Monday, December 31, 2007

traveling mercies

I finished my first book since school got out about a week and a half ago. I read Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. The book made me laugh out loud, and it was a great book to pick up in the post-semester haze that makes reading anything hard for a bit. Lamott's stories moved and created space for deeper thought, reflection, and insight into one's own life in a memoirish type manner, but without the typical evangelical language and coziness of a more reformed framework of Blue Like Jazz. The short stories that make up Traveling Mercies both worked together, yet had enough differences to not become redundant. And it was funny, really funny at times, like I'd laugh out loud on the plane, or in the doctor's office, or just sitting on the couch (or sometimes toilet). I loved it, and it was just the right book for the holidays. One of my favorite things about the book was the interspersed poetry, whether by Lamott, or most-often quoted from others.

I was also reading over on the McCarty's blog, and saw the most recent poetry post by Kristen with funny picture to boot, and I thought that this would be as good a time as ever to ask for some recommendations on some of your favorite poets or books of poetry. I try to keep a book of poetry open throughout the semester, but would love to make some new poet friends through their work. Any recommendations? I'd love to hear who you are reading, or who you think I should read...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

preview of my favorite tunes of 2007

Hello friends. I hope you have had a great Christmas...before I share my favorite albums of 2007, I'll give you a link to a good list, of which I thought had a good deal of great albums. In fact, one of my comments on one of my favorite albums of the year made the review list, check out this link, and look for The New Pornographers album titled Challengers, where my comment made the cut list for eMusic.

Big thanks to my folks for getting this album for my birthday. For those wondering who The New Pornographers are, I believe the story of their name came from a famous preacher who said that 'rock and roll is the new pornography' and thus informed their decision in creating a band name. Great stuff, not my favorite album of the year, but really, really good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

soccer and life

The last couple of weeks have been rather busy, wrapping up papers, finals (got to turn the last one in tomorrow) and the start of a new soccer season. This is my first season playing indoor in a long time, and it is a lot of fun except that the game times are on a college schedule. We played at 10:00 p.m. tonight, and our game was at 8 and 9 p.m. the two weeks before that. It is a lot of fun, pretty intense compared to outdoor, but all around a good time.

The youth and I have been working through the season of Advent together, and it has been a good time. We are going to have a worship gathering this Sunday that should be wonderful, and we are joining in the Advent Conspiracy, and will be taking up an offering together to share our resources with Heifer International. I'm proud of the kids for wrestling with what this Christmas season is all about, and what it means to them. It's late, but I hadn't posted in a while, mostly out of being spent. I hope all are well...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

new connections with Catholicism (pt. 2)

Last week, right before the Harp 46 show, I had an opportunity to go to the mass for a friend Marc Gherardi who was taking his perpetual vows to become a full member of his community of monks, which is the order of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. My good friend Ben went with me (as seen previously in the night zombie pics from this summer) and we had a great time at both the mass and the Harp 46 show. I don't know if you've ever had an opportunity to experience a mass where someone takes their vows, but it was beautiful.

During the mass, at one point there was a time where Marc laid prostrate before his community and God, while we sang and prayed for him as he humbled himself before all so as to demonstrate and embody humility and hope in the grace that he believes God will provide to help him live a life of service. It was quite moving. I was thinking about all the other times that I'd seen protestant leaders demonstrate that kind of radical humility, by laying face down on the floor in the middle of the gathered community, humbly demonstrating their dependence on God and the help of the community. It was a quick thought, because I'd never seen it happen with a protestant leader...and probably never will. Can you imagine the ordination of a pastor in a Baptist church which includes the candidate laying face down on the floor while the community prays and sings out their support and hopes for them?

Along with following a lectionary, it's amazing how serious Catholics take the Bible, and how often they read it, quote it, and share it throughout the service, especially in the language of the liturgy. It was a wonderful evening, and for the first time, along with getting to catch up with some of the other Oblates I know, the service was held in a cloistered convent, which is also something you don't get to experience everyday. The Sisters of the Visitation of Tyringham hosted the mass at their monastery. They were very kind, and I was reading up on them a little bit while I was there, and also online, and for those who wonder what cloistered nuns could possibly be about in a hyper-connected world, this is from their website:

The Visitation Sisters of Tyringham are cloistered, contemplative religious whose lives are dedicated to prayer and to living in community. In great simplicity we strive to be a gentle presence in a world threatened with terrorism and war. Our Salesian spirituality teaches us to be gentle towards ourselves, with each other, and with all persons with whom we come in contact.

A gentle presence in a world threatened with terrorism and war...sounds like they aren't as disconnected as one might think, and that they are doing their part in joining with God for the redemption of the world.

Overall, it was a beautiful evening, and a great time to experience the body of Christ in new ways, and support a new friend taking an important step in his vocation.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

new connections with Catholicism (pt. 1)

So last week, along with going to the Harp 46 concert, I had some new interactions with Catholicism, that were both humbling and profound. The first is that I met with Father Louis Fiorelli last week as an introduction to spiritual direction. We met in his office, and he asked many questions about my background, my story, my life and allowed me the opportunity to pray with him. We talked a little bit about how he was certainly interested in meeting together with this 25-year old Baptist youth pastor who is interested in spiritual direction. I think he was even more surprised when we talked about how I was trying to keep the hours, practice silence, and embrace some of the ancient disciplines. I told him that I don't even know what to do with myself, and so if he didn't know what to do with me or didn't feel comfortable meeting, I totally could understand, and he didn't seem fact, I think that we got along quite well, and that this could be a powerful experience.

One of the things that he talked about that we would probably try to work on, was something that had begun to rise up in my own prayer life, and in my own practices of some of the different disciplines, that is: that I would not only experience and enjoy the sense of excitement and newness that comes in embracing the ancient disciplines, but that i would begin to understand the discipline part...that I would begin to set down roots in the practices, and learn to walk in them especially when the newness wears off, and the sense of excitement dwindles. It was beautiful to talk about and to begin to wrestle with. It is very humbling to begin to realize how little I know, how little I've actually practiced these disciplines (on the larger scale) and how much of a challenge it will be to actually follow through.

This actually kind of freaked me out the next two days after we met. I found that I wanted to abandon all of the practices. I wanted to call Father Fiorelli back and let me know that I didn't "feel like this was what I needed." I was so scared of being exposed for the fraud that I know that I am. I was scared to let someone else see into the lapses, breaks, and lack of discipline that is my life. I was humbled to let someone else in (besides some of my close friends) that is trained to help me reflect and take steps for change in my relationship with God and others. And I kind of got angry about it. I was angry with myself for my pride, and angry with Father Fiorelli for saying yes. But after the initial shock to my system...this sense of peace has begun to set in. For all of the things that I'm scared to wrestle with (and its not like there is some deep dark secret I have to let go of or share), I realized that I like control, and I am prideful about keeping things together and I didn't want some of the excitement to end. And it probably won't for a while, but I really hope that this helps me to become rooted like a tree near a fresh stream, that slowly grows and finds strength and over time has deep roots stretching towards the living water. Yet at the same time, I know this won't happen overnight, and that I have a long ways to's to giving it a try.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

partying with Harp 46

Tonight my friend Ben and I attended the cd release party of Harp 46's new album Sanctuarium over at Convergence. It was a great show, and a fun night to catch up with friends and hear beautiful music. How often do you get to hear a harp, bass, and percussion section play music that moves your soul? Also, the addition of Amanda Lee to the group is a wonderful and creative addition to the group of amazingly talented musicians. It has been fun to get to know the band over the last couple of years, and I'm really excited about this new album. They played a couple of songs off of the new album tonight, and they were awesome. If you are interested in the new album, check it out, it's only $15, and you'll get some amazing independent music. If you have a chance to hear them live, don't miss will be a concert that you'll never forget. And better yet, if you get a chance to hang out with April (also here), Nuc, Posido, or Amanda and hear their music, don't pass it up, they are great people playing awesome music.

Think about picking up their new album as a Christmas present! You can buy it here.

Also at the show tonight was the artwork (and person) of Nancy Lynch. Her work seemed very inspired and added to the aura and beauty of the evening. Please consider another local artist and her work!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wal-Mart...or what I fondly call "the devil store"

I'm watching Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price right now. I realize that the documentary is not holding back on any sort of bias or perspective, being very clear that Wal-Mart is a company that is terrible to its employees, environmentally unsound, and participates in slave labor. It is a disturbing movie. I'd already read some books and formed some opinions about the company in college and early on in my return to Warrenton. That being said, occasionally I've shopped at the store for certain types of products, mainly, deodorant, toothbrushes, boxers, white t-shirts, the very basic stuff. But after watching this documentary, I really don't think that I can shop there at all.

You see I've always been torn...because I've known and know people who work there, and on one side, I'd hate for them to lose their jobs, especially if I encouraged them to develop a union, or advocate for fair wages. Yet at the same time, the injustice experienced in the U.S. by employees, and perhaps more importantly, the suffering of those working in sweat shops and poor working conditions and wages in places like Bangladesh and China is absolutely horrible. And let's not forget the local and independent stores that have been affected by Wal-Mart opening up in our town.

So, on one side, I think that not shopping there is really important, yet at the same time, how might Christian communities be prepared to help the employees of those stores find other jobs?

Also, what would we do if the Walton family was not prepared for the apocalypse with their bomb shelter that they've built in reaction to 9/11?

Anyone been involved in helping change the practices in their town of Wal-Mart?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

over lunch

on one of our few trips out over the holidays, i had an especially amazing conversation with Shey. i was telling Shey about how i wanted to possibly combine all my Christmas gifts from family to put some money towards a Mac. she proceeded to tell me that i only wanted a Mac because they are cool, and that by getting a Mac, i would think i was cool too. and then Shey said this:

"I transcend cool. Cool passes right through me and keeps on going."

my wife transcends cool. top that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

high school boys are dumb (and so am I)

so i am getting up in 4 hours to meet some high school boys for breakfast. why you ask, would we meet at 4 a.m. for breakfast on a day that they have off of school and we would normally meet at 6 a.m.? the only answer i have right now is stupidity...and they (we) think they (we) are funny.

we're not. and it is going to hurt at 3:15 a.m. as i leave to pick them up b/c most of them can't drive. i'm stupid.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

our last day of NYWC

So we have returned home tonight from our trip to Atlanta. The speaker at the general session this morning was Doug Fields. Honestly, I wasn't very excited about the session. I hadn't read his famous book that all youth pastors are supposed to read, and I didn't expect much to connect with. But I was pleasantly surprised by Doug's humility, grace, and openness as he challenged youth workers to consider how envy has influenced and informed their youth ministry and lives. He was entertaining, pretty funny, and seemed to be having a lot of fun when he shared. Like many of the speakers for the main session or worship bands, I was surprised by the way they carried themselves. Although there were some bands that I wasn't so excited with, and I didn't always agree with a lot of the things said, there seemed to be an openness throughout the weekend to see the "other" as a person with a face, a family, a life...and that those persons are doing their best to live life in the way of Jesus. Doug did a great job of challenging youth workers to let go of envy while learning to support others.

The last breakout session that Shey and I went to was Phyllis Tickle's seminar on the Seven Ancient Disiplines that could help nurture and inform our students' spiritual formation. Like every other time I've heard her speak now, she is always up for a great laugh, telling a powerful story, and doesn't take herself too seriously. Through her own humility she opens the door for dialogue amongst various perspectives. She talked a lot about her experiences and theological insights in practicing fixed-hour prayer, or keeping the offices. I've been trying to keep the hours again this semester and I've found it to be a profound experience. Praying with the church all over the world is a beautiful image of unity and community that I believe helps to act as an icon or image that beckons us forward to living out the reality of God's kingdom come and will being done on earth as in heaven. Tickle's prayer manuals are fantastic, and very helpful for what she called the "liturgically challenged." Which myself, growing up Southern Baptist, most certainly am.

I'll post some further thoughts of my overall impression of the convention tomorrow. But as for now, it's time to get some sleep, 5:40 a.m. is coming quick. peace.

Mrs. Phyllis Tickle and Chris Folmsbee...and it all ends in the presidential suite

Today was a good day. It was the second day of the NYWC in Atlanta. Shey and I have been having a great time, especially after this morning's general session. Phyllis Tickle, author, speaker, prophet, and guide shared a message and lesson this morning. She talked about "The Great Emergence," or this time in history which we find ourselves in today. This is the term she has given to describe the next period of reformation in the church which is happening today and is changing the landscape of Christianity, especially in the West. If you have never had a chance to hear her speak, or use the prayer manuals she has created, I highly recommend her works, and finding a way to hear her speak the next chance you get. You'd never expect a 73-year old woman to get up at a youth conference and blow your mind, but that's just what happened today, and is what happened when she spoke at the general sessions at the Emergent Convention a couple years ago in Nashville.

In the afternoon, Shey and I went to Chris Folmsbee's super-seminar called "Stories, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Nurturing Students." Chris' message and seminar was fantastic. He proposed a philosophy of youth ministry that could have a profound impact on the landscape of Western Christianity and youth ministry in the coming years. The models of faith development and beginning in the narrative will be extremely helpful and insightful in working with students whose very lives and thus their stories are being fragmented, alienated, and disjointed from others, God, and themselves on a regular basis. The language and metaphors that Chris is exploring is powerful and helps put 'words to some of the things' many of us are thinking about in this round table of discussion and conversation. Be on the lookout for his new book that will most likely have the same title of this seminar to be coming out in the future.

I'd like to post some more comments and thoughts about both Mrs. Tickle's talk and Chris' seminar, but it is too late to dig out the notebook. Shey is knocked out already, it's late...and I've ended on a high note. I got to see Shey when I came back, and the place I came back from was Marko's suite. I spent the evening with Chris and some other guys who work with the newly joined Sonlife/YouthFront. They are doing some amazing stuff that youth ministry folks should check out.

I met some cool guys tonight, and unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk to Marko, but Chris, Doug, Len, Scott, Mark, and others made me feel right at home this evening. It was fun to meet some of the other speakers, and to see some of the ways these folks hang out together. There is a warm spirit of hospitality and graciousness that was great to be around. All in all, Day 2 was a good day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

NYWC in ATL Day 1

Shey and I are down in Atlanta this weekend for the National Youth Workers Convention organized by Youth Specialties. So far we are having a great time, running into old friends, and getting to hear some great stuff. My friend Chris is blogging about his time down here too!

Speaking at the first General Session today was Andy Stanley. My pastor is a huge fan, but up until this point, I had never really heard him speak, but had been given excerpts of books, seen some clips of some talks, but nothing from beginning to end. He came across as a pretty good guy, and I think even gets it on some stuff, in terms of Jesus displaying his understanding of leadership and "power" through washing the disciples feet. However, I think that he stretched the metaphor a bit, asking us to consider how we can utilize our power in the way of Jesus when we come to realize that we are the most powerful person in the room with the capability to greatly influence others. My first question was: What about Jesus or the Holy Spirit being present? Secondly, I wondered if there wasn't a better way to understand the relationship between ourselves and "the other people in the room" in terms other than leader/follower or powerful/less powerful. Nevertheless, his conclusions about serving others in humility were on target and provided some helpful insights about the nature of leadership.

This afternoon/evening, two amazing things happened. First I attended Mark Yaconelli's seminar on "The Dark Night of the Soul: When God is Absent." It was beautiful, the way he weaved the stories of Mother Teresa, his own, and his friends together to tell stories of the struggles with the inability to comprehend God and the process of doubt, waiting, darkness, purification, and trust that was involved in wrestling with the silence of God. Some of the stories brought tears to my dry, red eyes, worn tired from writing sermons and papers and getting up at 3:30 a.m. after going to bed at 12:30 a.m. last night. This was a wonderful gathering and time of reflection. I may try to post some of the notes sometime in the future. It was simply a wonderful seminar.

Lastly, Shane Claiborne got up, breathed fire, did a back flip, and then proceeded to tell the 5,500 youth workers that he was going to tell them the best sermon ever told. He read the entire Sermon on the Mount from Matthew's gospel, and then said "amen" and sat down. It was one of those times when you know the prophet has spoken. I don't think anybody knew what do after he walked off the stage...Tic Long allowed some room for silence which helped us to process and soak in the truth-telling done tonight from the pulpit. Talk about power...

It's been a good start to the conference. I am super-excited about Phyllis Tickle speaking tomorrow at the General Session. When she spoke at the last Emergent Convention in Nashville a couple of years ago, I was floored with her messages, stories, and depth. I can't wait for tomorrow morning.

I hope folks are well. Shey and I are really bummed to miss the baby dedications for the Vegas and Cullops. I hope things go well. We'll be thinking of you friends!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

latest sermon and something new

I preached on Sunday, and if you are interested, below are some links to listen or download the sermon, Shey said it was one of the best I've preached. It was short and sweet, and it was a new style for me. Almost completely narrative.

On Monday November 26, I am going to have an initial meeting with Father Lewis Fiorelli, as I am considering meeting with a Spiritual Director, and Father Fiorelli is taking a chance to spend some time with a Baptist Youth Pastor who is interested in ecumenical dialogue and the spirituality of St. Francis of De Sales. I really hope this works out, and I am looking forward to the experience, the questions, and the reflections that will come in meeting with Father Fiorelli.

Has anyone else had any experience meeting with a Spiritual Director? What was it like?

On Being A Pharisee

Article Pic

11/11/07 - Message Title: On Being A Pharisee, Josh Hayden
Right Click Here to Download mp3 OR Listen Live

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

two prayers

In light of some recent conversations about divergent points of view on some theology, these prayers have echoed the hopes of my heart:

God, you have prepared in peace the path I must follow today. Help me to walk straight on that path. If I speak, remove lies from my lips. If I am hungry, take away from me all complaint. If I have plenty, destroy pride in me. May I go through the day calling on you, you, O Lord, who know no other Lord.
Ethiopian Prayer (from The Divine Hours)

God be in my head
and in my understanding.
God be in my mouth
and in my speaking.
God be in my heart
and in my thinking.
God be at mine end
and my departing.
Sarum Primer, 1527 (from The Divine Hours)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

hittin' the mid-twenties running

Well, I did go running today, so I guess I actually did hit the mid-twenties running...but honestly, I have felt crazy busy lately, which has made it feel more like trudging through mud. This is a kind of crazy birthday, one where you feel like you are supposed to have come to some grand realization about your life, your direction, your "career," and yet I'm not feeling a lot of those pressures. When I was younger, I always wondered what I'd be doing at 25. I'm not sure what I ever thought I actually would be doing, but I thought it was an age where things would finally star to make sense. In all actuality, I'm just trying to soak everything in around me. I've had to preach a lot lately, which has caused a great deal of introspection, examination, and encouragement as I've tried to share from my life in relation to the scriptures the ways I've been able to see God in our midst. Some friends have shared some encouraging words after the sermons, and it has been great to experiment and try new ways of sharing the story of God in our world and in my life with others.

I don't think that I have it figured out what I'm going to "do" or "be" in terms of a career, but I'm beginning to realize in a deeper way how those things should not define us, but rather be an overflow of our lives and our hearts. Maybe it's just the Egyptian monastics starting to shake me up a bit, or maybe it is a lot of Dr. Toom's quotes of Augustine, but either way, I have to echo the words of the great bishop, in that if our reading of the scriptures do not inform us into living a life of charity, we may be correct on a technicality of understanding the scriptures, but we still do not understand them. (my paraphrase)

on a side note, my great friend has forever raved on and on about how a monkey playing baseball with Joey, or driving an 18-wheeler, is the best thing ever, or would be the best new friend. I however would like to state that i'd rather have a bird like this. monkeys suck, birds rule.

here's to 25.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

dinner at a monastery and a night at convergence

Last Wednesday night Shey and I joined friends Tom and his wife Lore for cocktails and dinner with the brothers in the order of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, at their house in DC. It was one of the best nights I have had in a long time. Hanging out with Tom and Lore was a lot of fun, and our time with the Oblates was wonderful. They were so kind and welcoming, making us feel right at home as soon as we walked in the door. Even though we were a few minutes late after taking a wrong turn after the metro, and thus missed evening prayers, it didn't phase them one bit. Marc Gherardi is a seminarian taking a class at Leland and was our host for the evening (you may remember him from a previous post). We had a round of drinks and hors d'oeuvre, then had dinner in this warm room, with these beautiful wood tables with tall-backed chairs. The food was absolutely amazing, pastas, vegetables, wine, and great desserts and coffee. We had great conversation, and Shey and I came away sensing a stronger unity in the body of Christ after this night, and having made some new friends. Brian Zumbrum is a first-year postulant, and was a great conversation partner throughout the night and helped us to feel at home along with Marc throughout the night. Micheal Castrilli helped keep the good beverages coming our way, and encouraged the singing of fight songs, great laughs, and an overall wonderful spirit throughout the night. This was a night that I won't soon forget, and I would encourage anyone looking for a place to do a retreat, or who is looking to make some new friends in an ecumenical setting, to meet some of the Oblates, especially the guys at the house in DC. Thanks for a great night friends!

On Sunday night, Shey and I went up with some good friends, Katie and Justin Straight, and Justin's younger sister and freshman at JMU, Anna Straight to Convergence. My pastor and the George's joined us for a contemplative and meditative evening together. My friends Todd Cullop and Lisa Hawkins are co-pastoring the church and leading the arts center piece of their community, in an effort to incorporate the arts into the DNA of their community of faith, and to give voice to artists as a whole. Other friends Harp 46 led the jazz service that night, and it was a wonderful night together of prayer, reading of scripture, and conversation. It was good to catch up with some friends I haven't seen in a while, and to worship together. If you are in the Alexandria/DC area, be sure to visit Convergence if you get a chance.

Harp 46 is going on tour and is starting to pre-order their new cd. Check out their website for more info! It was good to see folks on Sunday, David Hawkins, Tom and Lore, Scott Erwin, and all the Harp friends.

Monday, October 15, 2007

visiting friends

Shey and I went down to Williamsburg on Friday to visit our good friends Seth, Leah, and Judah. It was fun to see their new place, see where Seth works, and meet their new pastor. Leah dished up some awesome homemade pizzas and Seth and I saw JMU defeat William & Mary in overtime in men's soccer. As fast as life is right now, and as restless as it is making me feel, it was great to take some time and hang out with good friends, laugh, and just share life together. Judah, their 9 month old is a lot of fun, and has such a great makes me excited for Tim and Kristen as they prepare for their first child in the next few weeks!

Seth has a great gig right now, but it would be wise for anyone reading this blog to save this picture, because if Seth ever goes on the market again for a job, this picture will win over your search committee or congregation in a heartbeat. Eat your heart out Joel Osteen, you may have been on 60 Minutes last night, but a robe has never looked this good...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

reading week

So things never seem to slow down, but this week I've got a lot to try to finish up including a paper and applying for Advanced Placement classes and starting to research some Ph.D. stuff. After some discussion with our academic dean and a couple professors, I am considering to possibly continue my studies. Anybody have any recommendations of schools, professors, programs, etc.? Anybody know how to even start this process? I figure I will spend some time researching schools, examining programs and seeing what might be a good fit for what I'd like to study and the type of professors I'd get to work with. But really, I have no idea what I'm doing, and I don't even know where to start.

The academic dean who got the ball rolling with me, asking me to at least "consider" working on a doctorate, thought that Philosophy or Philosophy for Theology, or Philosophy of Religion, or Doctorate of Theology (at Duke) were some programs to consider....I'm not that smart, so I have no idea if any of this will work, or if I'll have the energy to go on for further studies. Yet at the same time, if i do want to continue to do this whole "pastoring" thing, I would like to be able to work and financially be more independent from having to be dependent on a church and the bulk of the community's tithes going towards running an organization. I think teaching could be a great job, and I'd love to consider teaching alongside pastoring.

Maybe I'm just crazy though. I'm pretty sure I am.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The un/known God

Continuing in Rollins' book How (Not) to Speak of God...

This is a subsection of Chapter two, and in this section of "The un/known God" Rollins' first paragraph helps immensely in our discussion of God's location and relationship to us in the midst of life, creation, the world, suffering, joy, etc.:

"What is beginning to arise from the discussion so far is the idea that God ought to be understood as radically transcendent, not because God is somehow distant and remote from us, but precisely because God is immanent. In the same way that the sun blinds the one who looks directly at the light, so God's incoming blinds our intellect. In this way the God who is testified to in the Judeo-Christian tradition saturates our understanding with a blinding presence. This type of transcendent-immanence can be described as 'hypernymity'. While anonymity offers too little information for our understanding to grasp (like a figure on television who has been veiled in darkness so as to protect their identity), hypernymity gives us far too much information. Instead of being limited by the poverty of absence we are short-circuited by the excess of presence. The anonymous and the hypernonymous both resist reduction to complete understanding, but for very different reasons."

...We've been having a discussion the last few weeks in the adult small group I'm in about the problem of God and the problem of evil, and how to talk about God and evil and the suffering people go through. Which has ultimately led us back to the notion and idea of prayer, and how God "answers" or "hears" or "responds" to our prayers.

I have mostly come to rest in this mystery of prayer as an act of posturing before God, "as the object before the ultimate Subject" or as the human at the feet of God. Prayer helps me to be aware of God's hypernymity in ways that I have been too busy or too selfish, or simply unaware of before. I have a hard time with God being outside of time or space because I believe God to not be distant because God is striking the hiesman pose and keeping us at arms length, but rather God is radically transcendent through being such a blinding light, that I cannot possibly capture God in the fullness of God's being, and totality of the reality of God's movement in the world with my senses. There is this sense that God is at work all around us and in us as a community in the midst of suffering and evil and is beautifully blinding to our senses because we cannot comprehend the abounding goodness and grace of God.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A good weekend and a new friend

This weekend marked the second Summit Lake Fall Retreat for senior high students that I've taken students on since being a youth pastor. We joined about 200 folks in a weekend of reflection, worship, conversation, and fun. The retreat was put together by a team of youth workers from NorthStar Church Network, which my church is a part of, and in the last three years as I've gotten more and more involved on the associational level, I've made some good friends, and been able to help create some positive experiences for students that help to push the confines of the conversation to new places. We were able to incorporate worship stations, great music, powerful breakout sessions, together with a thought-provoking and generous speaker Chris Folmsbee, to help us work into an on-going emerging conversation taking place in a theologically diverse group of churches. Last year my friends Harp 46 played for the entire weekend, and this year they were back for two of our four worship gatherings over the weekend. Hearing Harp 46 play live is such an amazing experience...whether we are singing "worship" songs or not, being in the same room while they do their thing is simply beautiful. Last night as Shey and I were discussing the retreat, we both kept coming back to Harp's worship sets, and how we just miss that kind of reflective, prompting music that offers more complexity and texture than the typical pop-worship we are accustomed to. Harp 46 also has added another member to the band, Amanda Lee, who has a tremendous voice, and did a fantastic job helping lead our students through a time of worship through music.

It was also really great for Shey and I to get to hang out with April and Nuc's son Lukas during their worship sets. There were some cool moments as Chris was talking about the importance of new life and how we are made in the image of God, to be able and look over to see such new life in some of the children there, like Lukas, it was very moving.

So we had a good retreat, and over the last couple of months in conversations and emails, and now after hanging out a bit, it was a blessing to be develop a new friendship. As I mentioned before, Chris Folmsbee was our speaker this weekend. He's the author of A New Kind of Youth Ministry, and is now the Chief Ministry Officer of YouthFront and President of the Sonlife division of YouthFront after the recent merger of the two ministries. (YouthFront and Sonlife) He did a great job speaking and helped urge the conversation amongst our students and youth workers to new places as we discussed being made in the image of God, holistically missional, life change and action, and the importance of being open-minded (amongst many other things). We had a chance to hang out for a bit on Saturday night, and it was encouraging to hear about the ways the YouthFront and Sonlife are coming together to help shape and stimulate the conversation and provide some great resources for future youth ministry. If you have a chance to hang out with Chris, or hear him speak, make sure you do. Thanks for a great weekend and great conversation Chris! Oh, and he's also blogged about his experience with us here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Heads Up

Today is a good blog day. There is a lot of great discussions and articles out there, and just a few to check out:

If you haven't read Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, I highly recommend it, and over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight is doing a fantastic job blogging through the book. Be sure to check it out.

Josh Brown, also of The Nick and Josh Podcast, has a great post raising issues from an article by Thomas Friedman (Friedman's article is also good), questioning whether the micro-level actions of consumers is actually making a difference or enacting a so-called "green revolution." This is a great post.

Lastly, there is an absolutely fantastic article written by Sally Morganthaler over at Allelon called Worship as Evangelism, that offers some strong and profound thoughts on the directions of mega-churches, contemporary worship, and the idea of worship as evangelism. A must read for worship leaders and church leaders. (ht: Jonny Baker)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

good morning

Good morning
Look at the valedictorian scared of the future
While I hop in the De Lorean
Scared-to-face-the-world complacent career student
Some people graduate, but we still stupid
They tell you read this, eat this, don't look around
Just peep this, preach us, teach us, Jesus
Kanye West, "Good Morning"

I had breakfast with Tim today, and after some good conversation and a trip to Target to pick up some fun for my man R.J. who is giving one of his kidneys to his cousin today, I was driving home and listening to Kanye's new album. I think the combination of the two classes I have on Tuesday nights is a recipe for some big change...I am taking a Mystical Theology class where we are studying the early Desert Fathers, followed by a class on preaching. While I am wrestling with both in very different ways, the readings and the classes are wonderful explorations of my most personal and communal theologies. Union with God and community, and the event of preaching.

As I was listening to the first track on Kanye's album "Good Morning", this morning, this verse (above) struck me in a way as another perspective of the promise I made to myself this year. I promised myself to start putting forth more of my own ideas, new theologies and perspectives that I am wrestling with and trying to articulate. Even though the teachers and preachers are often trying to convince me of "the" way to preach, view baptists, understand the reformation, or new theologies or expressions of church, I promised to start speaking up, questioning out loud more, and find my voice amidst the chorus around me. I'm not going to disregard or stop listening to these voices, these teachers and preachers, but I don't want to wake up years from now, and feel like I never digested what I was told or instructed or learned. I might just join Mr. West for a trip in the De Lorean this good morning.

Friday, September 14, 2007

So Two Youth Pastors and a Monk Walk Into a Bar...

And I got no punchline...but, last night I joined my friend Tom Lynch and my new friend Mark, a novitiate who is coming up on his possible ordination and taking perpetual vows into the diaconate in the coming months as he finishes his M. Div., at a bar last night, and couldn't resist the post title. We are taking a Baptist history class together, and thought we'd hang out a bit after class. Unlike my lame post, Mark told a couple great jokes last night, and we spent some time laughing, sharing our stories, and discussing some theology and was one of those times when you are so thankful to have the opportunity to study and dialogue with great people in a positive learning environment. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

sunflowers and social justice

I had a pretty busy day yesterday, up early to finish a paper and do some reading, upon which I was late to my Theology of the Psalms class with Dr. Smith that morning because of bad traffic, and then read The Life of St. Antony by Athanasius, and a chapter from Fred Craddock's book on preaching, then went to classes that night. It was a busy day, but it had a reflective start. In front of me yesterday morning was some sunflowers from the garden that reminded me of the need to slow down and live simply, and I was drinking out of a mug urging me to find a prophetic voice to cry out for injustice. Thanks to Andrea for the mug which she gave me after harvesting her garden while she was on vacation...

I hope folks are well. peace.

Monday, September 10, 2007

the goings on

So I preached on Labor Day weekend, and this past weekend I led a seminar for our association on youth ministry titled "Breaking Out of the Entertainment Model of Youth Ministry." If you'd like to download my latest sermon, you can right click here, select "save as" and download the sermon. If you'd like to simply listen to the sermon (I think in Real Player) click here. The sermon was called "Becoming Part of the Story of God" and I preached on the text of Mark 5:21-43.

School is in full swing, and for the most part I am really enjoying my classes. I sort of have these crises events after some nights, where sometimes I am like: "I am doing the right thing training to become a pastor. I love this." Other nights: "What am I thinking. I'm going to drag everyone down to hell right with me..."

I have come to realize that most of the doubts stem from my inability to disconnect what some professors or students believe that the "church" or "preaching" or "the Bible" must be understood as, in relation to new expressions and thoughts of about said subjects, doctrines, or theologies where I might be leaning into. I'm not really sure what I think about in terms of having a "calling" or a specific vocation. Who knows...

The garden is doing well. We have tons of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, and sunflowers. I ate my first watermelon from the garden and it was delicious. Big thanks to the McCarty's for their sharing of seeds, and help getting started. I have already learned so much this year, it makes me excited to try some new methods and grow some different plants next's everybody else?

Oh yeah, I can't forget that we had our first soccer game this weekend. Tim and I are playing on a new team this year, and we won our first game. Seth, you'd like these dudes and our one female teammate as well, she is really good, because they pass, and they work hard. Tim said he'd score a goal and dedicate it to you. He also said that he'd paint your face on his chest and after he scores, he'll pull the front of his shirt up onto his head and run around acting like he's flying, in his dedication-of-the-goal-to-Seth celebration.


Remember Peter Rollins? Well, let's see if we can't work through a bit more of How (Not) to Speak of God. If you remember, I was working through some of this fantastic book. Let's see if we can't work through the rest of it in the next couple of weeks. If you want to read from the beginning, go here, here, here, and here.

Continuing in Chapter 2, Rollins proposes this notion of God as hyper-present, super-present. "It means that God not only overflows and overwhelms our understanding but also overflows and overwhelms our experience (pg. 23)." So often, people talk about this notion of God being close, yet distant. This has to do with the realization that while we try to talk about God and know God, we come to realize that we can't capture God, and that even our best attempts to talk about God are limited. So in one sense there seems to be distance. Yet, in this distance, followers of Jesus also try to talk about God's immanence, the notion that God is not far away, and that God is intimately involved in the events of today. Yet it is hard to reconcile these notions of God being both distant and yet close at the same time.

So as Rollins describes God as hyper-present, the distance we feel or sense in our understanding of God is not because God is actually far away, but in reality, it is because our understanding of God is saturate with "a blinding presence (24.)." God is super-present, or "hypernonymous" in that God is so close, the presence of God in our midst overwhelms our senses and reality and we can only take in so much (24). This acknowledgment of God as hyper-present rests in the belief that God is the "absolute subject before whom we are the object (23)." In this sense, we are the object before God to be known, and rather than the other way around.

Rollins again clarifies saying that, "In this reading, Christ, as the image of the invisible God, both reveals and conceals God: rendering God known while simultaneously maintaining divine mystery. Here the God testified to in Christianity is affirmed as an un/known God (25)." If you sense a tinge of Eastern Orthodox and apophatic theology coming is beautifully mysterious isn't it? I had written a paper on Pseudo-Dionysius in the spring about the notion of knowing God in our unknowing, and Rollins articulates both the point of view of PD and the aftermath of theology in writing: " Pseudo-Dionysius argues that this knowing unknowing acknowledges its profound finitude and inability to grasp that to which the religious individual intends. This divine darkness represents a type of supra-darkness that stands in sharp contradistinction to the sub-darkness of desolate nihilism. While one is brought about by an absolute excess of light, the other results from a total absence; while one represents a higher form of unknowing that subverts reasoning, the other signals mere ignorance (28)." An absolute excess of light...that is a beautiful vision.

So to wrap up this monster post, and Chapter 2, we have talked before about our need to both speak about God, yet realize the limitations in out talk about God, and the need to realize that when we speak about God we are not capturing God with our thoughts, as though God is the object of whom we can capture. Instead, we recognize our need for an "epistemological silence" and as Rollins writes, "We must speak and yet we must maintain our silence, we maintain distance amidst the proximity of God, and we must worship while being careful not to make God into the object of our worship: for God is the subject before whom we worship (30)." Amen.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

first sunflowers, what a morning

We picked some of our first sunflowers yesterday. They brighten up the house, and because they are sunflowers with autumn-like colors, they remind me of the coming cool air and fall beauty ready to come. This will be our first full fall at the Owsley's house, and I'm really excited to be out here this fall, to have the leaves change, and the air become crisp. I put up a few pictures above of some of the sunflowers opened up this morning. Along with the sunflowers, I found a cool grasshopper resting on an unopened sunflower, and I caught a moment of the morning sun coming through the trees onto the garden. There is also a picture of one of the bigger pumpkins growing down at the garden. It's nothing compared to a lot of the bohemoths growing in the pumpkin patch that the Owsleys are growing for their "pick-your-own-pumpkin patch," but I'm happy that I got anything to grow this year.

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with Ben and Pedro, two of the high school dudes who live upstairs. Ben is the Owsley's youngest, and only son, (you may remember him from such other posts involving midnight gardening, or our zombie pictures) who has become a great friend. Pedro is the Brazilian foreign exchange student living with the Owsleys this year, and he seems like a great kid; I'm really enjoying getting to know him. We made some kickin' omlets yesterday filled with fresh veggies from the garden. It was sweet.

Lastly, I had a powerful moment this morning after reading a lot about some the Egyptian monastics, especially Antony, one of the desert fathers, and as I went to the garden, took some of the above pictures, and then went for a run in the morning sun and cool breeze...Sufjan Steven's "The Predatory Wasp of The Palisades Is Out to Get Us" came on, and the morning sun was shining bright. There were a couple tractors in the field, who had begun to make bales of hay yesterday. And in the beauty of the quiet morning, and in spirit of the mystics, and the great music, I was stirred in my soul for the first time in such a long time. What a morning.
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Friday, August 24, 2007

starting again

Well another semester is getting rolling. I'm taking a couple of classes I am really excited about, and a couple that could go either way. The ones that could go either way are "Preaching" and "Baptist Identity and History." Preaching can go either way because I've never had this professor, and am not sure how the class is going to work, so it could be great, or could be a major pain. Baptist Identity and History is going to help distinguish what some of the Baptist distinctives have been over time and history for Baptists. I am excited to learn some of it, but I think that some of the reading will be dry, and I may come out of the class shedding even more of my Baptist skin (which if you know me, you may wonder if I even have any Baptist flesh hanging on).

I am really excited about Historical Theology III which is the third of my historical theology classes, where we will study the European Reformations up through the Enlightenment. It is with one of the best professors I have ever had, Dr. Tarmo Toom. I am also taking another class with Dr. Toom called Mystical Theology: Spiritual Formation in the Early Church. It should be awesome. I'm also taking Theology of the Psalms with Dr. Bill Smith, pastor of a local church near my seminary who did his Ph.D. work on the Psalms, so this should be another great class.

It should be a great semester, but it is always intimidating to look at a fresh batch of syllabuses and wonder how all the work will ever get done. Here's to hoping for the best.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

so I think I'm going to start hunting

Because deer suck.

They ate most of my corn.

And I think that the time has come for me to learn how to shoot a gun, and take care of my antler-induced problem.

Friday, August 17, 2007

gardening, pickles, and the latest harvest

So I've sucked at posting lately, partially b/c the lovely civics-teaching wife and i traveled to see my youngest brother and family before he heads off to college, and partially b/c i have felt like i have too much to say, yet can't say anything. sometimes that's how things are you know?...the garden is doing well, though i'm having some big japanese beetle problems. they are making me want to leave my organic ways behind, and go on a high-speed, all-encompassing insecticide mission with all the pesticides and little tiny tweezers that i can find to spray and squeeze them to death.

below are some pictures of our first attempt at canning, we made pickles with a great friend Joel Lindsey, and there are some pics of this mornings harvest, along with some pictures of the garden before i left for MN to visit family. to be honest, what really makes me want to blog the most though is reading Wendell Berry. I'm currently working through Fidelity, a collection of five (short) stories, and i feel like the world is right again when i read Berry. i hope folks are well, and if anyone has any organic solutions to killing japanese beetles, please let me know!

Friday, July 20, 2007

some things i'm thinking about

so is anyone else excited about David Beckham? L.A. Galaxy is playing D.C. United in DC on August 9th...and I'd like to go if anyone else is interested...let's make it happen. I think our little Fauquier County Soccer Club has tickets that we can buy. i hope this helps soccer to take off a little more in the US.

i've got a paper to write due tomorrow and i leave for a trip with the students from my church where i youth pastor on Sunday. anybody want to write my paper for me? i have to write a paper discussing how the humanity of Christ relates to the situation where a husband has made it difficult for his wife to go to church has committed suicide, and then i have to allow my theology about that situation to inform my creation of a funeral service....

lastly, here is a pic from the garden of late. we had some beautiful thunderstorms yesterday and last night. which brought some great and needed rains, however, the wind blew so hard that it knocked over some of my corn, so i spent part of this morning standing them back up properly. we have some bell peppers starting to grow as well as some jalapeños. i've gotten to eat some banana peppers, and the rest of the stuff is flowering and growing well. hopefully the corn will rebound a bit after a rough go of it in the wind yesterday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

summer life

being about halfway through summer, i can't believe how fast the time is flying by, and how much there seems left to do. i have finally gotten into a good routine of reading. i finished The Kite Runner a couple of days ago and started on another novel called Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale that has been a quick read so far.

Shey had Lasik today, so i'm trying to get some stuff done while she sleeps after the surgery this afternoon. things went well...and over the next few days she should be healing up before we head out on a missions trip to my old hometown of Appomattox, VA on Sunday.

this summer has had a much different feel than summers past. there has been a lot of nagging pressure to "get things done" or to just "succeed" in some manner, whether work or school. i know a big part of it is that the summer just started off rough, with some hard things happening with friends, with my grandfather's death, and some busy-ness with school and family. the summer just hasn't been as settling as i hoped for...maybe after the trip next week things will feel better?

well, enough complaining. i've really been enjoying Wilco's new album Sky Blue Sky (even though some reviews have been kind of hard on the chillness of the album, it is up there in the top three for me of all Wilco albums). Ryan Adam's new album Easy Tiger is great too. And lest you think that I'm not still watching birds, here is a picture from a farm up the street with a bird that I'd venture to say is not quite native to VA:

Monday, July 02, 2007


Well, I'd like to come back to Rollins finally, in an exploration of his second chapter of How (Not) to Speak of God. As I write I'm listening to Ryan Adam's Easy Tiger and on the advice of Jonny Baker I've also picked up Sinead O'Connor's newest titled Theology. Both are tremendous albums and I highly recommend them! I've never owned or really listened to Sinead O'Connor much, but I'm really blown away by the content of this double album.

So Rollins' second chapter is titled "The Aftermath of Theology" and in this chapter he seems to be describing the role and view of theology in light of previous chapter's critique of ideology and the notion that we can somehow capture or colonize God through our ideas of God. He proposes that we see ourselves as the object of theology where theology is created through our lives as God speaks into them. Theology is less a human discourse about God where we debate ideas and notions of God; instead, theology is the place where God speaks into human life and discourse. Rollins goes on to write of theology:

"It is no longer thought of as a human discourse that speaks of God but rather as the place where God speaks into human discourse. In other words, theology is understood as the site in which revelation makes its appearance in the world, the place in which theos (God) impacts, and overwhelms, the human realm of logos (reason). Consequently we do not do theology but are rather overcome and transformed by it: we do not master it but are mastered by it (pg. 21)."

So in this view of theology, the traditional modes of the relationship are subverted and redefined. God is now the subject unto which all of creation and humanity are object to. This helps us immensely to be free from the temptation and task from trying to reduce God into an object for our consideration. "God is not a theoretical problem to somehow resolve but rather a mystery to be participated in." (pg. 22) This is such a freeing notion to me that I need not worry or think that it is somehow of my ability to comprehend God as God really though if i just read the Bible enough or studied enough, or could just "get it right" then I would be able to reach a new level or plane in knowing God. Instead, in this journey of faith, theology becomes the mystical union and exploration of the revelation of God in my own life and the life of my community as God works among us.

I'm going to stop here in Chapter 2 and start next where Rollins talks about God as "hyper-present" because I think that this is one of the most important concepts in the book that discusses how God is present with us in revelation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

so i preached...

I don't preach too often at the church where I'm youth pastor at (probably for a number of very good reasons!), but this past Sunday I got to throw all my cards on the table and share a message from the pulpit, that is the music stand in the elementary school gym where we have our worship gatherings. I preached a sermon titled "The Kingdom of God: God With Us." I explored and visited the text of Lamentations 3:15-26 as a meditative reading and responsive reading during different parts of the service, and preached on Luke 4:14-30.

If you'd like to download the sermon right click here and "save as" to download the sermon. If you'd like to stream the sermon, simply click here and you you'll be redirected to stream and listen now to the sermon.

Some of you may know that the last six weeks or so have been some difficult grandfather passed away just as finals were beginning for seminary, I got poison ivy so that I couldn't walk, my mother-in-law broke her ankle, and since Shey's only sister who requires full-time care as a result of a car accident a number of years ago was devoid of a care giver who could get around...Shey and I moved in to the in-laws house for a few days each week for a few weeks to help out. My youngest brother C-$$ graduated high school, and I had crazy papers to write to finish up school which all hit in a short amount of time. And as I was preaching and sharing about God being those who are down-and-out, the vulnerable, the blind, the poor and the downcast...I was moved deeply as I was realizing the depth to which God is with us in the midst of an embodied community.

I'm no great preacher, but I am thankful for the chances to share a little bit of where I am going in my journey with Christ in the midst of a larger community that I am a part of.

Hopefully the summer will slow down a bit from here. I'm trying to read some literature and novels along with some theology this summer and play a little Wii if I get a chance. Anybody read The Kite Runner? That's one of the highest on my list for the summer, it kind of skipped up the list after listening to a recent podcast with Greg Horton over at The Parish and with Wired Otherwise, just trying to chill out a bit for the first time in a while it seems...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

midnight gardening

okay, so it wasn't quite midnight...but it was easily11:30 before all was done. i didn't have a chance to water the garden yesterday, and it was quite warm the last couple of days, so i asked the lovely wife and great friend Ben Owsley (who is the son of the Owsley family whose apartment we are renting) to join me in a special activity of which i like to call "midnight gardening." we gathered up some headlamps, pointed the truck lights onto the garden and watered away. we laughed a lot and got some sweet pictures. here's a picture of the three of us doing what we do best:

and in this picture Ben and I are doing our best zombie killer impression:

and lastly a nice picture of Shey and Ben as we gathered our watering buckets in the back of the truck and headed back home:

i'm taking a class this weekend on the theology of the pastor, and then preaching on sunday. the sermon title is "The Kingdom of God: God with Us" and the text will be Luke 4:14-30. i'll be sharing some of the things going on with Shey and I as we've had some hard stuff happening with family, and preaching on the importance of both being in community and including and welcoming people into the community that Jesus talks about from Luke 4.

i've got some rollins stuff i'd like to share, but will probably have to wait until next week. we'll see.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

where it all started

Hey is where the garden started...with a rototiller given to me by a good friend's family (it's 18 years old) when they moved to Colorado (thanks to the Walls) and the lawnmower is borrowed from the family we are renting from. So starting from these pictures the evolution and creation of the garden begins. You can see the latest pictures from the garden in an earlier post below this one. This has been such a great time to be outside in beauty and putting my hands in the dirt. It has been wonderful, beautiful...and so much more than my words can convey. When you are out there, with the birds singing, your hands in the dirt, pulling weeds, seeing the new life of green plants shooting through the dark dirt after a cool rain, and seeing new life emerge from is a glorious thing to be a part of.

While I don't have a cherry tree, this poem by Wendell Berry in Given from his Sabbath poems of 2002, poem V, describes the beauty of walking in the garden amidst the life and light of nature, with birds and gardening together, what else could I hope for?:

The cherries turn ripe, ripe,
and the birds come: red-headed
and red-bellied woodpeckers,
blue jays, cedar waxwings,
robins--beautiful, hungry, wild
in our domestic tree. I pick
with the birds, gathering the red
cherries alight among the dark
leaves, my hands so sticky
with juice from the fruit will hardly
drop from them into the pail.
The birds pick as I pick, all
of us delighted in the weighty heights
-the fruit red ripe, the green leaves,
the blue sky and white clouds,
all tending to flight--making
the most of this sweetness against
the time when there will be none.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

not since third grade...

Well, not since third grade have i gotten poison ivy. And even then i didn't get it bad...well, after my visit to the doctor today, i learned that as you get older, your body becomes less capable of fighting off attacks compared to the younger years. And thus, I have for the first time become a walking, swollen-legged, puss-ing, poison-ivy getter. Below, you can see the's kind of gross, just for a heads up!

Sorry for the lack of blogging. These past six weeks have been some of the craziest since Shey and I have been together...and that is saying a lot considering some of the hardships we've been through with family and friends in the last couple of years of marriage, and dating. There has been some hardships with some friends, finals and final papers for seminary, my grandfather passed away, and my mother-in-law broke her ankle on Memorial Day. Which normally wouldn't be a big deal, but Shey's only sister was in a car accident almost seven years ago now, and she requires full-time care. So Shey and I have been trying to wrap up school, recover from the busy-ness of the end of the semester and my grandfather's passing (which there will be some posts to discuss in the future) and now caring for Shey's great family, which means her sister Emily and mom who now is the proud owner of seven screws and a metal plate in her ankle. It's been bananas. But you know, things have a way of working out. It's not easy, and a lot of times it isn't fun, and i certainly don't think "God brings us through this to teach us a lesson" or to "understand the hope of the future in heaven when things will be OK" but rather that when walking with God, we find strength to keep our heads up when they only seem to want to fall, and we find friends and community who will walk through the hardships with us when all we feel is alone. And most of all, we see that God has never left us.

Don't get me wrong, I hope things calm down soon. I hope that I can get my 25-page paper done on time. I hope that Shey or I don't have some sort of grand mental break-down. I hope that Shey's mom heals quickly. I hope my brother's graduation goes well this weekend. I hope this disgusting poison ivy goes away soon. I hope for many things, many things's funny, that in getting this poison ivy again for the first time in years (and I grew up in the country where we used to play in poison ivy and not care one bit and I never got it) sometimes I feel like I have come back to some of the same mysterious wonder in my understanding and view of God that enraptured me as a child. I don't always understand how or why this stuff happens, and sometimes I'm pissed about it, but this mystery wraps me up and brings me in even when I want to run away.

On a lighter note, and McCarty's if you're still out there reading...the garden is blooming and alive! (So far of course!) Thanks again for the seeds! I'll post some pics soon of the garden that has been a safe haven of joy for me, and a blessing to share with Shey as we endeavor to live more simply and sustainably. mmmmmm...squash, corn, zuccini, tomatoes, watermelons, cantelopes, and more!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

early Wednesday morning

it's early in the morning, and i've not quite made it to bed after a long day of writing papers and figuring out life. i had a great night with a good friend after classes tonight, we talked, laughed and shared life together.

it's been kind of a crazy week, writing papers to wrap up classes, studying, and spending some time with family. of a sad note, and more importantly, my grandfather passed away Monday evening after a long bout with some chronic back issues and congestive heart failure. it's always kind of crazy to go from hospital situations and spaces of hurt and grieving into "normal" spaces of laughing, papers, work, busy-ness over the last few days. yet sometimes i realize that becoming immersed in kind of so-called normal life helps to remind us that life and loss are normal parts of the grand narrative. it hits close to home with Pa-Pa being the last grandfather on my side of the family to be alive. and it also makes me think a lot about being a pastor and the emotional weight in being in community with people and walking through painful situations together.

i'm sure all of this is a jumbled mess, not really making any sense, partly because it is so late, partly because the majority of my brain is wrapped around unknowing in Pseudo-Dionysius' apophaticism, and partly because i have a million things running through my mind while i just want to spit out a couple of sentences. (most of which the things running around in my head are how i totally blew the final in my medieval theology class because things got crazy with my family this weekend and i didn't really get to study as i hoped...)

anyway. i've got two more papers to write in the next three weeks, but classes are over for now. i'll be getting back to more blogging and hopefully sharing some pics from the Hayden Farm. i hope all are well...

Monday, May 14, 2007

hot diggity dang

It's 11 a.m. on Monday morning, and I've gotten some stuff done, and not enough all at the same time. I've got about 60-65 pages of papers to write in the next five weeks. I've really enjoyed my classes this semester, but there just doesn't seem to be enough time for everything! My grandfather is back in the hospital, and with my parents 20 hours away by car, there is some implicit responsibility and worry that I have in trying to keep some things together for them in looking out for their folks. Church is in the crazy spin that goes into the summer (which I have thankfully gotten to slow down!). And I've got classes tonight and tomorrow, and the next week are finals and a lot of papers being due! And let's not forget that the wonderful, teacher wife's exhaust pipe fell off of her car...

With all that on the plate right now, I have to say, last night, working to get the garden going with my great wife couldn't have been any more amazing. I was rototilling more of the soil (pictures to come soon) and Shey raked out a lot of the grass from my previous adventures of rototilling and then started shoveling compost in for the final batch of tilling before planting this week. The weather was absolutely perfect and the sun was setting with a guy on his tractor in the other field, the stream was rushing nearby, and a beautiful barn and silo in the next field over set the honestly couldn't have calmed my heart more. The great family we are living with has had some tractor trouble, they were going to help speed the garden making process up for me by plowing a small section for the I waited a bit for that to happen, which then couldn't b/c the plow got stuck on the tractor, so getting the garden started took a bit more work...but I love being out there. It is so amazing to enjoy the outside again...and the time with Shey was perfect.

I hope all is well folks. I'm going to get back to Rollins' soon. But I've got Pseudo-Dionysius, Christian Ethics, Eschatology & Spiritual Formation, and Who is God to be finishing up in the next couple of weeks. I will try to get to Rollins again post-finals. Otherwise its papers, gardening, and hanging out with the Mrs. and church stuff right now....peace.

Friday, April 27, 2007

post-Christendom, black theology & black power, and Jesus Camp

Well, it seems like the schoolwork never ends, and honestly, the overwhelming number of powerful books with rich perspectives and deep theologies of hope and prophetic voices keep finding their way into the house. I just finished Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective by Craig Carter this morning en route to Black Theology & Black Power by James Cone for my Theology and Culture class. We've been reading some great stuff in this class, and we are finishing up by choosing a theologian of our choice and finding out how their culture informs and invites their theology and perspective. I have chosen James Cone, author of the above mentioned Black Theology & Black Power as well as a number of other books, including A Black Theology of Liberation which I will also be reading for class. Race, racism, race relations, history, and liberation theologies have been forever knocking around in my mind, and so I thought that it would be good to start close to home before striking out into a more global perspective (thus I'm starting with Cone).

Last night, Shey and I watched Jesus Camp, a documentary that focused on a fundamentalist and pentecostal prayer and evangelical camp for children (with some young pre-teens, e.g. 12 years old). It was a hard movie to watch, not because I don't think that such radicalism is capable of happening, but because I have finally realized the primary location of my frustration with the majority of the political endeavor as typically understood by evangelical Christians: Christendom is assumed to be both necessary and the primary means of the kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

In Rethinking Christ and Culture, Carter points out, that the downfall of H. Richard Niebuhr's work Christ and Culture is the assumption that Christendom, i.e. the alignment of the nation-state and the church, is the primary (and necessary) means of God's will being done on earth in coordination with the church. Jesus Camp highlighted this thinking clearly, when the leaders of the children's camp highlighted that these young ones would become part of God's army to bring America back to its Judeo-Christian roots and lead this nation in the fight against abortion and radical Islam. My question isn't whether necessary changes should be made to highlight the significance of human life in all places and the dangers of radical fundamentalism in any religion, but rather this: have Christians, of either the liberal (who hope that by co-opting the state for its own tasks, e.g. taking care of the poor) or conservative (who use the state to legislate its own moral views, e.g. abortion and homosexuality) stripe, placed their hope and power in the hands of a fundamentally distorted power which wields and controls its power by the sword, and is at its roots incompatible with the radical call of Jesus to nonviolence and discipleship?

I think that Carter's book offers a prophetic critique of the notion that Christendom was a profitable experiment for the church, and I think that Jesus Camp highlights the seriousness of the loss of perspective in the church and uncovers the uniqueness in the message of Jesus that finds hope in the Lordship of Christ, rather than the powers of this world. Just in case you haven't heard about this movie, which is very fairly done and has been well received by those in the documentary itself, below is a trailer. I highly recommend you watch this movie at some time. The filmmakers (Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady) also directed Boys of Baraka, which I have posted on before, and which is an extremely powerful look at the state of the school system in Baltimore City and the long-lasting effect of racism. Below is a trailer for Jesus Camp.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

God rid me of God

Chapter One of Rollins' work How (Not) to Speak of God is titled "God rid me of God" and is a rumination and exploration of idolatry. What is idolatry in light of postmodernism? How can our concepts of God become idolatrous?

As I start to write, I'm listening to The Arcade Fire's newest album Neon Bible, specifically the song "Intervention." If churches had organists who could blow up the organ like this in church, then by all means, bring back traditional instruments into the service as fast as possible! Sorry for the aside, but this album is awesome.

Back to Rollins. There is a lot to think about in this chapter, with a lot of the content dealing with epistemology (the study of how we know things). What do we mean when we say we know God? Do we believe that we know God as God really is? Is that even possible? One of the great insights that postmodernism has helped to develop, and Rollins clearly calls for this, is a high level of epistemological humility. What we know about God must be girded by a deep-rooted humility that acknowledges our limits in understanding God as God really is. This does not mean that we don't need to try to know God, but rather come to the place where we can realize that our understanding and knowledge of God is good, but always limited and wrapped in mystery. Rollins writes at the end of the chapter:

"In short, the emerging conversation is in a unique place to acknowledge the long-forgotten insight that God hides in God's visibility, realizing that revelation embraces concealment at one and the same time as it embraces manifestation and that our various interpretations of revelation will always be provisional, fragile, and fragmentary. While all of the Church has maintained that there is a revealed and hidden side of God, the difference here is that we are rediscovering the Barthian insight that even the revealed side of God is mysterious (pg. 18)."

Rollins points out that it is necessary for us as Christians to realize that "God hides in God's visibility," that is, that even the parts of God God shows us, we see in part, never in full. This should raise some questions about whether God is far away, or able to be known at all, and this will be discussed in further chapters, but I'll end with an illuminating comment by Rollins:

"Hence revelation ought not to be thought of either as that which makes God known or as that which leaves God unknown, but rather as the overpowering light that renders God known as unknown (pg. 17)."