Monday, February 28, 2005


So last week I hung out with some of the coolest folks who happened to be Christian leaders/youth pastors/spiritual directors/book editors/writers/and teachers. This was one creative, passionate and motley bunch. I LOVED THE EXPERIENCE! We came together to discern the direction for a youth curriculum/ study on Spiritual Practices.

So in a heated discussion a disagreement came up. The comment was made that "practicing" our faith gives Christians a language and counter-cultural actions that "set them apart" from the culture at large. Someone else made the comment that the language of being "set apart" was bothersome to him and not effective in reaching youth.

In an interview by Christian Century Magazine with Dorothy Bass, she says, "Practices are the things people do together over time that shape a way of life. One of the short definitions of practices is "embodied wisdom": a certain knowledge of the world is embodied and engendered by the way we go through our daily lives. "

So I throw this out for conversation: Are Christians to be a "set apart" people in the world, living examples of God's Kingdom (even in our imperfect states),


do we blend in with culture and effect change by assimilation with certain standards?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

LENT- week 2

In this second week of Lent I found myself awake late; it was cold, a particularly windy evening. I noticed the moon was just a small crevice in the dark night. Stars were absent.

I woke up in the night, I couldn't sleep. So I wandered over to the living room and looked out the window- the city was sleeping. Except that I heard whispers coming from next door. I strained to hear the voices- fearful that my neighbors would see me, yet drawn by interest and curiousity to hear what these low voices were speaking of in the midnight hours.

I recognized the visitor, standing in my neighbor's doorway- I'd seen him many times before- a well respected man in the community. The voices were louder now, the conversation was getting heated. I heard the visitor say, "What do you mean when you say I have to be born of water and Spirit? What does that mean?"

My neighbor said in a soft voice, "Nick, I know why you're here- even more than you know why you are here. When you left your house tonight you were unsure who you were going to see. Your friends say that I am a threat to your way of life. Somehow, you know better than that. You don't understand this now, but things will not be the same after tonight. My closest friends will alienate me when I need them the most, but you will provide a place for me to rest my head when no one else want to say they know me. When the time comes you will understand what I'm saying."

He continued, "Nick, you have been born of water- for nine months you lived in the womb of your mother- you share that with all humanity. But there is also another birth- the birth of a New Life- The Kingdom. In this Life we are not led by law, but by Spirit. The Spirit of God is breathed out from God's breath and breathed in by God's children- a symbiotic relationship. We move together by the guidance of God's breath, we exist through God's breath."

"I hear what you're saying," Nick said, "but it doesn't make sense to me."

My neighbor continued, "don't try to make sense of it. Just know that God the Creator breathes New Life into God's children and like oxygen, we thrive and exist from it. That breath gives us a New Life- a new way to see others, a new way to respond to others, a new way to live our lives, a new way to love the unlovable. It's all about breathing God's breath, loving with God's love, seeing others the way God sees them."

At this point, my mind was racing. I had heard this before, but it had never danced in my mind and heart the way it was right now!

"I want this New Life! I want to breath in that New Breath! What do I have to do", Nick asked?

"Follow my Way of Life", my neighbor said. "You are on your way, Nick. You really are."

And with that Nick went on his way. My neighbor shut his door and the lamp in his living room turned off. And once again all was quiet in my small city neighborhood. I heard a dog barking in the distance. For a few moments as I sat in awe and energy of the conversation I had overheard I became aware of the chilled night air and darkness that I was staring in to.

I breathed in a long breath... imagining that new breath- God's breath- flowing into me... and breathing out- sharing that Spirit with others who slept, unaware of the love that undergirded them in the night time.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Practicing Church

Wow, what a busy week. I'd love to be able to say that I'll be glad when the week is over- but all that really means is more to do next week. Oh well, that's the way life is sometimes (most of the time it seems).

I am excited however about the direction that the ministry of my church, Blakemore UMC, is heading. We are moving from a committee based ministry structure to a team based structure based on Spiritual Practices.

We've created a blog to begin the online communal aspect of this interesting model of church. I know for some it doesn't seem like anything new but I think that in some ways we are remapping the way an institutionalized local congregation can structure its ministry. Check us out at There's not much info up yet, but give us a week.

cheers all,

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Journey through the field of temptation into the desert of abandonment. Posted by Hello

Lent: "spring," the time of the lengthening of the days. Lent is one of the six seasons of the church year and is the forty-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). The period is actually 46 days, but since Sundays are feast days, they are never included in the count. Lent is intended to be a period of preparation and penitence marked by fasting, meditation and sobriety. Lent is widely associated with denial -- "giving something up for Lent." -

In my tradition within the United Methodist Church, Lent is celebrated and looked forward to every year. Since I've become a Christian Lent has become my favorite time of year. It's probably because I tend to be an introspective type of person. I identify with the idea of Jesus going into the wilderness to fast and discern God's will. I identify with giving something up/denial and spending time in prayer. Every year I look forward to taking that journey to the wilderness with Jesus and listening for God's direction in my own life.

This week the focus is on temptation. Our spirituality is based around Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and Adam and Eve's temptation to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

Wow, temptation is all around for everyone. I'm not even really talking about the temptations we think of as "the bad stuff" in life- cheating, stealing, infidelity, etc... but even the everyday choices of life. Daily I am tempted to be less than who I am. Do I give full concern and care to those people in my life that God has called my to be a steward of? Do I show love and compassion to those in need who somehow find their way into my life, even for a brief moment on the street? Do I choose to get up and take care of my body by exercising regularly or does sleeping in seem like a better choice at the moment?

These are my daily struggles- these are the sins of the daily life that I share with every other human on the face of the planet. These are the temptations and choices that create habits of character or vices.

When I follow Jesus to the desert I have nothing around me except all this "mess" to deal with and focus on. I am left alone to pray for strength, to surrender it to God, and realize that I am needy. When I follow Jesus to the desert I realize that there are angels all around me waiting for me to empty myself so that they may attend to my needs.

Wandering, wandering
Feeling my way... dry earth
Hot, weary
Sweaty, scared
Alone, afraid
Of what I might find
In myself
Denial, want

I follow him
into the desert storm
Wind, sand, dust
Scars my skin
fills my throat
cuts, raw, fierce

But then the wind subsides
I'm left alone
tired, cold and hot at the same time
these rocks won't change into water
so I wait for You
To speak to me
To give drink to my
thristy soul...

Monday, February 07, 2005

Warmth In Winter- Very Warm!!

Warmth In Winter 2005 Posted by Hello

Wow, I just can't get the weekend out of my head! I spent the weekend with 35 of my youth, 8 adults from my church and 2,500 youth and adults from all over TN attending Warmth In Winter, a youth conference for United Methodist youth in TN.

I just didn't think our youth group could get much closer than we are, but we did. At the conference our speaker was Ray Buckley- a Native American Christian who lives in Alaska. Throughout the weekend he shared stories from his tradition/culture, family, and the faith that not only moved me and our group but in many ways moved us each to different places in our faith. He had a quiet way of speaking that instantly won trust and invited me to listen closely. His words danced all through my head weaving a soft blanket that invited me to wrap myself up and get warm. By the end of the weekend, as stressed as I was (I was coordinating our Sunday worship with a group of youth- which went beautifully) the Blanket that continued to warm me also brought me a sense of peace.

I don't think I've ever had a retreat experience quite like this one. God came to our group this weekend as a Warm Blanket- a comforter, a giver. I'm still breathing in and out the rich Spirit that we came away with.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Brian McLaren On Larry King Live Posted by Hello

I'm watching Larry King Live right now. Larry has several of Time's Top Evangelical Christians on his show: The LaHayes, Franklin Graham, TD Jakes, and Brian McLaren.

Wow, the LaHayes are totally indoctrinated in right wing philosophy (big surprise)

TD Jakes and Brian seem to be on the same page. Brian is calling for Christians to hold the president accountable for issues like- like concern and care for the poor, care for the environment, and accountable for being a peace maker.

This raises the issues of how polarized Christianity seems. Brian raises legitmate questions that Christians ought to ask but I can just hear a lot of folks saying, "hhhmmm, just another liberal..."

Now they are going to the topic of gay marriage. LaHayes: "we'd like to see children raised by a normal father and mother." "We love homosexuals, we want to HELP them." (help them what?)

Franklin: "God created sex to enjoy. He gave sex as a gift to a man and woman. God is gonna judge sin, but Jesus will come to save and forgive sin. There are millions of gays, and he loves them, but he will judge them."

Jakes: "Redemption is the choice. We have a right to accept Jesus in our life, no matter the sin."

McLaren: "Jesus came to forgive our sins and RECONCILE one another. The question we should be asking is HOW do we reconcile with one another in the midst of disagreement?"

LaHayes- Schools should not teach anything that is ANTI-GOD, nor anything that is theory- such as Evolution. We should be able to and ought to say "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance.

Ok, it's a commercial. This is fairly humorous. We are living in a post 911 world, we're at war, a tsunami has decimated countries and we're talking about whether we can/cannot, should/should not say "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance. Wow.

I think Larry King likes Brian. I can tell it in the way he says BRIIIIAN MCLAREN!


LaHayes: The Fall, part of the plan, we're heading toward the end of the age.

Graham: was in s. asia, did God judge these countries in some way? we all will stand someday and account for our lives in front of God. We must accept Jesus into our lives.

Jakes: Christians need to recognize the things they are for and stand in one voice- instead of the polarization we face now. All sins are the same in size.


McLaren: Evangelicals need to start making friends with folks who are different, especially someone who is gay- and not to change them but to really get to know them as a person.

LaHayes: Would you rather have your child raised by two men or two women? What's wrong with a good wholesome family? (can a gay couple have a wholesome life?)
No they cannot.


Franklin: We need to be in prayer right now, because we are at war. We might be attacked again and we have to be ready. The god of this age is Satan.



LaHaye: Yes



Graham: Yes, the antichrist is coming who will unite the world. He will fight God, fight Jesus.

Jakes: We are confusing predestination with foreknowledge. Our God already knows the end.

LaHayes: We're gonna have a one world religion, one world gov't. God will give us an opportunity to accept Christ again at the end. The UN will fail because they exclude God.

No response allowed for McLaren. That is the second time that Brian was not called on for an opinion. Let me speculate his answer: we should be more concerned as Christians with living out Christ's call to discipleship and work towards creating the Kingdom of God now- a Kingdom where all people's needs are met, where we are good stewards, and strive to be peacemakers.


Brian: huge challenge that we face. It's not helpful for Christians to shut out any diaglog for it, and it's also not helpful to jump into accepting it without looking at who profits from it.

Brian: we're grateful for the elections and proud of the iraqi people. Many Christians are still raising questions about America's role in the world and war.