Friday, December 28, 2007

Third Day to Asheville - Fri. Dec. 28th

Of course there should not have been a third day to Asheville. We should have arrived yesterday, but then we could not drive by night, because we can't run with both our headlights on and the trailer lights and still recharge the battery - even with the rebuilt alternator, and the new battery.

But here we were in New Jersey. The first day we only got out two hours in the evening, and had to stop in Sturbridge, MA. The second was all traffic through Connecticut, New York City, and New Jersey, because we had to travel by day.

I attempted to start the car in the morning, but after ending the previous evening driving around looking for the motel with my lights on I did not have enough power to start it. We had hoped to be on the road by 7am, but after waiting for AAA to help start the car we did not leave until after 8am.

Leaving the Econo Lodge on the New Jersey Turnpike we headed south, and were able to travel a little faster than the previous two days. Now we were typically traveling between 55 and 60MPH, and the trailer wasn't swaying behind us - well, I had to slow down once in a while. So we were making our best time yet.

We were supposed to be staying at Rhonda's dad's house just south of DC, but that was supposed to be after the first day of driving. We knew that traveling by day only, we would just have to go as far as possible. Bev called Sarah (Rhonda's step-mom) and told her we would just have to travel as far as we could during the limited daylight.

After traveling nicely for a couple hours we came to long gentle inclines on 95 in Maryland. We were taking the hills a little faster than the previous days, but soon we found that the old 740 was over-heating. We pulled over at a roadside stop, and I found that I needed to add quite a bit of fluid to the cooling system, and wondered where it all went. This became the ongoing problem for the day. We would travel a ways. We would watch the water heat gauge rise as we traveled up hills. We would stop. I would find no leak in the system. I would add coolant - sometimes lots of it. We would travel again.

At 4pm it grew dark. It began to rain at about 4:30pm as we were traveling down highway 81 in Virginia. I suggested we go as far as Harrisonburg, and so we made it to the Ramada Inn - another place where they accepted dogs.

Moments of interest along the way:

We were talking about Charlton Heston, and mentioned Bible Movies, and guns. Bev was sitting in the back seat, and thought we said Charlton Heston was about Bibles, boobies, and guns. I suppose that might make a good book title.

We made our last stop before coming into Harrisonburg. Once again we were over-heating, and ended up low on coolant. Bev and mom saw a used car, and trailer lot on thee side of the road. They wanted to stop, and trade the Volvo in for a truck to pull the trailer. Hmmmm...good idea except for the fact that I have a 1986 Volvo with 215,000 miles, and I'll get a few hundred for it, and need to pay a couple thousand for something I can be just as confident about.

Well, I unhooked the trailer after arriving here, and drove to a store across town - in the dark with the lights on, and Crash the hound in the car. I made it out and back. The alternator will charge the battery sufficiently as long as the trailer is not attached with its lights it appears.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Second Day to Ashville - December 27th

We awoke late.

The curtains in hotel rooms keep all light from the room. It was 8am, and we jumped up, and all got on the move like we were Marine Corps privates being yelled at by our the Sarge.

The parking lot was slippery, because there was an ice rain over the night.

I went to the old Volvo hoping for a minor miracle - that the old diesel might start. Bev was walking Crash hoping for a minor miracle - that he might pee. I sat in the front seat, put the key in the ignition, whispered a prayer, and turned it. It roared to life!

Crash just sniffed the snow, he did not pee.

We began our travels toward North Carolina once again. We were not much farther than the night before. I had discovered the previous night that I could not travel much above 50 MPH. The trailer wanted to fishtail if I went much faster, so my travels would be quite slow. Besides that I was lucky to hit 50 MPH on a decent hill.

So here was the challenge for the day: I was going to be traveling slow - between 40 and 55 MPH. I was going to be getting hot going uphill, and turning on the heat would be necessary to help keep the engine cool. All extra electrical draws upon the engine would have to be avoided so I could keep the battery charged enough to start it each time I stopped - thus, no lights, no radio, no heat. Okay, this was going to be tough.

So here is our plan: Travel by daylight. Use the heat only when straining uphill. Go as fast as safely possible - probably 45 to 55 MPH.

We got going about 8:30am, and hit South Western Connecticut, New York City, and New Jersey between 11am and 3pm. Yep, it took that long to go that short distance. What would be an hour without traffic took almost 4 hours. This is what I hoped to avoid - traveling by night.

When the traffic was normal speed everyone passed us. Big trucks roared by, and nearly caused the trailer to fishtail behind me each time. When the traffic was crawling I almost was thankful for it - it crawled for hours.

Bev and Mom laughed about the journey, and talked about how we looked like the Clampett's headed to Beverly Hills. I was intent on the road, and the trailer, and tense with concern for safety's sake, and for the prayer that the old car would keep going. Such tension made me grumpy if my attention was diverted even a little. By about 3:30pm we were more comfortably traveling the New Jersey Turnpike, and sometimes safely traveling at 60 MPH. Woo-Hoo!

We made a couple roadside stops. It wasn't until almost 4:00pm that Crash peed. He peed a long, long time. That was good.

As the daylight wore to an end I had to turn on my lights, and we looked for a hotel. Here I am at EconoLodge at exit 5 off the New Jersey turnpike.

Driving by daylight worked. I can drive with my running lights so the trailer has its lights on, and periodically use the heater to keep the engine cool going uphill, and still recharge the battery sufficiently to start it easily again, but the headlights draw on the power way too quickly, and I noticed this even having them on for half-on-hour tonight.

It is dark by 5pm. This is not a good time of year to have to drive by day.

Benezir Bhutto was assassinated today. The owners of the hotel are of Indian or Pakistani descent - I am not sure which. They were quite caught up in the news when we arrived, and seemed almost rude, but then we had not heard the news until after we checked in.

I walked around the area found a mall, a Coldstone Ice Cream, and brought mom and Bev a surprise treat. It was a treat for Crash too. He likes to lick the cups afterward.

Tomorrow we leave earlier than today, and hopefully do not have the traffic we had today. But alas, Washington DC is ahead of us.

I've been having to add a little anti-freeze at each stop, and a little oil at every other stop. This old Volvo burns oil pretty quickly.

First day to Asheville - December 26th

We decided to leave in the evening. Traveling from Salem, MA to North Caroline requires that we go through Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. By any standards of traffic that is a nightmare except between 11pm and 5am. We decided to leave at 7pm to hit New York City at about midnight.

First thing in the morning I hooked the loaded-to-the-gills 12-foot cargo trailer up to the '86 740 diesel Volvo wagon. I have new springs, and heavy duty shocks, but the back went way down, and the front came up. Now that means two things - the load is really too heavy to to pull, and the trailer is loaded with too much weight in the front. I can manage pulling the heavy load - maybe, but I would need to redistribute it. Good thing I picked up Chuck the other day. Chuck helped me unload, and then Evan appeared.

Evan and Missy are going to be moving in to the rooms Elijah and Rhonda have left vacant. He started helping unloading and reloading as well. After a an hour and a half of unloading and reloading the weight was nicely distributed, and the load sat well on the old Volvo.

After preparing the last items for the trip, we left at 7pm.

A stop or two for some necessary items, and two and a half hours later we were at road stop near Old Sturbridge Village on the Mass Turnpike. The Volvo would not start. I received a jump from a concerned, and helpful man in a large diesel one ton truck. Somehow my recently rebuilt alternator was not recharging the brand new battery sufficiently. All the typical things have been taken care of, but still it wasn't doing the job.

We limped to a hotel near Sturbridge Village - a Motel 6 which allowed for pets. Mom, Bev, Crash the dog and I snuggled into the beds as best as one can snuggle into a extra stiff mattress, and slept till morning.

Tomorrow will give us a new adventure. Hope fully a good one

Meeting Earl the Angel

I have not seen "Saving Grace" with Holly Hunter as the tortured detective, but I've seen the TV ads. She kneels over a body in the road, and cries out for help from God. Earl appears from the fog, and says, "Hi my name's Earl, can I help you?" or something like that.

I was testing my '86 Volvo diesel wagon to New London, NH to pick up Chuck, who is watching our dogs while we are gone. I'm hoping to pull an overloaded trailer to North Carolina. It's a two hour trip to get Chuck - one way. I arrived at a toll both on interstate 93 in New Hampshire, and saw lots of steam coming from under my hood. Ouch! That spells trouble. I looked at the water temp, and it was in the red.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and found a stream of steam blasting out from a small hose. After filling my over flow tank with enough water to get me to the truck stop a few miles away, I limped to the truck stop hoping to find things I needed - like a part's store - Yeah right, as if anyone has a hose for an '86 Volvo diesel.

I arrived and there were no parts at the minimalistic truck stop. So I stood forlornly by my car with the hood up. A little old man with a limp came by with his
broom, and trash catcher. He asked how I was doing, and I explained my situation. He walked me into the convenience store at the truck stop, where he worked cleaning up, and looked around sheepishly, "we don't have what your looking for here." After a glance or two at the other workers, and a little glint in his eyes he asked if I wouldn't mind taking a ride in a Lincoln Continental. Then we were riding down the road to a parts store on the day after Christmas.

I said, "My name's Phil."

"Hi I'm Earl."

I found a hose which I was able to cut to fit, I got back on the road, and picked up Chuck without another hitch.

Holly Hunter has a tobacco chewing Guardian Angel named Earl. My Earl had a limp, and Lincoln, and his wife's Bible in the front seat.

I said, "Earl you have been a blessing to me. Certainly God placed you in my life. I can not thank you enough."

Earl said, "Well I figure that's why we're here. We can't make it without helping one another."

Bless you Earl.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Making Bookmarks Late at Night

So here I am working on a bookmark late into the night. I have this last Sunday of Advent to prepare for. My son Elijah and his wife Rhonda are moving to Asheville, North Carolina on Sunday after the service, and we will follow him a couple days later in my old 740 Diesel Volvo pulling a trailer full of his stuff. I mean old too. That car has over 200,000 miles on it, but even more suspect than the mileage is the age - it is as old as Elijah nearly - a 1986. Pray that we make it.

So in middle of all this it was suggested I make a bookmark. I am not good at this Photoshop work, but this is what I can do in a pinch. Kinda silly huh?

You don't have to be cruel and agree with me if you don't want to.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Need a Stronger Irrelevance Filter!

Life is filled with irrelevant nonsense these days - or so it seems. Maybe if I can discover how to use this irrelevance filter in my brain it will help make it through the struggles.

Apart from a silly personal application for this scientific theory/discovery, I find the information in the BBC article quite interesting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

When Open Pit Mining Becomes Redemptive

What do you do when you lose your house to a mining company? Save the church. Check this out:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

200 Lashes for Saudi Arabian Rulers!

This is sick.

A young woman who was raped has been sentenced to 200 lashes, and 6 months in jail - for unlawfully mingling! Somebody tell me this isn't the way most Muslim men think! It certainly has be a anomaly of absolute power gone awry. There must be lots of angry people out there! Check out the BBC story here, and the New York Times article alledging that even the Saudi's are shocked - I sure hope so, adn I hope it changes the laws soon.

The girl's lawyer is one heroic fellow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Political Ad You Just Gotta Love

Okay, I may lean right, but even if I leaned left, this ad rocks. Finally someone with a sense of humor. It may be cornball, but it's time that someone did an ad with fun as one goal. So here's to Mike Huckabee - thanks for the laugh. Chuck Norris fans will be voting for you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beowulf - potential Razzie?

If you watch closely on the trailer below you will find what I think ought to be considered as for a Razzie award. I should have seen it coming. Most ridiculous moment in cinematic history - Grendel's Mother in Stilettos. Okay, so that answers the question of how I felt about the movie. A year ago when I first heard that Angelina Jolie was Grendel's Mother, it made me rethink wanting to see the film. You know what they say about first impressions.

The movie is CGI throughout, and if you are someone who loves the story of Beowulf you will be wishing you had a controller to kick and stab, or restart the game at certain places in the movie. It started off somewhat faithful to the story, although far more sexually edgy and contemporarily Heathen. Angelina Jolie goes full frontal with CGI which makes her a moving mannikin. R rating CGI'd down to PG-13 definitely.

I've got two thumbs - both go down.

The interpretations of Beowulf which allow for such a silly rendering as Zemekis presents come from this kind of thinking. Perhaps we have Freud to blame for this movie.

Beowulf - a gotta see film for me

So, I really think that Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother is weird, but I still need to see Beowulf. I don't often need to see a film, but this is way too epic a story to miss. What about you?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When the Edginess Leads to Excitement - Wanna Take Over the World?

So my last post documented feeling displaced by typical Christian church styles, even though they were good examples of doing church typically today - really it was a great example, but I felt out of place and strange in the experience. Now that I am home and back in the church office after Off the Map Live I actually have some sense of seeing, or at least looking ahead toward the future. After being beat up for a couple years, then going on a two month sabbatical (thanks to many of you), and then coming back in September to have to blitz toward our wild and crazy October outreaches here in Salem, then flying out on November 1st the morning after the busiest day of my year to go to Off the Map, I am now back in the saddle, and feel like I can project toward the future better than I have been able to do in a long, long time.

I wonder if all that Off the Map stuff was part of the envigorating energy? Combined with Taize, and Druid festivals in the UK, and visiting The Fringe, and spending time in Wales, and hanging out with Mike and Jules, and being free from the church stresses for a couple months, maybe the combination of things has brought some excitement back to my heart. Woo-hoo - who wants to take on the world with me today?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Going Through Withdrawls from Edginess

After being on sabbatical for two months (on the mission field in the UK, and visiting Taize), followed by returning to the church in time to do our outreach in the month of October, then hopping on a plance to go to the Off the Map conference and spend time with the likes of Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, Karen Sloan and PresbYmergent gang, Richard Twiss, John Smulo, Jim Henderson, Meg and Benjamin Ady, Sherman and Sidell Bradley, and scores of other cool people I find myself coming off the busyness of the season feeling like "church as usual" is just too weird for me.

Does this mean I have adapted to things that are outside my own box of religious experience - the edgy as if it was a new center for myself?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Closet Ben Stein Fan

Okay, I'm, coming out to say it. I really like Ben Stein, and he has me quite interested in the upcoming release of his movie.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Only Want to Say...

Today was a good day.

Agent B called me.
I talked to JJ the Smu, and Jim Henderson.
I prepared a little for the coming month.
Matt from the underworld wrote this killer post on Circle and Cross Talk about Hell. I may have to post it on one of my blogs.

I did not fix the plumbing problem in the upstairs shower, but who cares right now.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Great and Terrible Day

So today had a wonderful moment in the morning. I visited a church of another fellow ex-unnamed-denomination pastor. His story is probably more sick than my own - certainly as sick as, but his church is doing well. It is healthy, and growing, and full of happy people glad to be there, despite being abused by their former denomination - a group not unlike our own at The Gathering. I shared our work over the Halloween season with them, and then to my utter surprise they took a missions offering for our work.

Oh Lord send blessings to New Hope Church in Norwell, MA, and great blessings to Pastor Dave Wilson, and his wife Julie.

On the really terrible side of things: I have been planning for an event for the last three months, and I have been really excited about being a part of it. It turns out I had it in my schedule for next Sunday, and the event occurred today. I was to be a workshop presenter at the event, and I was a no-show. Now this really stinks, and I was completely embarrassed to discover the error at 7pm in the evening. The event ran from 10am to 6pm, and I discovered I missed the event at 7pm.

So, that makes for a great day - terrible day scenario. Why do I feel like this is a perfect illustration of my life over the last couple years?

Oh curses that James Taylor rings in my ears! "I've seen fire and I've seen rain...."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Our Friends from Taize

While at Taize we met with a small group for discussion time in the afternoon. We were to have considered some questions presented during the morning teaching, and bring those thoughts with us during the 3:30pm small group discussion. The above photo is our group. Roland is the interfaith minister, he and I were the only guys in our small group. People apparently are afraid of his hat, and those who are not call him Roland the Hat. I guess when he was young they called him Roland the Rat. I didn't understand that reference, and so I had to look it up.

Andrea and Sophie were particularly friendly, and we spent quite a bit of time with them. They are both school teachers. Andrea teaches in the black forest of Germany - cool huh? Sophie teaches in France. Andrea was interested in end times theology, and asked me a lot of questions about it. Sophie has a pastor who was once a famous yogi, now he teaches on the deception of the New Age Movement, and she is going to send us some info about him. So here's Sophie (on the right) and Andrea.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Taize and Finding God

Now I am not Roman Catholic, nor am I inclined to become Catholic. I do not identify with veneration of the saints, and even less so with that of Mary as it is practiced in Roman Catholicism. I do not agree with the Mass as a partaking of the literal body and blood of Christ, nor do I find any substance or benefit in the claim of apostolic succession held by Catholic and Orthodox communions, but I did find myself greatly encouraged with my visit to Taize, France and the Communuate.

Brother Roger, a Swiss Lutheran minister, who was killed in August 2005 during a prayer service in Burgundy had developed the Taize community under the goals of serving the poor and abused, and creating a "pilgrimage of trust on earth." This pilgrimage continues to this day under the leadership of Brother Alois, who is a Catholic priest. The community developed as an ecumenical outreach in a very Catholic part of the world, and to this day looks Catholic in its liturgy.

People travel from all over the world to be part of a week of prayer, chanting, and teachings by the brothers of the community. It is primarily geared toward youth, with as many as 10,000 people there during the high weeks of summer. We visited at the last days of August, and there were a mere 2,500 people. This is an amazing number of visitors considering the village of Taize had a population of 161 in the 1999 census.

We were there for three days. Morning, noon and night we participated in the prayer gatherings. Chants sung in up to five languages, prayers in up to seven languages, and a time of silence from 5 to 10 minutes marked the simple service. The basic church building had no chairs - except for a few for the older brothers of Taize who sat in a center aisle. The youth (from 17-25), and the hundred or so adults, sat on the floor, on the steps, or on some benches against the wall.

Once during the day, a teaching time was held with translations in 7 languages going on, and later in the afternoon a discussion was gathered in groups of people speaking the same language. We gathered with a small group which included two school teachers (one from France and one from Germany), a woman from England, and an Englishman who was studying to be an Interfaith Minister. The Interfaith Minister did not call himself a Christian, and shared his misgivings about the Christian faith, which included the absolutist nature of our belief system, and the exclusivity of the message that Jesus is the only way. The rest of the group found thier religious identity in Christ alone, and this created an interesting dialogue with our interfaith friend about subjects such as the nature of evil, and the work of Christ on the cross, although the real focus of our discussions were based upon living in forgiveness toward others.

Bev and I were highly impressed by the simple devotional elements of the Taize Community, the beauty of the chants, and the fact that people from many faith backgrounds (mostly Christian denominations, but even non-Christians as well) gathered together under the banner of seeking God on a pilgrimage of trust.

It is our desire to develop a community which makes itself accessible and desireable to those who are still on the search for truth, and for God. We have come quite a ways in developing that kind of fellowship in Salem, but we have had few models to follow. Taize is one place we can see a similar goal for reaching across denominations, and even touching those outside the Christian faith gently, and although what we are doing is more "charismatic," and "evangelical" by nature, Taize does give us some ideas, and some hope.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stupid Thinkers and Silly Adventurers

Thinkers are stupid people. They sit around looking worthless, and coming up with ideas other people think are useless, or silly.

Adventurers are stupid people also. They go places other people know are dangerous, and do things other people know are silly.

Thinkers come up with philosophies no one uses, and adventurers visit places no one else will ever think of vacationing, let alone taking up residence.

Somehow both thinkers, and adventurers have become heros for millions of the world's people. Thinkers and adventurers have designed democratic governments, discovered cures for devastating diseases, written world changing tomes, enlarged nations, and discovered new lands.

Today I read about a writer who described his writing as a process of turning sentences day in and day out. In a basement in Colorado he sits in front of a computer screen and plays with words. He is a thinker, and he does silly word games all day long. People think highly of this man, but there are thousands just like him whose words will never mean much to the general populace. They will be thought of as stupid people, doing silly word games all day long.

I tend to be an adventurer who gets into things other people avoid, and then I spend time thinking, and philosophizing about the things I get into. I'm not sure this holds out much hope for me.

Well that is my thoughts from Southern France at least. Maybe I'll feel differently from Taize in a couple days.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Why Man headed to the UK

I will be in the UK, and then in France for the next month. I will have my computer, so I will try to do some blogging updates on our mission, and then our experiences in France at Taize and at the coast, but I can't promise anything at this point. So, I hope to be blogging again with regularity come September.

Gwyn dy fyd, and off to Wales I go.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Years on the Tobin

So there I was on the freeway, a mile before the Tobin Bridge crosses the river into Boston. I still had almost three hours to go a distance which was really a decent hour away if there was no traffic, but I was in a parking lot disguised as a freeway, and the wedding was going to occur in three hours.

Five miles and two and a half hours later I exited from the tunnel, which goes under Boston. I had to call Fran (my latest hero on the list of Hillmen: those guys who would die on the hill with me if needed, and I with them), he was able to fill in for the wedding, and he lived just a few miles from the wedding location.

In the hours in which I was on the bridge, and then under the tunnels in the Big Dig, I was mad, I was furious, I was tense, I was yelling at God, I was filed with rage. I experienced the emotions of two years of trouble rush upon my soul on the Tobin Bridge, but in the end Fran was there to fill in until I could arrive for the reception duties. Mike (another Hillman) and Stef were there to get me through this as well.

I am still embarrassed to have missed a wedding due to a traffic issue, but I suppose I have seen how much frustration over former betrayals, and a series of tragedies in this last couple years still lies beneath the surface like a gently rumbling active volcano. Perhaps someday it will go dormant, but those frustrations are apparently hot and active for now.

I hope I never again have to spend two years on the Tobin.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just a Few Shots of Summeryard

I like how our yard is turning out. I enjoy the radical changes of the seasons which occur here in Salem, Massachusetts. As a California boy, the seasons I knew were earthquake, fire, flood and riot. Now I actually experience Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, and I love them. So here are a few summer shots from our yard:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sabbatical Coming

A couple weeks ago the church council discussed sending me on sabbatical. I thought to myself, 'Good idea, boy could I use it.' Then I said (contrary to my thinking), "That is an expensive proposition. We don't have the money for it, and neither does the church."

Of course the council knew this bit of information. Ever since our ouster from our former denomination - or perhaps I should start calling it our liberation from our former oppressors ;-) - the church has been running tight, and we are just making it by from month to month.

But, then Jeff was already in gear with a fund-raising plan, and was not going to take no for an answer.

So that brings me to our current state. I will be going to Wales with a missions team on August 3rd. When they return from the mission on August 16th, I will stay in the U.K. Some point shortly after that Bev will join me in the U.K., and we will travel to Taize, France to join the prayer, chanting, and spiritual retreat which has been going on there for the last 35 years or more.

It was decided that since I was already going to be in the U.K., that Bev joining me there was just a cheap as doing something here in states. With the friends we have on the other side of the pond this is probably true. So, off to Taize we go. Bev is hoping I will spend some days at a Welsh Language intensive in North Wales, which I would love to do, but then again methinks money, and waits and sees on that issue.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Fun Blog for Moments of Creative Silliness

The lady who calls herself Word Imp hosts a game blog called Word Imperfect. It works like this: She chooses an obscure dictionary word, and you devise your own meaning. She picks her favorite three from which you can then vote for the winner. It's like playing Balderdash, and is a great way to be stupid for a few moments each day. So check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2007

You can take the Boy out of California, but...

If this gives you the same feeling it gives me, then you understand perhaps just a touch of what it means to be a from the coast of California. Let me know if you feel it. If it was Wales, I'd call it hiraeth, but it's a warmer beach (Australia actually), and I guess as a Californian I can only say, "duuuuuude."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blogging - Because I Feel Like it

This is a sign of blog addiction, or perhaps the need to have someone listen to me, or maybe it is a subconscious flight from the introspection of lying in bed and staring at the darkened ceiling. Maybe I am writing out of a passion for writing, or simply because I'm bored, but I really don't get bored too often.

The need to have someone listen to me might have some merit. Feeling like the last couple years have been so rough, I sometimes find myself sharing our story, or at least a little bit of it with people I am acquainted with. I wonder if I sound like a broken record, or if I have that "suck the life out you" power going on? I sure hope not.

Maybe I am writing right now because I checked out the blogger choice awards, and wondered how the leading religious blog got almost 1.2 million hits since April 2005. Heck it's just some guy from San Diego, and I came from the San Diego area. Then there was the lady who lives in Utah who says she supports her family off her blog, and I wonder if she's just kidding, but maybe not because she got voted #2 all time best blog.

Maybe I'm writing because I ran into an old friend with whom I had an extremely difficult church discipline situation with a few years ago, and I really like this guy, and wish I had not had to be the person in the middle of life's mess at the time, but, dang, sometimes life doesn't give us that option. And this idea has merit too, because seeing him was a really good thing, but with the singed edges of narrow escape still visible.

Anyway I am rambling, and not saying much, and maybe that's because this is all blogging really is anyway. Who knows.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Petr Chelcicky - More Quotes

"And, just as temporal government cannot exist properly with too great a number of lords, similarly and more so, Christian faith cannot stand and be preserved with a multitude of wicked hordes and a crowd of lords, so useless and destructive of faith, men who cause division, inequality, haughtiness, oppression, hatred, conflicts, and violence of some against others. Even though they boast of being of one faith, they are far behind the pagans in respect to unity, which is rent by their wicked machinations."

"To be sure, the wicked men have entered into all kinds of unions, but Christ’s disciples cannot be in them, since these unions cannot bear comparison with the law of Christ, which is based on true honest goodness and in which the people of God are ruled by the truth of his word, in faith and in grace, like the household of one husbandman, standing in true obedience before God aside from whom there is no other lord. There can be no greater unfaithfulness to the rule of God than the division and sundering caused by these factions and their arrogation to themselves of laws apart from His law. The law of God will not assent to their conflicting peculiarities; indeed, every horde tries to draw God down to itself, desiring to have its distinctive peculiarities sanctioned by the law of God."

Petr Chelcicky was a Bohemian reformer during the Hussite reformation. He was born in 1390. Today he is honored by uniquely differing groups - Anabaptists, and anarchists. This quote from his writing Net of Faith gives a clue as to why bioth these groups might like him. Want to read a little Chelcicky?

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Three Stooges, Kidney Disease, and Steve - my Little Tribute

Steve and his girlfriend walked Salem often. It was their way of getting out for some exercise in Steve's otherwise unhealthy existence. They liked The Gathering, and would visit us for our $1 movie nights on Fridays. They never attended a church service, and considered themselves pragmatists about life and death. Death was neither friend nor foe they would say, it just was.

We had discussed doing a Three Stooges series some upcoming month, and he was looking forward to The Gathering restarting the movie nights. Two weeks ago we began our movie night for the summer - 8pm every Friday, as we have done before. I expected to see the couple walk through the doors again. Tonight she came 30 minutes before the movie - without Steve.

Steve passed away on Monday.

She was up and about, because she had promised him that she would not languish at home if he died, but would live, and love, and be happy again.

Steve had tumors on his kidneys, and needed dialysis to survive. He was waiting for a kidney transplant. Steve and I had discussions about kidneys. He would describe the things he was going through, and give me information on what I could expect as my son's kidney disease progressed. We talked about life and death. We talked about what he believed, and of course we talked about movies he enjoyed.

Perhaps we need to show the Three Stooges this next month at The Vault. I'm going to miss Steve. I was honored that his girlfriend came to tell me that he was gone. We were acquaintances passing through this life, and He touched my heart in small ways - though I realize now, it may not have been so small.

Last week my son received his kidney transplant, and is doing well. This week Steve, who was in his sixties, and waiting for a kidney died. Steve never adopted my views of life, death, or faith in Christ, but if I offer such a small tribute as a short series of Three Stooges films at The Vault perhaps it can be as best a shallow offering of thanks as I can give.

Serfs are on Their Way! and they make me smile

I found this great website called Very Tasteful. In its list of songs I discovered this tune by Billy Reid called "Serfs are on Their Way." I love these oppressed people rising up themes. This song made me happy. Maybe it will put a smile on your face too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Petr Chelcicky - Can you guess why I like this guy?

Petr Chelchicky (pronounced Chelchitsky - gutteral Ch at beiginning) was a Bohemian reformer during the time of the far more famous Jan Huss. Here in the only writing translated into English he speaks of the transition of the church in the time of Constantine, and relates how Pagan rulers rule better without the influence of a powerful ecclesiastical political power.

"It is clear that a royal realm fares better among pagans than among these confused Christians, who have appropriated to themselves dominions. For among the pagans there are no such ecclesiastical lords, so increased in numbers and so useless as sores on a body, for pain is the only thing they give."

This guy is radical - isn't he? I love a balanced iconoclast. Wanna read a little Petr Chelcicky? Check out the Net of Faith.

High Tide, Late Night Paddling, and Observations on Motivation

Monday Jeff asked if I've been out on my kayak recently. "No, not since last year," was my reply. I have not been too keen on it recently simply because life has been too difficult, and discouragement has been too frequent. Between financial squeeze, and Elijah's illness and his need for a transplant, I've had enough just get up and take care of daily business. So the mention of kayaking was not particularly helpful, until 10pm last night.

We were driving home from Jeff and Diane's house, and as we passed down Bridge Street there was water flooding across the road. It was flooded as though it had just rained buckets. That section of Bridge Street always floods in a heavy rain. Yet there had been no rain. I wondered if perhaps a water main had broken, but I saw no gushing of water anywhere. Then I wondered the inconceivable. Could it be that the high tide had filled the North River Canal, flooded the dog park, and even came up to the road on Bridge Street?

As we came to North Street and had a good view of the North River I asked Bev, "Is the tide excessively high right now." I was watching traffic, and she looked to see that, yes, the tide was high. I glanced over to my left to the dog park to see it flooded.

That was all I needed. I was going kayaking. To pull my kayak in on the North River I need to coordinate my kayaking with the tide. Like those typical New England photos with dingys sitting in the mud, the North River becomes a sludgy mess at low tide, and the high tide fills the basin to a 10 to 12 foot depth. This was an exceptionally high tide, and I was determined to see how high it was by paddling around in it.

I learned something about myself. Okay, it wasn't anything I did not know before, but I did not realize how deep rooted it really was. I am motivated by adventure. Repitition tends to bore me. Surprises are generally good. Spontanaeity is a sign of life for me.

The exceedingly high tide was a unique moment, and one I wanted to be on the water while it happened. So I packed up my boat, my paddle, threw on my board shorts, and went down to the North River. I paddled around for about an hour checking out the shore line, and was happy to be there. What motivated me? Something new, something unique.

I'm not sure how good that is that adventure motivates me highly, but it is.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Elijah's Home Now!

Here's the latest news on Elijah and his Kidney.

Jason Rozen (the donor) went home about noon today. He was feeling fine, and he's our hero.

Elijah's rashes have subsided. They occasionally pop up, but not nearly as bad as initially.

Usually a kidney transplant patient does not go home until after the fourth day. Elijah spent three nights in the hospital, and was doing well enough to come home this evening. We ordered Lemon Chicken Rice Soup from Cafe Kushko, and they delivered it shortly after he got home.

He has named his new kidney Otis - as in "O dis ain't mine."

Bev and I ran around disinfecting everything - the doorknobs, the floors, the counters, Elijah's cat (okay we didn't really disinfect the cat, but we thought about it.) We had to send Crash (Elijah's dog) off to be baby sat for a few days, because Crash fulfills his name, and runs and jumps on Elijah's belly when Elijah is laying down. Crash will stay with Rhonda's sister for some time.

Elijah is upstairs playing his guitar and singing at this moment, and although it usually is a bit of a disturbance when he taps his foot on the wood floor above my head, it is a very comforting sound right now.

So, if you were going to visit the hospital - don't. Elijah's not there anymore.

I am sorry I have not been able to respond personally to every one of you who have sent your support, and questions to us. I've had hundreds over the last few days. I do want to thank you from the bottom of my heart however. Your prayers, and your concerns, and your words of support have meant the world to us.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, a gwyn eich byd,

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Surgery Complete and Successful - Updated 11pm

Elijah is out of surgery now. The doctor says it went well. His friend Jason Rozen who was the donor for the kidney is doing well also, and should be awake soon. Elijah will be awake in a couple hours, and after that I will give another update.

Thanks for all your prayers.

Update: Elijah came out of surgery about 2:30om, and finally came to consciousness about 5:30. He is in room 1023 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and will be there for 4 to 6 days. He looks very good considering the stress a surgical prcedure places on the body. He is in good spirits as well, and telling jokes as is his typical style.

Jason Rozen (the donor) also is doing well, and is room 1011 on the same floor. Jason is our hero. Jason should be in the hospital for a couple days, and then be home and taking it easy for about a month.

Thanks for your prayers

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Day Before the Transplant Doings

Tomorrow morning Elijah goes into the hospital for his kidney transplant. Today I am at home. I am only doing a few things: praying (anytime I am not doing something else, and sometimes while I am doing something else), reading (I am bouncing between an online version of Peter Chelchicky's Net of Faith, The Truth War by John MacArthur, and The Last Word by NT Wright. I recommend the first and last. I will comment soon (perhaps in a series of posts) on the second. In all my reading, it is my praying which is taking the precedence. Many of you have let me know that you are, and will be praying and considering our son as he heads toward surgery.

For those of you who have not met him, check out the video he is in with his buddy Dan. They made it as a support Elijah Wyman kidney transplant commercial.

This is what Elijah has been up to. Someone donated some money for him to buy whatever he wants to have with him while he is in the hospital for the 4-6 days of recovery. So he rode down to Target on his Moped, and bought a Nintendo DS lite, and a Mario Cart game. He's been messing with it most of the day. We are going to visit one of his favorite places to eat - Tapas (which is a misnomer, because nothing comes in small amounts, but the food is good) at 3pm with Rhonda.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Elijah's Kidney Transplant - Wednesday Morning

Our son Elijah is going in to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston on Wednesday morning. Sometime around 9:30am he is scheduled to have the transplant. His friend Jason is donating the kidney, and will be in for the surgery about an hour before. Your prayers for Jason and Elijah would be greatly appreciated.

For those who have asked about donating to the Elijah Wyman Kidney Fund - click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Six Days to Go - Is this Good? or Something Other?

My son Elijah is having a kidney transplant in six days. People say things like, "That's great!" and then ask, "Are you excited?"

How on earth am I supposed to answer that question? I have been responding like a deer in the headlights. I blink a couple times, and then stare blankly.

It is a very good thing that a friend of his is willing to be a kidney donor. It will be better for Elijah after the transplant than it is now - by far. Is it good that he is even in this position? - heck no. Somehow I can't make a tantalizing meal out of this bitter season of life. Maybe down the road I'll be able to see this kidney disease in a different light. For now I blink, and then stare blankly.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Elijah's Rotten Kidney's Videos

So, as the fundraising continues for Elijah's Kidney Transplant Fund, he and his buddy Dan are making Videos about it. Check it out here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Elijah's Kidney Fund - Help Needed

My son Elijah will facing a kidney transplant within the next two weeks. It has been a rough road over the last year and a half since he was discovered to have a life threatening, rare kidney disease. Your prayers, words of encouragement, and even financial support through this extremely expensive process are deeply appreciated now. You can donate through The Gathering to Elijah's Kidney Fund.

It is during these times when we discover what it means to have others help us with those burdens which are too great for us to carry on our own. You can visit the donation page HERE.

Blessings on you, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Phil, Bev, Rhonda, Crash, Puppy, Holly, Forrest, and especially Elijah Wyman

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tagged by Igneous Dude

I was tagged by Adam at Igneous Quill - Mr. Lava Pen Himself. So, here are my responses, and I guess I must tag others. I will only tag two to be gentle to the blogosphere: Agent B, and The Prof. Carlos Z. So you'll have to answer these questions dudes.

1. Male or Female: e-male

2. Married or Single (or religious): Married to a real Babe!

3. Dream vacation: Wales by foot - again, and again, and again. Cymru am byth!

4. Birthplace: Pasadena, CA, USA

5. Area I live in currently: The world's coolest city - Salem, MA

6. Someone you wish you could meet: Bryn Terfel

7. Biggest "pet-peeve": Guys who call themselves Apostles.

8. Favorite Religious devotion: Well - here's two: Lectio Divina, and meditation on nature.

9. Favorite Saint (besides the Blessed Mother): This changes from season to season, and is never based upon Catholic cannonization. So any dead person might do. ;-) Currently Petr Chelcicky the Bohemian reformer born in 1390.

10. Favorite sport that you play: Not currently playing - but Waterpolo.

11. Favorite food: sushi

12. Tridentine or Novus Ordo: about a Quaker meeting house? or a Brush Arbor meeting.

13. Would you (or are you) home school or public school: Did both. Christian School for my son, then 1 year home school, then to Public College by his Junior year of HIgh School.

14. How many kids do you have: the one boy mentioned above.

15. Ever been in an auto accident: Yes sirree.

16. Ever seen a pope in person: No, but the Pope was on the cover of Life magazine the day I was born.

17. Languages that you know fluently: I am an American Monoglot trying to learn Welsh.

18. Last movie you saw in theatres: ? What's a theatre? is that some strange french spelling for a movie house?

19. Favorite Blog: Dang - that changes daily.

20. Your thoughts on Barney, the Easter bunny, and Santa Claus: Cabbage. Oh, this wasn't a word association game?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pentecostals, Emergent, Anabaptists and Icons

Once again I will take a moment to dig into the interesting interaction between the Emergent conversation, and Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity.

Mysticism is a serious pursuit among many Emergent thinkers. Ancient practices such as lectio divina, and the ritual worship art of icons are gaining popularity among Emergent Evangelicals whose traditions would at one time have avoided such interests, if not have rejected them altogether. This particular element of mysticism, and its resurgence among Evangelical Emergent thinkers is a piece of the puzzle in the Pentecostal/Emergent interaction which has a strangely twisted plot to it.

Today's Evangelicals, and more specifically Pentecostals have a kinship to the Anabaptists of old with their concern over the issue of icons. In respect for the 2nd commandment, using images as a means of creating a touch point for worship is viewed as idolatrous by many people from Pentecostal traditions. Yet, the Emergent conversation has been asking us to consider ancient mysticism. Along with the emergence of a response to postmodern culture and thought comes this renewal of medieval Christian mysticism, and with it a new appreciation for the purpose of the art of icons with their intellectual, and emotional attachment to prayer and worship.

Orthodox theology allows for an "eikon" as a representation of deity, which becomes a point of reference for access to the graces of heaven. As the Mass is more than a mere representation of the blood and body of the Lord in Orthodox and Catholic traditions, so the icon is more than a representation. It becomes an entrance into the presence of Heaven for prayer, and worship. Thus the Orthodox believer may not worship an icon, but does not struggle with the "veneration" of the icon, even to the point of kissing it.

Contrarily, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are unadorned, and simple. No icons except that of the cross (usually empty and without the body of Christ) fill the spaces of worship. The place of worship is often deemphasized as a holy location, and the true "eikon" is believed to be the followers themselves who are God's image giving us a deeper glimpse into the redemptive story, and the character of God. Like the medieval Anabaptists, Pentecostal tradition has simplified worship to a direct relationship with no need for mediatorial help apart from that of Christ Himself. Placing anything between the believer and Jesus is viewed as a hindrance, and potentially a false "eikon" or an idol.

Consequently the Emergent conversation's movement toward medieval mysticism through such elements as icons may easily be seen by many Pentecostals as a step toward idolatry. I believe the Emergent conversation correctly asks us to consider evaluating iconography in the Orthodox traditions in a new light. It is not acceptable to judge the prayerfulness of those who utilize icons without considering the actions of the inner life - the thought process, and the theology placed behind the use of icons. It is possible for one person to utilize an icon as a teaching tool, and a reminder of the purposes of Heaven illustrated by the art of icons; and another person might actually venerate an icon to the point of idolatry.

Due to humanity's movement toward idolatry, the early Anabaptists who were drawn to simplicity must be honored for their insistence upon purging their lives from idolatrous activities. Their desire to purge the church of idolatry remains a core value of many Christian traditions. Though the idols change from generation to generation, the necessity for iconoclasts who challenge our idolatries does not.

It is in this clash of systems, the Orthodox worshiper, and the iconoclast, that we find the Emergent/Pentecostal dialogue walking the tightrope of Christian faith.

Yet the challenge of tightrope walking is as difficult for the Emergent thinker who challenges Pentecostal Emergents, as it is for the challenged Pentecostal. The day in which we live Pentecostal traditions have become the laughingstock of the religious world. Our TV preachers are the most ostentatious. Because of the early growth of the movement among the poor and uneducated, leadership has been high on passion and low in learning - much like the early days of Christianity itself. Yet the insistence upon developing an unmediated personal relationship with God marked by passion, and bypassing the human intellect is a story of mysticism which has traveled down the halls of our faith. Quakers, Pentecostals, Baptists, and Congregationalists sit in relatively unadorned churches in celebration of this. Quakers, Pentecostals, and Charismatics wait for the Spirit of the Lord to speak into their hearts and minds, often unmediated by physical items, or persons of position. Despite the over played emotionalism of TV Pentecost, the value of pursuing the ancient mysticism of traditions similar to Anabaptism - some of which reach back into the earliest days of Christianity, and into the record of the Book of Acts itself is as needful to be embraced as is the beauty of the iconography of Orthodoxy.

There are Emergent Pentecostals embracing, or at the least gaining appreciation for the ancient arts of iconography, but I am not sure that an appreciation for the unmediated radical pursuit of the ecstatic which has marked Quaker, Anabaptist, and Pentecostal traditions is receiving equal respect. The ancient practice of waiting on Pentecost for the unmediated movement of the Spirit in power and grace is a discipline I would encourage all Emergent thinkers to investigate without prejudice.

Even as I write this, it is now possible to go online and find a thing never before seen by religious people: Mennonite Icons designed by Orthodox iconographers. The ancient icon makers and the iconoclasts have met, and are working together.

Can the Emergent conversation become a place where both worlds meet, dialogue, and learn to worship and celebrate together?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dies

And with his passing perhaps the passing of an era. See story here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Great Quotes from Wild Men - Girolamo Savonarola

"In the primitive church the chalices were of wood, the prelates of gold; in these days the Church hath chalices of gold and prelates of wood."

Savonarola may not be my model for leadership, but I have to admire his radical conviction. His observations about the corruption of religion have rung true throughout the centuries which have followed this 15th century Dominican prist.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pent-emergence and the Poor

I have been considering the issue of the poor, and their identification with the Kingdom of God as it relates to this Emergent/Pentecostal connection.

The Pentecostal church has been perhaps the greatest Christian force among the poor in the 20th century, and still remains a fast growing movement (particularly in poorer nations) today. With the emphasis on global concern, and social justice in the Emergent conversation, it seems to me that a dialogue about the benefits of Pentecostalism to the poor deserves some airtime.

What is it about Pentecostalism that speaks to the hearts of the poor, even though social concern is not as high on the list of it's concerns as it is for some other movements? and even though it is often a movement among local people with few financial resources? Is there something in this simple, yet passionate movement which has something to offer the Emergent Church, yet remains relatively misunderstood, or overlooked?

I suppose one can quickly presume that the poor run to Pentecostal evangelists for false promises of wealth, but can we be so sure that the movement of such a large flock to Pentecostal traditions is as easily explained as that? There is obviously something more significant than false hopes of riches considering the size, and variation within the movement? What lessons can we learn about the power of Pentecostal traditions to draw, and to empower, and to encourage the poor? and how can this become a source of challenge to the Emergent conversation?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I want to be Emergematic, not Pentemergent.

I have decided I'd rather be Emergematic. Emergematic has a sense of hope attached to it. It is ready to wear, quick to move, and self activating. Pentemergent sounds bottled up, filled with struggling emotions, and frustrated. At least that's how the words sound to me.

I also do not hold to a strict view of Tongues as the initial physical evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, so that makes me more Charismatic than Pentecostal anyway. I tend to be laid back, and don't need to shout during a church service to feel like God arrived, so that makes me more Charismatic as well.

I would like to be easily comfortable with my Charismania elements in Emergent settings. I can not say that I am uncomfortable, but then I am not fully confortable either. Fully comfortable would make me Emergematic, but I think there just might be a touch of Pent-in-my-Emergent.

Whay might I and some others of us feel that way?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Emergematic or Pentemergent?

I am wondering where I fit these days. The old denomination didn't want me. Of course, it has been rumored that early in my ministry I sent a letter to the headquarters which had a misspelling of the word "denomination," and that the word was spelled "demonation." I think I did send a letter with that typo. Dang! That's cool. Someone I didn't even know asked me a few months ago if I wrote that letter. That would have been nearly 20 years ago. Wow!

Well, so now we are making new friends, and leaving behind old ways, because the old gang got rid of us. So, who am I now? I wonder. I have a little Emergent in me, and yet I still have the Charismatic/Pentecostal in me. So I am looking to find how these divergent worlds fit together. I guess we'll see if I end up Pentemergent or Emergematic.
Which one rings true to your ears?

For some theological discussion concerning Emergent and Pentecostalism see The Gathering church blogsite.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Live Blogging from God For People Who Hate Church

May 4-6th - yep that only 3 days away! - we will provide some live blogging from our conference. Topics and themes of teachings and panel discussions will be provided by various observers. Carly Menasco, Kevin Menasco, Josh Rivera (see His blog rivera's Blog), and others will take a hand at some live commentary. If you follow the blogging at the blog site for The Gathering, you can send some questions from distant places and get involved.

If you want to find the schedule for the conference, and follow along, go to our church website and follow the link to the conference flyer. Of course, you will need to add or subtract hours to adapt to Eastern Standard Time US.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mad at Howard Dean for this one!

The following words come from The Drudge Report's Flash News, which will change quickly of course. For now you can find the link here.

This is what makes me so mad. Howard Dean is saying that Rudolph Giuliani's private life is a serious problem for him politically. Then when asked to be specific he says, "No, I'm not going to get into that stuff. I don't like attacking people on their personal lives...."

Excuse me!? What the heck do you call this, Mr. Dean? I have felt the sting of false allegations, and/or exaggerated claims by politically motivated people, who are suave enough to make it sound like they really are filled with integrity, and kindness, when in fact they are cruel, and self-serving. This smacks of sickening politics.

Sorry to get political on you, here on my blog, but this frosted my dome tonight! So read below, and let me know how you feel.

DNC Dean Says Giuliani's 'Personal Life Is A Serious Problem'
Fri Apr 27 2007 09:37:49 ET

Democratic party chairman Howard Dean said on Thursday that Rudy Giuliani "personal life is a serious problem."

Dean sent the warning on CNN's SITUATION ROOM with host Wolf Blitzer.

Chariman Dean said the former New York City Mayor "has a lot of character issues that he has to answer for. And overwhelmingly, Americans are going to vote on honesty and integrity.... We've begun to reach out to evangelical Christians, and that's a real problem for him. His personal life is a serious problem for him."

BLITZER: Well, describe those character issues...

DEAN: No, I'm not going to get into that stuff. I don't like attacking people on their personal lives, but I can assure you that in the Republican primary, given what went on in the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina between George Bush and John McCain, those attacks will be made in the Republican Party.


Yeah, this will be developing, and hopefully I will not be developing anger issues.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One More Reason Tea Rules

Yes, that dark evil brew coffee was birthed in heart of the devil, but tea is the nectar of angels. Another piece of evidence that tea is cool comes from this BBC article.

Join me in the tea revolution! It's time to take back the leaves from the British who overtaxed us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feet, Hands, Kisses and Living Hilariously

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." (Luke 7:36-39)

Jesus is having dinner with the Pharisees. While at this religious leader's home, the unthinkable happens. A woman of sinful reputation begins to wash his feet with her tears, wipe fragant ointment over his feet, and even kiss his feet. Now the owner of the home in which Jesus is a guest finds this behavior unimaginably repulsive. Doesn't Jesus know this woman is a person of bad reputation? A sinner? Doesn't he realize that he is allowing this sinful woman to make an embarrassing spectical here in the Pharisee's own home? Perhaps Jesus would have been well advised to tell this woman to go her way, and give thanks to God in a traditionally acceptable manner. Something like a sacrifice at the temple, or sharing the good news of her thankfulness for forgiveness with all her friends might be a more acceptable manner to show appreciation, but this - this looks she and Jesus must have a "thing" going on. After all, word will get around, and no doubt someone will even write it down for all posterity.

How is it that Jesus allowed the dinner at the respected leaders house to turn into a controversial interaction with a woman with a bad reputation?

I know about such moments. I have lived them, and I have experienced the weight of religious repulsion, and judgment which comes from such moments. The genesis of all our denominational trouble last year was tied to a picture with me greeting a B Horror Movie actress who played a voluptuous Vampiress. I did not not know the photos were on the internet, or had forgotten, or something. They were taken at an innocent moment, when I greeted the actress as she strolled the streets of Salem in full costume, with some of my Pagan friends in town. I was working on our outdoor stage, and saw them pass by. I jumped off the stage, and greeted her as I would anyone in full Victorian regalia. She held out her hand, I took it, and said, "Good to meet you Countess." I bowed to kiss her hand, but only did a mock version, and never actually kissed her hand, or her large spider ring. Someone snapped a few photos. I said, "Now don't you get me in trouble with that," and I ran off to get back to work. The innocent 2 minute interaction was witnessed by Diane, one of our church council members at the time.

Perhaps I should have considered the possible ramifications of treating an actress with a "reputation" in such a familiar manner. What if someone thought we had a "thing?" What if word got aroound? What if it would be written down for all the world to see?

Oh dang, it did get around - the whole world did hear about it. It made the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but even before that, it made the District office, and the denominational headquarters, and they decided to remove me from the denomination - without really checking on the issue sufficiently. Instead they took the word the Pharisees who said I was a compromiser.

Well, even some people who have sided with me have thought that this moment was somehow my undoing, and must have therefore also been my fault. I wonder why Jesus did not stop the woman who kissed his feet? Of course, 2,000 years later we extol the foresight of Christ who allowed the moment to occur, and saw that it taught a lesson about the judgmentalism of the Pharisees, and the compassion of Christ.

I am not sure if the moment were to present itself again that I might not do the same. The playful silliness of Halloween in Salem provides the opportunity to create moments of acceptance in the interactions which occur. Perhaps I am the only Evangelical Christian Pastor to ever be comfortable enough around the Countess Bathoria to greet her hilariously, and to tell her that I was pleased to make her acquaintance. Even that falls far short of allowing her to kiss my feet at a public meal with the District Supervisor present - as Jesus did.

I had not written about this moment with any thoughtfulness until now. It was the words of friend, who mentioned this moment and felt comfortable enough to tell me that he wished this moment never occurred, which has caused me think on it a year and a half after it made trouble for me. I know it was my friend's gentle way of saying that the careless moment was in error.

Sure, the moment was careless, but I wonder if careless is sometimes the way to live. Jesus appeared careless. He could have cared less what the Pharisee thought, even while eating dinner at his house. He could have cared less that the story would make the headlines in human history. He lived carelessly toward the Pharisees, and caringly toward the woman. He lived hilariously, and I hope to someday to live as hilariously, and carelessly as He does.

My friendships with the Pagan community have grown exponentially in the last few months. I am sure that photo ops will present themselves in the future, and I will look like I am living carelessly among people whom the Christian community thinks are people of bad reputation. Yet I hope that I will be walking the path of Jesus: living hilariously among those He (and myself) loves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finding Grace in Those So Different Than Ourselves

This is a picture of a kissing gate. I may have passed through this same gate with my wife on a walk through Wales about 4 years ago around this same time. It is called a kissing gate, because only one person can pass through at a time, and the man can demand a kiss before letting the girl pass through. Somehow it reminds me of the interactions of fellowship which randomly occur in life. We have our moments of passing into true fellowship, and they surprise us like the demand of a kiss at the kissing gate.

Some of the recent interactions of deeper connection, and grace have occured with people whom I might not have expected such freedom of relationship (if I were thinking like a typical Evangelical): a gay Pagan man whom I knew did not quite trust me but somehow we came to new appreciation of one another, an Occultist with a tough exterior who showed a gentle heart which surprised me, a middle-aged female Witch whose seeking led her to spend all afternoon asking about our church, an extremely liberal female pastor with a foot in cast and heart for mission, a liberal pastor whose primary interest was saving the planet, and an evangelical pastor who played 40 questions with my life and made it feel like a game between friends.

I wonder if Jesus found comfort spending time with people who were remarkably different from Himself? He speaks of His discussion with the Samaritan woman, and says, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Was there something about that interaction which fed His soul? Did he find the dialogue comforting like a good meal with friends? Or should I assume that He was fed merely by the fact that He served God? Was there no satisfaction in the relational interaction with the woman at the well?

This Samaritan woman wasn't a well studied theologian, or a deeply prayed-up disciple. She was a common sinner - a spiritual ragamuffin. She was a seeker, but a clumsy one at best.

I have been finding myself less comforted by those who speak the typical language of the churched, and more drawn to and "fed" by those who question church as we know it today, and so I ask myself this question: Am I sensing the "food to eat of which you do not know" as Jesus spoke of it, or is something else going on in my heart?

Having to forge new relationships is the nature of the season I am living in, and strangely, ministers whose theology is dramatically different than my own, and seekers whose ideas of religion are only remotely similar to my own at best often offer a deeper refreshing than preachers whose theologies are most like mine. Does this mean I am finding new food for the soul? I am not sure, but it's worth a thought. What do you think? Can we find refreshing in mission itself?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 4)

As the fourth part in a continuing series, you can follow the first 3 parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

A Grand Opening Surprise

March 19th came, and we held a grand opening of our new facility. A morning service, followed by an invitation to friends and acquaintances in the community to visit our space throughout the day, as live music, food, and free Dream Interpretation was being offered. In the evening we had a Storyteller's event, with a friend who played the bassoon in an orchestra who performed solo, and an another friend who was a recently celebrated local poet.

This was billed as the grand opening of The Vault - the new home of The Gathering - The Salem [denominational title here] Church. All over town invitations had been given out highlighting this opening with the denomination's name upon it.

The mayor attended the morning service, and celebrated our Grand Opening with us. Our friends from Streams Ministries came to support us, and provide the Dream Interpretation following the service. The service was attended by a few new faces, but disappointingly few for all our work, but shortly after the service that all changed. People began to pour into The Vault from noon until 5pm. Friends, city employees, friends of church members, neighbors, local business people all came to check out the new place. They laughed, they ate, they listened to live music performed by a variety of friends who came to support us with their skills. Kids ran around, people walked through the old vault. They played chess, and checkers, and had dreams interpreted. All afternoon the fun went on. As it wore down at about the 6pm, the room filled again. The lights went low. and Storytellers began. It was a magical evening, and the day which started so slowly, ended wonderfully. We laughed with friends, developed new relationships, and spoke gracefully of Jesus to the community.

Certifiable Insanity

We rested that week from the hard work which led to the success of our grand opening. To our surprise we had not had any response from the people in our own denomination. Invitations were sent to all the churches in the District, and to friends out and beyond as well. Distant friends wrote congratulations, and wished they could be present. Two of the nearby churches responded. Both regretted their inability to attend and wished us well. Not one person in leadership in the denomination either responded or attended. It had seemed that we were not on their radar screen - forgotten, ignored, or treated as wicked step-children who were expected to been seen and not heard.

Five days after our Open House I discovered why were ignored by our own denominational family. It came in the form a certified letter. On the 24th of March I was notified that our church, The Gathering, no longer held status in the denomination, and that my ordination had been removed.

The absurdity of this action was unbelievable on at least two counts: 1) This had required an action by the National Board, which took place while I was appealing actions taken by our District Supervisor. The action was taken without notifying me that the issue was before the Board, and without allowing my voice to be heard. We were removed without warning, or representation. 2) We held our grand opening on the 19th of March publicizing the local church with its denominational title, and now on the 24th of March I was notified that the Board decision had been handed down on the 8th of March and had been effective immediately. The day we held our Grand opening we were not members of the denomination, and we did not even know that this was the case!

No one in the denomination had the integrity, or courage to inform us that were being removed from the denomination. After over 20 years of service, I was dropped with a cold certified letter, ending in the sick, self-righteous sign-off "blessings."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 3)

This is the continuing story. You can catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

Is This What is Called a Appeal?

Immediately I prepared a written appeal. I sent it by e-mail, and I sent it by post. With my hard copy letter, I included our nearly 60 page defense of our ministry, and responses to the false allegations.

I received a quick reply that the Senior Supervisor was away on a family emergency, and would not return for another 3-4 days.

During these few days the District Supervisor was pressing me to hold a meeting with the District leaders he wanted to send to speak to me about my "future in the Salem [denominational title here] Church." Since an appeal to his actions was in process, I stalled setting a time for the meeting.

When I finally received a response from the Senior Supervisor in Pennsylvania, he reprimanded me for making serious accusations against the District Supervisor, and said that his position was one of supporting the decisions of the District Supervisor. I had been told by denomination's Vice President and CFO that the Senior Supervisor was the person to whom I should appeal to for my troubles with my own Supervisor, and now the same Senior Supervisor had alerted me that his only position was to defend the actions of the District Supervisors under him.

Some years previous I had heard that theatening a lawsuit was the only way to get the denomination to listen in such cases as I was facing, and rather than listen they would simply back down. I chose to believe that the higher road of relational interaction, and allowing the church to be its own court was the more honorable path, but I would soon discover that the honorable path in the eyes of God would not be honored by the men who claimed to follow Him.

The Senior Supervisor left me one narrow opportunity to have a face to face discussion with the District Leadership on equal terms. The District Supervisor wanted to send two District representatives to talk to me about my "future in the Salem [denomination title here] Church." His superior the Senior District Supervisor told me that I would have the opportunity to voice my concerns about the process which we had been abused by, and the false allegations against us.

The District Supervisor instead was insisting that I would be corrected and forced to follow some strict guidelines of correction for our "aberrant" ways.

When I held my ground, and referred back the Senior Supervisor's words who reassured me that this meeting was intended for us to voice our concerns, I stated that any further corrections would simply be error piled upon error unless we first discussed the original allegations, and what we viewed as abusive methods of correction. Based on this correspondence the District Supervisor cancelled the meeting, and it would be two months before we heard from anyone in denominational authority concerning our appeal.

Harald Bredesen Calls the President's Home

During our uncomfortable wait I received a call from my buddy Steve. Steve was at Harald Bredesen's home. Harald had heard about our dilemma, and having been to our church, and having seen my ministry in action periodically over the course of 22 years, Harald knew that the charges against us were insane.

Steve put Harald on the phone. It was always a pleasure to talk with Harald. Harald was a legend in the Charismatic movement, and had been a catalyst for many large ministries. He spoke with kings, and presidents over the course of his life, and now in his late eighties was still wildly active in ministry. No matter who you were Harald made you feel like a king.

The three of us: Steve Maddox, Harald and myself were on the phone. Harald called to tell me that he had put in a good word for me. He described a message he left on the home phone of the President of our denomination, who also happened to be a friend of his. His words to the denominational President were gracious, yet at the same time strong. His words were this, "If you allow this young man to be rairoaded out of the denomination it will be a black mark on [insert denominational name here]." As he described his actions in my defense, he raised his voice, as he always did when he got excited, and said, "I am so honored to come to your defense!"

Harald honored!? No I was honored I said, but he repeated his words as loudly as before, "I am so honored to defend you my brother!"

Harald was not the only nationally recognized leader who came to our defense, and personally called the President of the denomination. I would like to say that it had some effect, and at the very least allowed our situation to be reviewed, and judged in the light of fuller evidence, but we would not hear from anyone in denominational authority for almost two months after we appealed above our District Supervisor to the Senior Supervisor in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

When Job Becomes Our Hero

After a few years of dramatically difficult events one can only wonder if a Jobian season is occuring. I do not want to live Job's life out, but he is nonetheless a hero of the faith beyond which I can comprehend modeling. Yet it is my hope in all our struggles to do so.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Phil's Confessio (Part 2)

The Threat of Removal, and Counsel from the Counsellors and a VP

After our District Supervisor exploded in anger, and feigned spiritual insight by declaring that "something deeper was going on here," I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and took it at face value when he said that he was only a phone call or e-mail away. Perhaps he was just a hothead (okay even his closest confidants said he was a hothead, so I knew that was true) but perhaps he would cool down, and he meant it when he said that we could talk. I sent an e-mail requesting to get together to be able to discuss how we had been offended by being accused of being aberrant in theology and practices, having that information e-mailed around the denomination, never a retraction given when we proved our case, and this on top of the fact that we were never even approached with a discussion of the issues with which we falsely charged. It all had come out of the blue, and we were seeking reconciliation with our detractors.

I asked for a meeting, but stated that I would be talking about how the manner in which we were treated was in error, and that there was a need to begin to work toward solving the problems it had caused us. I even went so far as to say that I was open to hearing how the District Supervisor's position might have been the only option he had, and if so, I was willing to accept that.

I hit send. As the e-mail made its way across the optic fibres, and telephone lines to the District office, I stood up, walked away from the computer into the kitchen, and a voice in my head said, "I'm gonna take him out." The words felt like the words of my District Supervisor. They did not have a New England accent. They did not carry tone and volume, but appeared to carry a meter, and an emotional intent which I identified with the person who would be receiving my letter. I shook off the words as feelings of trepidation in pursuing this sensitive subject once again.

Had I made a mistake in pursuing to rectify this injustice against us? Was God actually calling me to suck it up, and allow lies to continue unabated? or was I called to walk this two-fold path of defending our ministry, and simultaneously pursue reconciliation. Along the way Jeff and I had felt that each step of the way our hand was being forced to speak up, but we never were comfortable with doing so.

The next day, I received a terse reply saying that I was unrepentant. Unrepentant concerning false allegations?! Yikes! How does one defend themselves against such a silly accusation? The reply stated that there would be no meeting with my District Supervisor. I was informed that two leaders would be sent to speak to me about my "future with the Salem Foursquare Church." To me this read like a threat, and seemed to mirror the voice in my head which stated "I'm gonna take him out."

I forwarded the e-mail to a denominational counselor with whom I had asked for advice every step of the way. The moment he read the e-mail, he called me - off hours, from home, and with urgency in his voice. He had never contacted me in this manner previously. His short almost immediate response was, "Phil, whatever you are going to do - do it now." He read the letter in the same manner which I had understood it. The District Supervisor was going to attempt to remove me from the church, because I wanted to talk to him about how we had been offended. As much as we had previously been through, I was still surprised at this response. I could not believe the depth of insecurity, and abuse to which this leader had sunk.

Shortly after I spoke with the denominational counsellor, I also communicated with a denominational Vice President whom I had known for over twenty years, albeit more like an close aquaintance than a friend. I was sure that he was a man of integrity, and someone I could trust. He advised me to appeal our situation to a Senior Supervisor.

And so a new stage of our trials had begun. We were now in need of appealing to higher authorities, and we would discover who up there, like God, had an ear for those without an advocate.