August 3, 2008

urban farming

urban farming

for the last few months i’ve been trying my hand at farming… well, at least at growing some green things. last summer, i think, i picked up $1 radish grow kit. it sat on a shelf for almost a year until late this spring i tore open the seed packet, broke up the prepackaged dirt pellet, and added a few teaspoons of water.

yesterday i noticed some flower buds on one of the three healthy (surviving) plants (i started with twelve… i may not be all green thumbs).

little flower buds

little flower buds

today the buds burst forth into radish flowers. i didn’t even know radishes grew flowers. i’m a pretty proud gardener.

little flowers

radish flowers

radish flowers


as cindy has already adverted, we’ve been experiencing some internet connection difficulties over the last month. but i hope we have them straightened out now. something about IP addresses and passwords and the need to meet up with one of my neighbours at a local cafe.

this missing month has been full of seeking direction, making surprising connections, and then losing both just as quickly, only to stumble on them once more. it began with a church-planting conference the second week of may. cindy and i have played with the idea of starting new churches since well before we were married four years ago; our seven months in macedonia with a church-planting mission helped put a little flesh and bone on the real life struggles of growing new churches. this idea has lain dormant for the last two years of my grad program, but with its close, new possibilities our pushing up all over the place.

so we found ourselves attending a nine-hour series of seminars everyday for a week up at trinity evangelical div school (a good half-hour without traffic/hour and a half with traffic drive from our apartment). going in, i had serious misgivings about how “evangelical” the conference would be. some more liberal friends earnestly warned me that the evangelical free church in america (the organization putting on the conference) supports the subjugation of women and prohibits any critical, scholarly investigation of faith and practice. the last thing i wanted was tutelage in how to prop up the status quo.

what i found during the week, however, was an organization wholeheartedly dedicated to the multiplication of local congregations as a testimony to the gospel. far from towing some doctrinaire line, they are more than ready (for better or for worse) to latch on to whatever innovations or reformations that will help “transform consumers into disciples.” the experience was definitely a mixed bag, admittedly. for every mention of neil cole’s organic church, there were five references to willow creek and seven to saddleback. and the appropriation of new ways to be the church often veered off into the realm of gimmicks and charlatantry. but more than the long hours of powerpoint and occasionally-rambling speakers, the new relationships really made the week worthwhile. i met people living out the communal, humble, honest gospel from cor d’alene, idaho, from duluth, minnesota, from flint, michigan, from some city in norway. one conversation would revive my convictions about the church’s responsibility to be working for social justice in its neighborhood; another would challenge me about prayer; a third would pull me out of my usual shy and introverted self into dialogue and interaction. i saw right in front of me the sort of Jesus-following life that i want to be living.

but now its three weeks later. my dreamings and schemings about what the church might look like have cooled. i find it more difficult to see myself as capable to pull people together into a community that proclaims Jesus in its pattern of life as much as in its worship–at least at this point. don’t i need more training? wouldn’t an mdiv help fill out the academic grad degree in theology i just finished?

at the conference a guy named jeff from anchor point community church presented on the topic of prayer during one of the first or second day “preparation” seminars. true confession: i’ve always struggled with prayer. i either feel like i’m whining to God about my somewhat trivial problems or i feel utterly overwhelmed by hurt in the world–far too much for me to express in words. plus, God already knows about this stuff, doesn’t he? but jeff spoke primarily on prayer as listening for God. i’m sure i’ve heard this elsewhere, but this was the time that it stuck with me. in prayer, he said, we are quieting ourselves, abandoning for a moment all our concerns to our Father’s wise caregiving, and waiting for him to speak to us in his Spirit. we wait and listen.

this is where i am now, waiting and listening.

ouch in my heart

April 15, 2008

i found out today that the marriage of two good friends (or maybe should-have-been-better friends, or maybe i-should-have-been-a-better friend?) broke down.  i don’t know the details; i only know that he lives in one part of the country and she lives in another.  i trust them.  i’m confident they have quite legitimate reasons for walking away from this marriage project. but… ach.

it’s easy to get lost in ink and paper, in conversations about God and how we should be following him.  i spend altogether too much time following links from blog to blog.  it’s a small step to forget that people (myself included) are living life all over the place.  and more often than not it’s not easy going, this living life.

there are the faceless men on the streetcorner, the girls and women walking up and down the sidewalk, the students busying off to classes and tired parents on their way home from underpaying, overly-demanding jobs.  and there are specific people:  a friend’s wife who is very pregnant, a single mom raising her junior high son, a middle-aged man worrying about his career field becoming obsolete, an old pastor flyfishing in the cold trout streams of my native montana.  and now there are these two friends, living a thousands miles apart, trying to disentangle that last few years of an amateur marriage.

sometimes i need something icy cold, like glacier melt, or boiling hot, like a candle flame, to pull me from my self-absorption.  it’s nice when it’s something soft, something beautiful.  but it more effective when it’s hard and sharp and searing, when it severs nerves, bones, and marrow.

i am going to pray for my friends.  pray for their individual healing, for joy and peace and love.  more, i’m going to pray for forgiveness and for a larger, more attentive heart.  o God, let me not be lost to the living.

drinking coffee again

April 9, 2008

for the past few days i’ve been sick–that cold, that ache in the body, that dizziness whenever i stood up, and that insatiable desire to lay on the couch and play with my itunes. because i was sick, i haven’t allowed myself to drink any coffee, only tea. but i’m feeling better today, so i broke out the coffee, just for me.

while i’m sipping this stale coffee (it tends to sit in its canister on the counter for a month or two because cindy and i don’t want to become addicts; we relish but do not depend on it), i’m musing about the church, filing out seminary applications for next semester.

i think the crucial questions facing christians today is, what will the church look like? the explosion of novel approaches in the last two or three decades (seeker-sensitive mega churches, emergent congregations with their candles burning, their novel liturgies, and theoretical ramparts, the neo-monastic collectives hanging out with poor people and spending a lot of time together, to name a few) alongside the vehement, occasionally vein-pulsing arguments and polemics filling both pulpits and even academic journals–these attest to the weight of this question.

but, in truth, it’s a much more heavy questions than that. because the church, the way we follow Jesus together, is essentially bound up with what it means to follow Jesus at all. and this is what should give us pause; this is what should make us think.

how, in the everyday logistical details, do we follow Jesus together?

for the next twenty-one days my life is consumed with books. ancient books, classic books, recent books. long books and longer books.

march fourteen is my masters comprehensive exam. i have twenty-odd books to read in this time to prepare for this exam. so i am reading. reading fast and hard, early in the morning and late into the night. reading until my eyes fall out.

right now i’m making my way through important passages of thomas’ summa theologiae. on deck is luther. calvin’s in the hole.

hopefully after the fourteenth we’ll all be able to sit around and have a few good long conversations about what all these words mean, both in themselves and for us. and hopefully i’ll all but have a masters degree.