What I’m Doing…and stuff…

I’ve been out of the blog world a bit these days. It’s been unintentional…I just feel like I haven’t really had that much to say. I’m in a weird place–strangely.  I don’t know what to say about it actually. So here’s life right now–in some small dim snapshot.


* Impending financial ruin

* The continued recognition of the END of a community that I spent a decade pouring my energies into creating and continuing.      The exhausting realization that many of the people who I dedicated much of my life to, will simply not remember me fondly–and God THAT HURTS.

*Needing faith for the same reason that it’s hard to find (thanks for the words JR)

*watching things that should inspire and give hope–current religious movements etc–follow the same pattern as other movements…and not being surprised or even disappointed–but still wondering if there is anything that transcends humanities arching cycles.

*Bored out of my mind in my current job in a job market that is “in a midlife crisis” (but thankful to have a job)

*bla bla blah…


* Reinvention possibilities–it looks like we may very well be moving to Portland, SE, to be closer to many of our great friends who have serendipitously cropped up within the last year.

*Helping organize and then even performing again at HOMESPUN SUMMER CONCERTS, together with friends

*The little network of stragglers, adventing adventurers, refugees who have somehow gathered…not towards any specific end–but rather locked in a mutual recognition of the places that we have been and where we are, this is truly refreshing.

*Our vegetable garden

*Rediscovering music, my passion for writing and performing it.

*Seeing myself for myself and being ok with who that is–in my worst…i don’t know if i’ve ever been quite so honest with myself or quite so accepting.

*Enjoying our two wonderful boys Ransom and Judah.

*Pursuing my Master’s degree in something related to systemic thinking, strategic foresight, community development and organizational psychology.

*Discovering music that I never had but probably should have…such as Josh Ritter:

Two events: past and future, community

Today, through a mutual friend, I ended up randomly meeting up with two beautiful people.  Tamara Park, author of “Sacred Encounters” and one of her traveling companions.  I have not read the book but now want to.  It bills itself as a bit of a travel journal as she treks through terrain between Rome to Jerusalem, and covers territory such as faith and doubt in between.  I suspect she picked up many stories along the way–she listened intently in the little half hour we had together, and while I wanted to hear more about her and her life she continued to simply encourage my own sharing.  What a marvelous quality to discover in some one else.  I hope to encounter her more and emulate the beautiful way of engaging the world around her that she seems to have.  Cheers!

The second event. Tonight Jessie and I embark on a seven week book club adventure reading through “A Theory of Everything” by Ken Wilber together with a group of fellow “post-Christian” adventurers.  I read the intro last night and found myself excited for the voyage ahead.  There were two things that stood out to me.  1) He talked about the “de-throning” of post-modernism by other more viable stories.  While post-modernity emphasized the nurtured cultural models of the beliefs we have concerning the world, making them little more than embedded myth and accepted fables; such discoveries as evolutionary psychology, chaos theory/complexity, and M-Theory/String Theory, have helped us realize that while things may not have readily apparent reasons for why they are…they still ARE!  In other words there are bigger stories than post-modernisms particular one, at work.  That intruiges me.  Another thing that Wilber said in the intro was particularly good: “we may not be able to get a view of EVERYTHING but isn’t a little bit of wholeness better than none at all?”  And I found that hopeful and redemptive.  All in all, I’m excited to take the journey together with my wife and other friends who all seem to find ourselves in the same space.  What dreams may come?  It will simply be good to gather around a challenging text and be stretched again. 

These are little blips of community that I see taking shape again… Receiving the stranger, creating space of sacred encounters, and then allowing others into the place of concept and stories to encounter something Other.

How (Not) to Write a blog

I have a thousand things I want to talk about…consequentially I can’t talk about any of them…I believe this is what Pete Rollins calls hypernimity…the abundance of content leads to an inability to speak of it. 

1) the difference between organic and organic

2) looking at the (un)knowability of God pictured in the Exodus story.seen trough the name of Moses

3) the parable of the prodigal God

4) how true community seems like it is more or less experienced in the process and the journey rather than sought after or arrived at

5) the grudge match between the uber minute hair split of “presumptuousness” and “certainty”

6) defining that “fundamentalism” is NOT exactly interchangeable with the word “conservative”…just with being “narrow minded”

7) why television is a bigger glut than it’s ever been and why that’s ok with people–why do we keep on watching? And how a Spanish Romantic Game Show is the best hour on TV from 7-8pm PST, M-Th.

8) faith without doubt is dead

9)  why I increasingly feel out of sync with churchianity–and what to do about that.

10) The pretentiousness of music snobs like myself–not being able to craft a better pop song and calling that art

11)    The CHOICE of “the dark night of the soul” versus the EXPERIENCE of it

12)  Why I’m cranky these days

13) Sufism and spinning

14) Enneagram and why every person serious about a personal journey needs to question their motives and acknowledge their shadow

15) the fact that empiricists (Christian, secular, and otherwise) sound idiotic at best.

17) being hearers of the word and doers

18) how I sold my soul for 2.50 in 9th grade to a guy who later went to Fuller (it really explains so much in retrospect)

19) why having an agenda is a guilty pleasure–no one admits they’ve got one but we all do…and maybe we should…

20) …there’s a lot more where these came from…

A Movement

Life in the way of Jesus requires movement…a change of mind, a renewing of thought and feeling and choice.  It’s what Jesus and His earliest disciples called “repentance”.  

Any of us who seek to live an integrated life, filled with balance and beauty, transcendence and truth, the experience of more and of mystery, first must move.

A friend recently pointed out something interesting,  ” Jesus said “Follow me” before penetecost, and [his disciples] followed. In other words, we are called to follow the Lord before we are ’empowerd’ from on high. In a sense, the ’empowerment’ is a result of obedience.”

To me, that is a description of faith.  And movement is often a step of faith, a leap forward into inky blackness.  

Today I’m touched that people might want to join in that movement:

A movement from isolation to solitude,

from individualism to the personal

from self to others

from the corporate to community.

church of the margins

Many of us will never make the transition into a post-Enlightenment world.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However; we can allow others to begin to create environments, systems, and structures that will support such environments where this kind of life might emerge.

We need every kind of intelligence fully engaged and playfully and creatively leveraged for the kingdom of God.  We need women and men who have previously been on the margins to come forth and lead us.  We need mystics. We need poets. We need prophets. We need apostles. We need artists. We need all types of people to reclaim or discover faith in new ways.

We need a church from the margins, drawn from the places and filled with people and shaped by competencies formerly thought to be of little account.  In fact perhaps it is such marginal communities as these…that influence will begin to spread outward into communities and into new lands that have never been explored and also to those who have been domesticated in the modern world and thus rendered docile.  We need a wild vine to be grafted into the branch.  We need a church from the margins–a minority report that sees the unseen.  We need alternate takes on reality and environments that nurture and release the imaginations of God’s people.  No only so, this imagination must extend out into creation of which we are a part for the love of God and the sake of the gospel of his Son Jesus christ. –(Tim Keel, Intuitive Leadershi, pg 138)

This is the kind of church/community/band of friends and followers of Jesus that I want to discover and need to to explore…

I feel on the fringe of being domesticated myself. I hate being written off as “the theologian” or “a thinker”…of which I surely am…but I don’t want to limit myself…and we can’t limit each other by boxing one another in such narrow constraints as the patterns we have observed in the past or learned to behave in…we are all so much more than thoughts and things…

we each have these incredible creative and artistic elements which we must explore…and all the more so in the light of God’s deep desire for a community of imagination and inspiration.

I want to be a member of the church of the margins, a place that explores and creates the space where interpretation and imagination meet.  I need, as maybe we all do, to live “faithfully into the tension between the head and the heart, the left and the right hemispheres of the brain, the West and the East, the cognitive and the intuitive.”

when the plot falls apart.

Following along in the vein of “Story” I’ve had a further thought…

What happens if you’re watching Star Wars and the camera zooms in on Luke Skywalker…he’s summoning all power of the force to battle the Emperor when…BAM!  Bob, the mechanic, shoves Luke out of the way and co-opts the movie…around his plot?!?  Ridiculous right?  I mean, imagine, how boring is Star Wars when it’s central character gets side lined, and Bob–the mechanic who was simply meant to work on spaceships, suddenly becomes the main character.  Think of how mundane that story would be.  Maybe there would still be an epic struggle, but it would be in the background now, a subplot to the new central theme of “if Bob can repair the Galactic Cruiser today”.  Bottom line–it wouldn’t make for an interesting movie, let alone a trilogy or an empire of toys and comics.  Why?

Because plot is like a cart being pulled by the horse of the central character.  Think of Tom Sawyer.  I barely remember the book’s story as much as I remember who the story is about…Tom…

The movie Mission Impossible…it’s the story of a daring attempt for Ethan (played by Tom Cruise) to restore his name, to find out who the REAL bad guys are, and to bring them to justice…but the driving action is Ethan…the main character.

Without the main character–the plot falls apart…the cart doesn’t go anywhere unless it’s being pulled.

The critics are always saying this about big budget movies these days: “No one took the lead!” or “There was no compelling central character”.

So…you get it…

But the funny thing is…maybe we don’t get it…take the Bible for instance.

Who’s the main character?

And maybe you instantly answer: “God!”  And yes…that’s it!  He’s the central character…and that’s what we have to remember. Every story, each narrative, is an extension of His Story.  Every one else becomes a character helping lead His plot to fulfillment.  He is the star.

And it’s easy to know that…but what about approaching it story by story?  Take David and Goliath for instance. What’s it about?  The most true answer is: God…and probably more specifically how God champions the weak and overturns the proud and strong.  This is a reflection of God’s priorities.  But when was the last time you heard that message?  Instead, I’ve heard all my life…this is the “story of David and Goliath”…not God and Goliath. Hah!  See…it’s about David…for us…the central character in this story isn’t God, it’s David.  It’s about him using the tools he’s got on hand. It’s about his not wearing Saul’s armor. It’s about his trusting in God…etc…etc…and in that telling God is still there…but he’s sidelined. He’s Luke Skywalker pushed aside by Bob the Mechanic.

No wonder Scripture is boring to so many people.  No wonder we grossly misinterpret it.  No wonder it becomes a “me” centered promise book.  We’ve shoved the main character out of the picture.  And without the central forward mover…it’s just not a compelling story anymore.

I propose:

1)We plunge into the Story of God

2)We keep in mind that it’s a narrative about him…First that it’s a narrative first and foremost.  It is not a series of propositional truths and blanket statements. It is not a complex set of systematic doctrines.  It’s a story. And to quote Richard Rohr: “it’s all true and some of it really happened”…this means that the priority is not first historical, that’s secondary…the first priority is: what’s he doing? what does this reveal about his peculiar character and priorities? what are we learning about the nature and mission of God…etc…

3)We do all this in the context of community…where it can’t just be about me the individual…by virtue of it being interpreted in community it will automatically become  larger than us…

Off the Moutain…(in search of a new monasticism)

…it seems to me that God is always moving and always moving on…keeping step with Spirit is so terribly important…I think of Peter wanting to build condo’s on the mount of transfiguration–we like camping out–but Jesus was moving on. That passage is always interesting because it pegs the human tendency to want a worshipful experience; to prefer the glorious and the glittering experiencing of having “truly met the Lord as He is”…that’s the experience most of us are after. And the best part is–He gives it to us. Well, at least he gave it to them (Peter, James, and John). But quickly, ever so quickly, he moves off the mountain and descends into the needs of humanity. For Jesus the mountain wasn’t the point–the multitudes were. His mission (and I would argue, our mission also) is to seek and save the lost and the looking–to meet their needs–to heal their wounds–to touch them in their situations and untouchability…love…and particularly; love in the ghetto of humanity (remember Jesus’ statement to the Pharisee’s: “A physician is not for the healthy”–but it is a whole lot easier to want to become the community nurse for a country club than to be the pro bono medic in the war zone of Compton isn’t it).

Anyhow…Jesus descends into the mess of humanity, while we long to hang out on peaks of highest praise. That is one of the realities of the “mount of transfiguration” narrative. God moves on towards His Mission–and we want to stay put. And so this is where keeping step with Spirit comes in…as disciples we must follow the Master into the margins where He is always going.

Having said all this, one of the most exciting motions of God today is found in the growing counter culture called “New Monasticism“. I was first exposed to the words “new monasticism” years ago in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he called for Christians to move towards this type of life–save not in the cloister, but out of the world and into the foundation of a new society that looks radically different than the world system. I remember being grabbed by the brutal honesty of Bonhoeffer’s wrestling with the notion that Christians are called to be relevant to their culture but also peculiar from it as well. What might that look like?

A new generation of Christians–dissatisfied with the dominant cultural regime; considering themselves expats of the empire of capitolism and greed; having come down off the mountain and into the masses of hurting; are forging ahead into a “new monasticism”. History will tell where this return to Christian community and the burden of tending to the lost and the looking, will end…but for the time being, it is tremendously exciting.

April 08 a new book comes out by one of the pioneers in this frontier expansion…Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. It is called appropriatly: “New Monasticism: What it has to say to today’s church”. Here’s what Brazo’s Press, the publisher says about this book:

New Monasticism

“It’s hard to be a Christian in America,” writes Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a leader in the new monasticism movement in America, a growing group of committed Christians who are living lives of radical discipleship. However, the movement doesn’t mirror traditional monasteries–many members are married with children and have careers, yet they live differently, often in community in once-abandoned sections of society. Wilson-Hartgrove founded a new monastic community and works with an alternative theological collaborative. In this book, he takes readers inside new monasticism, tracing its roots through scripture and history and illuminating its impact on the contemporary church. He identifies the key tenets of new monasticism, including:

  • How monasticism is the oldest form of counter-culture in the West
  • God’s alternative economy and financial practices for church
  • Hospitality and active peacemaking
  • A model for grassroots ecumenism
  • What the church offers new monasticism: stability, diversity, and structure

“Monasticism isn’t about achieving some sort of individual or communal piety. It’s about helping the church be the church,” Wilson-Hartgrove writes. A must-read for new monastics or those considering joining the movement, this book will also appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, pastors, leaders, and those interested in the emerging church.

“It is my sincere hope that new monasticism will grow so strong and healthy and widespread that every follower of Jesus in every church has the opportunity, if not to actually live in a new monastic community, to at least have enough proximity and relationship to be influenced by it. This book can help that dream and prayer come true.”–Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change“This is the most informative work to date on its subject. Written in fluid, accessible prose and without pretense, it is also rich in personal and historical insights. The result is a book that is both beguiling and highly credible.”–Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours“This book demonstrates how embracing the lifestyle prescribed by Jesus is a realistic possibility in our present age. It also shows how countercultural Christianity can provide a needed critique of our self-centered, consumerist society.”–Tony Campolo, Eastern University

“This book is a scavenger hunt into Christian history and the abandoned places of Empire where the Spirit is stirring today. It’s like digging around in the dirt trying to find the pearl we buried, the pearl that is so beautiful it’s worth giving up everything else in the world for.”–Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution

“Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is bringing things both old and new out of the great Christian storehouse! New monasticism is discovering what is always rediscovered–and always bears great life for the gospel.”–Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

So…I can’t wait till April 08. I will be cracking open the book and may it crack open my heart. I hope you read it too.