Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Grey Street - as your own poets have said

I’m preparing a talk for this weekend on the subject of how our relationship with culture affects our capacity to be witnesses to Christ. There will always be unanswered questions, always mystery, paradox, skepticism – and all of these in we who believe, let alone those who don’t. And so I’m a bit weak when it comes to believing that I can crush the doubters with my boatload of objective evidence. Someone recently asked the question, “Why doesn’t God ever heal amputees?” I suppose it’s a fair question, and I don’t have the answer. But my basis for faith is not rooted in God’s ability or willingness to prove, to my satisfaction, His ‘power’. Instead - I find the most compelling piece of the gospel is how it speaks to the deepest longings of our heart, if we'll but allow ourselves to long.

When Paul spoke to a pluralistic, skeptical audience in Acts 17, he didn’t waste much time with ‘proof’. He declared certain things about Jesus to be true and got on with it. But long before he even mentions the name of Jesus, he mentions some poets of the day as part of a speech where he shows how their worship, culture, and poetry all reveal longings which, if followed fully will lead to God. This, it seems to me, is the essence of what it means to be a witness: are my life and words declarations of the reality that my longings are pointing to Christ?

For the Jews of Matthew’s day, Matthew built bridges between the Old Testament and Christ, because the Old Testament was the culture currency of the Jews.

In Athens, it was the Greek Poets.

Today, it’s the artists and film-makers. Go with me to the Gorge a few years ago to hear Dave Matthews Band. The song, “Grey Street” kicks in, as you look, from your cheap seat up high, across the sea of people. The sun has just set down and the purple mountains fill you with emotion all by themselves. Then your eye catches her face; she’s a mom, in her early forties, there at the concert with her two teenage kids. You hear the lyrics: Look at how she listens. She shares nothings of what She thinks. She just goes stumbling through her memories; Staring out on to Grey Street. She thinks, "Hey, how did I come to this?" I dream myself a thousand times around the world, but I can't get out of this place. There's an emptiness inside her, and she'll do anything to fill it in; But all the colors mix together - to grey And it breaks her heart. You can see the tears on her face and notice she’s not wearing a wedding ring – and maybe your just politically incorrect enough to think that she's a single mom and that song is prying her own broken heart wide open. Perhaps this is her story. And it’s Leah’s story in Genesis too – a reminder that our shattered longings for love often become the soil in which our seeds of faith and hope germinate. Gosh – I could have stayed home and watched channel 19, and seen people with big hair and lots of make-up talk about how wicked the Democrats are, and how we need prayer in schools. I’m glad I’m at the Gorge instead – because there’s a sermon going on right in front of my eyes. ‘As my own poets have said’… there’s an emptiness inside us. Augustine called it a wrestles heart. Pascal called it a God shaped vacuum. Dave Matthews calls it ‘Grey Street’.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Don't Miss: Wednesday Night

Have you ever asked these kinds of questions?

1. If Jesus is the only way to God - what about the people who've never heard the name?
2. What about people who have heard the name, but have rejected "Jesus" because His followers have so grossly misrepresented His character, painting a picture of Jesus as a greedy, nationalistic, warring, prudish, arrogant patriarch. If that's the only Jesus I know and I reject that, what happens to me?
3. What about the people who overtly deny Jesus' unique claims about Himself?
4. Should we even be asking these questions? Why or Why Not?
5. How am I to interface with people of other faiths in a pluralistic society?

I suppose we won't answer all these questions Wednesday night, as they've been on the table for maybe 1980 years or so, but we'll at least start the conversation, which has been the whole point of our Wednesday night summer series. Our guest speaker this Wednesday evening is familiar with the subject of religious pluralism, having been in Ireland in the midst of their religious conflicts. If you're near Seattle, I encourage you to check it out this Wednesday evening - at 7PM at Bethany. I look forward to seeing you there.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Pictures...and a good read

Just a quick note before going into hiding in order to prepare for Sunday, and perform a wedding tomorrow on an island. Here’s the link to some pictures of Colorado, including some hikes to “The Sisters”, “Gem Lake”, and a climb up “Longs Peak”. It was all great fun, and an incredible blessing to be among the rocks and trees, who speak clearly of God’s creativity, sustaining power, and beauty. I hope you enjoy them.

And if it rains anytime soon and you feel the need to be indoors reading a book, David James Duncan book: “God Laughs and Plays” is a series of essays that will challenge, provoke, encourage, and entertain any thoughtful person of faith. You don’t need to agree with everything someone writes in order to be fed and blessed – truth is oozing out all over the place! Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Divine Interruptions

This coming Sunday I'll be teaching from Luke 17 regarding the story of ten lepers who were healed. There's one little phrase out the outset of the story: "And it came about while He was on His way..." that stands out to me because it speaks of Jesus being open to interruptions. Kim George, who volunteers in our Tabitha ministry tells a story of just how precious divine interruptions can be:


He came up to me on the street corner, probably fifteen years old. “I think he’s sick,” he says, pointing to a man sitting in the nearby bus shelter, draped with a dusty sleeping bag. A woman sits beside him and quietly studies the pavement at her feet. Walking past both of them, I had not seen anybody. The boy repeats his concern. The man under the sleeping bag coughs, doubling over, and the high school boy asks me if have a cell phone to call an ambulance. It seems dramatic, so instead I awkwardly offer change for the pay phone and run to catch my bus.

As I step away, I play my reel of excuses. This corner is full of people who want my money: I could empty my pockets every day if I decide to start responding. I’m a young woman, it’s getting late, and it’s probably time for me to get out of this shady street corner. I have a reasonable list of why this is not my problem- why it’s valid for me to exit a moment where I am invited to care for a homeless man on the corner.

Flagging down the approaching #5, the driver doesn’t see me and pulls away. As I return to the bus shelter, the boy apologizes profusely for the inconvenience he has caused me. I look at him, holding my ridiculous fifty cents in his hand, and am ashamed he is the one apologizing.

I kneel down and attempt to catch the face of the man under the sleeping bag. He nods off, seemingly sleepy, delirious, or on drugs. I ask what I can do for him and he mutters nothing. I turn to the woman and notice her bright fingernails and black knee-highs. “I’m Kimberly,” I say, holding out my hand. “Jessica,” she responds, taking my hand in hers. She tells me Brennan has not felt well for a month, coughing and sleeping a lot, with something wrong in his foot. I notice his left ankle is swollen twice the size of his right.

Turning back to Brennan, I again ask what I can do to help. Nothing, he says, I’m just tired. His face is still hidden under his sleeping bag. He loves that blanket, Jessica explains. I keep pressing him. All right, he says, somewhat sarcastically, why don’t you just give me some money? Cash I don’t have, but I offer to get dinner. Brennan is still suspicious, but Jessica decides to go with me to the corner market.

Walking to the store, I ask how she is doing. It’s really hard, she says. I am always worried about him. He’s getting sicker and is too stubborn to go to the doctor and I’m afraid to ever leave him. She looks over her shoulder as we cross the street, as though this is the first time she has not been by his side.

Entering the market, I tell her to order whatever she would like from the deli in the corner. Meanwhile, I find what I can for Brennan: Kleenex, a thermometer to take his temperature, bottled water. Jessica seems to relax a little bit, watching me shop and assuming I know what I am doing. I don’t really, just sort of making things up as I go, but it is nice for her to be able to relax. We leave with my attempt at medical supplies and Brennan and Jessica’s first meal of the day.

She begins to open up to me, many times expressing her thanks and sharing how hungry she is. Stopping in her steps, she looks at me intently. “Why would you help us?” she asks, posing the question with genuine curiosity.

We are silent on the street corner, and I hesitate with my response. It was not my intention to explain my motives. But like the moment when my bus pulled away, I sense I am drawn into a story that I did not write, with a role I had not planned. We stand on the corner, waiting for the light to turn, and for a moment Jessica reminds me of someone I love dearly.

I look at her and ask if she has ever heard the story of the Good Samaritan. Of course, she says. That’s why I offer help, because Christ taught that we love God in as much as we care for one another. I fear sounding preachy and want to withdraw into my reticence, but something lights up in her spirit and I continue. I begin to talk to her about this love. She grabs onto my arm, clinging to me and my words. I think you are an angel she says. I want to laugh, remembering how hard I tried not to help. The only angel in this story was a compassionate teenage boy who disappeared from the corner as suddenly as he had recruited me.

The Seattle skies open up and we get poured on. My umbrella is broken in three spots and only gives us a pathetic shelter. We laugh together as we cross the street.

I ask her what she loves to do and she begins to tell me of her old job, before she had medical problems and could not keep working. I worked for the state, she says proudly, as a caregiver for disabled adults. You know, she says, I am so blessed. Here were these adults in diapers, too embarrassed to leave their house for how the world would receive them. And here am I with so much. I can tango and make love and swim in the ocean. Her words hold this gratitude­­- this beautiful passion. We talk about how important is this work that she loves to do.

Arriving back at the bus shelter, Brennan and Jessica devour their dinner. Brennan looks up and for a moment I catch a glimpse of his face. Thank you very much, he says. It is our first moment of looking at one another. He is a tired, yet distinguished looking man. Proud, but sweetly thankful for the meal. It takes a great deal of courage for him to look up, and for a moment, connect with me. I stay while they both eat. Jessica, no longer shy, begins to ask me about me. I tell her I love to write and dance. She asks me if I am married. No, I say. Then you must be in love, she asks. I smile. No, not that either. Well, I don’t understand, she says. You are such a beautiful spirit. I tell her that there is pain unhealed, and now is the time to reclaim my heart. Jessica begins to cry, and I wonder how my words resonant in her own story. The sun breaks out from behind drenched clouds. Your tears are beautiful, I tell her, while the sun glistens on her cheeks.

Brennan is quiet. I suspect he is listening, but know he wants to be left alone. Jessica asks me about the Good Samaritan. I pull out a worn pocket Bible and flip Gospel pages. It’s funny because I can’t find the story that I have read so many times, but end up on the Samaritan woman at the well. What’s the difference, she wonders? So I try to tell the story. Jesus was with his followers-really just a bunch of fisherman- and he ventures to get water. Meeting a woman at the well, he begins to talk with her. His watching disciples can’t understand why he would be seen talking with her; it’s practically scandalous for the Jewish rabbi. First she’s a Samaritan (an ethnic group outcast by the religious leaders for their messy ancestry and a-typical worship), plus she’s been married five times and is currently living with another man. Society had deemed her outcast. But Jesus senses her need, knows she is thirsty for far more than the water at the well. So he begins to tell her about water that will quench her soul.

I tell my story and Jessica’s tears splash off her cheek. I hug her and soon my cheeks are covered with her tears. I begin to pray out loud: for Brennan’s healing, Jessica’s job, for a community of people that will care for them. I look over and notice Brennan. Jessica asks him what is wrong. He turns his head away from us, still finding escape in the blanket. But we both hear his weeping.

Jessica, with her passionate, intuitive words, begins to describe the love of “the God spirit”- unconditional and embracing and always waiting for you. She seems intimately connected to her words. There is not room for me at the bench. I am kneeling at her feet, and it is fitting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Climbing Colorado

We woke Monday morning at 2 AM, hoping that it was the sound of rain that we were hearing, but were disappointed to find that it was, instead, only the wallboard heater kicking on. I looked outside; perfect weather. Yes – it’s time to climb.

By 3AM my friend Bryan and I are on the trail, hiking in silence while the perfectly moonless and clear night reveals the thick milky galaxies. Starting at 9,700’, the time passes quickly, and by 5 AM we’re above treeline, making our way to a boulder field. Just as we approach the boulder field, the headlamps are turned off, and the east face of Long’s Peak begins to be bathed in pink. We break at the boulder field for a breakfast (12700) and then it’s on to the key hole. Every breath is labored by this point.

Beyond the keyhole the climb becomes slightly more exposed, with short sections where a false step would be a fatal step. After a half mile or so in this manner, we enter the trough, a steep chute conquered only through careful walking and heavy breathing. At the top of the chute we turn a corner to negotiate ‘the narrows’ – a thin ledge with an unforgivingly steep drop. Once past the narrows, the end is in sight. But we lay on the rocks to rest at 13650’, and I fall asleep. Upon waking, we decide that, the most challenging part of the climb now behind us, the summit isn’t worth the effort. We turn around and begin the journey of 10,000 steps back to the car. By the time we’re back to Estes Park, a thunderstorm of plague like proportions is pummeling the village. We make it back to our chalet just is time to watch the lightening and hail from the deck.

Friendship – the beauty of creation – good conversation – and physical challenge. All in all, it was a great way to spend a bit of those precious vacation days. I'll post more pictures Friday... but right now it's BACK TO WORK!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Greetings from Colorado

This week has included a wide range of conversations; A couple from Germany work in a missions agency, a school teacher from Switzerland in her 20’s seeking God’s will for her future, a retired judge from Texas, a dental specialist who sold his practice and now works for a mission based out of Aurora, Colorado… these are just some of the folks that have constituted, “Study Week” at Ravencrest Chalet in Colorado where I'm just finishing Romans.

Last night I was privileged to go out for supper with a few of them, where I also met up with a previous student. The time around the table was positively European, as we shared pieces of our stories, and conversation ranged from politics to the emotional health of churches to divorce/remarriage to discerning God’s will, and much more.

There’s something valuable, it seems to me, about getting away from everything for a week, because it’s in this context of not shopping, not cooking, not cleaning, not working, that we have the leisure to listen more carefully: to God’s Word, to the glories of creation, to one another. For two weeks this summer, I’ve had the joy of opening God’s Word to people in these settings, and have been blessed and encouraged, more than I can express, by the eager hearts, and profound transformations that God is doing in lives.

If you’ve never done it before – why don’t you try it next summer. For those of you in Seattle, you might consider Capernwray Harbor. It’s an economical option for such a week, with waterfront activities, crafts, child care, and Bible teaching for all ages. I’ve found such weeks to be, at times, a foretaste of heaven, and am incredibly grateful for those who serve in these settings, devoting their summer to enabling such ministry to happen. The week in nearly over, but the sweetness of the fellowship will linger, at least until the leaves have dropped off the trees this fall.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lebanon and Israel - seeing it from the ground level

I have a friend who does work with Samaritan's Purse, who has just returned from the middle of the conflict. His perpective is first hand and personal, and that's what's needed in order for us to respond. He writes:

In Beirut we were met by long time Church partners who had been ministering to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people from the south who had been displaced from their homes in southern Lebanon by the war. The Church had set up a medical clinic on the church grounds and was distributing emergency food parcels to schools, churches, and other public places where the primarily Shiite population from the south had taken refuge. They were also giving away mattresses to individuals who were caring for displaced families in their homes. The blockade and bombing had cut off most supply routes into the country, so these essential goods were becoming harder to find. We were able to arrange for a regular sea convoy of food, medicine, and shelter materials from Cyprus to help sustain and multiply these efforts. Samaritan's Purse had a Lebanese Country Director on site already and he is now managing a greatly expanded relief program. The damage in the country is severe, so when the war ends the current relief programs will likely become rebuilding programs.
We still have two of our outside team there. Allister, an Australian, is an SP food specialist and he is organizing large scale food distribution programs. Steve is a professional photographer from Colorado who is documenting the efforts. You can see some of his work and some stories from the scene on the Samaritan's Purse website,
Beirut is a large city and the falling bombs were being targeted at the specific sites being used to store, transport, and launch weapons, so although we could hear the bombs exploding in distant areas of the city on some nights, we were not in real danger. One of our team took passage back to Cyprus on a vessel which was evacuating Canadian citizens. My boss and friend Ken Isaacs stayed on to continue the evaluation. Our plan was to leave via Syria on the one road still open to Damascus. However the day before we were scheduled to depart, the major bridges on that road leading out of Beirut were bombed. Our hotel had a view of the highway so we could see some of the trucks loaded down with weapons from Syria which were the target of the bombing. The nearest destroyed bridge was about two miles from our hotel.
Since there were no other routes out of the country, we were able to get passage on a helicopter from the US Embassy. I am never anxious to board helicopters, but it was better than staying there. The helicopter was a USAF war machine holding about 20 passengers with rocket launchers strapped to the sides and manned machine gun positions fore and aft. The in-flight entertainment included a mid-air refueling from a huge C-140 cargo plane out over the sea. Since we were restricted to one suitcase of less than 15 kg, I had to leave my luggage and most of my clothing in Lebanon. I'm sure that my friends at the Church have put it to good use.
We spent the night in Cyprus and bought some new clothes. The next evening Ken and I took a commercial flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. We met with government officials in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but our main contact was with the council of local government officials. The administrators there arranged for us to travel to the towns in northern Israel which had been hardest hit by the rocket attacks. The Hezbollah had been using primarily a Katusha rocket which is fired in banks or two to thirty at a time. These are somewhat primitive weapons by today's standards in that they are aimed very generally by backing a launching truck into an approximate position and firing. They destroy by spreading over wide areas rather than hitting specific targets, so most often land in civilian areas. The warheads contain a high explosive and thousands of small projectiles which have the potential to kill for about 1/2 mile. The towns which we visited each had a population of under 50,000 and had each been hit by 300 to 600 of these missiles. The results were pretty devastating. Cars with holes spaced 2-3 inches apart covering one entire side and exit holes out the entire opposite side. 1" thick steel plate cratered and dented. Groups of homes entirely destroyed. Israel has the advantage that it is a developed nation, so rebuilding occurs while the damage continues. There have been few fatalities because there are reinforced bomb shelters for the people. The problem is that many people have now been living in those shelters for over one month. We visited one windowless shelter about 30' square which housed 45 children and 15 adults. Those Israelis who have family elsewhere or have enough money, have left for the south. Primarily the poor are the ones left in the towns.
We decided to do what we could for the towns of Karmiel, Kiryat Shmona, and Nahariya. We met with the mayors and other town officials and each had different needs which we were able to supply. In one town we provided air conditioners and televisions for 30 shelters. In another we provided vouchers for the residents to buy whatever they needed, primarily food and clothing, from a series of large stores in the area. In the third we provided milk, cheese, fruit, infant formula, etc. to supplement the dry rations which the residents had been living on for the past month. Since we don't have a permanent staff in Israel, our intervention was in the form of this one time gift. However, we have cemented relationships which will help us to return as needed both now and as the war ends.
When the air raid sirens go off, you have about 30 seconds to find shelter before the missiles began to hit. On one occasion we got very close with our driver in a culvert next to the road after a siren sounded. There was another alarm while we visited with one of the mayors. We stood in the interior hallway to be in the safest position. I got to see first hand the terror on the faces of the old people standing there with me. I watched tears of anguish on the face of a 70 year old peasant woman with a bandana wrapped around her head as she desperately held on to her husband. Not a good thing to see. One of the mayor's offices was temporarily in an underground bunker. As we sat and talked a siren sounded and we could hear 12 muffled thumps over us. Business continued as if nothing happened. The phone rang with the report. Nobody had been killed. The property damage was thus irrelevant. Just after we left the office, the siren sounded again. We sprinted to a nearby wall and squatted against it until the attack was over. These towns look just like any similar sized town in America.
As we drove back toward Tel Aviv the driver told us when we had entered the valley of Armageddon.
It is good to be home.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rites of Passage - More Relevant than Relevant

I'm sitting in a late night discussion among men of various ages at a men's conference. It's late. I'm tired. The session is one of those 'ask the pastor' things that I hate, and so I'm anticipating questions about the origin of Cain's wife and other such silliness. Instead, a man opens his heart with questions about whether to remain in his existing church because as he's growing in Christ he's finding errors in his church's doctrines. This question is directed to the group rather than to me, and the group answers. The conversation is honest, stimulating, and encouraging.

One of the mutations of the conversation led to a discussion of rites of passage for the American male. I was pondering why our Christian universities seem plagued with passivity among the male gender, even more than in the culture at large. There are probably many causes, but I'm increasingly convinced that one of the causes is the appalling lack of any rites of passage. The Indian has the vision quest. The Lutheran has their confirmation. The Catholic has their first communion. The Judaism has their rites. And then there's the Evangelicals. What do they have?

1st R rated movie - first kiss - first drink. Perhaps these don't satisfy (how could they?) and so the hungry adolescent keeps looking: first sex - first ??. Combine this with a redemption centered faith, whose focal point is on getting to heaven, and you have the makings for a completely irrelevant faith. Why is it that the modern church has dismissed that which has been a part of historic Christianity for millenia?

Perhaps it's because we who are charged with passing on the torch of the testimony have, ourselves, failed to fully embrace our calling as representatives of a whole new way of living. If I take Jesus and plaster Him onto my lifestyle as some sort of veneer, all the while continuing to maintain the same attitudes about money, power, enemies, financial security, and upward mobility as my culture, then I really do have nothing distinct to say. In such a setting, the best I can do is teach my sons that men go to church and read their Bibles. But that, of course, falls far short of the real deal - and the steady decline of so many churches is proof of the same.

We think Relevant means being culturally literate and so we publish a magazine towards that end (or so it appears to me). I think it may include that, but if that's the best we can do, I'd say Rolling Stone does it better. No - relevant means I have a vision for embodying the hope that is found in Christ, and that vision permeates virtually every area of my life. Stepping into the story God is writing, and inviting others to do the same is an incredible adventure when one sees the vision of what that story is. Articulating that, living it, and helping young men find their unique voice in that same story is a gigantic need in our culture.

What should rites of passage look like for young men, if we want them to grow up as praying, discerning citizens of an alternative kingdom? A special thanks to the men's conference men at Ravencrest Chalet for prompting this question.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Who doesn't claim God?

There's an interesting little account in Joshua 5 about Joshua's encounter with a man whose sword is drawn, ready for battle. When Joshua sees him, he wants to know: "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?" The man's answer, instead of a simple yes or no, is that he stands before Joshua as 'commander of the army of the Lord'.

In the present conflicts, in the middle east (and there are many), it seems that every side is quick to claim God as belonging to them. Does God belong to Israel when the kidnapping of a couple Israeli soldiers becomes the pretext for destroying whole villages, including the women and children therein? Does God belong to Hizballah as they articulate settling for nothing less than the annihilation of Israel? What about the Palestinians? What about Al-Quida? Sunnis? Shiites? The American Military Industrial Complex?

The reality is that each of these is vain enough to claim that God is on their side. But when Joshua asks whose side the Lord is on, the the Lord says that He is His own side. So I presume He's not too happy about we 20% of the world consuming 60% of resources and claiming that we do so because of the favor of God, any more than he's happy when terrorist plots kill children and God's name is claimed as the source of power for the deed. Some will get upset and claim that I'm putting American politics on the same level as terrorist organizations. They're missing the point. The point is that every group who claims to act on behalf of God would do well to examine themselves before speaking too presumptively. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address clarifies the folly of presuming God's favor. Speaking of north and south, Lincoln said, Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

God will not be used for our own purposes and ends - rather it is God whose purposes and ends we are invited to humbly pursue. Anything less than this is arrogance, and a pathway to certain distraction. Who is on the Lord's side? The humble, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers. Let us be careful before answering too quickly, lest our presumption be our destruction.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I went to the woods...

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, to discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and to be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Walden or Life in the Woods

- Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
We all need to be in the woods. There's something about the lightness of living there: no TV, no radio, no internet - just the smell of fir and cedar, the sight of meteors, the taste of coffee, and the sounds of silence. Everyone needs a context outside of the ordinary because it's there that our senses become attuned to things we don't see in the normal contexts of life. It's there that we can listen to God in ways we can't when daily obligations intrude. It's there that we can talk to God, pouring our heart out and giving voice, perhaps, to that which we didn't even know was there.

I think that's why Jesus was hard to find on so many mornings when the disciples went looking for Him. May we also be found, "in a quiet place" on some regular basis.


Friday, August 04, 2006

It's Not About the Building

“By the time the summer was over, I was to become conscious of the fact that the only way to live was to live in a world that was charged with the presence and reality of God.”

Thomas Merton

As we break ground this coming Sunday on a new facility, my prayer is that our Lord would shepherd each of us this summer in the same manner Merton was guided so many years ago, so that we might come to discover the reality of God’s presence everywhere, and in so discovering, that we might also be impassioned and empowered to enter more fully into our community – actively serving one another, and our city. New walls, as beautiful as they will be, will still only be a vessel, and the ultimate challenge for mankind has never been building vessels. We’re very good at that. Our challenge, instead, is to live in such way that the vessels we build become filled with hope and mercy, forgiveness and restoration, holiness and joy. And that, of course, is our Lord’s passion for us. I pray it is our passion too, for that only is what constitutes a healthy church.

I've been blessed with a week of good meetings and conversations; with staff, members of our community, and neighbors as we held our annual block party. Now - today and tomorrow, it's time for a little break. More on Sunday - 12PM for groundbreaking - if you're in town.