Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pirates, yo.

Eli and Aidan fixin' to find booty in the burbs of Cincinnati.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Second Century Rebel Pilgrims

Lately I have been very intrigued by an ancient document commonly called The Epistle to Diognetus. The author is unknown. Most believe it was written as an early Christian apologetic to a Roman official (perhaps an advisor to the emperor) named Diognetus. Rough dates range from AD 100-150, making it one of the earliest non-canonical Christian letters. My Greek is more than rusty, but I have tried to refresh myself since moving here. I have also leaned into several translations from the last century, but here is a paraphrase that I have costructed. Think of it as "the message" version of chapter 6 of the letter. Let me know any thoughts it spurs in the comment section.

"For Christians are no different from the rest of us. They live where we live, talk like we talk and share our same culture. They do not live in their own cities or speak their own language or engage in extraordinary lifestyles.

Nor do they possess some great product discovered by intelligence or the study of ingenious people. Nor are they masters of some human religious dogma as many others are.

And while they live in our own cities and the cities of our enemies – settling wherever they find themselves – the reality of their own citizenship, so they claim, is a mystery. I must confess that it contradicts all you would expect.

They live in the countries they were born into, but only as travelers on a journey. They share the social responsibilities of the towns they live in, but they also endure the hardships of the aliens there as well. Every foreign country can be there home, but every homeland is foreign to them.

They marry and have children like we do, but they do not abort their babies.
They share their food for meals, but they do not share their spouses for sex.
They live in the flesh, but the do not live for the desires of the flesh.
They exist on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
They obey our laws, but they go beyond the laws in the way the live.
They love all people, but everyone responds by persecuting them.
They are ignored, but they are condemned.
They are put to death, and yet they are owed life.
They are poor as beggars, yet their generosity makes others rich.
They are the poorest of the poor, yet they have all they need.
They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their “dishonor.”
They are spoken evil of, and yet they are vindicated.
They are cursed, and yet they bless.
They are insulted, and yet they respect.
When they do good they are punished as evil-doers.
When they are punished they rejoice as if it gives them eternal life.
War is waged against them as if they were foreigners by the Jews.
They are persecuted by the Greeks, and yet all those who hate them cannot tell you why they do.

In a word, what the soul is to the to the body, these strange “Christians” are to the world."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Carter Caves

We just returned from a 36-hour vacation to Carter County, Ky. It's quite the vacation hotspot. We stayed in Grayson, Ky which is only about 20 miles from Ashland, where I was born and lived until I was 13. I should probably write about embracing my Appalachian roots vs. running from them, but I really only wanted to say that our cave tour guide was named Kenny McCoy. Someone asked him if he was the "real deal," to which he informed us that he indeed was a direct descendant of the McCoys from the Hatfield-McCoy feud. He then told us that a Hatfield worked with him at the park. "The feud was settled many years ago," he laughed as he moved on to explaining the difference between a stalagmite and stalactite. (T for tite = T for Taller. They come from the top of the cave down. Kenny didn't teach me this. I made this up as he was talking because I am a hopeless nerd.)

There is a great lesson about healing when you know that a Hatfield works everyday with a McCoy just a few miles from where they used to shoot each other. I'm not sure what the great lesson is, but there has to be one...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


It's strange to watch the community you were living in a few months ago burn. The Irvine fire seems to be within ten miles of our old house. I also had several acting gigs in Malibu exactly where that fire is burning now. To our friends there - be safe and let us know if any unique opportunites sprout up to help from afar.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preparing to Tackle an Elephant

Next week Dave wraps up the 4ward series at church. After that, I'll teach two weekends in a row on the topic of generosity. We are going to call the series "Tackling the Elephant." The idea is that the reality of the Kingdom Among Us leads us to live a radically generous life. Most of us aren't radically generous though. (That's the '"elephant in the room.") There are a myriad of reasons why, but a major reason is that we simply don't talk about personal and communal economic issues much as a people.

I have been diving into the economy of God in the Levitical Law and the rest of the OT. There is an economic reality on every page of Scripture. We can't really say we are into Yahweh without wrestling with the fact that he is an economic God.

Of course, after we try to get our heads around God's desire for the economy of Israel manifest in revolutionary ideas like kinsman redeemer, jubilee, land sabbath, gleaning margins for the poor, tithing, sacrifices, provisions for aliens and widows, and restrictions on hording food, personal debt and the amount of time worked each week - after we think through that - we come to Jesus who takes it all and re-revolutionizes God's economy. The Kingdom coming brings a new theo-socio-politico-economic community. The economy of Israel is redeemed and fulfilled in Jesus, the Kigdom and the new community (church).

Most of us who follow Jesus in post-modern America have a lot of catching up to do. Cultural Christianity tends to teach on "giving" primarily as a way to raise funds for ministry programs, which is probably part of why we should give, but only part...and probably not the main motivation. I've spent the last few weeks immersed in this stuff and hope to find my way out in 13 days when I will be charged with teaching these things to my community. It feels like I am swimming in an ocean of information searching for the right bucketful to share with others.

All that and I hope to make a video with a live elephant. My job is interesting if nothing else.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hauerwas and Willimon

William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas are professors at Duke Universtiy. I was profoundly influenced by their first book entitiled Resident Aliens. My friend Phil Webster introduced that book to me before leaving Las Vegas to go to Duke and study with Hauerwas.

I just read another book by them that is the best book I've read in a few years. It is called Lord, Teach Us: The Lord's Prayer and the Christian Life. They wrote with the idea that The Lord's Prayer contains all a new convert needs to begin to living as a Jesus disciple within the Kingdom. It's solid.

Here are a few selected passages from the first part of the book:

"Think of Christianity, not primarily as a set of doctrines, a volunteer organization, or a list of appropriate behaviors. Think of Christianity as naming a journey of a people. As you read the Gospels, you will note that Jesus and his disciples are always on the way somewhere else, breathlessly on the move." p. 13

"There are many books that attempt to “explain” Christianity, as if Christianity is a set of interesting ideas or a set of beliefs. By affirming a minimal section of these beliefs, Christianity is supposed to give your life meaning and purpose, or fulfill some set of expectations you had in your mind before you met Christianity. We have nothing against your life being meaningful, but that is not primarily what the Christian faith is about. Rather, to be a Christian is to have been drafted to be part of an adventure, a journey called God’s Kingdom." p. 14-15

"Salvation, Christian salvation, is not some individualized relationship between me and God. Rather, salvation is being drafted into an adventure, having our lives commandeered by God to go on a journey called the Christian faith…Being saved is not some individual achievement, not the result of some flash of personal insight, nor the securing of life’s sense of meaning…Salvation is the delightful surprise of having your little life caught up in the purposes of God for the whole world. Salvation is having your life bent toward God when all you thought you were doing was memorizing the [Lord’s] prayer." p. 21

Monday, October 15, 2007


It has been many years since I linked other blogs to my own. I stopped because during the blogging boom (before the blogging crash of 2005), I couldn't keep track of it all. People got their feelings hurt because I hadn't linked them to my blog. Now that blogging seems to have lost some of its initial charm, I feel a little better about re-introducing the blogroll. I tried to track down my friends old and new who have maintained a regular on-line journal. If you aren't listed, it's probably because you seemed to have left the blogger universe, or because I lost track of your journal along the way. If you actually do blog and know me, I'd be happy to add you. It's about 324th on my daily priority list to update my blogroll, but I'll get to it every few months, so send me an email and join the party.

That said, those initially listed to the right are friends of mine in the real world, not just the fake internet one. They all have a voice and have helped to shape me. Feel free to waste the rest of the day getting to know them...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Old Life. New Life.

As a person changes jobs, careers or even, as some in the faith might say, "callings," the person himself doesn't really change much - at least not at first. When I made the change from professional pastor to professional actor in Las Vegas, I spent more time and energy on my new career. I spent a lot of time at the Rio Casino working in a stage show, training in my new field at the Second City and with my acting coach, auditioning and working in film and tv, etc. Even though I was doing all of that, I was still helping to lead and teach at Apex. I was still using my gifts for the Kingdom. When that career progressed and we moved to California, I was still able to serve The Crossing Church and connect there, but most of my time was still spent acting and writing.

Now as I switch gears again most of my time is spent teaching, leading, studying, creating and thinking with folks at church. However, just like before, I still am me. I'm still an actor, though not a professional one much these days. I'm still an improviser, though I don't have a team to play with right now.

It has been interesting to see that part of my life here try to normalize and fit in with my new career. I have signed with a local agent and I've been very surprised at the amount of union work here. I've been on five or six auditions since moving here. They film a lot of corporate industrials - training videos for P&G, etc. It's just enough to keep in practice and maybe have a booking or two per year.

My film project is also still alive and we are still working out some details. We hope to film this coming summer. I've also met a few people with an improv background intereseted in getting something going.

So the old life helps to form the new one. To top it off, I'm lucky enough to get to be very creative at my job as well. Things are good...I'm excited to see where it ends up.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I spoke this past weekend at The Vineyard on being outward focused. It brought me to a particular Greek word in the New Testament - splagna. The word is used twelve times or so in the gospels in reference to Jesus. It is normally translated compassion or pity in most versions. If you want to hear more details, feel free to check out the message at the VCC website.

One thing that I wasn't able to dive into was that the word, aside being used about Jesus, was used in three of his parables. Each time, the "hero" of the story experienced splagna before taking the pivotal action of the story. In the parable of the unmerciful servant, the man to whom the servant owed a great deal of money experienced "splagna" toward the man and forgave his debt. The servant, in return, demanded a small debt that was owed him by another servant be repaid immediately. Though he received the benefits of splagna from his master (representing God), he could not muster it toward his fellow man. As a result, he lost everything. This is a Jesus theme - God forgive us, we must forgive each other.

This concept also drives what are likely the two most famous parables that Jesus ever told. The first story starts with Jesus being asked a question, "You say to love my neighbor, who is really my neighbor?" In the Parable of the Good Samaritan a man falls to robbers along the road and is left for dead. Several religious, educated, impressive people pass him by and ignore him, but a lowly disrespected foreigner sees the man and has "splagna" for him. He stops, takes immediate action and uses his own time and money to nurse the man back to health. Jesus follows the parable by asking his listener who the real neighbor in the story is..."the guy with compassion" is the reply. Jesus simply says, "Go and do likewise."

There is one more significant splagnatic episode a few chapters later in the book of Luke. Jesus begins to tell his three "lost" parables, concluding with what is commonly called The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger son rejects his family and his loving father to take his share of the inheritance early and waste it on wild living. Not only does he waste his father's resources, but he basically tells his father that he wishes he would just go ahead and "die already" so that he could go about with his life. The son loses everything and eventually comes to his senses. He takes the long and humiliating walk back to his father, preparing to beg for forgiveness and possibly receive a job at his father's estate as a farmhand. However, his father has been watching down the road for his return. When he sees him at a distance, his rejected father is filled with splagna and runs to his son, shouting "My son is home! He was dead but now he is alive! Kill the fatted calf and throw a party, for what was lost is found!"

Here's the capper on the splagna discussion: God the Father waits for us and has pity/compassion (splagna) for us when he sees us returning home from our years of rebellion and selfishness. Though we reject him, his gut hurts with mercy for us. I think this parable shows us that the incarnation of Jesus himself was the result of the Father's splagna for his lost children. The advent was his action. Splagna leads to action, even for God.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Church Creating Culture

Mark is an old friend whom I have lost touch with of late, but he's always stretched my thinking. I don't always necessarily agree with what he believes on certain topics, but his stuff on the gospel, culture and kingdom have always helped me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Back at it.

I'm back up this weekend at The Vineyard teaching on "outward focus." I'm looking forward to it. My weekly pattern is that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are packed full with hardly a minute to spare. Fridays are more laid back. It will be good to hang out tomorrow with some books and my new macbook pro to think about this weekend's message.

Tonight is week two of our new group that meets at our house. Looks like God may be birthing a new community there as well.

Good things.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Luke 10 and Irish Pubs

This is Foley's Irish Pub in Reading. Brad Wise and I spent the afternoon here writing a play that will show at The Vineyard this Christmas. We almost met at the church building, which would have been a huge mistake. We were immediately welcomed by the cook and bartender who took a great interest in helping us with the project. Jules, the barkeep, was a tremendous help and it looks like much of the play will be based in her retelling of a "normal" hectic Christmas at her house with her extended family. She was frustrated that after several hours we had yet to find the ending to the story. We promised to come back next week to keep working on it.

Last week I spent some time walking some of our creative staff through Luke 10. I was profoundly influenced by this account of Jesus sending the disciples during my house church days. Very little has changed in my working theology or ecclesiology from those days. What has changed (dramatically since moving here) is my environment. I still believe that God can birth a missional communtiy anywhere at anytime. (I also still believe that we can call this a "church" if we want.) I believe that "persons of peace" still exist and that there is Kingdom power it going out two by two (as Brad and I did today). I'm also just as convinced as ever that the most radical expansion of the Kingdom happens in organic ways outside of our normal church structures. Only God knows what will come of our time today at Foley's, but we were certainly received there and many personal stories were shared. Deep questions were asked. Invitations were given on both sides to continue the relationships.

Luke 10 instructs Brad and myself to stay at Foley's until God is done with us there. So, until further notice, part of my job is hanging out with my friend at an Irish Pub in the middle of a work day. Nice, huh? It also says to expect healings, free food and dramatic life change. I'm all for that too. Maybe in the mean time we can write a play.

Here's the text in question. If, as the Creed teaches, the Church is truly "one, holy, catholic and apostolic," I believe this text is key to understanding the apostolic church in practicum.

Luke 10:1-24 (NIV):

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
13"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.
16"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
21At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
22"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
23Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."