Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bush Zombies

And now for something completely different...

Bush Zombies

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Moving Fast

We spent some time last week in Cincinnati preparing for the move and looking at houses. We visited several dozen and found one that we really liked on the second day. We put an offer in that night and it was accepted the following day. We are set to close on August 15, which will also be our first day there. Everything is moving fast...and we are literally moving fast. August 6 will be our last day here in Costa Mesa.

Our new pad is in Liberty Township, located about twenty miles north of Cincinnati. After living in Orange County for more than two years, the economic shift was a little crazy to say the least. (Our house will cost much less than the two bedroom apartment we lived in last year.) We were able to find a newer home with plenty of space, including a (nearly) finished basement and a big backyard. Here are some nice midwestern photos of the new place...

The next few weeks will be busy - lots of good-byes followed by packing, driving, visiting some family, driving some more and then unpacking, painting, buying a lawn mower (who knew?) and all that stuff. I'm excited about it all, except the good-byes, which make me a little sad and uncomfortable. More than everything I'm excited to see what the next season will actually be like. It's all so new and, like I said over and over in the last post, so very unexpected.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Very Unexpected Turn of Events

Some things in life you see coming. Some things in life surprise you.

And then there is that third catergory. The few times, perhaps only a handful over the course of a lifetime, that so blindside you that you feel dizzy for a few years afterward. This is one of those times.

As I have noted in this journal, around April of this year something in my spirit began to change. (To explain this change I am going to have speak in terms of "God moving" or "speaking" to me. I do that rarely and cautiously. However, in these events I know of no other way to explain it.) I began to sense a call to openness along with a growing conviction that I was holding part of myself back from the Lordship of Christ. Debbie and I began to talk about what this could mean. It brought us into discussions about my career path and our overall spiritual journey.

On Easter Sunday we visited my mom and dad in Kansas City and attended their church. Nothing too out of the ordinary happened at the service, but I could feel myself reacting differently than I would have earlier in my life. In my early twenties I would have silently condemned this church for being a little "out of touch." In my late twenties I would have certainly condemned them for being overly structured and institutionalized. But as I sat there personally celebrating a birthday that would catapult me straight into my mid-thirties, I felt nothing but contentment. I felt happy for them that they had each other. I was pleased that they were following Jesus the best they knew how. I felt a still small voice that said, "This is good, but you'll do it differently next time."

It was hours later before I noticed that the small voice told me I would be doing "this" (whatever "this" is) again. It got me thinking.

We were home for a few weeks when I confessed to Debbie that I felt like God was wanting me to be open to a fuller, perhaps even a "vocational", form of ministry. We chewed on that for a few days.

All of this is happening as my career is going well. I had signed with a new agent and my film project was growing into a bigger deal. It made no sense to have those thoughts then.

To back up a bit, in October of last year a church in Cincinnati (Vineyard Community Church) had contacted me to see if I might be open to vocational ministry again and I politely turned them down without much thought. I had promised them that if God changed our hearts we would let them know, but even as I told them that I knew God wouldn't be changing my heart. Well, he did. I e-mailed them in May to find out that some of the church leaders were actually in Anaheim that week for a conference. Since they were only a few miles from our house we agreed to meet one night. They had been busy not filling the position over the last seven months, but waiting for the "right person." Debbie and I were able to meet with some of their staff that week and we all agreed to keep praying about what God seemed to be doing.

The next four weeks were full of strange and mysterious events that included phone calls and e-mails from several friends around the world. We hadn't told anyone about this, but it was starting to feel like God was telling people to pray for us. Friends called saying they were waking in the middle of the night and praying for us, others were calling claiming to have seen visions of our family moving eastward and returning to church work. It was all so mysterious and confirming, but very hard to explain.

We visited the Vineyard about a month ago and it continued to feel right to us. Some of the theological issues that have become so foundational to me are very alive there - The primacy of the Kingdom, relational and organic growth, a desire for a church planting movement, experimentation within the gifts and, most obviously, a heart for the poor and hurting. They believe that "small things done with great love will change the world." That feels like something worth believing in. It was a good trip.

Last week they offered me the job of Teaching Pastor and we accepted. We will be leaving southern California in a few weeks to head back home to Ohio, which is something I never thought I would say or write or even think...it is all so unexpected. All this has done nothing but bolster my faith in a Living God and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

We are grieving leaving our friends here and moving even farther away from our family in Las Vegas, but we are also excited about this next season. Leaving acting and Hollywood has not been as hard as I thought it would be. I will be able to finish my film project (Hitting the Nuts) from Ohio. I can also return to improv and acting as a hobby, which is something that I have missed living here. Much of the joy is taken out of art when it becomes a business. I'll also have opportunity to use much of what I have learned in film and video production in my new job.

If you are a Vegas friend, I have written a more detailed personal letter to Apex which will be read by Tommy at the next Gathering. It explains more of my process as it applies to our story there.

As always, I will continue to update you here as the journey continues. My family would like to thank all of our friends, all over the world, who have shared life with us to this point. We would not exchange our unpredicatable story for any other.

Peace to you all.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Regarding My Non-Jewishness

I've gotten several e-mails (and a nice comment from Mo) regarding my thoughts below on feeling rather "left out" of most of the Bible as a Gentile (#7). I wanted to clarify my thoughts on this a bit, since it has gotten a little attention.

First, the list of ten initial thoughts after reading the entire Bible contained both feelings/impressions and more rational/logical ideas. This particular comment was primarily a feeling more than some theological breakthrough. As I read through the scriptures I felt somewhat like an outsider reading the faith story of another people. (Remember, I was trying to pretend like I didn't know what was coming.) After Jesus, and more clearly Peter and Paul, invited the Gentiles into the Kingdom, I began to feel like the OT was my story, but my story as an adopted, though very loved, son. I do feel like the entire Bible is for Gentiles as well now in light of that, but I do not think I would have easily reached that understanding without Acts, the letters of Paul and a few stories in the gospels.

I understand that there has been a recent (last few decades) missiological focus on God's concern for the non-Jewish peoples throughout the Old Testament. I have read several essays tracing this attribute of God, and I do not deny it. I would say, however, that it is somewhate encrypted and would be very hard to see without the NT breaktroughs mentioned earlier.

I also think that some people have read my ideas as suggesting that God is not missional in character. I still believe in a missional God and a missional people, but I feel that his primary missional focus was intended to be through the submission of Israel, which never really came about. The Abahamaic Blessing (all nations being blessed through him) has certainly now been realized, or is being realized, through The Kingdom of Jesus. Regardless of what could have been in the old covenant, the new covenent launches us all into a mission to see the forces of evil destroyed by the powers of love, forgiveness and submission to God in Christ.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Journey's End

Wrapped the NT this morning. The whole immersion experience shaped me. I was suprisingly taken to Paul this time around. I feel kind of like Paul in some ways. I read the last half of Acts and most of Paul's epistles in the same day. It was good to do that. I recommend it if you struggle with the Pauline stuff. He really is a redeemed Pharisee in every sense of the word.

I was secretly hoping for a Revelation breakthrough with the other 65 books fresh in my mind, but nothing too profound hit me. It can still mean about ten different things depending on what you want it to mean. Maybe this is a good thing in some ways.

Without much pre-thought, here are my top ten stream of consciousness thoughts at the end of the journey:

1. I should do this every year. Next time during a sabbath and over a week when I can focus.
2. Yhwh does what he wants. That's what makes him Yhwh.
3. The main sin of humanity is idol worship. It was easier to define idol worship in antiquity than it is now. I should think on this more.
4. The "new covenant" is really a big deal. In some ways it is a total U-turn. I have a little more compassion for those who killed Jesus and see why he would say that they "know not what they do." Some of them thought they were really doing God's will.
5. The temple and the ark of the covenant bother me. Why did God want an earthly house and throne? It seems a little confusing and very religious. Maybe this is just some of my new covenant thinking trying to make sense of the old.
6. Jacob's name change to Israel - from "he deceives" to "he wrestles with God" is symbolic of every human being's journey from deceiver to wrestler and also symbolic of all of humanity's journey.
7. The Bible really has almost nothing to do with me (a Gentile) until the middle of Acts. We non-Jews were only invited in because God's chosen people seem to reject both the old and new covenant. This makes me feel very lucky and a little angry.
8. The NT has a few thru-lines going on at the same time through various eyewitness families. I am sure that theologians have names for these family lines, but I have never thought of them quite like this. The Lukan/Pauline line traces the gospel from Luke-Acts-the letters of Paul. The Johannine line from John - epistles of John - Revelation and the Petrine line from Mark - the epistles of Peter. I suppose a fourth Hebrew/Jewish line could be drawn through Matthew - Hebrews - James - Jude. In other words I got the feeling that these are three or four seperate contextualizations of the gospel in the first century that co-existed but had some differences. If you are smarter than me let me know if I am on the right track here.
9. God's people should sin less. I am a big grace guy, but I found in Jesus and all of the rest of the NT a very distinct call to holiness (seperateness). There was a general expectation to no longer be mastered by sin. I need to reflect more on this as well.
10. Holy Spirit. It is abundantly clear in Acts and most of Paul that the Holy Spirit is real, available and in control of the church. The new covenant only works in the presense of the divine. Jesus' message of Kingdom (God reigning now and to come) only works if God is truly present. When Jesus left he sent the Spirit to direct Kingdom affairs. It seems like many of us are trying to have the Kingdom without the Spirit. I'm not sure that is possible.

I could go up to 100 if I had time and thought you would keep reading. Like I said, it was a good exercise. I have read the Bible most every week of my life to prepare a lesson or for some sort of personal growth, but I have never powered through it like this. If I have inspired any of you to do the same, please share you thoughts as well.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Day 19 of 10

I finished the OT early this morning on my ten day reading plan that should actually come in at around 25 days. I fell asleep reading Hosea last night and had some very odd dreams. I can't really remember the details, but they were in a series and I felt half-awake during them. I was paralyzed and God was telling me words to say but I couldn't remember them fast enough to write them down. I figure if it really was God, he'll give me another chance tonight and if it wasn't, I should just not read freaky prophetic passages at bedtime.

Happy 4th...

I made it a year this time!

Those of you who have had nothing better to do than read my blog for the last two years will know that I have been known to lose a certain special item from time to time. We went to the beach today with the kids. Deb took a vacation day and it was a great time. But...we came home without my Blackberry. I am guessing that it is either floating in the Pacific Ocean or going home with a foreign tourist.

The good news is that I did get phone insurance last year! I will be without a phone for a few days, so if you need me just e-mail. We don't have a land line, which is only a problem during my annual cell phone replacement week.