“Consumer society originates in the belief that the good lie is defined by what we produce and what we consume. It rests on the belief that it is our production and consumption that create life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is why, when we were attacked by terrorists on 9/11, the answer was to go shopping”-McKnight & Block

— The Abundant Community

“The world is going mad in mutual extermination, and murder, considered as a crime when committed individually, becomes a virtue when it is committed by large numbers. It is the multiplication of the frenzy that assures impunity to the assassins.”-Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 A.D.)

— Common Prayer 1/22/2013

Schematic of loss

We met at the pavilion; an obtusely tall, angular building resembling something more at home in the mountainous panorama of my native Wyoming then here in brown Kansas. It’s December, though not happy December, plangent with snow or Christmas cheer. It was appointment day. As we met, there was talk of me taking the kids and returning home, leaving her to navigate Camry colored silver when the end had come. “I’ll wait”

Looking back at two faces buckled in…I pause and think, they always look like tiny astronauts ready for lift off, buckled tight surrounded by foam and resin. The girl, cheery eyed and lucid, the boy sleeping, all be it in fits and starts. “I’ll wait” She climbs from Mazda midnight blue and I take her place, the door shuts and the cabin is quiet. She returns a glance over the shoulder as she crosses the lot, and I press my lips together and give her a hopeful and concerning half grin and wave.

Sliding the gear shift into reverse, then drive, we go. First round the parking lot and medical complex, “Gracie that’s where you and brother were born, right inside that building….” Girl still awake replies, “Where’s mommy?”

“She’s inside” I reply, “We’ll see her again real soon.” We drive, first through adjacent business lots, then across bridges and to other access roads, circling, always returning to that pavilion, that ugly pavilion. I hate that pavilion.

We find a park, built around a man made lake, there are geese, dirty frozen puddles and a few beaten down vehicles parked, conducting business I need not know nor want to know about. “Do you see the geese?!” I exclaim. “Yes Daddy! They’re silly!”

We drive, around and around, we drive. Finally my travel companion follows her fair haired brother into slumber, succumbing to the warmth of her jumpseat and the rhythm of the road…I return.

The pavilion, that disgusting pavilion gleams mockingly out of place…she returns, biting lip, pink faced, fears realized.

“The baby is gone, it’s just gone, dead! No heartbeat, only measuring 6 weeks again….please take me home!” We embrace, as best you can in the front seat of a Mazda, her tears hot on my cheek, her pain, palpable, her body carrying the hope of life and the grim reality of death.

Avocado…A strong Apologetic

Machines whine and whirl; they spit steam steam and drip tears of sweet and bitter; drops of ground beaned bliss. Molecules; two hydrogen, one oxygen combine to produce for me morning salvation in a cup. Dark…Brown…Beautiful.

You can come at me with your logic and philosophies, hypothesis about the non existence of God, I will respond with Coffee, Dark…Bold…Rich! Beautiful. Your stoicism counters with unbelief and I bring you Avocados, a strong Apologetic. I worship and serve the God of Coffee and Avocados. The God of Baseball, Italian Sausage and Summer Rain. This God is the God of cinnamon apple bars, children’s laughter and yes, even sex.

He has made all things beautiful in His time and the Blob Fish displays the Glory of God.

What kind of God is this, this God of the Naked Mole Rats and Espresso? What kind of God is this, this God of Poison Ivy and the crunch of fall leaves? Who is this King of Glory, the Lord Strong and Mighty.

Post inspired by N.D. Wilson’s “Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl”

Less is More

While perusing lifehacker the other day I came across this great piece by Greg McKeown on how our unrelenting desire for success is often the very thing that fuels our failure. For McKeown the process looks something like this.

Clarity of Purpose—>Success–>Options & Opportunities–>Diffused Efforts–>Undermining of Clarity.

We are a society and a people addicted to activity; to the pursuit and acquisition of more. While this is easily seen in the accumulation of material goods,it has now filtered into our energy and efforts as well. Instead of focusing in on what we are most passionate about, well equipped, gifted and enabled for and making a dogged commitment to those few things; we have instead become a culture and people obsessed with diversification, becoming jacks of all trades and masters of none.

Think of this as it relates to areas of personal growth and church life?  How easily do we allow competing vision, value and activity to undermine or sidetrack our original direction?

How often do we agree to take on a new project or opportunity without considering the potential cost to other areas of focus?

With a little focused effort we can begin to recover the clarity of purpose that led to our initial success. McKeown offers some questions to help guide our thinking.

…ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”…We aren’t looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for our absolute highest point of contribution.

 

Read the whole thing here.

“The Christian faith is kaleidoscopic, and most of us are color-blind. It is multidimensional, and most of us manage to hold at most two dimensions in our heads at any one time. It is symphonic, and we can just about whistle one of the tunes”

-N.T. Wright in the forward to The King Jesus Gospel, by Scot McKnight

— Kaleidoscopic Faith

Sweet Potato Chorizo Lettuce Wraps

Take a break from grilling this summer and try this recipe I found at Pink Parsley! This quick and easy week night dish is full of flavor but still light and relatively healthy. Pair this with some fruit and you have a great meal!

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Chorizo and Sweet Potato Lettuce Wraps
Pink Parsley

Chorizo-Sweet Potato Filling:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup frozen corn
3 Tablespoons canola, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of cayenne
pinch of sugar
kosher salt
1 cup chopped white onion
10-12 ounces chorizo, casings removed (soy or pork both work!)
juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cilantro cream:
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
pinch of salt
To assemble:
1 head of lettuce, leaves separated, washed, and dried
1 cup crumbled feta
Additional lime wedges, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place sweet potato cubes and corn on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 T of the oil and sprinkle with cumin, cayenne, sugar, and a good pinch of salt. Use your hands to toss the vegetables and coat them well with the oil and spices. Spread them into a single layer and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring a couple of times during roasting, until the potatoes are tender browned in spots.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the chorizo, breaking up the clumps with the woolens spoon. Stir and cook until the chorizo is browned and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Add the sweet potato mixture to the skillet, then stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.
As the chorizo mixture is cooking, combine the sour cream, lime juice, and chopped cilantro in a small bowl. Stir to combine, adding a pinch of salt to taste.
Assemble the wraps by putting a couple spoonfuls of filling into the middle of a lettuce leaf. Drizzle with the cilantro cream sauce and sprinkle with feta. Serve with extra lime wedges.

Missing in Missional

A while back my twitter friend Chris Chappotin asked a great question about what is missing from the Missional Conversation. In response to that he asked if I would be willing to be one of many who responded in a blog post, briefly detailing my thoughts.

While their is certainly much room for conversation about what is missing; in my context as both a church planting pastor and a church planter strategist, their are two areas where we could stand to do a bit more thinking. The first is how the missional conversation/movement engages in a rural setting and the second is, what is the place of theological education in the missional conversation/movement. Since each of these warrants their own attention in a separate post, we will begin in reverse order.

The Place of Theological Education

I had the privilege of attending and graduating from Midwestern Seminary here in Kansas City. The professors, by and large, at Midwestern are top notch scholars, each of whom care deeply about their field of study and communicate with a passion and clarity that is second to none. I could spend the next several hundred words waxing eloquent about how each class I took, with very small exception, instilled in me not only a greater understanding of God and His Word, but also a more reverent humility. To be completely honest, of all the classes I completed there were only 1 or 2 I would consider not worth the time or effort. Yet, while my time at Midwestern did many many things for me, both as a follower of Jesus and one who serves the local and regional church in a vocational way, I can say without hesitation that it did not prepare me adequately to be a missionary into culture. Rather, the bulk of my theological education focused on preparing me to be the CEO or manager of a multi-tiered religious organization.

Mission was presented as an arm of the church, rather than its organizing principle. Disciple making was discussed in terms of program and curricula and not apprenticeship in the way of Jesus. Little time, if any, was given to how it is that this Gospel we believe and proclaim should change the communities in which we live, other than in the strictest evangelistic sense of personal conversion.

The remedy for this predicament in my opinion is two fold. First, their needs to be a re-purposing of sorts on behalf of schools of theological education. Too often our Christian culture is prone to reaction rather than pro-action, and our schools are no different. While there are some exceptions to this, namely Northern Seminary and their offerings in Missional Leadership, most of our schools are continuing to offer the same course of study they have for decades. While the doctrines of our faith and the confessions we hold should remain for the most part unchanged, the way we prepare to impact the vast lost-ness into which we are called should always be evolving in response to and anticipation of the culture milieu we encounter on a daily basis. How can we expect the people we shepherd and share life with to live as the sent ones of God if we as their leaders don’t have a framework for this ourselves?

Secondly, their needs to be a realistic expectation on behalf of those choosing to attend a seminary or Bible college of what they are getting themselves in to. Many of the men, and women, I sat beside in class viewed seminary as their meal ticket to an inside job with air conditioning  instead of a trade school meant to provide them with skills and tools to fulfill their calling more effectively.

So in conclusion, what place does theological education have in the missional movement and conversation? My hope is a prominent one! As schools of higher learning commit to devoting more of their required courses towards preparing students to be missionaries into culture; and as more students view the time spent in study as vocational training in the best sense of the word, then another great era of mission sending could be upon us. However, if schools continue on the same path, and students with the same attitude, my fear is we will continue our trend of becoming more and more monolithic and more and more in danger of losing our voice and potential for lasting and meaningful change.

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