Leftovers

What do you not have enough of?    If you had enough, how much would that be?

When I was a working parent with young children I didn’t have enough sleep or time for myself.  I dreamt of being able to crawl into bed at 7pm and not worry about the dishes, the laundry and the bedtime routines.  At times I would lock myself in my bathroom and call it my “mommy time-out” just to get a few minutes by myself.  Now, that my children are older, I wish I had more time with them.

Then there is the issue of money.  I live in a well-to-do suburb in a beautiful home with overflowing closets and a stocked pantry, but I continue to wish for more.  Not because I need more, but because I have been shaped by a consumer culture that implicitly reminds me that I am not enough until I have more. I feel at times that I am held hostage by the lie that there is not enough of anything to go around, and it is my job to squirrel away as much as possible to ensure the security of my family.

But truly, is this what life is all about? Continue reading Leftovers

This is the Kingdom of God!

Today I glimpsed the kingdom of God in an inner city church name Mathewson Street in Providence, Rhode Island. My day began with about 300 people sitting around tables drinking coffee and eating a hearty breakfast while a dear soul  played the piano.

I sat with two men who shared stories with me about how they managed in the colder months to keep warm and dry, going from shelters to libraries to churches. They talked about their hopes, joys and struggles. We toasted to forgiveness as Rev. Jack Jones invited us to a love feast and offered prayers of and for the people.

Jack and Russ
Jack and Russ

I met a man named Russ who volunteers in the kitchen starting at 5am every Sunday morning to cook his famous eggs and potatoes. He told me about how he ended up on the streets after breaking 3 bones in his leg days before he was to start his new job as an electrician. He had no health insurance and no support network. He lost everything — his tools, his possessions, his dignity and his truck. He walks with a cane and still questions how he so quickly went from living a middle class lifestyle three years ago to surviving on the streets. But today he moves with joy and renewed hope.

I met Scott, who has come back to the church, finding a community that walks the talk. He has invited over 100 of his friends to be a part of the prayer breakfast ministry. Many of them are from his connections with families from his little league teams. Continue reading This is the Kingdom of God!

Let’s Get Real

According to the October 2012 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, 1 in 5 adults are religiously unaffiliated. When looking more closely at the generational data, 32 percent of adults under the age of 30 fall within the same category. In 1950, the percentage of persons claiming no religious affiliation was a minuscule two percent.

Imagine Jesus showing up today saying to you and a few of your friends, “You will be my witnesses of God’s love in all of Jerusalem, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” What would you do? How would you go about sharing that good news that God’s realm is now? How would you go about helping people to be shaped and formed by that love and peace in your neighborhood?  Really…. without any pre-concieved notions of church or worship? Continue reading Let’s Get Real

YOLO BABY!

About a year ago I was referred to a physical therapist for some right leg and hip pain. Basically the therapist told me that my right leg and hip area had fallen asleep and had lost much of its muscle capacity. I was dumbfounded since I had just finished my first sprint triathlon.

How could I have trained hard for 6 months with my right leg muscles asleep? The therapist told me that this is actually a common occurrence with many people who run. They don’t even know it until the pain sets in. So she set me on a path of healing through a series of exercises that got progressively more difficult with every week of therapy. I still do those exercises every time I run because I surely don’t want my leg muscles to fall asleep again!

As I was running the other day I thought about other places in my life where I have fallen asleep. You know what I am talking about — living my life on auto pilot. A day turns into a week that turns into a month and so on. Let’s face it, how many opportunities do we take throughout the week to intentionally wake up to life in all its glory — the good, the bad and the ugly? Continue reading YOLO BABY!

Searching for… Welcome?

There is a story about a Celtic priest new to his parish walking along a country road. He saw a farmer with his horse and plow working a field, preparing the soil for planting. He hollered out to the farmer. “Hello sir, may a share a word with you?”

The farmer incredulous, looked over his field and said, “ My word for this day is to get this field plowed.”

The parish in which I find myself in Portland, Oregon is called the none zone — the spiritual but not religious zone where 9 out of 10 people do not attend church. In essence I live among folks who would rather have a root canal than walk into a church on Sunday morning.

That is why I love the story from the Gospel of Luke in chapter 10 in the New Testament where Jesus sends out 70 people as his advance team in Samaria, an unfriendly territory with a history of animosity toward the Jews.  Samaritans were known to have an indifference to God language and cool contempt for outsiders trying to preach religion to them.  And yet it is here that Jesus sends us out.

The first thing Jesus instructs us to do is to get on our knees and pray for workers because the harvest is so huge. Could those workers be us? Could he be asking us to pray for our own quest towards grace and boldness because we are like lambs in a wolf pack?  Could it be that this was Jesus’ way to shape and form his apprentices into a new way of living and thinking by jarring us out of our complacency and comfort?  Could it be that he is reminding us that we can do nothing without the guidance of the Spirit of love? Continue reading Searching for… Welcome?

The Sweet Spot — Freedom or Community?


I recently attended the World Domination Summit, #WDS2013, with close to 3,000 other pilgrims from all over the world who are captivated by Chris Guillebeau and his “The Art of Non-Conformity” manifesto. I have to confess that I knew nothing about Chris or this Summit until a friend invited me to experience what happens when a bunch of post-moderns who are interested in adventure, community and service get together. In short, it was like an Amway convention on steroids! But I digress…

One afternoon I found myself sitting in a circle with folks that I had never met before and will never see again. We began a conversation about how to create community. I came to learn that many in that circle expressed their high value for freedom through travel to the point where they had no permanent address. They talked about the expat communities that they were able to connect with throughout their travels, but every time they returned to their places of origin they had a difficult time finding a group of folks that resonated with their values. They shared that they have friends all over the world but what they really long for is a friend who they can have a beer with just down the street.

Even though I have a permanent address I understand that primal yearning for deep connection. It is how we are wired as humans. I, too, have friends all over the world. I live thousands of miles away from my extended family and I have moved multiple times across the country in my adult life. I, too, want to make a family of friends right where I live now.

Then I spoke up and said, “I think building that kind of community rooted where you live takes time. It takes time for the making of common stories that build a sense of trust and history together.” With that comment I got a resounding negative response that went something like this, “It is easy to build community on my blog and I feel connected to my subscribers.” “Look, we have just created a community of 3,000 people at this 2 day summit. I love you guys.”

As I listened more, I began to understand that my concept of community might be different than many of the folks in that room.

I want to be rooted in a community that allows me to be a part of that casserole and beer brigade as you marry, have children, get divorced, or mourn the loss of your loved ones. I want to be a part of a community that stretches me beyond my comfort zone and helps me to grow in the ways of love and peace. I want to be a part of a community that not only dreams about what the preferred future looks like in my city but works to make that a reality.

So what is that sweet spot along the continuum of freedom and community?

I guess it depends on how I find my freedom. If I chose to travel as an expression of freedom maybe the best I can hope for is a fleeting sense of community with those I meet along the way.

But what if I found my freedom in Grace? What if I set my life adventure as a journey of embracing my belovedness and living into my God-inspired fullness? What if I experienced my creativity as a conspiring with the life-force of the universe and the help of my friends? And what if I belonged to such a community that helped me to stay awake to the sacrament of every breath that I take?

That is a kind of freedom that keeps me connected to my spirit, my community, my passion and my joy. That is the kind of sweet spot that I am claiming as I join my friends in creating a network of such communities in Portland, Oregon called Zacc’s house PDX.  Adventure in a community serving others — you betcha!

 

Open Source Church – a Potluck of Sorts

What role does the institution of the United Methodist Church play in fulfilling its mission to “Make Disciples of Christ for the Transformation of the World”? Is it an enabler or an obstacle?

According to Clay Shirky, an institution always excludes and marginalizes people.  He refers to the 80/20 rule: 20% of the users of any institution use 80% of the resources.  The 80% zone is the cost of running the institution, while 20% of users are treated as employees.

When a movement becomes an institution its primary concern becomes self-preservation. The focus shifts to a consumer mentality that tries to keep church attenders happy so that they will give money so that the 20% can be employed doing the work of the church.  When this happens decisions are made that benefit fewer and fewer people and we lose the bigger picture of sharing the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand. We end up playing church instead of being the church.

I often ask people to pretend that Jesus has just given them and 10 of their friends the charge to share the good news of God’s love to the ends of the earth.  How would they go about doing that today if they had to start from scratch?

How do we get pre and post-church as well as spiritual but not religious people together without the institutional baggage? Can we build cooperation into the structure, arrange the coordination in the group and get the same outcome (making disciples) without the institutional costs? Can we design systems that coordinate the outcome of the mission without regard to institutional models and metrics? Can we convene people without trying to control them? If so what would this look like?

I am imagining everyday life and discipleship formation as one in the same.  I am imagining small groups of people getting together to dream about God’s preferred future for them and their neighborhoods and then daring to make that a reality. I am imagining people being allowed to contribute as much or as little as they like. I am imaging a pot-luck of sorts where everyone is fed spiritually and physically.

We can look to the phenomenon of social/amateur media. The former audiences of mass-produced professional media are now increasing full participants. We need only look to the role that social media played in the Arab Spring to know that when anyone can be a reporter of the news as it is happening movements can begin. They can be as playful as a flash mob to as inspiring as a regime change — messy for sure, but filled with spirit!

We have learned that the role of social media is less and less about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals. It is now about creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.  This just happens to be a hallmark of our post modern times. People long to connect and make a difference. Everyone has their own story to share, their own take on truth and their unique gifts to offer. They just need someone to ask the important questions and begin the conversation.

How can we make best use out of this metaphor in a post-modern church? How can we help the Church move from being a professional (paid clergy) platform of information/theology/praxis in the form of church as we know it on Sunday morning to a social network (Methodist movement) that learns from and empowers each other?  How can we go from inviting the stranger in to being the stranger that is sent out?

Can we build the system so that anyone can contribute at any amount? In other words can we embrace the gifts of the non-church-goers and treat them not only as consumers but also as producers? Can we treat Wesley’s means of grace not only as open source content but also as a platform for further creativity in spiritual practice?

Listen to this wisdom from Clay Shirky, a consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies.  And just imagine an open source church movement!

 “The trends are towards easier collaboration, and still more power to the individual. The open source movement has demonstrated that even phenomenally complex systems can be developed through distributed volunteer labor, and software allows individuals to do work that once required a team. So while we don’t know what ultimate effect the economics of free content will be on group work, we do know that the barriers to such free content are coming down, as they did with print and images when the Web launched. …The interesting questions are how far the power of the creator to publish their own work is going to go, how much those changes will be mirrored in group work, and how much better collaborative filters will become in locating freely offered material. While we don’t know what the end state of these changes will be, we do know that the shift in publishing power is epochal and accelerating.” Clay Shirky