Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fearing engaging art...

For the best several months, I feel as though I've been once again bitten by the writing bug. I used to write quite a bit when I was younger. You know, I was that gawkish boy who really didn't fit into any particular clique and found himself typing away at his parent's ancient typewriter at home (this was obviously before we had a computer in the house!). I wrote all sorts of stuff, junk mostly. Actually, most of it was just fiction stuff, random thoughts from a random juvenile mind. There were stories of war, of course, as well as a way too long ramble that resembled a sick mix of Beverly Hills 90210 (an old TV show for you young kids!) and Dawson's Creek. I also wrote some very sub-par poetry and such as well. Even though, especially looking back, so much of what I wrote was garbage, I seemed to get some respect for what I'd done, getting sent to a few writing workshops by well meaning teachers and such. One of those teachers told me something I've yet to forget. Basically, she said, "Andy, you have a God-given gift for writing. It's now up to you to decide what to do with it." I was flattered, but maybe not as much as I should have been. We're cocky when we're young.

Well, years have passed and the writing sort of fell by the wayside. It's tough to have time to write when you're worrying about school, girls, girls, um, girls. Plus, I was just young and trying to figure out my place in the world. So, essentially the only things I've really written in, say, the past ten years, are emails, journal entries, and for the past several months, these things. I'm a little intimidated to get back into the whole swing of things as far as it goes and also realize that it will take a lot of discipline as well.

But perhaps the most daunting thing holding me back is a nagging question at the back of my mind: "Will anybody want to read this? Will it be worth anything to anyone?" My reading in Thomas Merton's book, The Sign of Jonas, didn't help much last night. He writes:

"We who say we love God: why are we not as anxious to be perfect in our art as we pretend we want to be in our service of God? If we do not try to be perfect in what we write, perhaps it is because we are not writing for God after all. In any case it is depressing that those who serve God and love Him sometimes write so badly, when those who do not believe in Him take pains to write so well. I am not talking about grammar and syntax, but about having something to say and saying it in sentences that are not half dead. Saint Paul and Saint Ignatius Martyr did not bother about grammar but they certainly knew how to write."

Maybe I'll look at writing in the New Year, as a sort of resolution...

Friday, December 23, 2005

The trendy guy and my failure...

So this week I feel I've well, sort of been a failure. At least at my whole concept and idea of following the Benedictine way of hospitality. It became glaringly obvious to me yesterday as I was at work and asked, due to some staffing shortages for the day, to work on the sales floor. Now, I love people. Some of my best friends are, in fact, people. But, there's something about people and sales and whatever. Plus, let's be honest. We're all filled with pride and judgment at varying degrees and its hard to suppress some of it. So, I'm working the floor and into my section came a couple with a friend of theirs as well. They were all very nice and cool and whatever but... Well, this one guy, the friend, was just too cool. He had the whole look down. He had the trendy shaved head, the upside down horseshoe mustache/gottee with the soul patch, the cool green club jacket with the retro red shirt underneath. He even had the cool jeans with some stripes down the sides and some cut looking things at the bottom. And of course, cool shoes.

Now, all of this in and of itself is not a bad thing. He's entitled to be cool, trendy, chic, hip, or whatever term you like to use. But I guess it just got me to thinking about how obsessed we are with image, with ourselves, with how others perceive us to the point where we forget that the only person whose opinion we should really give a damn about is Jesus'. So, I laid down the judgment on this guy. Oh, not to his face. That would be too rude. No, in my head. So, here I confess. Please forgive me. I long to be hospitable, to truly receive others as Christ, even those who don't share my opinions, my thoughts, my dreams, or even my faith. I long to love them as I love Jesus. I guess the frustrating and humiliating aspect of it all is that when I look at it through that lens, I'm ashamed of how little it seems I really do love Jesus at times.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thoughts on the "Christmas Controversy"

I was just sitting here with some time, ironically working on some Christmas gifts, and thought I'd jot down a few of my thoughts regarding the recent controversy over Christmas. If you'd paid any attention to the news, you're more than aware of what I speak, namely the idea that big retail outlets have opted more to say, "Happy Holidays", as opposed to the traditional, "Merry Christmas". Even a retail giant such as Wal-Mart has been lobbied against due to such a decision.

Now, I'm not a Scrooge or a relativistic, pluralistic, wishy-washy whatever. Rather, I'm a big fan of Christmas in almost all of it's incarnations. Our family celebrates Christmas first and foremost with the intent of honoring the birth of Christ, whom we acknowledge as our Lord and Savior. In the past couple of years, we've also added the observance of the liturgical celebration of Advent to our spiritual practice and have found that to be equally enriching. That being said, we also allow ourselves to partake of the more generic celebration of the holiday as we join in buying gifts for one another and our loved ones. This time of year is truly a joyous one for us.

I say all of that (and now that I read back over it, I'm really not sure where I was going there) to say this regarding my stance on the issue. One, yes, I agree that we ought to say, "Merry Christmas". I'm not particularly offended by someone proclaiming, "Happy Kwanzaa" or some other holiday to me and I'd just ask for similar support. Plus, let's be honest. Our modern incarnation of the holiday, meaning the roots that are inherent in it since the Christians appropriated the holiday from the pagans, are fairly clear. It's a celebration of the birth of Christ. But, that being as it may, I'd really like to see more Christians be more upset and moved to action at such things as, well, say, the AIDS crisis in Africa, the fact that nearly 80% of all deaths in developing countries is related to such a simple thing as bad water, or even the simple rate of homelessness and need in our own hometowns. My frustration comes at the fact that we try to stand our ground regarding points wherein we feel we're losing ground publicly but don't necessarily live out what that ground holds privately. It's time for us to not worry so much about labels and names (although for me and my house, we'll be greeting folks with a cheery merry Christmas!) and worry more about truly hearing the call and command of Christ and live it out incarnationally to all.

Just a thought...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Narnia thoughts and more...

So I went with a friend to see the Narnia movie today. The only problem is that I'm not sure how I feel about it. I enjoyed it sure, but I'm not sure if my joy was marred or hindered by all of the hype and discussion surrounding the movie to begin with. No one can deny that it was well done, well cast, and pretty well shot all over. I'm just not sure how I feel just yet. I think I need to take some time to process it in order to see if my hesitancy to really like it stems from overinundation of media hype or some other malady.

In other news, I'm just finding myself in a weird place right now. Much of my walk as of late has been very lonely, very austere in it's surroundings. I'm not entirely sure why. Some, I'm sure, would counsel me that the loneliness stems from my waywardness and that I need to return to church and stop my backsliding. I'm not sure that they'd be right. I feel more confident in this path than I ever have, and more certain of my faith in Christ. What I'm not sure of is how to live out some of these new ideas and thoughts. I'm not sure yet what it really means to live a simplified life. I'm not yet sure what it means to really see Jesus' commands as more than just suggestions. That's a scary, and a bit sad, statement but it's true. I wonder how many more of us, being honest, would acknowledge that we've seen Jesus' countercultural commands more like good ideas or noble suggestions as opposed to radical calls to a new way of life. What does it really mean to turn the other cheek, to not repay evil for evil? In this world, that means insanity, instant pain and suffering. I don't know...Just some ramblings...

Shifting politics..

A few years ago I would have most likely labeled myself, if asked, as a fairly conservative person politically. As a youth pastor in a Southern Baptist church and such, my leanings tended to be more toward those of the religious right and such. Before long though, a sense of unrest came to settle upon me and as my journey progressed and I began to think a bit more for myself, combined with reading the Scriptures with a fresh light, my views politically have begun to change.

For instance, at the beginning of the U.S - Iraq conflict, I was in favor of it. I felt as though Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator who needed to be ousted, whose people needed to experience freedom for themselves. I suppose, in some ways, maybe I still feel that but as to the methods the U.S. utilized in effort to justify an invasion, I have a problem. I have a problem with lying to the American public regarding weapons of mass destruction. I have a problem with placing honorable men and women's lives in danger in order to extend an Empire rather than truly free a people. I won't desecrate the good hearts of the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces and who are carrying out their respective duties. I will however contend with those who give those orders, who justify their actions.

That being said, now we have the revelation that President Bush has taken to authorizing spy methods on various citizens and sources. In doing this, he has also bypassed some of the previously mandated systems that maintain a check on this sort of action. Welcome, Big Brother. I am all for the health of our nation and for protecting our civil liberties. However, when the protection of said civil liberties comes at the violation of those very liberties, are we not treading in dangerous waters?

Just some thoughts. I'm not a particularly political person but this action has me a bit aroused.

Cool music link...

I ran across this link here yesterday on Marko's blog. It's three free Sufjan Stevens Christmas albums for download. Check it out:

Sufjan Christmas

Never really watch the show but...kinda fun...

Tony Almeida
Tony Almeida

Which 24 Character are you?
brought to you by

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Ryan and Holly just left, off to get an oil change and start back on the final long leg of their trip. It was really great having them in, getting to know them better, and just conversing about life and faith. There's always a subtle hesitancy inside oneself before a relationship is really begun that questions whether or not the two parties will actually mesh or not and, at least for our part, I think we did. For myself, it felt very liberating to be able to discuss and hear informed feedback regarding this step in my journey of faith and rediscovery of what it really means to be a follower of Christ. Additionally, it pulled me a little bit out of my box and into the realm of true hospitality, into a place of having to do something that before, perhaps, wouldn't have made as much sense as it does now. I'm thankful for the Sharp family, for their hospitality to us, for their kindness and love, and now, for their friendship.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Learning hospitality...

The Benedictine Orders of monastics have as a tenet of their lives the idea of hospitality. They essentially aspire to receive everyone who comes to them, who interacts with them in any way whatsoever, as Christ. This is quite a task and a subversive call to that by which most of us have honestly viewed our lives. Most of us, myself included, have unconsciously or even consciously conducted ourselves with more of an attitude that asks, "What can you do for me?" rather than, "What can I do for you?".

With that in mind, we're so blessed to have Ryan and Holly Sharp staying with us. I ran across Ryan's name several months ago (I'd met him a long time ago at a youth camp we'd taken our students to) and started reading up on his stuff. Seeming like kindred spirits and some people we'd love to meet and grow in friendship with, we were excited and pleased when they agreed to hang with us for a few days during this very cool pilgrimmage that they're on. I've got to be honest. Given the previous weekend's sense of loneliness its really nice to have some people in to (a) simply love on and befriend, and (b) to talk about such matters of Church, Christ, and life together in a way that is open and honest rather than jaded and defensive.

Weary and worn...but getting better...

It's been a long week. Last weekend actually, I felt myself taking a few steps into that place that St. John of the Cross called the "dark night of the soul". Just as I mused over some different things, this journey I'm on, and it's uncertainty, I felt a bit engulfed by loneliness. It truly can be a lonely task following Christ. I know that there are those who might suggest to me that my exodus from the traditional church has aided that concept and to some degree I'd agree with them. But there's something more to my dissonance. It's more than some schoolboy's frustration with the authority of the principal. Rather, I'm following what I see in the Scriptures, what I see is real and true. And that leaning is taking me somewhere that is uncertain, and a bit scary. Even though others walk alongside me, it's still a dark place to enter into.

Along this seeking and searching, I've found that Jesus seems to be showing me more of who I really am. That is not a comfortable experience. Every step closer to Him, being bathed in that majesty, that glorious Light, exposes my wrinkles, my scars, my faults and failures. I've never quite realized my selfishness, my pride, my lust like this before now. On some levels, it makes me want to give up, to just say the hell with it. On the other side though, is this insistence within me that continues to call to me, reminding me that I'm the beloved of Christ, because of His very own sacrifice. I'm reminded that the Father holds me in His hand and He will never let me go, that He loves me more than I can ever imagine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Some Advent wisdom...

I've been reading a couple of devotionals during this Advent season and the words of Henri Nouwen speak powerfully today:

"One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power - political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power - even though they continued to speak in the name of Jesus, who did not cling to his divine power but emptied himself and became as we are. The temptation to consider power an apt instrument for the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest of all...With this rationalization, crusades took place; inquistitions were organized; Indians were enslaved; positions of great influence were desired. Every time we see a major crisis in the history of the Church...we always see that a major cause of rupture is the power exercised by those who claim to be followers of the poor and powerless Jesus.What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life." - excerpted from "Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Henri J.M. Nouwen" (Liguori Publications)

That is some seriously powerful stuff. May I struggle at the hard task of love, in the power of Christ, today, and always. May His love overflow my heart and may suffering seem sweet in the light of His glory, may pain seem soothing in the radiance of His presence, and may loss seem gain in the knowledge of His holiness.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bad Santa...

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about story. I've always been intrigued by the idea of story and find myself coming back to it time and time again. Recently, my friend, Ryan, was the one who got the juices flowing again and then in our Enigma gathering we got to talking about the power of it once again.

So last night I was watching the movie, Bad Santa, not necessarily a movie I'll say I recommend, but that certainly had it's highlights, albeit punctuated by more profanity than I can say I've heard in maybe my entire life. As I was watching this, the idea of story popped into my head again. Halfway through, I really didn't have much hope for the title character, Willie, portrayed wonderfully by Billy Bob Thornton. My wife started watching it at this point, and as I laughed, a bit ashamedly, I just said, "This is sooo bad!" But, the movie continued and I saw what I'd been seeing everywhere. This was a story of redemption, of someone who rose above their self-loathing and destruction, to seek the good of another. Willie was not a good man. In fact, Willie was, well, an ass. But something happened within Willie that helped him to see that his life was more than bottles of whiskey and quick rolls in the hay. Willie's life meant something to the little boy, Thurman, and Willie clung to that, and allowed it to bring him to redemption.

It's just interesting to me that wherever you look, people are looking for redemption, even in Bad Santa.

The Cloister Walk...

I've been reading this book called, The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris, a Protestant poet who found herself drawn to the monastic vision. Here are a couple of cool excerpts:

"To make the poem of our faith, we must learn not to settle for a false certitude but to embrace ambiguity and mystery. Our goal will be to recover our original freedom, our childlike (but never childish) wisdom. It will be difficult to lose our adult self-consciousness (here the discipline of writing can help us), difficult not to confuse our worship with self-expression. (All too often the call for "creativity" in worship simply leads to bad art.)"


"Imagination and reason, those vital elements of human intelligence, are adept at dismantling our delusions. Both bring us up against our true abilities and our limitations. But we've gotten ourselves into a curious mess in the modern world. We've grown afraid of the imagination (except as a misguided notion of a "creativity" granted to a few) and yet are less and less capable of valuing rationality as another resource of our humanity, of our religious humanity. We end up with a curious spectrum of popular religions, a rigid fundamentalism at one end, and New Age otherworldliness, manifested in "angel channeling workshops," on the other. And even religious institutions - I'll speak here of the Christian churches, because they are what I know - often manifest themselves as anything but Christ's humble body on earth. What gets lost in all of this is any viable sense of the sacred that gives both imagination and reason and room to play."

Good stuff...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Looking at stained glass...

I changed the route I drive to work some months ago. I was just getting a little tired of the familiar sights I saw along the way, not to mention the traffic. So, on a day of exploration and hoping that I knew what I was doing, I forged ahead and found another way to go. It's actually maybe just a bit faster and it's just not as out of the way. A good move, I've found.

Well, along that new route, there is a church that I've driven past just about every day. It's an old, at least it looks old, Catholic church called St. Martha's. It's kind of what I would define as a Spanish-style church, red-orange tile roof, crosses upon the high pillars and peaks. It really is lovely. But what has intrigued me for so long is the row of large, tall stained glass windows that look out over the road. I've often sat at the traffic light there, looking along those windows. It's odd though, because the church must be dark when I'm driving by and you really can't see the picture. What you can see are lines and subtle images that give the impression that there's something more there, but what it is, you really can't tell. Some days I'm able to make out an image of the Blessed Mother, another of Christ Himself, and others, well, it just looks like my son's connect-the-dot books.

Seeing this window like this reminds me of what the Apostle Paul talked about when he said we look through a glass and see "darkly", or that we really can't see all that's going on or happening. I know I feel like that much of the time. So many times, it seems like nothing really makes sense or that there's any way we'll really be able to figure out or live this life out we're called to. I mean, come on, I'm a twenty-nine year old college student. Let's talk about needing to figure some things out. But it plays itself out in other areas too. Areas of sin and weakness pervade our hearts and lives many times because we can't see the illuminated picture. Or, perhaps a better way of stating it is that we're not willing to believe that the picture will be as beautiful when it's lit up as we see in our mind.

Not long ago, I worked late at work due to getting behind during the day and found myself driving home back along my "new" path. The sun had taken it's rest and night had fallen. My eyes were blurry with fatigue from the day and Johnny Cash sang in his deep baritone on the CD player, his voice strangely calming as he sang through the lyrics of "Folsom Prison Blues". Then, I pulled to a stop at a familiar traffic light. Turning to my left, I saw, for the first time, the windows of St. Martha's Catholic Church, illuminated, in all their glory. The wonderful hues of color, as only stained glass work can contain, called out to me and their transcendant beauty spoke of something greater, greater than me, you, my work, or anything else. The light changed color and I was forced to leave this wonderful vision.

In the days since, I've tried to remember that vision, to remember that what we see is not always what is there. I want to remember that in the darkness of life, when things seem to make sense one way but God is calling us another, that we can trust that His picture will be greater than we can ever imagine. I've failed in this calling, in bringing this picture back to mind in times of tempation and doubt already, but I have confidence in my Christ's forgiveness and longsuffering with me. We will make me into such a beautiful work.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A great lyric...

I was driving last night and threw in this album that I'd had for some time but hadn't really listened to. It's called: This is Americana. Great stuff.

What caught my mind was this introductory lyric in this song, "I'm So Ashamed", by Willie Nelson and Ray Price.

"I'm so ashamed of my eyes
Because they still cry for you
After they both
Watched my hand
Wave goodbye to you
I've told them time and time again
That this will never do
And I've told them how you
Always laugh at teardrops"

Wow. Simple and great.

A Tale of Everyman (or me and you and them and us and everyone)

The wind blew softly against his cheeks, rustling through his hair and cooling his skin. His eyes looked out and the view from where he stood, high, so high. His feet were planted firmly and his chest was full with a sense of pride. He had made it. He had arrived to his destination. It had been such a tough, tough climb. Certainly, he'd slipped a few times, fallen even, but he had perservered. He had done it. The view was glorious. He'd thought about climbing higher, farther up the slope to the next plateau but just didn't feel ready for it. This view was plenty enough. The sun's rays warmed his face and the vision was glorious.

It took him by complete surprise really. One moment he was planted firm, strong, confident, the next his limbs were flailing, grabbing, gripping, searching for a handhold to save him from the fall. He's not even sure what pushed him, if anything even pushed him. Groping as he fell, his hand caught hold of the edge and he halted abruptly. His body swung, precariously, and he exhaled in slight relief. Then his hand began to slip. He pressed his fingers into the rock, willing himself to stop but the dusty grit that rested upon the plateau would not allow it. Slowly, then more quickly, he began to slip. He fell.

The tumble was strange, so quiet, so, so quiet. His lungs couldn't seem to even gather the breath to scream, to cry out for help. He worked his arms frantically, yet he could not fly. His vision became blurred as the world sped past him. Then, all faded to black.

Those who watched the event happen from afar, and some from nearer than the young man realized, told the story. They told of how the young man, tall and proud, had approached the ledge and tilted his head, almost as if listening to a voice. A shadow fell over his face and they watched him jump.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving and community...

Yesterday, obviously, was Thanksgiving and it was a good day. I was reminded, even more so now, of how precious friends and community are. Both Erin and I's parents went different ways this year and we were blessed to have some dear friends in from Georgia over, as well as some other friends who we go way back with. As we sat and ate, and ate, and ate, and then watched some obligatory football, I simply allowed my mind to wander for a moment and just bask in the love that resided in the fellowship we were in. It was a beautiful thing. It was a fun thing. It was an irreverent thing. It was a sacred thing. To me, it was Church.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My struggle...

Thomas Merton writes in The Silent Life regarding the true pursuit of the monastic life:

"They must be interested in one another, and at the same time they must respect the inmost needs of their brothers' souls. They must learn how to show compassion for one another without being obtrusive, to help one another without being nuisances, and to sustain the weak without being officious or patronizing. The true Cistercian is one who not only knows when to keep silent, and how to keep silent, but when to speak and how to speak, when to show sympathy and how to show it."

May God grant me this grace today.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Community and relationships...

Last night, I found myself engaged in a traditional activity for me during this time of year. I was at the computer, the light of the monitor glowing out at me, as I typed out my Christmas list. Now, let me preface, I'm not a ridiculously material person, although Christ keeps showing me a few areas wherein I could and should let go. I'm just a huge Christmas person and, if you'll allow me to drop a Christian buzzword here, find that one of my key love languages is that of gifts. I love to give gifts, and, because I realize all that goes into giving them, love to receive them as well. I catalogued music I'd like, DVD's, books, and, as is my tradition, a few wish gifts just for kicks. It's a tradition that I've engaged in for years, ever since I was young and could read. I'd sit for hours with the JC Penney and Sears Christmas catalogs writing out an extensive list for my folks. I'd even include page numbers and a preference listing as well. It's kind of sad but, well, what's a kid to do?

Last night though, as I lay in bed awaiting sleep, my mind wandered and I pondered this idea of simplicity and such. The list is not in and of itself a bad thing. I don't expect to get all of those things nor will I be despondent if I receive none of them. But, there's something that reminded me of how much we pursue in this life that doesn't matter. Yes, that'd be great to get the Sufjan Stevens album that I asked for, or that Johnny Cash DVD. But, do I really need it? What do I need more? The answer came to me in the words of a Waylon Jennings song I'd listened to this morning as I drove to work along some quiet country roads. In the song, Luckenbach, Texas, Waylon sings:

There only two things in life that make it worth livin'
That's guitars that tune good and firm feelin' women
I don't need my name in the marquis lights
I got my song and I got you with me tonight
Maybe it's time we got back to the basics of love
Chorus:Let's go to Luckenbach Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we're livin' got us fueding like the Hatfield and McCoys
Between Hank Williams pain songs, Newberry's train songsand blue eyes cryin' in the rain out in Luckenbach Texas ain't nobody feelin' no pain
So baby let's sell your diamond ring
Buy some boots and faded jeans and go away
This coat and tie is choking me
In your high society you cry all day
We've been so busy keepin' up with the Jones
Four car garage and we're still building on
Maybe it's time we got back to the basics of love
-Luckenbach, Texas by Waylon Jennings
I guess what it really comes down to is relationships. We need to realize, much like the monastic brothers have, that God and community with others is really all that matter. It's great to have things but we can't hold too tight to them. We need to realize that the simple things in life, a deep breath on a cold morning, the tautness in your muscles as you wrestle for a rebound, and the sincere embrace of a sleepy-eyed child are what it's all about. These are truly the blessings of God. These are riches that we can't find at the mall.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Discussions and thanksgivings...

Yesterday I found myself uttering those most stupid of statements, especially when one works in an environment when one knows it will generally illicit a certain response. I was chatting with a co-worker, a pleasant thirtysomething mom of two, about some local churches. She remarked that she and her family had recently switched churches, to which I asked where they were now currently attending. She stated the name of her new congregation and then posed the question,
"Where do you go?".

Now, a wiser man would have backed off, said something insignificant and busied himself with his work in an attempt to not have the same conversation again.

I am apparently not yet a wise man.

"Um," I paused, "I don't really go to church right now".

The conversation that played out was one I've had and have witnessed time and time again. The issues of biblical instructions regarding coming together with other believers as well as the simple "need" that I have, even for the institution. The "discussion" ended okay, I guess, but I walked out of it with some thoughts.

First, I need to stop talking about this with people. It's not an issue that most people are wrestling with and those who aren't really don't get it. This is not to say that I'm on another plain or plateau above others but is just to acknowledge that there are certainly many who do not have this dissonance within them.

Second, I need to find some more people with this dissonance within them and work our discussions out to the place of seeking positive movements rather than simply criticisms of the current workings of the church. We need to become more proactive in seeking out what community really looks like, what vulnerability and being broken, blessed, and bitchy all in one really look like. We need to begin practicing our faith, living it out loud, and really looking to endure the criticisms that will come against us with love.

Lastly, I think we need to pray. We need to pray for one another. We need to pray for the Body of Christ. Within that, we need to pray for the megachurches and the little "hole in the wall" churches down the road. We need to seek God's guidance for the small house church gathered in a suburban neighborhood as well as for the avant garde gathering inside of a way-cool coffee house. Like it or not, we're called to live and function together and He glories in it all.

One final thing I've realized in the past couple of days is that I'm very thankful for the thoughts and influences God has brought into my life as of late and has used them to open me to some very new things. Even the parting of my ways with my previous ministry are things I thank Him for now. They haved shaped me, developed me, and ultimately brought me closer to Him.

I thank Him for my mentor and friend, Richard, who is walking with me, searching the path of the monastic way for truth and helping me to appropriate it to an everyday life. I'm thankful for the writings of men like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen who have encouraged this very same action, both having lived out profound existences in pursuit of the heart of Christ. I'm thankful for the new friendship developing between my online pal, Ryan, and his wife, Holly. His ideas have challenged me and made me reevaluate a lot of what I once held firm. I'm thankful for the work of Brian McLaren, whose books have made me think, evaluate, reconsider, and pause. I'm thankful for Doug Pagitt who has made me laugh, think, and rethink the idea of community. I'm thankful for Richard Foster and his work dealing with simplicity and it's biblical emphasis. I'm thankful for the writing of Don Miller who has made me laugh and ponder and dream. I'm so thankful for the writing of Renee Altson and her impassioned honesty. I'm thankful for the irreverent work of Anne Lamott, and for her depth. I'm thankful for the friendship of our on again, off again, Enigma group and the friendship of ESandra, Billy, Jessica, and Tim. I'm thankful for my friend, Joey, who I don't see enough but am looking forward to catching up with.

To close an insanely long post that initially started so simply, I'm thankful to God for my wife and son, who ground me, remind me of who I am, and where I've come from. I know, in good faith, that at the end of the day, win or lose the battle, agree or disagree, I can find solace in their loving arms and receive the grace, strength, and courage to go on another day.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A prideful man..

This morning, as I arrived home from playing some very early morning basketball, I was reminded of what a selfish man I am and of how far God has still got to bring me to Him. As I walked through the door, my wife, sitting upon the couch, made a request of me and I just responded in such selfish frustration. Reflecting upon it, I'm just floored. It's somewhat interesting, yet I suppose not very surprising, how God brings forth these things in order to teach us and to purge us of them.

Yesterday, as I read through the Shorter Christian Prayer, I came across a passage from Isaiah that I just can't seem to shake. Isaiah 66:1-2 read: (NIV) "This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." The latter part of the passage just screams to me. He who is humble and contrite. I so desire to be a person of humility and selflessness yet consistently find myself indulging just that, myself. It's a powerful pain that we all bear. May God grant us the grace to leave it in His hands.

Just as an aside to a previous post, regarding Paul Proctor's article about the death of Kyle Lake, I recently read a beautiful post from David Crowder, worship pastor at UBC where Kyle was pastor. Perhaps you'd like to read it: David Crowder.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Now to happier thoughts...

Yesterday I felt a serious urge to post what I did, and I was angry, but today is another day and a happier moment.

I just want to share briefly some of my thoughts regarding where I feel God leading me. It's been a most interesting journey as of late as He's drawn me to Him and has exposed me to some new disciplines that have truly been powerful. I've also taken to immersing myself, as much as is remotely possible with a "real" life anyway, in the study of the monastic life and way. My mentor and friend, Richard, is on this journey with me and our biggest question is this: How do we live the monastic life in the world? Many of the monastic writers and thinkers make this a critical element as they discuss. It is our job to take the "great silence" and carry it with us.

As I've journeyed this path, I've found some scary things within me. One such issue is that I'm deathly afraid of silence. Silence is a hallmark of monastic spiritual disciplines and stands looming before me as something to walk through. The bizarre thing is that I desperately am compelled toward this walk but also frightened in the same respect. I think that perhaps the fear stems from the thought that I'm not sure what I will find underneath the noise, behind the curtain of boisterous life I use as a shield. Yet, I still feel a strong compulsion to enter in, to simply be in the presence of Christ.

The other issue that I've wrestled with even more so as this leg of the journey has intensified is the aspect of my pride and ego. God is working His divine surgery upon these areas of my life and it hurts necessarily. Whether it be in relationship with my wife or in simply dealing with people in traffic, I feel Christ exposing my hidden layers of pride and raking at them with His knife, working at cleansing my soul of all that is not Him.

As uncomfortable as this journey is, and as frightful as the uncertainty of the future looms, I'm excited to see the next chapter. I'm fascinated by what these concepts and these developments will truly look like encased in flesh. I'm challenged to now wonder at what this knowledge and experience now require of me, what responsibility they will now leave me with.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Just angry now...

I had some things I'd intended on posting, things that I feel God moving and doing in me right now but then, as I perused some of the other blogs I read first, I ran across this article and have to echo the thoughts of Renee Altson who wrote: I feel physically sick. Read this and let me know if you you're sick too: God Send Shocking Message to Emerging Church

what pisses me off the most is that this guy will see protests against his thoughts a victory, persecution for the "truth". What bullshit. Forgive my harsh language but it just disturbs me.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I went to church yesterday...

So I went to a church yesterday with my wife, at her behest. I'm trying to do what I feel is right on both levels, one of simply being a servant to my wife's needs and two, trying to be honest with myself regarding my aversion to the institution. So, we went. It wasn't someplace new but was a congregation that we'd attended for some time before we moved on to another. We'd left because we just didn't feel a connection at the time and really didn't have the time to invest in some of the activities they did have going on. I don't know. It just didn't work. But, here we found ourselves again in this setting. We had to meet at the church because I didn't get through with my work early enough to go home first.

It was ironic, really, that as I walked up the walk to the door that I met, coming out of the first service, a friend of mine who's on a similar journey with similar issues. I don't know. God's funny like that sometimes. Anyway, I chatted with him briefly and then headed in. I had prepared myself, at least tried my best, spiritually as I just prayed and prayed and asked God to see my attendence there as a sacrifice to Him. I wanted to come with an attitude of worship and servanthood, casting all at His feet and just resting in His presence. I suppose that's what all of us would say regarding any given Sunday but this time it was very true for me. I sought God and asked Him to remove any barriers that I might be putting up in order to reject what He may be doing. So, in I went.

I'd forgotten how good the worship band was. They're just a really talented group of people who can sing, play, and motivate a crowd. It was nice. And then came the message and all of that. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be challenged and see Christ in it. And I really do like the pastor at this church. I don't think that his preaching is truly an indication of who he really is, if that makes any sense. But he chose this day to preach on finances, and on financial principles. He even went so far as to say that his message was going to be kind of a financial seminar with biblical principles. Inwardly, I groaned.

I don't know. It's still a wrestling match with me. Part of me wants more than anything to be part of that community again. There's comfort in the familiar, like a tall glass of iced tea or a warm cinnamon bun on a cool morning. But the other part of me, the part that continues to rise up and ask questions, compels me to seek something different, to pursue something more intimate and honest. Its not to say that what occured on Sunday was bad or something along those lines. But, I guess, it's to share my confusion and my struggle with seeking something more, something more real and tangible and intimate and holy and messy and ultimately more Christ-centered. That's what I miss. I miss the focus on Him alone.

I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy and wayward. Or, maybe, just maybe, I'm onto something. Time will tell.

Friday, November 11, 2005