Community of the past, picture of the future


Tonight, being snowed in, watched Dancing with Wolves with the wife and eldest daughter.  It was actually the movie my wife and I saw on our first date so always will have sentimental value to me.  I love movies set in historical contexts, I love the time of the Civil War and I’m a sucker for Tatonka.But there is certainly more to see in this movie.  The community of the Sioux.  Not to romanticize too much, the life then was incredibly harsh and barbaric at times.  But the in-between times.  A community built around proximity to one another, shared possessions, gathering of resources, each one playing a part, receiving meaningful names that marked one’s life.  Most importantly in my eyes, seeing one’s identity not as a me but as a we.  There wasn’t such a thing as a glorified individual, it was about the tribe.  They had individual meaning as they lived in their belongingness to one another.There was a Ruth moment towards the end where “Stands with a fist” tells her husband “Dances with wolves” that her way is with him.  Wherever he goes, is where she is to go.  It wasn’t about keeping up with Jones’, it wasn’t about the seeking of trivial pursuits, it was about her belongingness to him and him to her.  It wasn’t about an american dream of health and wealth, they knew none of that was a gurantee, they gave up control of those things.  It was about something more primary, that their path may lead anywhere, but it will be traveled together.  We as spouses need to say these kinds of words more to one another.  Give one another assurance like my wife gave me on our wedding day in her vows, “when the tough times come, I’m not going anywhere”.  (and she’s lived it)  Say the words of assurance and meaning, and then enjoy the bonds of matrimony all over again.But the scene that rips me up is at the end when Dances with Wolves has to leave the tribe because he is a threat to them being hunted by the white men.   “Wind in his hair”, who reluctantly became a warrior brother to Dances with Wolves , bares his soul on the mountaintop.  With his heart breaking and a lonely farewell, he exclaims  1) who he is:  I am Wind in his hair 2) who his friend is: you are Dances with Wolves 3) the cry of his heart: “can’t you see that you are my friend?” His primal scream releases this emotion over and over with powerful words of confirmation and affirmation.When was the last time you knew who you were?  When was the last time you knew whose you were?  These are the primary questions of community and hear me very clear on this next point, OUR CULTURE SUCKS AT IT!   This world sells a bag of lies and fools gold.  You will find yourself washed up on the shore over and over again wondering why the waves of life have such a profound affect on you.  There is no life in things that are dead.  The american dream is folly, consumerism is hollow, the false idols of pop culture will not satisfy your deepest longings.  Over and over, you will find yourself thirsting for more.So what’s the answer if the world won’t give us the goods?  Simple, we rebel and make it ourself in partnership with the One who created it all.  A God who is by very nature community:   Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Begin by being redefined not as what you do, where you live, what you’ve done, what you look like or what you have.  Radically redefine yourself as one loved by God.  And don’t move from that place until you’re convinced it’s true.  Once you come to hold that belief, it becomes a belief that holds onto you.  Just try and shake it, its a virus that runs deep in your soul.  Then what?  well, then you’re a virus carrier, go infect with words and actions of life and truth.  In a world of loneliness, offer belonging.   Speak the words of intimacy and belonging to one another, it’s a good place to start.  I find that many of the answers to our future, are found in the communities of our past.Stop and notice the Kingdom around you,marshall

Money and the American church pt. 2

So I’ve been having a discussion with my younger half-brother who is in a decision making place of whether to seek ordination in his denomination for his future vocation at the end of his bachelors degree or to try and figure a way to do the ministry that is on his heart differently.  In any system, there are pros and cons and in something as deeply personal as our spirituality, its hard to apply the same business principles to that we would in franchising a business.  This  has me reflecting on these issues again. There is a long history of questions and issues with professional ministry vs. a self-supporting model.  In the New Testament you have the apostle Paul both tent-making and seeking financial support from believers.  With this, I don’t think its a moral or theological issue (many would argue me on that point).  The reason I fired myself from professional ministry was a cultural issue and a sense of self-awareness.  Although I was professionaly prepared for ministry in the American church (undergrad. and graduate degree) and had all the experience needed, it was a matter of calling and the time I live in.  1) a problem of trust – the American church has lost major trust with the people, both in and outside its walls.  Stories of scandals and impropriety is the word on the street and the people I want to be in conversation with have a major issue with money and the church.  So if I’m not taking a paycheck, then at least that communication barrier is out of the way. 2) exchange of goods and services – spiritual accountability is an intimate and at times rough ground to cover.  How honest can I be with people I’m caring for if I rely upon their giving to feed my children?  Let’s not spiritualize this, its a human response.  3) the drive to be productive – American ministry, as I was trained in, is deeply intertwined with the American corporate business model where productivity and busyness is king.  You focus on the things that bring a return to the organization.  This is incredibly confusing when the Kingdom of God as expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is a “bottom-up” model and our church is designed as a “top-down”  hierarchy model.  One of those has to give.  What’s my point in all this?  I grieve for a church that has forgotten who we are.  We are not rooted in our ancient stories (the Scriptures) handed down to us from those who have gone before us.  Instead we’ve exchanged it for a model to be exciting, enticing, obsessively productive and relevant to the world around us.  Are we selling people a “feel good” pill or are we offering the kind of water that doesn’t make you thirsty anymore?  I believe, our hope is in living in our story, one rooted in the truth of the mind of our Creator.  If the recession doesn’t go away, if the american economy struggles for a decade, what will the questions of the church be?  Will will be grieving our senses of entitlement to buildings and vocations or will we be ready to care for people and show them a simpler and more wholistic way to live?  Will our message be hope and life?   That’s what I wonder about.  

I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.  That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.  The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s Word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed  us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.  – Henri Nouwen  In the Name of Jesus peace, Chris

Money and the American church pt. 1

This is something I posted almost 2 years ago and I want to re-visit it here for a bit.  This was before the recession fully hit in America and I still have similar questions.Wednesday, April 23, 2008


My truck is paid off but the gas prices are killing me. I don’t drive that much and its over $300 per month, not including my wife’s car. So what does this project to as a national economy? Recession seems inevitable, will it go way beyond that? A nation already ruled by fear and over-spending with no margins by individuals and the government, what will be the consequences?How will this impact churches and mortgages and credit lines that can’t be fed? As builders pass on who are the committed givers what is left? 1/2 of boomers are there to give and the other 1/2 are driven past their financial margins with consumerism and can’t help. Gen X and Millenials have very little value in long term comittments, are all about instant gratification and consumerism is their native language. Commonly this group of up and comers are living on 125-140% of their income taking on exponential debt per year. What will be the result of these decisions having no margins when the shoe drops?Will American churches go the way of their European counterparts? Becoming really funky coffee houses, restaraunts, art galleries and dance clubs. Just things I wonder about.peace,

US Foster Care and Adoption


Like many of you, I was immediately struck by the horror of the images coming from Haiti post-earthquake.  There were conflicting reports of orphans and being sent on planes to the US just looking for families to take them in.  Being the my wife and I are at the end of our foster care/adoption licensing process with Ohio, I wondered if we were supposed to be getting somehow more involved.  So I did some fact finding and was able to get on a conference call to Washington D.C. with Dept. of Homeland Security and US Immigration Services for updates with shareholders in the US.  They were triaging all their work and updating on the process of “humanitarian parole”.  Basically, any child in Haiti that was already in some sort of an adoption process, it could be expedited immediately.  That left the question of new adoption processes.  For now, that is somewhat of a closed issue.  Why?  1) in the chaos it’s hard to know who is an orphan and who has family looking for them  2) the problem of human trafficking.  With all the open hearts for the children, there are also those with evil intent and the infrastructure is not there right now to make that discenment  3) perhaps the best hope for Haiti is kids growing up in Haiti in orphanages where they get education and guidance and in turn lead their country in the future (that is if the basics are met of saftey and nourishment) On the conference call this was all brought up and in the end, one of the women on the panel alluded to the over 500,000 US children in Foster Care and adoption eligible here and if people had a heart for it, they should get involved right here in our own backyard.   And I concur wholeheartedly.  My wife and I have sensed a calling towards this work since we first got married and now is the time we can put our hands and feet in as well because of our kids ages.  In the theme of St. Brigid, of reclkess generosity and hospitality, the children of our culture are hungry and destitute here.  Do you have an empty room?  they need a safe place.  Do you have a heart for others?  they need care.  Do you have extra food?  they are hungry.  Is your life godly?  they’ve been abused.   Do you care about the Kingdom?  may it come on earth as it is in heaven.  

26-27Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.  (James 1  The Message) I want to raise awareness, not guilt.   But if you can help, please do. peace, Chris

Wii Pray


Wii Pray

All credit to Brant Hansen on this.  Who, by the way has a great blog if you need to laugh, then stop and think, and then laugh again.  It’s truly genius.I really wish this was true cuz it would be like . . . AWESOME!Having done some time in catholic school growing up, something like this to help me practice at home might have kept me from being dragged to the principal’s office by my ear on a few occasions.

Brigid of Kildare


Today is St. Brigid’s day after Brigid of Kildare. She is known for a “call to recklessness“, particularly in terms of her generosity and hospitality. Here is a description of her from Celtic Daily Prayer:

Many legends and few facts survive about this Irish woman who founded a community at Kildare, primarily for women. She was famed for her generosity and hospitality, and her influence was widespread; but she remained eminently practical.

I live in America which means ask the common person on the street what the great perception of those who claim to be Christian is and most likely not in the top 100 are the words generosity or hospitality. (of course that’s a generalization based on the person’s experiences, but I would wager its decently accurate) Perhaps words like self-righteous, judgmental, greedy, immoral, close-minded etc. may make that top 100 list. Whether the perception is based on micro experiences (local church, interactions with Christians, spiritual history) or macro observations (fantastic media reports, the folks on the tele etc.) the perception may be reality or atleast perceived. The point is that our micro and macro messages hardly reflect the one we claim to follow. So what is getting in the way? Surely at least our broken humanity for starters and the list can go on from there. My reflection today is that I want to be known as being recklessly generous and hospitable to both strangers and friends. Thanks, St. Brigid for the reminder. Here is just a portion of the Celtic Blessing for the day of St. Brigid for our homes:

For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest.Lord, kindle in my heart a flame of love to my neighbour,to my enemies, my friends, my kindred all,from the lowliest thing that liveth to the name that is highest of all.I would welcome the poor and honour them.I would welcome the sick in the presence of angelsand ask God to bless and embrace us all.Seeing a stranger approach I would put food in the eating place,drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place,and look with joy for the blessing of God, who often comes to my home in the blessing of a stranger.


the re-launch


“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years” – LL Cool JThanks, LL.From 2003-2008 I had a blog hosted elsewhere and I have deeply missed it.  Today I am glad to be back at it, at least getting re-started.  It will be a work in progress for a bit but I suspect it won’t take too long to grow some legs and start walking.  This blog is about the questions I ask, the stories I want to tell, the people I think should be known, the issues I care about, some answers I find a long the way and the desire to find like-minded sojourners.  My pursuits are authentic community, true spirituality, honest reflection, contemplative living and paying attention to the people around me.  It is relationship that matters.  We get to be the artists and creators of our own lives (at least our response to life’s circumstances) and these are the practices that I want to pursue on purpose.A couple of things you should know about me:- I’m Irish.  I love the legacy of Celtic Christianity.  The life of St. Patrick has deeply influenced me.  At times I’m fiery, emotional and passionate . . . if you’re looking for only reserved reflections, this is the wrong blog.- I like questions more than answers.  I believe in wonder, particularly in the things that matter.  I think good teachers should wonder more and conclude less.- I really care about the historic Church.  It’s mission is written in my DNA.  I am most basically a follower of Jesus but I am mostly uncomfortable with the traditional labels of Christianity.  The labels are loaded with cultural assumptions that I am not sure accurately reflect the intent of the ancient Scriptures.  Most basically, I believe in the truth of the Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus.- I believe that fundamentally, all truth-seeking will eventually end with Christ and His Kingdom.  Therefore all truth-seeking is accepted and respected.  Truth-seeking is a round table and all are invited.- I really care about the cause of orphans around the world.  You will find me advocating for them here in any form or function.- I believe the best kind of learning happens on the other side of tension.  I guess you can fill in the “no pain, no gain” cliche here.  I like a good fight, if done respectfully.I really look forward to connecting again with readers and fellow thinkers as we pursue the truth of our lives.peace,marshall

Entrepreneur – Teacher – Writer – Pastor