Saturday, November 01, 2008


I don't typically get revelatory dreams like this, if this is what it is. Most of my dreams are usually some kind of spiritually dark "invasions" when I sense there are significant spiritual implications to the dreams.

I'm running along a variety of trails and paths with some "creatures," the type of which I wasn't initially sure. I couldn't tell if we were running FROM or TO something, but it became apparent we were running together. At some point, we were running up rocky crags and through precarious cliffs. I noticed along the way that I was running with sheep.

Suddenly we came across a fence corner, where two fence lines came together. Being the human, I knew I was going to have to climb the fence to keep going, but I wondered about the sheep; how were they going to get across?

I climbed and landed on the other side and found myself on the ground. As soon as I did, a blanket of thick and total and complete darkness fell. The darkeness was absolute, like what I'd done before for caving groups in the deepest recesses of a cave when we'd all turn out our lights and plunge into total darkness. Only, in the dream, it was a darkness that had a weight.....or, for lack of a better word- intention.

The darkness was so instantaneous and so thick, that I mused in my dream that I couldn't believe this had just happened. So, I was able to "rewind" in my dream to see if it would happen again. And it did.

It was Halloween (yesterday) when I dreamed this. This is significant not because of the date, but because the Aidan readings (Celtic Daily Prayer) for October 31st, especially the one from Psalm 119:169-176:

169 May my cry come before you, O LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.

170 May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.

171 May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.

172 May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.

173 May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.

174 I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.

175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.

176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands.

I am, like the hymn writer of old, prone to wander. I am not above that, if I am to discern how much of this is for me and how much of it pertains to those for whom God has entrusted to me. Naturally, I'll incorporate 100% of this into my being and own it's encouragement for my own edification. That has to happen before this means anything to anyone outside of myself. And it may never.

In the reading, a prayer by Peter Marshall has now become one of my own in this season of my life:

Father, I know now, if I never knew it before, that only in You can my restless human heart find any peace. For I began life without knowledge but full of needs. And the turmoil of my mind, the dissatisfaction of my life all stem from trying to met those needs with wrong things and in the wrong places.

God remains at the edges and boundaries of my waywardness, seeking me, staying me, finding me and loving me and feeding me deeply. Oh, to stay in rest in that, devoid of the illusions of my own strength that impale the works of the Spirit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Well, it is sufficient to say that there's a lot going on that I'll need to update you on. Coming off the heels of a wacky week of wind-induced power outages that have given each of us a new perspective on our lives, it has culminated with a great Sunday of baptisms from one of our house churches and a Veritasian book-burning of occult paraphernalia by one of our own, in whom the Lord is effecting great things at present and bringing into His light and freedom. It was good.....ALL good. Pics to come, of course.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


If there is any better point of time in my life in which I need to be intentionally grounded in these things, I can't think of one.

I'm very easily thankful to have been given the job I now have at IWU. For example, many people don't have jobs with the kind of benefits available to me with this...well, some people don't even have jobs. In this kind of economy, that is a blessing for sure. But it isn't for the economics of it that

I'm excited for the potential this job has for me to delve into a level of ability and giftedness I haven't been able to express in a least in this kind of professional format. I'm not going to always bank on how I feel to be the impetus for my sustainability and I know that novelty and attending excitement may wane. That's where the discipline of thanksgiving and contentment grant a productive and healthful perspective.

Driving a bus has been neither glamorous nor a line of work that carries much prestige. It's often tiring and monotonous and emotionally challenging in ways non-professional drivers may never know. The company has changed ownership twice in the last two years so that now we are owned by the largest mass transit company in the world. Job security (perceived or real) and familiarity is tenous at best- I'm acquainted with that much.

I also have been able realize that in all situations I get to choose my response to my circumstances and subsequently my attitude. I've had ample opportunity to learn this, rest assured.

Thankfulness and contentment are not necessarily results of various circumstances more than they are realms in which to enter in spite of circumstances. This applies across the board. For all God's intents and purposes, I currently have a plethora of opportunities in which to experience this.

Case in point: I am currently in the final throes of training for my next half-marathon coming September 28th. My running partner now appears to not be running with me. I am also nursing a nagging ilio-tibial band syndrome in my left leg. I may not run as fast as I'm wanting and may not run with whom I wanted, but that is not ultimately why I run. I could drop out, but I won't.
It's going to be ridiculously painful at times to even run, but I'm going to go for it nonetheless.

I just simply get to choose. There is blessing in that somewhere I know. And knowing that, therein lies contentment. And if I can be content in all things, in spite of my circumstances, I can know thankfulness as well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

After close to 6 years as a full-time bus driver for the Miami Metro, I have submitted my two-week notice of resignation.

This is because on September 22, I will officially begin my new job at Indiana Wesleyan University as a Regional Student Services Advisor, having received the call from Human Resources today. After my shift, I went into my boss' office to tell her. It's really weird...I knew the bus job wasn't forever, but I have been happy there and have known many joys in my time with my mass transit colleagues. I know I'm going from a relatively predictable and low-stress job to one of significantly more in those regards, but the move is a timely one and welcome one and will benefit us quite well.

I'll opine even more over the next few weeks as I mentally and emotionally terminate from a work and a people of which and whom I have grown quite fond.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


It appears at least one person got the storm on video at the time when there may have been a tornado on the ground. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF 0 (75mph winds) touchdown on a farm near King Road about 3 miles SW of Oxford and about a mile from our house.

This video is from Kehr Road, about a mile east of the storm. It's the only video I know of concerning the event in Oxford.

This is another segment from the same videographer. At about 1:17 through 1:38, look at the bottom right of the sky near the horizon as he zooms in. It could be scud cloud associated with a rotating feature or a difference in contrast between two cloud features at different distances from the videographer's perspective, but it does really favor a the behavior of a quick funnel cloud, at least in this shot. The resolution isn't good enough to tell, but I'm willing to bet that it's a two different areas of the storm- one receiving more light than the other. The motion of the features relative to each other give the visual impression of a funnel, at least in the shot I'm focusing upon. Great, great video, nonetheless. I was wondering if anyone in Oxford had caught it on film.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Going to take ye olde laydee to Hocking Hills for a night to stay at a B&B for a little bit of R&R.

I'm always stoked to go to where there are interesting geological features and always eager to be in/around the Appalachians, even if it is the lil' foothills in Ohio.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As you know, I am adjunct faculty at IWU. I get to teach about the Kingdom of God under various classes such as New Testament, Marriage and Family, Old Testament, Themes in Biblical Literature and Defending the Christian Faith.

In my last class (Defending the Faith), I developed a relationship with a student in the midst of terrible financial/personal/familial times. Here is a letter he sent me after the class was done. It's a simple pointer as to why I really do this to begin with:


Thanks for helping me on my spiritual journey - I've
really enjoyed the last 5 weeks with you despite all
my personal difficulties. Thank you for listening to
me on Thursday and I definitely will reach out in the
future. By the way, I actually ended up buying my
copy of Contact from Blockbuster :) May God continue
to bless you and your ministry.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Hester Road House Church, ca., November 2003.

This is our house church back in the day. Only four remain of this group today. Others graduated, stopped coming or moved away and Vega passed away, of course.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Taste of Oxford, ca., 2002.

Yes, I have bleached hair(s), a stained black goatee and the idiotic delusion that I was kewl.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Just had a dinner with J&A the other night. Talked about Kingdom stuff and how it makes a difference in our homes, lives and neighborhoods. We're about to take some deeper steps into some good stuff to come.

We're all being grown in a variety of ways that is going to be significant for what God wants to do here in Oxford. And not just through Veritas.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Got Some New Kicks....
New Balance 757's....more of a neutral support for my chikkin' stix. My 858's did the job, but was pushing my feet to roll on the outer edge and I think was causing me some knee pain.

Much more cushy, too. I had about 350 miles on the last pair, so I was right on the verge of being ready for some new ones. I got prime attention from the folks at the Glendale Running Spot.

They took video of my running on a treadmill, assessed from my gait the shoe I'd need. They were even gonna spot me the cost of my last pair because they thought I had been fitted for the wrong pair. But I just couldn't part with my first pair of running shoes after all we'd been through together. There was no way. Maybe a stoopid decision in this economy, but I just couldn't do it. These should do the trick in carrying me to through the State To State.

Monday, July 14, 2008

By golly, we gonna do it again. The State to State Half Marathon is coming up and training begins July 14th (officially) for the Jaylord, Ratt C and I. It'll begin a 12-week regimen running four days a week with an endurance run on Saturdays. I am planning on tayloring my diet to hopefully cut 5-10 more pounds by race time. I'd like to see what it's like even lighter and without a dastardly allergy.
I am SOOO looking forward to tightening up for this race. There was something that "got" me about those months I spent prepping for the Flying much I learned about myself and those around me that I could have never known without the experience of trying to pretend to be a runner. I want to try to improve upon my time of course and to bond deeper with any buds and budettes who'll run with me. So to kick off my training, this weekend, I've pumped away one monster milkshake and had a massive cookout with CMarsh, Paulos The Apostle and the two Nicky/i's.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My deck outside is a pretty good metaphor for my life right now. I built some new stairs for it. Went well there. I determined we needed a power washer to remove the old paint from the deck. Got that. I took the most powerful nozzle to the deck.

Don't do that.

....but only a few boards did I really mangle.

So then, the day I repaint it, it rains. And rains.....and then it rains some more. So now, four days later, I have a beautifully shiny deck with nothing on it. Not even a human. You can't, you see, because it's still sticky. I learned that when I stepped out the door a night or two ago and lifted at least one layer of the paint off with my foot. We're going on four days now.

Any of you Bob Vilaboys (or girls) got any tricks as to how I can ready my deck without a gut-rending overhaul again, I'd like to hear it. I'd really like to use my deck before winter.

Friday, June 27, 2008

And I Shall Never Wash My Face Again

Ever since April 4th, 1974, when I experienced the Super Outbreak, I have been smitten by the weather. That was the largest outbreak of tornadoes in recorded history- 148 tornadoes in 13 states in 48 hours. One went close by our house and did some minor damage.

I had determined to become a meteorologist early on in my life. I made weather stations in grade school and got ridiculed for it. I had even interviewed with an Air Force recruiter in high school to check in on their program for meteorology. I was in the process of planning to go to Florida State to get my undergrad in meteorology and then go out to the plains and study severe thunderstorms and perhaps find a career in forecasting. But I think God had other plans for me. Okay. I I know he did.

The best I have ever been able to do is to make it a hobby and become an advanced storm spotter with the National Weather Service office out of Wilmington, Ohio. I have, on occasion, chased storms whilst in Louisville and since we've moved up here. But all the weather has almost always seemed to have either happened where I left to go chase or just plain not happened at all. I was on the verge of developing a slight mental imbalance in my conclusion that the weather machine was deliberately keeping me from the sweet stuff.

Then came June 3rd, 2008.

It was near 8:30 pm, Tuesday, the usual night Chad Moore and I meet together. We were in Uptown Oxford, sitting outside Kofenya coffee shop when an employee came outside, hurriedly gathering up the furniture. She stated that we might have to take cover shortly because of the "tornado in Cottage Grove" (just across the border in Indiana).

I was incredulous, though we had severe weather and even a tornado watch earlier in the day. Thunder was rolling occasionally now. I checked my Treo for the National Weather Service site and sure enough- there was a tornado warning for Franklin County, Indiana. I looked at Chad and said, "let's go!" All he needed to do was grab his camera, which was a good one, given the fact he was a photojournalist in Mississippi before moving to Ohio. If "it" was going to happen, we'd get good pictures.

We took off north about a mile from our original location on Hwy 27 toward Indiana and pulled off at a gas station under the canopy and took several pictures. The tornado warning was extended to our county now and the sirens were blaring. The storm was exhibiting very obvious signs of strengthening. This picture is one from this location looking southeast at the anvil overspreading our location.

A store clerk came out to inform us a tornado was on the ground five miles from where we were. We got in the car to drive a little bit closer to the storm to get a better vantage point. We headed north on Hwy 27 for less than half a mile when I noted the precipitation core was getting really close to us. We didn't know if there actually was a tornado with the storm but if it was, it could be rain-wrapped so I didn't want to get any closer with no way to spot it visually.

We pulled off under an abandoned gas station canopy with marble-sized hail falling now. Just adjacent to our location was a trailer park with a police car driving through, warning the inhabitants of the storm and issuing evacuation orders through his loudspeaker. All the while, the town warning sirens were still wailing. There was an inflow tail cloud forming in this picture with low level warm air being drawn into the storm (the slightly inclined cloud deck just above the trees is flowing from left to right into the main part of the storm):
By this point, this storm meant business. You can actually see my blurred hand at the lower left pointing to what structures of the storm for Chad to shoot.

The precip core was almost ready to overtake us and we determined that we needed to get south of the area. We jumped back in the car and by this time, there was no traffic coming in or out of 27, which is usually very busy. I had intended on taking up another position conveniently at my house, just a mile away. We only got so far as Kroger when we realized we needed to take cover.

We parked and ran into the store and ran into the store manager and a few other employees gazing into the sky, asking if "there was going to be a tornado." It was hard to hear them over the warning siren and the rain was beginning to blow horizontally now. I began to see that people weren't really sure of the gravity of the situation so I loudly alerted everyone to to get to the center of the store and get as many walls between us and the outside as possible. I didn't know for sure if this storm had a tornado with it or not. Better to be safe than sorry.

A college student, completely oblivious to the conditions, tried to forge out the door into the storm with her groceries. We all looked at her rather befuddled and I told her she needed to get inside. About 30 of us now were all gathered in the center of Kroger. I had my phone out, all my friends who knew me were calling to see if this was the real deal. I was trying to get radar updates and warning updates from the NWS site as well as telling Cathy and Mom to get in the basement. It was about all my phone could handle. The manager and employees were huddling around me, asking me questions about how long this would last, were we going to be okay, etc. I became severe weather hero guy for a brief moment when a lady asked me if I was a storm chaser. I could have died and gone to that storm spotter class in the sky, prepared for me by God's own angelic host. It couldn't get any more dreamy for me.

In a few moments, the storm abated and me, Chad and the manager, followed by a few employees, went to the front of the store and then to the parking lot. This was where I figured we'd see something if this storm was going to produce.

Immediately to our west was a rotating wall cloud. There is an area just to the left that is brighter...that is perhaps and indication of a slight rear flank downdraft- an area of tornadic storms where air rushed downward. It is thought that the RFD plays a key role in spinning up tornadoes. The filamentous clouds to the left were rapidly forming and shooting straight up into the rotation.

After about a minute, the wall cloud was on top of us and it produce this small, short-lived funnel cloud, just visible to the left of center. This area is broadly rotating
and the white/bright area to the left is a meager RFD (rear flank downdraft).

Of course, I am not believing what I am seeing or that I'm actually getting to witness this. The whole thing is coming to us instead of us trying to chase it down. It would figure, I suppose.

About another minute later, the area of rotation moved just NW of our location. The cloud's appearance was changing and a very narrow wall cloud with observable rotation extended very close to the ground now.

This is looking NW from our location toward Hueston Woods State Park. There were unconfirmed reports of a touchdown just west of this area also. There was very clear rotation evident with this feature.

Shortly thereafter, it produced another short-lived funnel cloud, just above the two spikes in the lower right of this photograph. The funnel has smoother edges to it, compared to the ragged scud just below it. This funnel's duration of 5-10 seconds as well.

This is some damage being surveyed by a city officer in NW Oxford in the area where the wall cloud was observed after being directly overhead. The damage here was from straight line winds, which can accompany the features we witnessed.

Here I am helping to move said branch (I am the goon to the far right). In just a second, I'm going to go beside the officer pictured and we both will lose our footing while trying to move the branch. This action will succeed in crashing our skulls together. That's the first (and hopefully) last time I head-butt an officer of the law.

The next day, we are bombarded yet again by a line of severe thunderstorms that move through, once in the morning (which dropped a weak EF0 tornado in Newtown, near Cincinnati). That evening, a line moved in yet again and caused widespread straightline wind damage across the Tri-State. At one point, well over 200,000 Duke customers were without power. We lost ours for about 12 hours and the whole next day saw rolling brown-outs. Large trees were down across the area.

All told, there were 5-6 severe weather episodes from June 3rd-June 4th, 2008. The National Weather Service out of Wilmington would confirm a weak EF0 tornado touchdown just less than a mile SW of my house! That completely rocks. We were actually photographing the weakening storm that dropped that tornado.

I sent these photos to the NWS in Wilmington and they are posted in their "Photos" section, currently under "Recent Events." This whole event is broken down here.
What's sweet is that the lead forecaster emailed me, thanking me for the pics, stating that this was just what they were looking for and might even use them in their spotter training courses. That's pretty luscious stuff right there if you ask me. Since you probably didn't ask me, I told you anyway, so there.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Just updating here.....we are in Tenny, baking our nuggetts here in the 90 degree weather and really doing not much of anything. We had a rousing good time in the Nantahala with the Spengineer, camping and getting dumped on a class III rapid on the Nantahala River, with which, the Spinny-Doc found entertaining. And by "we" I do mean thee laydee of oldness. There are pics of the event as well. Yes, you will see them in due time.

We are looking forward to the return to Oxford shortly, ready to resume life there, at our home....with most of you who read this section of the cybersphere.

Shortly, I will post about the lusciousness of our severe weather event on June 3-4, 2008. I have pics too, courtesy of the Rev. Chadwick H. Moore. You've been warned.

Now, off to ingest a Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad so's I can have energy to post next time.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Place: Hennessey, OK
Dateline: May 24, 2008
Participants: 6 Adults, 8000+ Swine
Human Casualties: 0
Human Injuries: 6 minor
Swine Casualties: 4

...pretty amazing, considering the direct hit the farm took.

I won't be running in the Hennessey Flying Pig anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

link to article

Barking At The Empire....

Get over it if you think this is a democratic versus a Republican issue. To the extent that we get lost in the Hegelian dialectic supremacy holding sway over our current political machine, we shall never free ourselves into sustainable living. Well, on second thought, forget about survivable? Let's talk about survivability before sustainability. Sustainable living (whatever that really means) for a growing number of people can seem luxurious in this shifting economy and society.

Sustainability in the Empire today requires not only an intellectual assent and equity in its agenda and direction, but a greased slide down a slope of compromise in the end. We're told to swallow the bitter pill of the impact of this emerging global economy; that it's only part of the destructive reconstructionism of the capitalists to forge us necessarily into the global market. We should shoulder the socio-economic casualties as we would the physical in any ongoing, (not to mention, unending), military campaign. But who benefits? Who ultimately stands to gain the most?

Not the people in the above article (linked in the title). We wade our way through these stories (if we stop long enough to absorb them) in a subtle relief of "I'm-glad-it's-them-and-not-us" in the back of our minds. And who can be blamed for that? Yet, who can be far from that peril? Are the economic policies of the ______________ (you name the administration) presidency going to do anything legitimately curative (and not mere flattery-gimmicks like an economic "stimulus" package huckstered by this current administration) as long as they remain beholden to the corporate conglomerations that bank-rolled their campaigns? This, even as they bail out failed, gargantuan investment banks like Bear Stearns and as we funnel billions overseas in the shadow of our own poor.

For the most part, even our elected, Congressional barnacles often prey on the same goodwill of the populace (and constituents), adhering outwardly to a form of care and reform, but only managing to resort to the business-as-usual mode of self-preservation while dropping crumbs to the dogs. And many seem to enter the game well-intentioned; but progression in the Empire (equitable to the acquisition of wealth, power, prestige and office) requires the submissive kiss of the ring of their would-be handlers. That is enough to weed out true reformers. True reform will not ever come through the current system; it's corruption is so thorough, so complete and so entrenched as to warrant a revolution from without. This is one not to be wrought with violence and arms; but one following the clarion call from beyond the veil of the kingdoms of this world (1 John 5:19).

Sometimes it may take life lived in a car after the "palaces" that used to stud the former landscape of the American Scream crumble along with the edifices of our false hopes. There's nothing like the perspective on one's own identity and existence that such an experience can offer.

I might have been someone who, in the past, may have only glanced at such a story in disdain.


This is now the story of another mother; one I know. This is now the story of my own mother, but without the conveniences of having the safe parking lots in which to sleep (albeit in a car) and without any form of gainful employment to be found. This is not in the over-priced and diminished housing opportunities like the West Coast cities such as Santa Barbara and others; we're talking small-city Tennessee. From a good job, condominium, car..... to nothing but a borrowed car, a dog and a cat and not much hope. And within a little over a week of having learned of her situation, this is now OUR story, as we've joyfully taken my mother into our home and our lives so that she doesn't have to worry about shelter, food or safety.

I am taking in a courageous and enormously gracious and thoughtful woman in my mother, and, I am relishing this reunion even in light of the circumstances. There is a presence of the Suffering Servant in taking my mother and her dog and cat into our home. I am finding joy in honoring her in this way. There also abides a warm and awe-inspiring sense of divine timing in how things came to be (or not, in some cases) that enabled us to be this receptive at this stage in our lives.

In all that we are doing, we are finding the Man of Sorrows show up in grocery store aisles, in conversations with people who complain about their jobs and in the plans we can make with the help of the people of God who are aligning themselves to journey with us through this. God is all over this, because, to me, this smells of the revolution and redemption of the Kingdom, even if only thinly approximated as through that veil to which we so often refer. Even then, God provides wonderfully, and in this season, I don't even know where this is going to take all of us. I know the One in Whom I've placed my trust and as my life and outlook is morphed by this experience, it is to the glory of God. And not just for me.

These must be the seeds of sustainability...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Flying Pig Has Flown

Yep....that's me in the yellow shirt, somewhere between mile 0 and 13.1.

Six months ago, on a whim, I decided to do something that radically altered my life for the better; I decided to run the Flying Pig Half Marathon with Jason. At the end of November in 2007, it was quite hard to know whether we could stick to such a thing. I'd never run a marathon, much less any kind of race since 8th grade track. I never would have considered myself a "runner" nor have I at any time in my life. I had tried running back in my last pastorate, but that was for only a few miles at a time, a few times a week and for only a few weeks it seemed.

About two years ago, I had tried running with Spen around what would later become my 2.1 mile loop (I can still remember the thought of how daunting even that distance seemed late last year). On mine and Spen's run, I nearly collapsed from fatigue and nutty pains radiating up my right leg. I couldn't even muster one mile without stopping. In fact, Jason, my future running partner, caught me as I was hunched over in pain. Spen had long left me as he was having no such difficulty. That was my ticket to not even think about running again. Ever. Never mind that I didn't hate running, I just wasn't liking how this had turned out. The thought of doing this again was resolutely expelled from my mind.

Now I can't forget how bewilderingly joyous and high I'd felt after deciding on that cold December night in 2007 to go ahead and run that 2.1 miler in which I'd so miserably failed. I couldn't get past the image of my sad sack of bones hunkered over in pain. But with each step, that haunting memory faded and finally, into oblivion, when I burst through the front door that night, feeling that runner's high and greeted Vega and Cathy with a barely containable elation. I wasn't going to look back.

Our plan was to try and run in December and January and then, by January 30th, the first registration cutoff for the Flying Pig, decide whether or not we were going to do the marathon. I knew in early December after that 2.1 run that I was sold on it. So, I read all the magazines, books and online material I could and Jason and I came up with a graded running plan. We just had to get our bodies used to running and our goal became to train without getting hurt and realize that the real winning mark was making it to the starting line some six months later. I began to alter my eating habits and began dropping weight as my miles increased. I got all the reasonable gadgets I could get to help me keep track of my training and I kept a dedicated training log online so I could monitor my body and my training habits. I began to be able to monitor my heart and keep up with how my body was doing on my runs over time. That intimacy with my body was a new thing for me. Learning how to listen to my aches and pains and knowing how to take care of it across the board was eye-opening. To date, I have been rewarded with a greater overall health and well-being and a loss of 26 pounds of weight that I didn't need.

I am truly not the same person now as I was 6 months ago. I was becoming mildly sedentary, but not completely out of shape. But it wouldn't have taken long to get there. I still relish those cold, 11-degree nights running alone on the roads under the crystal clear night sky and a full moon lighting my way. Not once in all those runs did I ever feel cold. It was hard to see as often as the ice would coalesce on my lashes, but cold, I was not. There was, too, an intense communion with God, myself and the spaces in between my thoughts and my music. There is a joy in just being and just putting one monotonous step in front of the other. And there is a subtle discipline therein that runners know, not to mention numerous life-analogies that can be extrapolated from this whole experience.

For me, my training is divided by Vega's passing back in February. Somehow, in some semi-subconscious way, the training and the race became a last, major connection I had left to Vega, if for no other simple reason than the fact that I had begun this endeavor when she was still alive. It was just an easy emotional conduit for my longing for continuity with her. Training for this particular race was implicitly a connection to her....I could bear my own
body's pain, fatigue and exhaustion when I compared it to what she must have felt as she laid her head on my lap one last time as her body succumbed to the euthanatic drugs coursing through her veins. I'll always know it was the right thing to do with her but it's hard to divide myself from the guilt I feel over seeing my signature on the release form authorizing the administration of the act. Some days I simply ran to escape that memory. You see I've never had a heart to kill anything. Ask anyone who knows me. Just tonight, I stopped my cleaning duties at the church to secure a cup and napkin to contain the giant wolf spider that was loose in the fellowship hall. That's what I's what I've always done. I've never hesitated to go out of my way for some creature, gangly, spindly, hairy, bipedal.....whatever. I just feel the joy of life coursing purposefully enough through my own veins that it offers me an empathic insight into the "other" and their desire to have/need life.

Curiously enough, all those raw places came welling back up as the Finish Line came into sight. First, I saw Cathy and Andrea's Tennessee flag waving high (so's we could see them along the course). Crossing it meant crossing another place in how I am to maneuver through Vega's death, especially as it has called up some other painful emotional memories that I am only beginning to connect with.

That finish line was an accomplishment for Jason and I. It accomplished a shared goal that we did together. We struggled through quite a bit to get there. And the way we got there is not to be traded for anything. As usual, I had to hit the restroom at about mile 4. Jason didn't have to, but he waited with me. He didn't have to take the hit on his own personal time record in his first half marathon, but he waited with me and for me, just like he was with me and for me all during our training. You may think I'm reading too much into a piss, but, under the circumstances, that is a monument to our friendship that I shall lean to for all time. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of life that happened leading up to the 2 hours and 25 minutes it took my lumbering butt across the Finish Swine. And there is much, much more ahead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SAVED BY THE SECOND-TIER REJECTS: Why The Marginalized, The Minimized and the Screw-Ups May Save Us Yet

And if I may jump in.....(here is Alan's encapsulation of the everyone's input into the conversation thus far...)

Recession? You think so? Is anyone saying the great "D" word yet? Is that so far out of the question? Although it's apparently a flash-in-the-pan, "panic" response, the global quandary this week over food shortage, hoarding and escalating prices absolutely and unequivocally ought to call the Church even closer to a better-embodied life of sustainability. One which, as Jason Evans points out, must finally scuttle beyond theologizing and stop whiffing on the fumes of what could/should be and establish ourselves in even greater practical realities. And some are a heckuva lot further down the road than we are on this, I should say. But there's a move afoot, nonetheless.

I think what ultimately must be at stake here in the shadows between our evolving, theological vantage points is whether or not we are erecting calamity-proof structures which will allow the people and mission of God to thrive over-and-against the prevailing economic delusions of not only King George, but HIS predecessors, successors and their ilk the world over. Here, we may as well dispense with the faux, duplicitous notion of the two-party system, neither of which offer real ways out....only enslaving diversions and false solutions found deeper down the rabbit-hole. The kingdoms of this world are on the decline, in spite of the ascension of the ultra-elite to their fleeting states of power and wealth. We do believe another Kingdom is breaking in, do we not?

I have been mentoring a young church planter here in Oxford for well over a year now. Every week in our local independent coffee shop, we at least sit down for a few hours,
sharing life and conversation- looking at each other down our containers of Church Planter Ambrosia (large caramel latte with whipped cream, in my case). As you might imagine, we cover a few bases on a lot of developmental/leadership kinds of things he encounters in his journey as lead planter in a college church. They hold two large-group weekly worship gatherings as well as weekly community groups and have been exploring a communal living situation of their leaders for the last year with some interesting results and seem to be doing well in this context.

The planting paradigm he finds himself in was one I was entrenched in nine years ago. The equation is roughly similar: trained church planter+convention/state/local association agreement/funding+lots of promising talk= successful church plant that can be modeled back up the rungs through the local association, the state and, finally, the national convention levels...the great butter-up, lick-and-chew-you-up-then-spit-you-out syndrome (though not necessarily intentional).

Get it up and going, garner the attentions of the denominational supers and for the two-year time-period in which you're promised a salary of sorts from the denominational coffers, things can be titillating. Until churches promising support bail out on you. Until the association you were called through misplaces your housing support money and ultimately says you can go to another local association because "we can't afford" you. And now they find themselves- mainstreamed and moved-out- here in the land where intellectualism, Budweiser and bloated real estate are the triune gods of this section of Butler County. As more or less vagabonds and misfits staring down the opportunity toward these more organic structures but still unsure of how much to unhand the fading church paradigm, maybe their hands will be forced; maybe ours will be too.

Stripped of opulence, influence, prestige and status- the Church that flourishes has a certain destitution as its fuel. And this- toward unheard-of realms of the transformative power of God across the board. For if this is indeed the end-game we are mooring upon, then the coming darkness looms less forbidding, shouldered by the misfits on the margins.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Different Kind of Resurrection Dream

I still keep dreaming of Vega. I had my fourth dream about her and it was the most interactive, with a bit of a theological twist.

I'm sitting cross-legged on the ground with some other people I know, but I can't recall them now. It is dim and misty and Vega is around me/us....I can see her as well as sense her in my dream. At times, she comes by me to play and she's off again to absorb attention from someone else. I am conversing with who's there about why she's with us. You see, we all knew she had passed away, but between the joy of having her back and the mild surprise that she was alive again, I had an explanation.

As she came by me again to lay on her side and offer up a paw in my direction like she would do when I'd scruff her chest with my hand, I began to explain that she had been resurrected. Somehow, we had all been a part of it, I suppose in some instrumental way- either bringing it on or simply witnessing it. There was a stabbing comfort coming
from this dream but, as such, it is confined to my subconscious, not easily summoned (if at all) and dulled by any theological reality of the spiritual life (if any) of the domesticated canine.

And so, amidst the damning awareness that such grief pales in the comparative perspective of those who've lost, say, a husband or a wife or a brother or sister or daughter, I grovel in this diffuse perplexity of the existential destinies of "intelligent" animals created by and related to by their Creator. Why is the Scriptural witness so silent on this matter? Why are we allowed to bond so deeply with another creature for the end result to be existentially null and void? Why can't we know if the creatures for which we've been assigned a certain stewardship over will fall into our arms again in the celebrated newness of the New Heaven and New Earth? Couldn't they partake as well? If God can remember the way our atoms bonded, could he not remember the animals? Is there no return to that Garden in which all creatures cohabitated in pefection?

The density of the human plight in this loss is that we can "know" of our eventual reuniting on the other side of the veil. I will see my Granny again. Papaw will be there, and so on. My love was no less of a love and my stewardship no less faithful in the care I gave Vega. Yet I cannot rest on the assurances of well-wishers who stretch the contextual foundations of the Scriptures that seem to allude to the "salvation" of the animals (in that they partake in the resurrection or the New Heaven and the New Earth). And I cannot stomach the disheartening naysayers who won't fathom of the possibility to begin with. And I am finally discontent with just not knowing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cathy nudged me this usual....and about the time we're both about to rouse from our sleep. But I had been jostled awake, peering at the clock through bleary eyes when I determined to snooze some more. It was 5:36 a.m. But Cathy was speaking through my ear plugs.

"Did you feel that?!? The dresser with the TV on it was rattling!"

I tried to dismiss it, having not "heard" it, but aware now that I wasn't sleeping well up to that point it seemed. She had mentioned that either we needed T.A.P.S. to do an investigation or something else had happened. I opted to go downstairs to the USGS site and confirm what I excitedly suspected- we had indeed gone through an earthquake originating from near West Salem, Illinois that measured 5.2 on the Richter scale.

We are 289 miles from the epicenter and my report submitted to the USGS was the first from Oxford. There were 32 reports submitted in all from our zip code (as of midnight, 4-19-08). So HAH! In all, Oxfordians felt an average intensity of about III on a maximum of VII for this event. There were at least 4 more aftershocks during the day today. One was over 4 on the Richter scale.

All I can say is that was doggone-freekin-biskit-kind-of-luscious.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Trudging Ahead....

Had a superb conversation with the Jaylord last night for about 3 hours over pizza. In addition to a swell running partner, I have an even sweller feller to journey with in this life up here. We connected on some important issues regarding the present and future of Veritas. Just judging by our conversation, I am wholly heartened by what's ahead. And especially the opportunity for those foolish enough to remain and help facilitate some more Kingdom things together.

I'm fully enthralled with who is still with us. I know (and am coming to know) their giftings, abilities. We've journeyed this far together, we have a history and His name and authority and that's fuel enough for me.

Who knows what it'll look like....the thing is, we (our community) know in the most fundamental sense what it is that grounds us (disiciplined simplicity, organicity, an embedded, authentic presence of Christ before our neighbors). That much will be our foundation. There will be a move toward more embodiment in addition to verbalizing what this will look like. Just talking about it isn't enough. We are still about the need to meet together, to strengthen each other but we need to be more about empowering one another to serve to where we go back and have the bulk of our lives.

I know some in our community are wondering about what's ahead. Some have bailed out on us. Some have misinterpreted a perceived inaction, silence (or whatever) as wishy-washiness, a vacuum in leadership, laxity...I don't know what. Some may have seen it as a chance to jump ship. In any case, some perspectives may be currently misconstrued. Suffice it to say where that is the case, things are not as they appear. They are potentially better than they appear. The question is who wants to persevere, in light of the hits we've been taking (not to mention those we've invited). But more on that later.

I just know- for my part- I'm ready to put out my ecclesial bat signal. God knows it's been cloudy enough of late, so it should have something to visibly reflect off least to those half-willing to look up again with us.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I am supposing that I need to say something of import, something that might enthrall or ensure readership. I don't mind speaking to things that impart life, if what I speak of does just that. Admittedly, much of what I have to say right now centers heavily on loss, some large, some small and some sliding on both sides of the greasy continuum. Collectively, the weight is intrusive.

Yet another person has sought communal pastures other than the one into which we've invested ourselves. While not so totally unexpected, I simply don't agree with it for several reasons that are sensible I suppose mainly in my own context and perspective. I do feel slighted, but I must ultimately attend to that on my own. I bear no ill will or sour feelings toward anyone. I'm just not that way. It's just when I'm at a loss for a reasonable understanding for relational withdrawals, I mull over the bits and pieces, mostly the scraps found in hand when the dust settles. Moving on now...

I'm still grieving over the loss of Vega. I can't help it. Now that I'm working morning shifts (6am-130pm), I am the first one home to wallow in an empty house that had this creature for the previous 12 years....every day, she was there to greet someone....whoever it come through these doors.

I've had three dreams about her and I'll wake up crying (or think I am). I am taken aback at the kind of introspection the grief has offered me and I've been surprised at all the other similar grieving circumstances I've had that get lassoed into the situation. But I parse these feelings and contexts to their rightful place and I still find I need to be grieving sometimes. Over this dog, nonetheless.

And, yes, I've lost close people in my life. But the affinity afforded me with the care of this creature, over whom I was graced with the "alpha" status, has set me into an emotional process much different in many ways and threaded with varying degrees of theological complexity, offering a simultaneous fix of comfort and cold.

I guess a picture tells most of that to which I cannot adequately speak. This picture was the very last time Vega would enter our house from the backyard, where we would let her go to relieve herself. The meager deck stairs in her stage of dysplasia were phenomenal hurdles in that time. There was a fresh snow the day before and her paw prints were left right up against the bottom stair leading to the deck. The night following her death, there was a light snow. I remembered on my bus route that day that I could still find her paw print if I'd search carefully enough, in spite of the snow. I began to be angry that it HAD snowed, because, when you grieve, you search for tendrils of physical connections to the one you loved in such close proximity to their passing. So I got home, went to my knees outside to where I thought the prints were and gently dusted away the top layer of snow in hopes of finding the last remaining physical proof of her final journey into the home she dearly loved.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

...So What Now?

I know it's nothing central to this particular blog, but there is within me a sense that a return to writing is a return to life of sorts. The key task is now ascertaining just what kind of life. I've had some time to think.

I/we retreated from a lot in September of 2007. I had to. I didn't feel like it was an abdication or a shirking of the things for which I was responsible, but now, judging from some of the relational repercussions and the current "lay of the land," I feel presented with as much opportunity as I am befuddled by the looming losses. I never intended this to be a drill bit into our foundation followed by an explosive charge, but I don't know if some have taken it to mean this. This may take some time for me to unpack too (even if my 2.7 readers have been shooed away by my absence).

I needed to breathe out instead of inwardly (like I had been for some time, mainly while trying to ferret out the direction of our community and the changing relational dynamics of people coming and going). Part of that included discovering foundations of living life with a people with God in a certain way that had been congealing in my mind over the years all the while wondering with whom I had to journey. Part of this ongoing, neglected equation has to do with the deconstruction of who I am in all of this, and, wondering how much deconstruction is too much. I didn't really expect that this exhalation process would last for over six months, but I didn't really do anything to stop the train either. See? There's still, arguably, a bit of intention in that.

I have been captivated by several movements in my life, both imposed and invited. Each have been deep and incisive and warrant further reflection because the impact hasn't been fully realized:

  • Saying Goodbye to Vega: We had to put our German Shepherd, Vega, down this past February 19th, 2008, after several culminating days/weeks/months of deteriorating health stemming from her treatment of debilitating and severe hip dysplasia. Of course, if you know us, you know that Cathy and I don't have children but after 12 years of sharing our home with this creature with whom we were given the opportunity and chose to enter into a deep bond, I have frankly been blindsided by a grief nearly equal in depth.
  • Absence of Close Friends: Some have moved on to work in other states as part of new directions in their lives, which, although difficult, is something I celebrate with them because I am still in contact with them. There was notice of their change of venue; they included me in the process. Others have simply dropped off my radar for reasons unknown. Even as I emitted distress signals, their acknowledgment was nowhere to be detected when I needed them most. There was no intention communicated for their going MIA. And, given our history of having at least achieved an intimacy deserving of ongoing connection, I am at a loss.
  • Teaching: Like the Marsh of Cee, (and in some large part because of him), I am now adjunct faculty at Indiana Wesleyan University in their College of Adult and Professional Studies. I teach biblical electives, a sociology and a history course. This has been radically fulfilling being that I get to infuse the tenets of the Kingdom very blatantly into the material. When non-believing students connect with what you're saying regarding said Kingdom, that's quite the stab of joy.
  • Training For A Half-Marathon: Or, as my father said I should say it, "I'm half-running a marathon." It just sounds more substantial than to say "I'm running a half-marathon." Jason came home after Thanksgiving break with this absurdity flowing from his lips: "Let's run the Flying Pig Marathon." Well, we decided to give it a try starting at the end of November, 2007 and run until the first cut-off date for the registration at the end of January. I was enthralled because I was somewhat sedentary and had never run a half-marathon before. It would involve a rigorous detail of some life changes that I didn't know if I could incorporate. But I went all out, bought shoes, etc., and begun the regimen and have been going since with the race in about a month. I have lost 15 pounds, run over 20 miles per week and feel great about my chances for completing the 13.1 miles in May. Prior to starting in November, I couldn't even run over one mile. This has been a great discipline for me and is still paying dividends even this far out from the race. One great plus has been having Jason to train with. Our friendship has deepened considerably and it is hard to know how it would have been without him as a partner in it.
  • The Changing Face of Veritas: We have firmly attached ourselves to some foundational principles regarding the kind of community we ought to be. But much is yet to be birthed. Much is on the horizon and it offers some tantalizing possibilities. With Jason's graduation this May, it will be the first time we don't have a current Miami student in our midst. Much more on this later.
I'm just simply saying here and now that, for the purposes of this blog, (which is an ever-present outsource of my heart and plea for accountable personal and communal progress), I am back, even if I am reduced to the yipping of an annoying lap-dog in the outer darkness.