“With my mind on my money and my money on my mind” – Snoop Dogg

Snoop-money

It’s not too often that I’m going to quote an urban poet like Snoop Dogg for my cohort blog, but I guess that just happened.  😉 

Reading through the first half of Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism“, I find myself reflecting on the narrative of capitalism in modern America.  Weber is still considered the leading voice in sociological circles of connecting ideas to cultural factors.  How did we get here?  Perhaps more importantly for those who claim to follow after Jesus of Nazareth, should we have ever gotten here?  Are we to be defined by what we acquire and work towards the ends of individual comforts and securities? 

“Capitalism, as an economic system, resting on the organization of legally free wager-earners, for the purpose of pecuniary profit, by the owner of capital or his agents, and setting its stamp on every aspect of society, is a modern phenomenon.” (Foreword Ic)  Weber is searching for a unique reason for the explosion of capitalisitc development in the US and England that was quantitatively and qualitatively different than that of other cultures with free enterprise.  He asserts that there is something peculiar about the Protestant work ethic, particularly amongst Calvinists post-Reformation that contributes to this success.  At some point, “labour is not merely an economic means;  it is a spiritual end.” (3) 

Weber sorts through other possibilities to account for the phenomenal growth such as inherited wealth, Enlightenment rationalism and the technology of industrialism.  In all these cases, Catholics and other western European contexts had the same experiences and constructs of modernism but without the same lasting and ongoing effects.  Weber points to a new kind of ‘calling’ that came out of the Reformation to hopeful Protestants that caused them to look at money differently, their work differently and the end of their labor differently.   Weber strongly believes that Calvinism “seems to have promoted the development of the spirit of capitalism.” (44)  Later he states:  “It is not mere business astuteness, that sort of thing is common enough, it is an ethos.  This is the quailty which interests us.” (51)  

This ethos is what Weber points to as being a peculiar Protestant work ethic that changed the game of how work and wealth is perceived.  Work and making money is no longer just for basic means, it became a part of the calling to being committed to God.  “Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life.  Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction of his material needs. . . At the same time it expresses a type of feeling which is closely connected with certain religious ideas.” (53)   What has its origin in a new way of thinking religiously through the Reformation has become the norm, the basis of our thought growing up in capiltalistic cultures. 

The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos into which the individual is born, and which presents itself to him, at leas as an individual, as an unalterable order of things in which he must live.  It forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the system of market relationships, to conform to capitalistic rules of action.  (54)

This new identity was a tremendous sense of responsibility and calling about what one ‘ought’ to do and be on earth.  “The only way of living acceptably to God was not to surpass worldly morality in monastic aesceticism, but solely through the fulfillment of the obligations imposed upon the individual by his position in the world.  That was his calling.” (80)  Work and wealth acquistion were to be done towards the greater good of all individuals, they served a higher calling than just work:  “labour in a calling appears to him as the outward expression of brotherly love.” (81)  Work was ministry and ministry was work.  It was guided by an ethic of avoiding the world and taking care of one another.  Weber suggests it is this ethic that uniquely drove the explosion of capitalism that has led to America redefining modern society and economics. 

But now we have witnessed another huge shift.  America is increasingly more post-Christian, pluralistic, modern in its no need or dependency on God.  Our capitalist comforts have created enough distractions from the questions that matter.  Work, vocation, acquiring wealth has become the story that is sold to offer us meaning and purpose in this life.  Not far behind is Christian Evangelicalism in America that more resembles industry and corporate strategy than the Beatitudes.  This is where we find ourselves, but ought we even be here? 

The ‘ought’ question is probably not the best question.  Since we are here, now what?  How do we participate in and around godless capitalism and not be of it and free from its corruption?  It will start with an intentional desire to be a different people, a people set apart.  A people defined by our Kingdom story and not by our economic culture.  In my mind and experience, that only happens in authentic community.  May we set our minds on that work, and not on our money. 

 

 

 

Pick a Fight

Saul-alinsky

Reading through Saul D. Alinsky’sRules for Radicals” is a bit of a polarizing experience for one that seeks a worldview immersed in the thinking and living of the Kingdom of God.  Without question and without apology on behalf of Alinsky, he is not trying to affect change in the manner consistent with the ideals, morals and assumptions of American evangelicalism.  He is pragmatically picking a fight with the problem of equality as he sees it and understands it.  He is an admitted moral relativist and he would say your heroes were too.  (See Moses, Ghandi, Lincoln and Churchill).  He is at times unlikeable, but I don’t think he much cares about that.  I did not like his lack of morality, I did not like his crass pragmatism and I didn’t like his promotion of irreverent manipulation.  But one thing I really liked, admired and respected . . . he is a leader and he is a doer.  His passion for equality and opportunity for the ‘have nots’ put him on a path of drafting up war plans to protest, agitate and strategically create means to justify his end.  He deeply cared about the poor and those in positions of systemic injustice.  As I was agitated with his shifting morals, I was also internally agitated by his deep care for people.  He left me asking myself, ‘do I care that much?’  Does my gospel belief and life lead me to such empassioned efforts on behalf of the oppressed as Alinsky?  That is a haunting question for me.

As a worker of justice, what can we learn from Alinsky?  I would suggest quite a bit.   Humans and systems of control are similar in time and place, they carry normative patterns of barriers and problems.  Regardless of your fight, leading and affecting change goes in a similar direction.  As a Christian-activist, Alinsky can have a seat at our table at the very least to broaden our view, increase our perspective and educate our attempts.  “First, there are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules for happiness, but there are rules for radicals who to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time.” (xviii)  The Gospel is change, change for the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  We ought to sift through anyone who can help us towards those ends. 

  1. Pay attention to how you communicate.  – As I mentioned in my last post, be ‘receptor oriented’.  It doesn’t matter how ‘right’ you think you are, if you don’t pay attention to ‘how’ you are communicating then your attempts are irrelevant.  “It does not matter what you know about anything, if you can’t communicate to your people.  In that event you are not even a failure.  You’re just not there.”  (81)  How seriously do we work at our craft as proclaimers of the Kingdom?  Do we care enough that it reaches the hearts and minds of our receivers that we will think strategically and receive feedback on any barriers we may be unintentionally erecting.  The fundamental question is NOT “How should I teach?”, the crucial question is “How do people learn?”. 
  2. The work of causing change is really hard.  Here’s a newsflash:  ministry is hard . . . really hard.  Fatal for some, fleeting for others.  Many don’t make it, there is tremendous atrophy in spiritual leaders on earth.  Stress, sacrifice, perceived failure, brokenness, conflict, workaholism, misplaced identities, abuse, spiritual oppression, poverty, despair . . . the list goes on for the reasons.  Here’s the reality of a God-given calling to ministry:  you don’t have it, it has you.  It may shift and change, but it wraps your heart up into a divine sickness you never rid of.  Alinsky encourages his young leaders to think longterm and count the cost upfront.  “To build a powerful organization takes time, it is tedious, but that’s the way the game is played.” (xx)  “Great dangers always accompany great opportunities.  The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation.” (xxiv)  For the Christian worker, the freedom is that the work is not up to us, it is God’s work.  But that work may cost you everything, we’re not immune to the darkest of nights.  There is no glamor, rarely fame, mostly suffering, but it’s also a profound beauty.  That calling deep in your soul not only takes you there, it takes you through there to a new day.  Thank God.
  3. Judge not.  Alinsky argues that “In war, ends justify just about any means.”  (29) In his shifting morality, he argues that just about any means may be neccesary to take the next organizational step in the work of the movement he was creating.  I wish I could say I have never witnessed this same mentality in the church, particularly in my seminary training of church planting and growth.  I was trained to not get too close to the original church planting core team because it will be neccesary to burn them out by sheer over-production and upon those ashes the actual lasting church would plant itself.  The energy required to plant the new church would have neccesary casualties . . . praise the lord?  Is that not immoral?  Is that not un-kingdom?  Is this not against the sanctity of all life?  But the end was a new flagship and flourishing church for the denomination so the means were justified.  Or were they?  Do we not do as Alinsky asserts and clothe our church means in shifting morality at times towards the end of the of “the work of the Lord”?  Alinsky humorously quoted Winston Churchill in his zeal to stop Hitler at all costs to have said:  “”If Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.” (29)  I resonated with Alinsky on this, the evangelical church is not immune to using means that are less than Kingdom-centered to justify our ends and we may assume Yahweh agrees with us. 
  4. For the love of God, pick a fight.  You may feel differently in means than Alinsky does but his work left behind at the very least shouts to us to do something, anything.  What do you care about?  What breaks your heart?  What breaks God’s heart?  Who amongst you is being oppressed?  What systemic evils are bullying your community?  Change comes from an organized effort to do something about it.  “Change comes from power and power comes from organization.”  (113)  The Kingdom of God is not to be a time and a place far away, it is to be our reality, an incarnated reality amongst us.  Post-pentecost, the work of holistic freedom for all people is the agenda of the church, the new community.  This is a Gospel initative, it is not in the vain of radical church growth.  It’s not about us, it’s about our neighbor. 

I’ll close with these words from Alinsky:

“The human cry of the second revolution is one for a meaning, a purpose for life – a cause to live for and if need be die for.  . . . This is literally the revolution of the soul.”  (196)  As workers of the Gospel, this is our revolution.  In the spirit of Immanuel, we ought to pick a fight. 

Choose your King

Media_httpordinarycom_cdtdq

“High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.”Rulers come and rulers go.  Sometimes they are pleasing in your sight, sometimes they are not.  If you place your trust in the hearts of men, you have built a house on shifting sand.  There is only one high King to whom the universe takes its orders.  His name is Yahweh.  Choose your King and align your allegiance there. Psalm 115:2-9 (The Message)

” Not for our sake, God, no, not for our sake, but for your name’s sake, show your glory.   Do it on account of your merciful love,      do it on account of your faithful ways.   Do it so none of the nations can say,      “Where now, oh where is their God?” 3-8 Our God is in heaven      doing whatever he wants to do.   Their gods are metal and wood,      handmade in a basement shop:   Carved mouths that can’t talk,      painted eyes that can’t see,   Tin ears that can’t hear,      molded noses that can’t smell,   Hands that can’t grasp, feet that can’t walk or run,      throats that never utter a sound.   Those who make them have become just like them,      have become just like the gods they trust. 4-9 God is higher than anything and anyone,      outshining everything you can see in the skies.   Who can compare with God, our God,      so majestically enthroned,   Surveying his magnificent      heavens and earth?   He picks up the poor from out of the dirt,      rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash,   Seats them among the honored guests,      a place of honor among the brightest and best.   He gives childless couples a family,      gives them joy as the parents of children.   Hallelujah!”

Peace,Marshall

Being Receptor Oriented

Ginger

 

1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  (Matthew 10:1-5 NIV)

 

Missiology 101 is simple, be ‘receptor oriented’.  Speak in a voice they can hear and understand.  It doesn’t matter how much you think you are right, how passionately you say it, how much you’ve sacrificed to be in the position of being a voice, if you are not receptor oriented then your message dies with you.  It’s simple communication, but in the realm of western evangelical evangelism models, our normative attempts fall into the category of arrogant rubbish because we care more about being the proclaimer than we do about caring how the message is received.  Whether it be to an individual or to an entire cultural context as Bryant L. Myers continues to lay out in “Walking with the Poor”, western Christians still have a lot to learn to speak in the voice of Jesus so that ‘his sheep’ can hear his voice (not ours) and folllow him (not us and our cultural assumptions). 

In the world of Transformational Development, particularly amongst poor contexts, we have to remove ourselves as the ones seated in power seats with perceived exclusive access to truths so as not to create a foundational relationship of dependence.  In the means or the end, we ought not be be on the pedastal.  All glory, power and truth is God alone.  “The bottom line is that we need to be concerned about who gets worshipped at the end of the development program.” (207)  The only cure for what ills any people or culture is Christ and Christ crucified.  What can we as a Christian bring to the context conversation:  “the Kingdom of God as the location of everyone’s true identity:  no more lies, a restored image, a transformed worldview, truth and righteousness established.” (109)  Ultimately we know that we cannot bring the consumnation of the Kingdom “and yet we are committed to work for its coming”. (110)  We come not as saviors, but as humble proclaimers, fellow sojourners in a Kingdom accessed and open to all.  We come as brothers and sisters in our own poverty, in need of the One who restores our broken identities.  We begin a story ‘with’ the people we encounter, not dominate a story ‘to’ them.  In this convergence of stories, “we become community to one another.” (149)

Myers describes a Gospel-life that “evokes questions” from the receptor.  “My search for an alternative framework for Christian witness is provdided by this framework of living and doing our development in a way that evokes questions to which the gospel is the answer.” (210)  In a pluralistic and postmodern context, I think one of our values in being proclaimers of Gospel is to let the ‘other’ set the agenda, let it be their movie, they can write the script.  Our role becomes one of listening, caring and storytelling.  I have a bartender friend at my neighborhood pub with whom we’ve developed a modest friendship over the years.  He knows who I am, what I do (that I tip well 🙂 ) but most times our conversations are sports, movies and cultural happenings on his shift.  A year or so ago he had received his 2nd DUI and was broken about it and wanted to pursue going to AA classes but without a ride.  I offered to take him on my lunch hour and just be a support to him and his desire to seek a healthier future.  We had never had an overt spiritual conversation outside of him venting about his abusive church past but on the way home from AA, he said, “Chris, what is it that keeps your life in control?  How do you hold it together?”  I laughed and it turned into an opportunity for me to story tell about how and why I follow the Christ of the Scriptures and the power it holds on my life and identity.  He remains a great friend and that conversation continues, he knows we can return to it whenever he wants to ask more questions.  To me, in a world of pluralism where we don’t have a singular monologue as Christians, when dialogue happens . . . this is holy ground and should be treated as such. 

To be fair, we will never be perfect in our proclamation attempts.  We can always be smarter, more informed, more receptor oriented, but even our best attempts will fail at times and that is okay, it’s just a part of the story that God is writing in this community happening.  “We are being asked by God to be faithful, not successful.” (110)  “Ultimately, the best transformational development deeds are ambiguous.” (244)  Afterall, it is all about God and his story with his sheep, not us.  “ Proclamation and witness leads to ‘knowing’ things that only the Spirit has access to” (205)such as our true vocation, true identity and who we belong to.  We are fellow sheep pointing the others to the Good Shepherd.  It is their story with him to learn that he is good and worthy of following.  My prayer is that through the power of the Spirit that my voice resemble his and not my own. 

I’ll close with one of the best definitions of evangelism I have come across in quite some time from William Abraham: 

“Evangelism as the set of intentional activities which is governed by the goal of intiating people into the Kingdom of God for the first time.” (214)

May we be faithful to that end and to God be the glory.

It Might Get Loud

Media_httpordinarycom_sibil

Watched “It Might Get Loud” last night on NetFlix with the wife and I loved it.  It’s a documentary on the electric guitar from the point of view of three significant rock musicians: the Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White.  I am a pretty big fan of Led Zepplin, U2 and the White Stripes so I found it particularly tasty.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, the only reason not a 5 is because they tease you when the guys start going off on classic riffs and then cut back to the documentary.  I was ready for a full unplugged concert session in awe. I was particularly intrigued because I play some guitar, not that well though.  I taught myself back in college and can do enough to get by as a rythymn guy, but I imagine some lessons would have helped.  What I resonated with was not their guitar talents which are legendary, but it’s because that art was just in them.  Their craft is theirs, they own it.  They eat it, they breathe it, they bleed it . . . they are the result of the intersection of passion and talent.  I’m a sucker for raw passion, lots of it in this film. As well, I’m all about living life out loud.  Find what you love, and let it rip.  Why not?  Connect your heart to your art and do some living at high volume.  Life is fleeting, rock it out my friends. peace,Marshall

Who are the Poor?

Media_httpordinarycom_dobgf

A few years ago, early in the morning, I was taking a walk around my American middle class neighborhood and I just began praying for the homes and the doors that I passed.  Not thinking anything of it but just praying for blessing over the hearts and minds all who who dwelled within them.  At some point in my walking and my meditation, I heard the voice of the Spirit say, “Chris, your neighborhood is destitute”.  Now, I live dead middle in middle to upper middle class suburban America, nobody is starving, everyone has access to education and services . . . at first this didn’t make sense.  Later, I began to realize, poverty comes in many forms.  I was living in an impoverished suburbia.Who are the poor?  What is it exactly that justifies the label of “poor”?  How does one quantify poverty?  How do you help the poor?  Am I impoverished?  These are some of the compelling questions I got out of the first half of Bryant L. Myers “Walking with the Poor”. The author gives one of the most comprehensive and holistic treatments of redemptive community development, particularly amongst the poor that I have read.  He breaks down in technical terms what he calls “Principles and Practices of Transformational Development.”The author states that the causes of poverty are spiritual and fundamentally relational.  “Poverty is the absence of shalom and all its meaning.” (p. 86)  A person that does not know who they are in Christ, who they are in the image and possibility of God, has no hope and remains in impoverished thinking and acting.  Their detachments and entanglements perpetuate broken relationships, holism becomes unreachable.              “When the poor accept their marred identity and their distorted sense of vocation as normative and immutable, their poverty is complete.” (p. 76)  Poverty is a broken frame of mind and identity that affects all behavior fundamentally.  Certainly there are cultural and political factors as well of access and systemic evils, but the root of impoverished thinking starts internally before it is acted out externally.Those of us in the West tend to see the poor through our own lenses of reality (worldview).  “We view the poor from a point of view, in terms of our personality, and in terms of the culture from which we come”. (p. 58)  “Poverty is in the eye of the beholder.  We see what our worldview, education and training allow us to see.”  (81)  This is our blind-spot according to the author.  We walk into a ministry context to help the poor, but we bring our biases.  They must be poor and impoverished because they are not like us:  they don’t have access to things, education, opportunity, freedom etc.  We read into it that they need our kind of help and thus put ourselves in the power seat of being the Savior of their needs.  Our story and our blindspot interferes with the story that God may be wanting to write with the poor and leading them to a new kind of freedom in thinking and living.  We play God and can put them in dynamics of dependency.  Myers states that the “non-poor understand themselves as superior, neccesary and annointed to rule.”  That is a dangerous and sinful frame of mind.The most powerful idea I gleamed from the first part of this book is to see all of humanity as fundamentally broken due to the Fall of man and thus we all share in a kind of spiritual poverty.  We are the same, we are family in our impoverished hearts and minds, seeking the shalom of God.  The poor and the non poor are lacking, impoverished in different spaces.  When our stories come together, it should not be with one over the other, but as a family, at a round table, working out transformational development before and under the throne of God.So back to the impoverished suburbia.  Myers says that within western capitalism, we have lost our way.  “Capitalism reduces people to economic beings driven by utilitarian self-interest toward the goal of accumulating wealth. . . . In the latter years of the twentieth century, it is becoming clear that the modern world is discovering that it has lost its story.”(p. 22)  Where the intent of capitalism was not to acquire wealth as an end, but to access it as a means to support the general welfare.  “The poverty of the non-poor is fundamentally relational and caused by sin.  The result is a life full of things and short on meaning.  The non-poor simply believe in a different set of lies.” (90)    This is my impoverished suburbia, these are the poor I am called to serve and proclaim a different story to.   True meaning only comes from seeing yourself rooted in the story of God and His Kingdom.My prayer for our community is that we could look like this:  “A church full of life and love, working for the good of the community in which God has placed it, is the proper end of mission.  Transformational development that does not work toward such a church is neither sustainable nor Christian.” (39)peace,Marshall

Who are the Poor?

Rich_poor

A few years ago, early in the morning, I was taking a walk around my American middle class neighborhood and I just began praying for the homes and the doors that I passed.  Not thinking anything of it but just praying for blessing over the hearts and minds all who who dwelled within them.  At some point in my walking and my meditation, I heard the voice of the Spirit say, “Chris, your neighborhood is destitute”.  Now, I live dead middle in middle to upper middle class suburban America, nobody is starving, everyone has access to education and services . . . at first this didn’t make sense.  Later, I began to realize, poverty comes in many forms.  I was living in an impoverished suburbia. 

Who are the poor?  What is it exactly that justifies the label of “poor”?  How does one quantify poverty?  How do you help the poor?  Am I impoverished?  These are some of the compelling questions I got out of the first half of Bryant L. Myers “Walking with the Poor”.  The author gives one of the most comprehensive and holistic treatments of redemptive community development, particularly amongst the poor that I have read.  He breaks down in technical terms what he calls “Principles and Practices of Transformational Development.”

The author states that the causes of poverty are spiritual and fundamentally relational.  “Poverty is the absence of shalom and all its meaning.” (p. 86)  A person that does not know who they are in Christ, who they are in the image and possibility of God, has no hope and remains in impoverished thinking and acting.  Their detachments and entanglements perpetuate broken relationships, holism becomes unreachable.              “When the poor accept their marred identity and their distorted sense of vocation as normative and immutable, their poverty is complete.” (p. 76)  Poverty is a broken frame of mind and identity that affects all behavior fundamentally.  Certainly there are cultural and political factors as well of access and systemic evils, but the root of impoverished thinking starts internally before it is acted out externally.  

Those of us in the West tend to see the poor through our own lenses of reality (worldview).  “We view the poor from a point of view, in terms of our personality, and in terms of the culture from which we come”. (p. 58)  “Poverty is in the eye of the beholder.  We see what our worldview, education and training allow us to see.”  (81)  This is our blind-spot according to the author.  We walk into a ministry context to help the poor, but we bring our biases.  They must be poor and impoverished because they are not like us:  they don’t have access to things, education, opportunity, freedom etc.  We read into it that they need our kind of help and thus put ourselves in the power seat of being the Savior of their needs.  Our story and our blindspot interferes with the story that God may be wanting to write with the poor and leading them to a new kind of freedom in thinking and living.  We play God and can put them in dynamics of dependency.  Myers states that the “non-poor understand themselves as superior, neccesary and annointed to rule.”  That is a dangerous and sinful frame of mind. 

The most powerful idea I gleamed from the first part of this book is to see all of humanity as fundamentally broken due to the Fall of man and thus we all share in a kind of spiritual poverty.  We are the same, we are family in our impoverished hearts and minds, seeking the shalom of God.  The poor and the non poor are lacking, impoverished in different spaces.  When our stories come together, it should not be with one over the other, but as a family, at a round table, working out transformational development before and under the throne of God. 

So back to the impoverished suburbia.  Myers says that within western capitalism, we have lost our way.  “Capitalism reduces people to economic beings driven by utilitarian self-interest toward the goal of accumulating wealth. . . . In the latter years of the twentieth century, it is becoming clear that the modern world is discovering that it has lost its story.”(p. 22)  Where the intent of capitalism was not to acquire wealth as an end, but to access it as a means to support the general welfare.  “The poverty of the non-poor is fundamentally relational and caused by sin.  The result is a life full of things and short on meaning.  The non-poor simply believe in a different set of lies.” (90)    This is my impoverished suburbia, these are the poor I am called to serve and proclaim a different story to.   True meaning only comes from seeing yourself rooted in the story of God and His Kingdom.  

My prayer for our community is that we could look like this:  “A church full of life and love, working for the good of the community in which God has placed it, is the proper end of mission.  Transformational development that does not work toward such a church is neither sustainable nor Christian.” (39)

 

 

 

The Warmth of Presence

Media_httpordinarycom_ejbjc

After Christmas this year, my wife and I went on a bit of a spending excursion and bought a TV and electric fireplace hearth for our family room, which is also the space where our worshipping community gathers.  Our house is not equipped with a chimney, so this faux attempt is the best we can do.  But it is the thought that counts, it brings a new kind of warmth to our space.  Not just literally, but also aescetically.  It does not look like the one above, something manly and Celtic like that would be in my dream house I’ll never have 😉 .  But still, it’s the intent that is there. A hearth in a home breeds warmth.  It is intended be sat near and gathered around.  Having our house church community gather last night in our home filled the space with laughter, love, friendship, hope, joy, strength . . . everything our culture doesn’t sell.  It is here to be found but it can’t be bought.  I have long believed that church as intentionally small communities can act as the cabin in the woods, offering warmth and relief to sojourners trying to find their way.  There is a warmth to the presence of community.  Warmth breeds hope and strength for new beginnings and long suffering.  In community we offer this hope to one another.  Around the hearth you can find depth in friendship that is the antidote the world’s trivial pursuits. 

 “A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. ” – Benjamin Franklin

peace,Marshall

The Night

Media_httpordinarycom_jaiys

 (Van Gogh The Starry Night)

Thou my best thought in the day and the night . . .

“The night can be a time that makes us uneasy.  It is a time to feel isolated, a time of darkness, of the unknown.  And darkness is the covering of God:  it is where He lives”  (Jan. 5 Finan Reading from Celtic Daily Prayer)

I have long been a fan of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” (1889), it is the artwork that hangs over my desk, just above eye level of my computer monitor.  (Isn’t this where we put the important reminders?)  I have always been struck by the warm darkness within it.  It helps me make sense of life sometimes.  Within the scene there are no right angles: the hills, the edifices, the trees, the cosmos, the city . . . they all have rounded edges, nothing is square.  Isn’t that just like life?  It doesn’t always match up, it is a bit of a mess ongoingly.  The scene is dark at it’s core, but it is contrasted with a glowing moon, shining stars and a brightly reflected countryside.  This is not a night without hope, this is a night of a growing new beginning. I have many friends that I am praying for new beginnings for who are going through their own dark nights.  I want you to know that yours is a starry night, a night of hopeful expectation.  Though you dwell in the dark place, the warmth and presence of Yahweh is upon you.  (If this is you, take it in my friend). peace,Marshall