Archive for July, 2005|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2005 at 5:21 pm


on wednesday night i had the privilege of attending a wake for leanne’s grandmother. as we stood in the spectacularly clean, softly lit viewing room, i was amazed by how many friends and family members had come to pay their respects, say a prayer and speak a kind word to leanne’s family. there were so many people there that the funeral directors had removed a divider to accommodate more people. apparently, even that did not provide enough space for the visitors for people were scattered throughout the entire building, laughing and sharing, embracing and consoling one another. i was incredibly moved by the experience, for it was a living illustration of the beauty of a large, loving, deeply committed extended family.

though a bastard, God blessed me with the same type of family. i have had the privilege of being raised not only by my parents, but by two sets of grandparents and three sets of aunts and uncles. moreover, i don’t have eight cousins so much as i have eight friends who i grew up fighting with, loving and protecting. i have also been blessed with a number of close family friends who i would not hesitate to lay my life down for and have little doubt that they would do the same for me. have i mentioned that i have a brother who i love so much that it hurts? have i mentioned that i grew up in a church that was full of people that believed in me when i did not believe in myself, loved me when i was by all accounts unlovable and pointed me towards my vocation when i was totally ignorant of God’s call?

so on wednesday night, while i stood in that clean room that was lit by the love and warmth of family that I was reminded of the sacrifice that i have made. because the God of blessing has called me to be an instrument of His blessing to all people, i have left the warm, centrifugal center of my family and have been flung out to this far corner of the country to shed God’s grace and Christ’s compassion upon these people and the world. i am glad that i have responded to God’s call, but i am not unaware of the cost.

i am not unaware of the cost. because i have sacrificed so much to be in new england, i better make my life count. initially, this line of reflection led me to focus on the desire to make a name for myself and adorn myself with individual accomplishments. but that is not what God is calling me to. instead, he is calling me to make my life count by being a part of a redemptive community that is incarnating His love and extending his compassion to the people in this particular place. at the end of my life i do not want to be known for something i have accomplished, but i want to be known as a part of the redemptive community that God has created in this place. life does not consist in the abundance of riches, Jesus teaches us, and i don’t think life consists of lists of individual accomplishments either. rather, i think life is characterized by the goodness, beauty and truth of God that has been planted within us and the beautiful harvest of the field in which we have been planted.


In Uncategorized on July 29, 2005 at 3:42 pm


“i use these words pretty loosely…
there’s so much more to life than words” ~OTR, latter days

“tell mr. man with impossible plans to just leave me alone
in the place where i make no mistakes
in the place where i have what it takes” ~elliott smith, waltz #2

“there are two kinds of people:
sinners who think they are saints
and saints who know they are sinners” ~pascal, pensees

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2005 at 6:01 pm

a long overdue confession

dear readers, i must make a confession. i am a calculating, undercover agent of the customer (secret) service. to my co-workers i am simply a comrade in arms, a simple customer service representative who longs to fulfill lifeway’s mission of salvation by softcover. however, to my controller, i am a confidant and source of information, a Christ-centered, corporate killer who can scarcely conceal his sinister ambition.

although evidence of my true identity abounds, the lemmings that languish in the cubicles next to me remain quite clueless. thus, they do not know when they are chastised by the controller for excessive chattiness, that i was her primary source of information. further, they are unaware that the reason i am unexpectedly released from monotonous projects is so that i can engage in phone center surveillance and counter-surveillance. finally, when apparently composing salvific spam, my “comrades” do not know that i am encoding messages (often utilizing keywords like pearl, penetrate and purpose) that will reveal their blatant inefficiencies and illegal access of company facilities to my controller.

i am a cube dweller with connections. i am the customer (secret) service. do not fuck with me.

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2005 at 8:20 pm

you can’t force comedy

somewhere past lost creek, but a bit short of nutter fort, a couple of friends traversed I-79. their caffeine fueled, kerouac infused journey felt less like a relocation than an epic, for somehow, in the midst of this dissonance, dreams that had died bled onto sheets of new desire. as a result, neither new birth nor death seemed remote.

as they passed nutter fort two roads diverged, two pills were offered, two doors stood open. i could clarify the options and speak of conclusions foregone and forgotten, but wonder whether it would matter. the roads diverged and the stories unraveled, producing some episodes that were manic and others that were morose. so the story went and so it goes.

my only hope, indeed my half-hearted prayer, is that the stories unravel to the beat of burroughs and the storyteller is indeed sympathetic.

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2005 at 4:13 pm

somewhere between memory and mirage, half-submerged in the stream-of-consciousness

propelled by the current and the contents of our cans we moved forward, but made little progress. for the first half of the trip i had a secure place in the center of the canoe. chris manned the bow, steve manned the keel, i manned the cooler. the early summer heat and our indifferent attitude towards lunch made the day seem more like a mirage than a concrete experience. looking back i remember images, emotions and snippets of conversation, but i have little feel for where the real story ends and personal myth begins. yet, as muddled as it may be, i am compelled to tell the story.

so, as i said, we were moving forward, but making little progress. our stated purpose was not progress but diversion. and diversion we found a plenty. every quarter mile or so we scratched the hull on another makeshift island and crashed a party. though we knew each other as outcasts, we chose not to let the strangers in on such secrets. so when they invited us to share our beer, smoke their weed, sample the texture and taste of their bodies, we did so. some of us more than others. if memory serves, i was one of the former. i think it was for that reason that i lost my privileged place in the boat and was left alone with a life jacket, dependent upon the current to make my way. i was so thankful that my six was buoyant.

at some point near the end of our excursion our case of key vanished. fortunately a couple of beautiful bodies floated by and graciously endowed us with additional supplies. flush with our good fortune we set our sights on the cliffs. once we landed steve and i scrambled up the side with sufficient supplies. our stated plan was to empty our hands before plunging into the waters below. while steve shotgunned i sought an angle that would enable me to douche our dear friend in the canoe below.

somewhere between a piss and my second can, i heard something pull up behind us. expecting more good fortune, of which this day seemed to be full, i turned my head expectantly…and was immediately disappointed. immediately deducing our plan the ranger informed us of impending danger. he then began with the questions. when he asked if i was of age i answered the affirmative. when he asked for evidence i took a draught of courage, shook my head and laughed. the officer asked, indeed he assumed, that i had seen such circumstances before. when i validated his assumption he had to question, “why don’t you stop drinking?” i shrugged my shoulders indifferently and countered “why don’t they change the law?” he laughed heartily and handed over the ticket almost remorsefully, promising that if i paid the fine the punishment would not have to match the crime.

it was in that moment, between my encounter with the half-hearted ranger and the adrenaline deficient plunge, that something within me clicked. a transition took place and i knew i would never be the same.

so i burned my bridges, abandoned those i had called friends and eventually repented while shanking shots at the driving range. i honestly think that i chose to follow Jesus not so much because of conviction or belief, but simply because the road was different. i figured that the narrow road could not be more meaningless than the broad, so i set out upon it.

that was almost nine years ago. since that time, i’ve moved forward, but made little progress. my eyes are still open to diversion and that anti-authoritarian son of a bitch that told off the trooper still emerges from time to time. nevertheless i am so thankful that something within me clicked. for as meaningless and random as the journey sometime seems, i think it is more substantial than the one that preceded it. every once in a while, the present moment definitely excluded, life seems less like a mirage and more like a concrete experience. for this i am thankful.

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2005 at 11:35 am

i have a sneaking suspicion that…

somewhere along the road i sacrificed excellence on the altar of mediocrity

there is such a thing as godly ambition, but cooperation still trumps competition

there are some wounds that do not heal

npr is going to drive me fund-drive crazy with non-stop reporting on john roberts. the morning nyt email featured a quote from robert’s eighth grade teacher. i only wish i was kidding

bush will spin the rove affair more effectively than clinton spun the blow job

i am being sustained not only by Christ, but by His body

i am going to work at lifeway for longer than i initially intended. so i might as well make the best of it

the pre-publication galley copy of doug pagitt’s preaching re-imagined is going to arrive today

that the (very) few of you that are interested in preaching are going to be treated to an interview and short review that will be posted on this site

it is time to open the indulgence box and go to work

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2005 at 3:47 pm

memorandum from captain random

here are a few ideas, opinions and impressions that have been ricocheting through my small skull. although i would like to shoot a single, well aimed bullet, today i must rely on the buckshot approach.

when i entered my cube this morning a book was sitting next to my keyboard. the title was conquering insecurity. is some passive aggressive little shit trying to tell me something?

recently devoured: nick hornby’s a long way down and j.k. rowling’s harry potter and the half-blood prince. one of my goals for this site is to provide 50-100 reviews for every word i read. unfortunately, i don’t have time to provide those right now, so i’ll have to satisfy for a couple of quick hits. first, i read hornby because he has a deep, abiding interest in the humanity of his characters and he describes the movement from independence to interdependence better than any fiction writer i have read. i am happy to say that in this new novel he does not disappoint. moreover, i read rowling because i enjoy her masterful characterizations, her ability to provoke a sense of wonder and her unexpected plot twists. her latest effort is an excellent illustration of her skill. as a side note, i really enjoyed the conversation i had with art about the new novel. in the midst of our conversation he revealed his rather impressive interpretive skill. thanks brutha! now…the rest of you need to finish the novel so that we can discuss it (via email of course…we wouldn’t want to ruin the reading of others).

wendy williams from newton presbyterian called me on monday to connect. wendy is deeply intrigued by the emerging church conversation and is interested in entering into our ongoing conversation. welcome to the conversation wendy! i hope that you feel at home in our little virtual community and will look forward to your thoughts/reflections/opinions. a side note here as well…i have been truly blessed by those i have connected with (including jamie, erik, becky, leanne, wendy, etc.) on account of this blog. i never knew that a medium such as this could be so generative.

one of the things i like best about serving with sinners and saints is that it is an exercise not only in leading, but in being led. currently inquiring minds such as dr. james, craig and fletch are leading me towards a deeper immersion in the discipline of theological discourse. i am glad that my theological inquiry is being compelled by the ongoing development of God’s community instead of the demands of academia. this renewed interest has encouraged me to delve into stanley grenz’s theology of the community of God, which i hope will ground me in Trinitarian theology and (if warranted) help me move beyond a foundationalist approach and mark noll’s the rise of evangelicalism, which i hope will help me understand the way that leaders like edwards and wesley pursued holistic ministry in their particular contexts.

i am kicking around the idea of starting an emergent cohort in our area. the purpose of this group would be to discuss the ways that God is calling us to incarnate His gospel and Christ’s compassion in our particular contexts. we would read and discuss pieces by intriguing theologians and practitioners that would help us incarnate the gospel in our area and would fight to move our conversations beyond the level of abstraction. sound interesting? if so, shoot me an email at you can find more information about emergent cohorts here. if a number of you are interested we could either join an existing group in boston (which appears inactive) or start a new one.

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2005 at 2:54 am

not that it matters to you

first it was rob neyer, whose columns i read religiously. then it was buster olney, who had me at last night of the yankee dynasty. now has made peter gammons, the commissioner!, an insider columnist. well fuck this fucking game!

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2005 at 12:27 pm

happy haiku friday!

in the warm waters

a tempest begins to spin

the fool ventures in

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2005 at 12:02 pm


last weekend, in an aside unrelated to an ongoing conversation, i told kellie that i had failed a friend.

this friend was a key component of the twenty-something small group i led for several years. she is a beautiful, free-thinking woman who did not hesitate to introduce wiccans to our small community of Christians and taught me, as well as the small circle that reads the boston globe, how to put a human face on homelessness. she has been homeless and has studied at harvard, she has written for spare change (a local newspaper written by the homeless) and spoken at universities throughout the country. she is truly a remarkable woman.

of course, she is also a magnet for trouble and tragedy. after enduring three car wrecks in a sixteen month period, none of which she was liable for, she was diagnosed with brain injury. this degenerative condition rendered her susceptible to seizures and spinal meningitis and made it impossible for her to work. since her home state has very few social services, she found herself living on the streets of boston and constantly navigating the swamps and switchbacks of mass health. did i mention that her family rejected her when she decided b.j.u. (that’s bob jones university. stop laughing) wasn’t the ideal environment for her education? did i mention that people from her fundamentalist youth constantly call to berate her and draw direct parallels between her refusal to wave the flag of the five fundamentals and her constantly declining health? did i mention that i, one of her last connections to the faith, failed her by scrupulously maintaining my distance lest she inhibit the forward motion of my ministry?

so i guess it is confession time. i failed her because i was afraid. i didn’t know how to solve her problems. i couldn’t help her navigate a social health system that she knows better than me, i couldn’t treat a single one of her ever-increasing number of maladies, i couldn’t be bothered by a phone call a day. so i let our connection unravel. and i’ve felt like shit about it ever since.

after admitting my failure to kellie, i promised myself that i would call her this week. i knew she had been in the hospital for some time and i wanted to check on her health and maybe plan a visit.

she beat me to the punch. yesterday afternoon, i was shaken out of a well-studied stupor by a phone call from my friend. i took the call and was immediately greeted by a twinge of anxiety in her voice. people had been calling her cell phone and asking for me. we didn’t know why this was happening, unless….unless it had to do with the t-mobile contract that i co-signed with her almost two years ago. by the way that she recounted the situation, it sounded like the calls were from a collection agency. and so they were.

after calling the agency, and dealing with some customer servant pissant who thought he could push me around, my first thought was, “this figures. if you stand my a magnet like her, the shit is going to hit you as well.” fortunately, in that moment, i was reminded of my master’s words to not be anxious. furthermore, i began to suspect that walking with my friend through shit like this, instead of keeping my distance lest the smell taint my “ministry,” is what following Jesus is all about.

so i’ve made plans to see her this weekend in order to look through the details of that contract and simply connect. i have this sneaking suspicion that there is a direct, causal correlation between my love for her and my love for God. if i want to move deeper into the latter, i need to walk forward with the former.

post scriptum: friend, if you’re reading this, please know that i love you. keep on keepin’ on.

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