Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
today i had lunch with tim hawkins, a good friend who leads sojourn collegiate ministry in boston. i have always respected tim's commitment to relational ministry, ability to wrestle with the hard questions and decision to remain rooted in christian church, church of Christ tradition we both claim as home.
during our meeting tim dropped a couple of keepers on me including a statement that "the church is the local expression of the neighborly love of God." he also told me a short story about the sacredness of questions that he graciously agreed to post here. thanks tim!
My second year in campus ministry, one comment changed my ministry.
A friend of mine, Nate, a guy who had been struggling with his faith, had been coming to our on-campus gatherings for a few months.
Eventually, he felt like this might be a good place to bring his agnostic girl-friend.
She came with full-guard up. I put on my best peppy, inclusive, welcoming campus minister voice and pulled out my arsenal of conversational questions.
“What year are you?”
“Where do you live?”
“Where is home?”
“What is your major?"
“What do you want to do with that?”
Each question was met with a short return. One word answers.
I went to the well one more time, trying to make her feel welcome.
“Hey, I’m glad you’re here. I don’t mean to put you on the spot by asking a lot of questions. I hope you enjoy just being here tonight.”
To which she responded with a sentence that has forever changed my ministry.
“Well, maybe if you would ask me better questions, I might talk more.”
I have led with better questions (I hope) ever since.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
if you've heard me talk about it once, you've heard me talk about it ten times (if you're lucky).
i have two degrees that don't pay
i am a part of a church tradition that doesn't seem to want much to do with me
"i can't wait until i work for a real company." "this can't be the way a real non-profit gets it done." "someday i'll be the resident theologian or preacher in a local church."
so i surrender to myopia and refuse to see that i am:
surrounded by the kind of community that is the figment of many dreams (and the subject of not a few sermons)
work beside people whose confidence in my abilities is slowly strengthening my sense of self
called by a God who is teaching me to hope, pray and occasionally participate in the redemption of all things
i'll probably never be a half-full kind of guy, but i need to start recognizing these blessings so that i can be a more whole and holy blessing to the world.
Monday, June 14, 2010
it's 10 pm, i just finished a run and i'm drinking a 'gansett because it tastes best after a mile or two. rest assured that i'll drink in moderation and will cleanse the palette with a cup of coffee before bed.
i went to a retirement party for a special education teacher who spent 35 years working in the boston public schools last week and it was one of the most inspiring evenings i can remember. mr. r's career was a testimony to pouring your life out for others, staying rooted in one community and tunneling through morian mountains of institutional bullshit in hopes of seeing a life or two transformed. i hope that at the end of my career people have half as many meaningful things to say about my efforts. if they have to lie a bit on that day to make that happen, so be it.
tonight i shirked my chores for a half hour to read this remarkable interview with ira glass. if you love stories, preaching the gospel of great reversal or remembering the horrors of adolescent pda, you must read this.
almost hesitate to admit it, but i've become a bigger fan of the national than i am of arcade fire. i am glad that i have tickets to see the latter in august and am devastated that i missed the former on june 1st and 2nd at the house of blues.
i'm starting to realize that effective christian discipleship differs little from healthy friendship. neal windham and a few others have taught me that discipleship is more about mutuality than hierarchy and more focused on intentional embodiment of the gospel than the transmission of theological content.
i'm almost embarrassed to admit how emotionally dependent i am upon the ups and downs of the cardinals. almost.
the boston and north shore cohorts are getting together on tuesday, july sixth to cookout at cindy bauer's place on chewbacco lake and hear a little bit about her work with kupenda. getting to know cindy and becoming involved in kupenda is one of the main reasons - and there are many - that i am grateful for the emergent conversation.
ok, this 'gansett is almost gone. gotta get some coffee.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
yesterday a spring drenched tree stood in breathtaking contrast with a soot grey sky.
today a volunteer who i have grown to treasure hugged me like a friend and forever sundered the transactional nature of our relationship.
this evening lydian wasn't struggling with colic, but struggling not to laugh as i ruffled her hair, thumbed her nose and delighted in her smile time and again.
every day threatens an open and shut case for entropy. for that reason we have to be careful to listen for, observe and record the small signs of the redemption accomplished and the redemption promised that are colliding upon the earth.
Monday, June 07, 2010
the first time was awkward. she didn't have the silhouette you speak about furtively with your friends and her intellect was crammed in some damn shoebox, assuming it was there at all. she was also from decatur, home to firestone, futile jesse jackson crusades and general squalor. so i dropped her at the first opportunity. other girls made the starbucks at o'hare. she wasn't so lucky.
the next girl was sexy. she sold authenticity, traded musty maranatha for dave matthews and, during that first song especially, her ass sure could swing. she was the party, bringing energy that could not help but compel. though she played it straight, i swear one time she almost offered me a drink. this girl wasn't cloistered but offered agnostics, reversed fundamentalists and strangely warmed ska kids the same mass appeal. as for me, she didn't flinch at mixed intentions or lapsed probation, but spoke lovingly, carefully crafting phrases, pointing me up in hopes that i would go out. but for all that, i never got comfortable. after a couple of years the cracks started to appear and the sounds became too saccharine and failed to cut where they should. though she only said it once, and then obliquely, she demanded that i reflect, never shape, her calculated barnes & noble charm.
so i left. but it was far more difficult. she was a life to live, an agenda to reckon, a what if resides.
now i'm with the girl who, with a question, called my game and who strangely intrigues like the lone saab on the lot. she isn't a hole to fill or a brick that'll build, but a woman simultaneously essential and stable as a water. at times we connect and current hums true, but more often it alternates between belief and betrayal. i can't possess her, can't seem to leave her and often fret this will end in a terminal fail.
some days my eyes still linger on that carefully crafted ingenue with her soft colors, wide eyes and, yes, ass unlike any in decatur. with her calculated authenticity and airbrush appeal, i cannot call her anything other than my porn.
so i'm fighting a battle that's broken better men, tangling with intrigue in hopes of escaping debasement by enhanced object.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
for the past three years i have wanted to hear more female voices from the pulpit at the gathering. for that reason i challenged, cajoled and manipulated several women to take a slot on the preaching schedule or at least speak more often.
to no avail.
fortunately, a couple of months ago, mary agreed to preach occasionally. mary is a graduate of harvard divinity school, dedicated incarnational minister in the goth community and aspiring novelist and poet. after setting her feet in her first couple of sermons, mary has started an amazing series on the beatitudes.
today, as mary wound her way through the passage about hungering and thirsting for righteousness you could almost sense the congregations' growing desperation for the living water of God. by the time mary concluded with the admonition to "hunger and thirst for God and he will pour blessings into your life and through you bless others," i was famished for the sustenance of the eucharist and desperate to seek God and participate in his transformational work in the world.
it is such a blessing to be a part of a collaborative church community where proclamation is a shared burden, worship is open source and the eucharist sustains and strings us, in all of our wackness, together.
thanks be to God for the grace he has given Mary to preach the Word and build up the church.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
last night kellie and i watched crazy heart which, somewhat sadly, reminded kellie of the life of bill mallonee. this morning i've been listening to tripp fuller's excellent podcast with uncle bill at homebrewed christianity and thinking about the unexpected provocateurs who prepared me for the emergent conversation.
here are a few of these provocateurs and truncated summaries of their influence. please share snippets of your list:
first, unsurprisingly, is bill mallonee. bill taught me, more effectively than any theologian short of st. paul, could, that sanctification is a struggle and all the scaffolds we scramble to build will never help us escape from the tomb. only the Spirit can do that.
second, philip yancey. in the Jesus i never knew and what's so amazing about grace philip showed me that God is big enough to handle my questions. he also introduced me to uncle henri and uncle freddy both of whom have shaped my faith and understanding of vocation in innumerable ways.
third, gary burlington. gary was a missions prof at soybean bible college. i never actually had a class with him, but in the few times we spoke i was inspired by his inquisitiveness and commitment to christian mission. in retrospect, gary was teaching me that deconstruction is not a threat, but an essential component of christian mission. due to unfortunate choices on all sides, gary left soybean some years ago. i need to catch up with him at some point.
fourth, rich mullins. sure, i was instructed and inspired by the music, but rich's musings left the deepest impression. according to some accounts, at one of his final concerts he stopped in mid-song to confess a sexual sin that he had to repent of before continuing. that simple act - even if it is shaded by mythology - has influenced my preaching at least as much as haddon's biblical preaching. he also taught me that being disregarded by your own tradition is not the end of the world and he helped fuel my love of st. frank.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
on wednesday night i had the opportunity to hang with andrew at the pickled onion. since we couldn't see the celtics game because of endicott students with their popped tops (jesse - you were so right about the unfortunate shift in pickled clientele) our conversation turned to our vocations.
i've beat this topic to death on the blog and in personal conversation with many of you, so i won't bore you again. however, during the conversation i started to realize that my calling is not to a narrow practice or position in Christ's church, but rather, my calling (as i currently conceive of it anyway) is to be faithful to the health and the mission of the various networks and communities in which i am currently embedded.
by God's grace, i hope to be a blessing to the family/gathering/beverly/emergent/ccoc/triangle/kupenda/cardinals cluster of which i am a part. i still wish that my calling was less complex, but i trust (most of the time anyway) that God knows what he is doing and the Spirit has shaped me for such a time as this.
Friday, May 28, 2010
as a bible college senior, i prepared a final paper and preached a subsequent sermon on romans 7:7-25 - that tricky bit where the apostle paul both acknowledges our existential angst and orients us towards our ultimate, gracious adoption as sons and daughters of God.
although i would like to report otherwise, that text has framed my understanding of the Christian life from that point forward. the fidelity towards God, other and creation that i desire is usually eclipsed by narcissistic actions that i don't desire. though i have been buried with Christ and want to wait in that tomb for the resurrection that i do not deserve and cannot comprehend, i constantly scrape, struggle and scramble to escape the burial that unexpectedly brings new life.
in a mostly forgotten book i read some years ago the author talked about flannery o'connor's "Christ haunted south." as i've mentioned to several people in the past couple of weeks, i often feel haunted by the gospel which i simultaneously find attractive and repulsive as well as my calling which i cling to with a cocktail of dogged fidelity and detached irony.
so it is that i've come to think of myself as the inconsistent adopted. since rick and i are not going to appropriate the name for a band anytime soon, renaming the blog will have to do.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
two weeks ago kellie and i welcomed lydian nicole gentry into the world. i need to grow a few more emotions.
a national award-winning television program that is produced by people with disabilities was cursed by a fox news cameraman today at the tea party in boston. another charming gentleman interrupted their interviews with chants of "baby killer. baby killer. baby killer." i am so glad i was not there.
last week pete rollins and his crew were in town to start an insurrection and john franke bore manifold witness about the plurality of truth at the gathering and gcts. i enjoyed the insurrection - especially the hour i begged off to hang with brandon bayne - and i continue to be impressed with franke's proclamation about the plurality of truth that is evident in Christian scripture, located Christian communities and the Godhead itself. maybe it's just me, but franke's thesis just seems like sanctified common sense - that i wish i would have recognized and published myself.
i think brad penny is pitching more effectively because he is living in closer proximity to the ozarks.
kellie and i are headed out to oklahoma and texas may 13 through 21. if you live in close proximity, maybe we can connect (if you're buying).
preston is either memorizing new books within a week or he's reading them. either reality is welcome.
i'm going to see hacksaw jim duggan on april 29th. gotta be psyched about that.
in regards to lydian, kellie is doing almost all the hard work, but i'm still exhausted. don't know quite what to make of that.
less substantial posts to follow.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
in this intellectually intriguing, brilliantly delivered talk, callid challenges us to speak boldly about our experience of Christ and revel in the Christ within which we are intertwined.
on this palm sunday, as we acclaim the Christ we do not fully know, let us trust that our acclamation will lead us towards greater revelation.
thanks for the good word callid. i love you brother and am so thankful for the teaching gift you have been given!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
one of the priviledges of pastoral ministry is checking up on friends who are ill. yesterday evening when i was surprised by the following exchange at an assisted living facility in danvers.
unknown elderly gentleman (eg): "you better wear the green tomorrow!"
g13: "i'm not irish,* so why should i?"
eg: "because bad things happen to those who don't!"
g13: "like what?"
eg: "like getting your head chopped off."
* though i just might be korean
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
after church last week i was talking to my colleague about my soybean bible experience. in the midst of the conversation i admitted that "15-20% of the faculty and students at soybean seemed to loathe me." menasco quickly noted that 15-20% is a significant number, but it's a figure that i've grown accustomed to and, to be honest, pretty comfortable with. i continued by affirming that i am "thankful for, and humbled by, the insightful professors and friends who revealed a subversive grid within my own tradition."
that grid - which consists of castelein's conception of jacob as a model for ministry, neal's teaching on the ladder of descent, birdie's emphasis on constant prayer & worship & lowery's reticence in regards to inerrancy as well as many other strands - has deeply informed, if not directed, the path of the loyal radical that i am trying to walk.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
the church formerly known as sinners & saints has been inactive for some time. in 2007 after four great years together we decided to dissolve the church and start following Christ in new ways.*
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
when joseph finds out that his future bride is pregnant, he is in quite the predicament. what should he do?
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
"i'm a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage." - miles raymond
a couple of days ago my coworker openly wondered why i could like the hangover when it's not half the movie that sideways is. i immediately retorted that the two movies aren't even in the same genre, much less in the same league. moreover, while i found the hangover mildly amusing there was at least one comedy in 2009 - i love you man - that i preferred.
i'm getting off track.
anyway, as soon as she mentioned sideways i started thinking about miles' derivative despair. i think that the thing i find uncomfortably funny about that scene is how true miles' sentiment is. many of my minutes, hours and days - and infinitely more of my words - are little more than surging excrement. i don't even want to think about how much sewage i've spewed into this world and i fear that at the end of my days i will deliver far more shit than benefit.
however, after reflecting on the verbal sewage that i spew, my mind turned towards prayer. it seems to me that prayer, in this instance especially silent prayer to God for others, is one of the most powerful ways that i can intercede for, find solidarity with and truly love others.
so there you go. an increase in prayer is a decrease in excrement. reflections like this lead me to believe that my paperback of personal devotions might just sell after all.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
“Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.” –Uncle Freddy
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
a church in the stone-campbell tradition for sheep like me. i'm encouraged by the work of pub church and will definitely visit at some point in the near future.
i'd also like to note that the dugout is the new gathering place for the boston emergent cohort. for more info about the cohort, join the facebook group or email firstname.lastname@example.org.