them. By virtue of just being out there, it was no stretch to see the consumerism that almost eradicated them for their fur never really abated. But there, for me, amongst our tents and beside our cars and with no legitimate reason to allow us, was an image of God. Packaged in this furry beast was rolled up welcome, affirmation and grace. God, we are told, "pitched his tent" amongst us. And this in spite of how we try to "do" him in and eradicate any semblance of him. Perhaps I may be unsupported in these tenets, but I was still moved by them.

But their heads are so freekin' awesomely huge! Beyond the fact they use them to plow through the snow to reach the warmer springs and steam vents for grass, I am still trying to decipher the theological significance of that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I am back from my summit in Greensboro, NC. Wonderful people there.....quite hungry and eager for God to break into their midst and use individuals in a simple and powerful way. That seemed really evident to me.

Driving down there was luscious....saw a house fire, a tanker fire and a car on fire within about 3 hours. God even gave me a lil' bit of fire while I was down there too. That's always a delicious thing.

God to see Dave-O at the elsewhere collaborative in Greensboro...a 3-story storefront with some cool artists and splendid art installations. Somewhat in my honor (I'll go ahead and think), one of Dave's works there includes a "weather station" that allows a person visual and auditory (as well as tactile) stimulation of weather from the INSIDE. Nifty stuff.

Tomorrow, the Dana house is hosting Chad Moore and his planting team for a cookout. They are planting a church here in Oxford. Chad and I have been meeting together weekly for the past few months and the guy is pretty sharp and some God things are happening with him that I'll hopefully elaborate on later. I'm looking forward to meeting his team, but, of course, tomorrow will probably be the day we'll get severe weather.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm just tinkering with my blog appearance and it's getting a bit ridiculous now. But I needed something new but I can't stop myself with the reinvention, at least with the small leeway I have in knowledge and options with Blogger. I don't know....I suppose the digital flux here represents the same in my life.

I'll be leaving for Greensboro tomorrow for yet another summit with some local pastors/leaders there to talk about non-traditional church planting stuff. It's kind of funny that Dave, a Veritasian, is in the midst of an art residency as part of a collective there in Greensboro and I get called for this trip there with the North American Mission Board. We'll get to connect so that's off the cool-meter.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Okay...experimenting here. What you see is not what you'll get. Bear with me. If you're with me.

Shortly, after a conference call regarding my next summit in Greensboro, NC, I shall haul a busload of chitrens and yoots from Clubhouse down to the Cincy Museum Center at Union Terminal.

My goal this year- in addition to arriving at our destination safely- is to keep the umbrellas on board while on I-75.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The New 'Scape of Things?

Ever found yourself peering out over the horizon, thinking you're ascertaining the lay of the land- but instead of a state-of-the-art, handheld, GPS device- you see that you've really been clamoring over a 6-foot sextant more appropriate for Johannes Hevelius? And to top it off, you don't really know how to work it.

So what does that say about how you "got" to where you are now? Where are the objects that have been guiding you? Are they as fixed in their positions as you thought?

Secretly, I think I tend to hold my perception of my own relationships as constants for navigation. I don't think there currently is a judgment for or against this at this point either. This has been solidly the case for me in these last few years of ministry....I guess I can say it's been that.

There was a time in those years (and I don't think that "time" has abated) wherein my journey seemed like a span from the Arctic Circle to the calm of the tropics. It was lonely and icy but there were others being found on that journey and it seemed we were all headed in the same direction. Finding each other was warmth enough.

Across the board, some destinations were made, some are still in progress and some- like poor, ol' Jack Dawson in Titanic.- sunk into the cold depths off the raft.

I'm looking around in wonderment at how much things have changed in such a short span. It's not all negative change. People's lives take root; new footholds are gained. Any one vantage point, perspective or conclusion at any given time isn't hard and fast. We all know that- but that's a risky emotional reality in which to dwell. But again, not necessarily negative.

For instance, and at the risk of sounding something like a drama-queen, I look at my blogroll and about half either barely or do not blog at all. In their histories, there were cathartic moments for them when actively writing and images flowed through their fingertips to the screen handily and I was profoundly moved by their virtual introspection into their lives. Somewhere, the light went off, the writing was burdensome or had lost it's novelty or was laid aside for authentically noble reasons. For whatever reason, just like the move toward blogging signaled a life change, the move away from it arguably signals something like that too, I would say.

The pressure to generate content and the quasi-convincing humiliation that you have no readers can be a blog-killer, especially when nothing is to be gained financially from the endeavor. Did the online phenomena dictate the direction of the discipline to "pen" thoughts to the cybersphere or did our conversation? Does the code, signal and digitized images give life or do our words? It's curious that those who have much to speak with unique profundity find that they cannot say as much online anymore. And in every way, I can respect that. The entry into disciplined silence is noteworthy, if that's the case. If not, what's happening?

So, we seem to quit writing when we become disillusioned or part of our dream dies.The fact remains that we identify a life stage and assign a behavior to that stage as a marker (such as the novelty of blogging). We move out of that stage, and blogging is dispensible (again, for some good reasons). I've found, and maybe others have at times, that blogging is writing and writing for me has been prayer. Since I'm not altogether that good of a pray-er, I've not been that good of a blogger. But, I'm not a blogger, really. Just a writer of sorts. And that connects me to my soul and to souls. Every so often, it connects me to the Creator of Souls.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I really have MUCH to update you on...Veritasian ministerial leanings/directions/developments; having just driven over 5000 miles in the last 3 weeks; realizing I've seen fully one-third of the states in the continental US since October....goofy stuff like that.

It's 330am- my usual haunting hour- my ladee of oldness and the dawg are sleeping in the community room and I'm listening to Hammock's Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo and I'm quite fond of it at present. You should dive into it if you have a hankering for some ambient, shoegazer, dream-pop tracks that are altogether melancholic and hopeful and starkly emotionally riveting. Their musical intuitions hearken me back to my rural Tennessee roots, rife with mountain scenes and the pungent and sweet odor of valley cornfields tucked between mountains.

So this duo, from the south and living in Tennessee (you'll see good stuff DOES come from there), produced Raising Your Voice... after one of the duo lost a friend to suicide. Much of the tracks cover a theme of loss, despair and questioning and a hint of faith....not unlike what you and I have been through in the recent past.

I feel like I haven't surfaced for air in months, but my wanderings have been rich and formative. All of this brings me down to the longing to nurture my roots here in O-town for a while.