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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Double Sabbath Rest this Week

With the winter weather here in Charlotte this week end, my schedule slowed down considerably. Saturday there were no deliveries at the cupboard due to the weather. Churches were canceled all over Charlotte on Sunday, including the one I attend. My busy-ness was able to come to a near complete stop. I just didn't feel like doing much of anything. I got to sing loud to old music I love. Got to spend some time with Deb cuddling. Took some time just to be with Kyril. Spoke on the phone to Bene for longer than I have at one sitting. I slept in till 8:30 on Sunday ... unheard of for me. Might as well been noon! Even my email seemed to have slowed down. Only one cupboard phone call .... amazing. I have enjoyed my little double sabbath rest this past week.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blog More - Done!

Alright. My first of the three Pre-New Year's resolutions is now complete with this post. I have blogged more (than last year in the first 30 days of January). Still working on blogging often and regularly.

So let's renew that resolution and let's make it blog even more.

Here are a couple series that I will be working on .

1. Markers on the Road. The first was "No Longer".
2. He/She said - They will each start like this first post did "John the Dwarf said,"
3. Book reviews - The first was "The book of the Shepherd"
4. Of course there will be blogs about Common Heart like this one "The and Common Heart."

If you would like to subscribe to my blog you can do it here, and you will receive each of my notes along the way in your email box.

Friday, January 29, 2010 and Common Heart

One of the most exciting things to me about Common Heart is how we connect people who would probably never meet. Rich & poor, black & white, Latino & Anglo, church folks and folks that have given up on church, meet and develop relationships that benefit each other spiritually. It’s all about living in God’s love and being a part of his grand mission. For years, through Common Cupboard, we have used groceries to open doors and hearts.

Late last year we discovered a web based tool, (No, I did not name it. Hard to believe, I know.) This is a cool program that would enhance any community of people. Churches use it. Community organizations, YMCA’s and non-profits all use it throughout the country. What it does is connect needs with the abilities to meet those needs.

So let’s say that you know a elderly couple on a fixed income that has some plumbing issues. You can post it on the site and people with the ability to help will see the need, and can respond. Or, let’s say you have an unused exercise bike, you can post that in the marketplace and give it to someone who will use it. Or, maybe your church has a workday around the building with many projects You could start an initiative on and keep in contact with those who will be coming out to help with the specific projects,

Well, Common Heart is in the process of launching this tool for our volunteers from 20 local churches. It will give us the opportunity to use many different ways to open doors to God’s love as it connect more people in very practical ways.

A cool benefit of is that communities can blend, share their needs and abilities with other communities. So if your church had a community on the site, it could blend with Common Heart. Now the needs of folks from both communities will be shared with people in either community with the abilities to help. I think this is so cool. So let’s imagine just 6 communities of 50 -75 members each in our area that all blend with Common Heart. Now the needs of the folks we serve will be sent out to a possible 350 or so people who may be able to help and connect in a way that will demonstrate God’s love. Our ability to activate and equip people to serve just increased amazingly.

To sign up for Common Heart’s community go to Sign up for Or, if you would like discuss how your church or community could be using this cool resource, contact Keith at

Here is are links to a couple video about - In Book Form - Coffee Shop

John the Dwarf said,

"I can imagine someone embodying all Christian virtues. Rising every every morning at dawn, he would begin immediately to keep God's commandments. He would be patient, reverent, and selfless in God's love. With genuine humility, he would control soul and body. He would pray regularly and sincerely. Injury would not upset him. This virtuous person would never consider revenge and retaliation. He would not attempt to inflate his ego by criticizing others. He would live in lowliness of spirit, as one crucified. His hands would be busy with work, and he would not complain of deprivation. He would sense the nearness of death"

By Way of the Desert, compiled and modernized by Bernard Bangley

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moral Roots of Liberals & Conservatives

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

I found this video to be very enlightening. Thought I would share it. What do you think. If you want to do something fun and personally enlightening take some of the tests at this site.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Marker on the Road - "No Longer"

In my post 12/31/2009 "Blog More", I wrote ... "And sometimes, if we have not placed a marker on the road, when we get to the place we realize that something significant has just taken place, we don't quite know what random thought, chance meeting, or slight adjustment of course it was that though seemingly insignificant at the time, led us to this significant place." And so today, I want to start a series of posts to set down some markers. The first is a road marker that says ... "No Longer".

This past summer while I was meditating on scriptures with some friends, my attention was drawn to the words, "no longer" in this portion of scripture from Romans (14:13). "Therefore let us no longer criticize one another, but instead decide not to put a stumbling block, or a pitfall in your brother's way."

These words "no longer" grasped a hold of me. My friend encouraged us to explore the emotions attached to the words we were holding before the Lord. I can say that it was a strong sense of anxiety over my inability to do "no longer", cold turkey, full stop, never again.

Additionally, it was to "no longer criticize". I remember a day several years ago when a close friend told me that I was the most critical person he knew. That took me for a loop, 'cause I just couldn't see it at the time. Now I do. I feel like I came a long way from those days, however, there are people I perpetually criticize quietly in my heart. It often was displayed in my attitude and actions. And to receive such a strong word was arresting to my soul.

As I further meditated the Lord began to prompt me to pray for those I tended to criticize. He prompted me with loving things to do for them. He gave me creative prayers to pray and encouraged me to believe in the possibilities of change (for me!). It became easier to imagine "no longer", when I substituted criticism with appreciation, and judgement with humility. Through love the rest of the verse flows naturally, "but instead decide not to put a stumbling block, or a pitfall in your brother's way."

As I have walked this road aware of this marker. it has revealed just how deep criticism is within my soul. Although I have learned to be silent, my heart still speaks an implicit criticism. A voice within speaks up to correct and then judge without even trying. It judges not only the person's statements, but his actions. And not only his actions, but often his motives. It insidiously works against God's command to love our neighbor and to love our enemies.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Cor 13:4-6

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Book of the Shepherd

The Book of the Shepherd by Joann Davis came in the mail the other day. This is the first book I have received from Harper Collins / HarperStudio to review for I have been looking forward to it. I was surprised by the initial appearance of the book. It was smaller than I imagined. It was printed on rough edged paper, with simple illustrations. Add the illustrated dust jacket and it had the appearance of an antiquarian book. It all fits with the back story that Joann had found this book in the muddle of papers and other effects of a eccentric professor who left a note the day he died about having it translated from the original Middle English/Dutch in which it was written.

It did have the feel of such a book from a far off time and land. It is a land where cruelty is law, It is the story of Joshua, a shepherd, and his companions David, an abused, discarded boy and Elizabeth, a former slave girl as they seek a "new way". This "new way" we find out was practiced by an outlaw group of monks who sought to make kindness and forgiveness a way of life. As their way is banished they hide their secret law, the "law of substitution", in a secret and dangerous cave.

As the trio travel we learn of their own stories and the stories of those they meet along the way. Others have sought this "new way" in the past, but have never returned. Guided by dreams, a grandfather's map, and what they learn from kind people along the way they get to the cave. It takes the gifts that each provide to acquire the secret.
I enjoyed reading it. It is a simple parable. It held few few surprises, but engaged the heart. The Book of the Shepherd inspires you to believe that small communities of people practicing kindness could produce great changes in the larger community. And that one can make the difference. This is one reason why I like this book. I believe this to be true.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A key to Sabbath Rest?


I am very grateful for my lesson learned this week about Sabbath rest. I went to bed early (for me) last night. I got a full 8 hours. I rarely get a full 8 hours. And after worship and lunch today, I took a nap.

It's useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don't you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?
Psalm 127:2 The Message

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's Wed, and I haven't blogged yet

Well before Deb Hamm writes me a note on Facebook, I figure I had better write a blog post. I have good reason to fall behind this week. It has finally been busy at work. That is a very good thing! But it tires me out. Then Monday night we went to see Avatar with our cell-mates. Yesterday, I got home at 10 pm after visiting 2 friends. I am not trying to make excuses ... well, I am sort of.

But the thought about Deb sending me another prodding note, has proved enough to encourage me to write. Isn't that interesting.? Deb spurred me on to a good work the other day, and that nudge is stillworking a couple days later.

So, with that in mind. What good thing do you want to do? I want to encourage you ... prod ... or nudge you today to do it. Go public with it by mentioning it to a friend, or maybe post it as a response to this blog post. And let's encourage each other. We all need a little push now and then to do good things.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Meaning of Sabbath Rest (Part 1)

There are three principles that bring meaning to this concept of sabbath rest according to Gordon MacDonald in his book "Ordering Your Private World (OYPW)." The first he calls Closing the Loop implying that the task is completed.

""When God rested, He looked upon His work, enjoyed its completed appearance, and then reflected on its meaning: "And God saw that it was good" (Gen 1:10) This shows the first of the three principles of genuine rest. God gave His work meaning and acknowledged its completion. In doing so he taught us there is a necessary exercise of appreciation and dedication for our routines.

So you could say that on the seventh day, God closed the loop on His primary creation activity. He closed it by resting and looking back upon it to survey what has been accomplished.

This rest is then first of all, a time of looking backward... We gaze upon our work and ask questions like: What does my work mean? For whom did I do this work? How well was the work done? Why did I do this? What results did I expect, and did I receive?

To put it anther way, the rest God instituted was meant first and foremost to cause us to interpret our work, to press meaning into it to make sure we know to whom it is properly dedicated." (OYPW, pg 173.)
Today as I grow in making sabbath rest a real rhythm in my life, I am focusing on this first meaning of sabbath rest. The other two are according to MacDonald, "Returning to Eternal Truths" and "Defining our Mission".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hear the voice of our pleading

Creation groaning,
hearts cry out,
pain, cares, woes,
sobbing, wailing,
hopeless, helpless,
looking ...
waiting ...


The earth waits,
I wait.
Waiting no longer,
I act.
You've answered.

I wrote this poem in response to a time of meditation during a prayer event that my friend Steven Burleson held at Hope Church. We were combining art and an ancient Bible meditative practice known as Lectio Divina. As I was meditating on the word "voice of my pleading" my heart was drawn to the pain of the world. When we look around it seems as if God is not answering the voice of our pleading. Silence seems, too often, to be the response. We say that God answers our prayers, but sometime the answer is no or wait. Sometimes his answer is silence. Maybe when we cannot stand the silence any longer we will hear his simple call to act. could we be God's answer to our pleadings?

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19

Blog Often

Alright. Today my friend Deb Hamm told me that I was not doing well with my with my resolution to blog more. Only one post this week! My resolution was not only to blog more, but to blog regularly and blog often! Well, thanks Deb for noticing my lack of posts and encouraging me on. I am hoping to make up for the lack of writing in the next 24 hours as I blog often this weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

8 Things You Should See At a Missional Sunday Gathering - David

This is an excellent post from David Fitch. It is very similar to how I envision a missional community gathering. On Sunday nights at 6 pm at The Commonplace I have Vespers and Lectio Divina (Bible meditation) and I have invited anyone to come and join me. This little gathering that has never been more than 4 people is in the spirit of this post. There is a standing invitation for you to join us in this quiet contemplative, and mission formational time.

As I understand the missional church, the Sunday gathering can never be the focal point. And yet it plays a crucial role in the formation of a people into God’s Mission. It is essential for the sustaining of a missional community who lives life in the rhythms of mission. We do not gather for self-improvement as Christians (although this happens), we do not seek to attract more Christians into this church for the sake of building a “successful church.” Yet here we are shaped by the Spirit into a political force for the Mission of God in the world. Assuming all this, if you were to come and visit one of these gatherings, I think you would notice some things that should tip off that this church has a culture of Mission. What would you notice? Here’s my (off the cuff) list of 8 things to ponder that should tip us off that this gathering is Missional.

1.) There is no single dominating leader/pastor: You won’t be able to tell who the senior pastor is. There will be leaders, but no one leader will dominate this gathering. There probably will not be one dominant preacher. Leadership will be diffused. There will be a high percentage of people involved in various forms of leadership.

2.) The Service isn’t Produced: The liturgies, preaching and music will have an organic sense to it. It will be a family type gathering not a show. There will probably be candles, art and other tactile means to enter into the reality of God in Christ. The production value of the service has more to do with organic artistry, not professional produced excellence. Above all, there is a focus towards the communal encounter with the living God. We don’t have full-time paid professionals to orchestrate a Sunday morning service. In fact, if we all came together 5 minutes before the gathering time, and 3 of the leaders for the service were sick, I would like to thin we could put it together without a hitch. This is because the gathering is about the regular liturgical shaping of who we are into the Mission of God.

3.) There probably will not be many strangers present in this service: There will not be as many strangers, for these kinds of connections take place outside the Sunday gathering. We do hope to see people who don’t walk with Christ among us – but they will be folk who have gotten to know people in our community (who do walk with Christ). We hope to have people among us asking a lot of questions who have arrived here through an important relationship in their lives.

4.) Socio and economic diversity: Everybody should not be of the same socio-economic strata. Maybe you couldn’t tell on your first visit, but there should be people hanging around living below the poverty level who are being helped and sustained by this community. You should see folks with handicaps welcomed and loved and feeling comfortable. You should see these kinds of diversity as the justice of God through reconciliation of all kinds permeates through this cmmunity into all our other relationships.

5.) Sunday Morning Greeters?: OK, I don’t know about this one. All I know is that you should notice strong and viable friendships happening. And this might make it harder to or more uncomfortable to actually meet people if you’re s stranger just visiting on a Sunday. Most connection happens in relationships outside the church from which people come to the gathering. This means that visitors will find true communal connection on a Sunday morning gathering more difficult. We should expect people to make significant connection with strangers (especially strangers to the gospel) outside the church gathering.

6.) The Sending Out: The high point of the time together should be the benediction!- The Sending Out. There will be various liturgies and worship all centered in the encounter with the living God. It always ends however with the sending out for mission. There is a centrifugal nature to the missional Sunday morning gathering.

7.) The Gathering is Participatory: We sit together in a round before God around the altar, not as passive spectators for a performance. The service is active and participant driven. I can’t imagine a missional church that trains its people to sit passively on Sunday all facing in one direction as if they come to sit and receive. Anyways, this is how we arrange the gathering place at LOV [Life of the Vine]. Is this just us?

8.) Ethnic Diversity?: OK I admit to being troubled by this one. Especialy after last weekend’s missional learning commons. Should missional communities be diverse by definition? Even if we are located in a predominantly white context? Should all Christian communities be diverse even if they have to pay people of a different ethnicity to come and be a leader/singer ? I deliberately left this one up for grabs. Missional communities are not typically diverse. But we can do some things to prepare the way? We’ve had many suggestions? Any new ones?

Anyways, these are just a few hints as to what someone might notice upon entering a missional community’s Sunday gathering. I am sure there are many more. I’m not sure the comunity I co-lead can live up to these ideals. Any immediate ones you’d like to add to the list?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Adjusting to Sabbath Rest

What I learned this week about Sabbath rest is that it is not a one day adjustment. It calls for the adjustment of your whole life. I began thinking about it early in the week, realizing that I needed to change my laundry habit. I also had given thought to simplifying our Sunday meals. I picked up my old copy of Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald that has a wonderful section on Sabbath. I want to enjoy and reconnect with my family as a part of this rest. I desire to refresh my soul with meditative quiet. I tried to prepare. However, I did not fully tweek my week to take full advantage of my Sabbath.

I did get some time with the family. I couldn’t rest enough to take advantage of the early morning quiet I had. I had to late in the week sought out the book I mentioned. And, what bothered me the most is that due to a lack of planning I started my evening Sabbath scurrying to get a hair cut before the shop closed at 6:30. I could not put it off since I was sharing briefly at a friend's church and I looked like a very Grizzly Adams! I consoled myself with he fact that I spent the evening with Grizzly Jr. (Kyril), and had a great conversation with the hair stylist. Nonetheless, it is no way to start a day of rest!

I did greatly enjoy ending my Sabbath rest with 3 friends praying Vespers at The Commonplace. And I did receive a challenging word that I will be meditating on all week as I seek to bring my work in line with it. (That is for another post.)

So, armed with my new knowledge and with 6 days to prepare, I will be in a better place to rest on my next Sabbath eve.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Missional Imagination

Read this over at today and thought it was worth posting on my notes along the way. This is what Common Heart is about.

A missional imagination is not about the church; it’s not about how to make the church better, how to get more people to come to church, or how to turn a dying
church around. It’s not about getting the church back to cultural respectability in a time when it has been marginalized…. This [missional] imagination turns most of our church practices on their head. It invites us to turn towards our neighborhoods and communities, listening first to what is happening among people and learning to ask different questions about what God is up to in the neighborhood. Rather than the primary question being, ‘How do we attract people to what we are doing?’ it becomes, ‘What is God up to in this neighborhood?’ and “What are the ways we need to change in order to engage the people in our community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?’ This is what a missional imagination is about. —Alan J. Roxburgh and M. Scott Boren, “Introducing the Missional Church,” Baker Books, 2009, page 20.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sabbath Rest

Last post I ended with thinking about a rhythm of life. Work dominates my life. Five days a week I head into Charlotte driving about 45 minutes each way. I am at work for 9 hours. I get an hour for lunch. This is not unlike many people. On Saturday I get up just as early to go to work with Common Cupboard. I am usually done by noon.

One basic rhythm is a sabbath rest each week. It is so important god put in in his big 10. I must confess, I have never truly practiced the rest of a weekly sabbath. I say I am too busy for it. During my spiritual formation group meeting this past Monday I committed to observing the 24 hours from sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday as a sabbath rest.

So I have been thinking this week how to go work free for my sabbath rest. I am going to have to change some things ... simple meals, laundry on a different day, no paper work. there is a couple will be continuing to consider the implications and then enjoy my sabbath rest this week.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Making room for the important

Last blog got me thinking about what I really value. I mentioned a few things that I say I value highly. Some I have made room for and discipline myself to do. Others I have not.

The thing about making room for the important is that something else has got to be replaced. I prefer to multi-task. But somethings just deserve my undivided attention. I must chose to make room for them and allow those things that are truly important to me to create a basic rhythm to my life. Other things need to fit into. that rhythm,

As I go through this day I am going to think more about what my daily life would look like built upon the rhythm of what is truly important to me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blog Regularly

Blog more ... This I know I can do. From July to December 30, I did not write a word on this blog. So blogging more is easy ... I have just done it.

But blogging regularly, that is a discipline. A friend of mine, Jeff Gardner, is the pastor of Threshold Church in Matthews. Now he blogs regularly at Every Thursday a new post, and in the past couple months he posts notes on Monday from his Sunday talks. So each Monday and Thursday a new edition is available. Good stuff too.

I mentioned the word discipline. I don't particularly care for it, to tell you the truth. I usually see the discipline of doing anything as constricting. I like to believe I am free and spontaneous. But the reality is I am not. I am constantly pushed by the many demands upon my life. Some are relentless. Some are just what I got to do. Others seem to scream out with urgency. Truthfully, I am not as free and spontaneous as I like to believe. Rather, I am driven by circumstances much more often that I care to admit. What discipline really does is make room for what I consider important. If I don't intentionally carve out time for these truly important things, my life will crowd them out. Some of the things I value highly are prayer, meditation, dreaming, spending time with my family, reading good thought provoking books, and putting my thoughts into words. So the discipline of regularity is more of a way to carve out time for what energizes and renews me.

So what will blogging regularly look like for me? Don't know yet! I would love to blog daily, but several times a week is probably a good rhythm for me. Let me think on it and I will get back to you.