Friday, August 30, 2002


I would just like to thank "Ernie" Caldwell, Doug Parks and Greg Hubbard for being my friends. As I had lunch with them today I was able to look into the eyes of three grown men and know that I have been looking into their eyes since they were children. I have now lived more years on planet earth as Doug and Ernie's friend than I have lived a life seperate from them. (We meet when I was 13 and now I am 29...) I have known Greg for 11 years, since my Freshman year of college. Another great friend of mine, Jeremy Ohl, often says that "time is the ally of the man who uses it." I just want to thank these three men for moving to Las Vegas with me so that we could make time our ally.

I look forward to watching many of my current friendships grow in the same depth. I am especially excited about the opportunity to live in the same house with Kenny, Kelly, Jake, Gabriel, Doug, Cheryl, Emma, and Loradanna. (Yes, that's 12 people when you count my family...but its a big house.)

I drive a 1990 Toyota Camry and have no wealth accumulated in my bank account, but I am rich...filthy rich...unfair rich in friendships.

I have walked through the eye of the needle and found wealth on the other side.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002


Why do I hate conflict?

It hurts.

It scares me.

It threatens me.

It wastes my time.

It tempts me to prove myself.

It reminds my that I am a sinner.

It reminds me that my friends are sinners.

It reminds me that I must love my enemies...and my enemy is anyone who is hard to love.

Conflict is the tunnel through which love is shared between two sinners.

Jesus is the only person in all of creation who can guide us through the tunnel of conflict.

Jesus carved the tunnel at the cross and broke through the other side three days later.

We must follow him through the way of the cross.

Friday, August 23, 2002

The Gift of Tears

I do not cry often. I want to cry often, but I struggle with the actual making of tears. It sucks. Curses to the lies of machoism and stoicism.

I have, by God's grace, cried twice this month. The last time that I cried prior to this month was June of 2001 when I had to inform my life mentor, Kevin Odor, that I was being called away from Canyon Ridge Christian Church. This is the fist time that i have cried twice in the same month since I was 13 years old. I am so grateful for these tears.

I came accross a passage from the Philokalia while reading today. I would like to submit it to you, dear reader. May He give you the gift of tears...

"The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears. When you reach the place of tears, then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age. Your spirit begins at this moment to breathe the wonderful air which is there, and it starts to shed tears. The moment for the birth of the spiritual child is now at hand, and the travail of childbirth becomes intense. Grace, the common mother of us all, makes haste to give birth mystically to the soul, God' s image, bringing it forth into the light of the age to come. And when the time for birth has arrived, the intellect begins to sense something of the things of that other world-as a faint perfume, or as the breath of life which a newborn child receives into its bodily frame. But we are not accustomed to such an experience, and, finding it hard to endure, our body is suddenly overcome by a weeping mingled with joy." --Isaac of Nineveh's Mystic Treatises

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Pilgrimage 2003

Maybe I'm still addicted to big churches, big conferences and big ideas.

Maybe I still dont understand the worth in the small, the simple, the normal.

Maybe I still want to be successful, famous or important.

Maybe I am still fundamentally an American consumer who loves a big show.

Maybe I'm still pissed off that I was born too late to be a hippie.

Maybe I still want the institutional church to see that we can be big too.

Maybe I still want to win the world for Jesus all at once through an event.

Maybe I am stupid for even bringing it up...

But what if we picked some farmer's field in Kansas and threw all of us simple church freaks (not just us respectable church planters-the whole freaky church) in mama's station wagon...and showed up with no agenda, no speakers and a bunch of tents, guitars and bibles...maybe or maybe not?

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

What about Ben?

I thought that some of you would want to know that Ben (see Ben's story below) e-mailed me. I don't think that he would mind me posting it for all to see:

"hey man. I'm moving up to new york tomorrow. my place is on the upper east side. if you or your buddies are ever around shoot me an email.

I don't need to be saved yet but i'll let you know if that changes.


Two of my buddies (Greg Hubbard and Jeff Flick) are going to NYC in October. Pray for them to find a "person of peace"...hmm...i wonder where they could find one of those...
The Way of a Pilgrim

Why, why, why haven't I read this book before? I'm sure many of you have and I am officially upset with you for not making me read it before now. The book, if you don't know, is the story of a Russian pilgrim in search for continual communion with God, which he finds through the Jesus Prayer. (Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.)

When I read the first paragraph, I know that his story is my story as well...I am this pilgrim:

"By the grace of God I am a Christian, by my actions a great sinner, and by calling a homeless wanderer of simplest origins, traveling from place to place."

The first scribble in my book? "me too."

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Quebec/Boston Trip Update

Click here to see a report and pics from my recent missioanary journey to Quebec and Boston/New Hampshire.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Battle's End

As many of you know, this has been a rough week for your buddy Joe. Thanks for all of the support and prayers from around the nation.

As I was driving back to my office this afternoon I had a vision of a Roman soldier emerging from the dense fog of a cluttered battlefield. His bloody sword dragging behind him, his armor full of arrows and a significant slash on his left check. He just walked away from the battle, seemingly as the lone survivor. He wiped the carnage from his sword and slid it slowly into the scabbard. He never slowed his pace as he began pulling arrows from his leather shield and tossing them on the ground. He jolted his head to release the tension that had belt up in his jaw. It cracked. He never looked back. He was going home.

So am I. God whispered, "This battle is over, Joe. Go home and rest."

Deep and real peace to you and your beloved, dear reader.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Palmer's Rant

I have a church planter friend named Palmer in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I want to share an entry from his blog because its what i would have written today if i had the guts...

"I start simple churches; rather God starts simple churches and I do what I can to help. I do not want to help God start simple churches anymore, but when I try to stop, I can't. What I want to do is write a book, or be on the cover of whatever the newest, edgiest ministry magazine is this week. And I wouldn't mind being on TV, but only long enough to tell people that this will be my only appearence, because I'm too "indie" and "underground" to do public appearances. And I want to be invited to speak at the next "Emerging Church" conference. I could do a talk about "The Emerging Church And How It's Better And Stronger And Faster In Every Way Than How Church Has Always Been Done". And I want people I don't know from LA and NY and Chicago to call me on my cell phone while I drive to my next appointment and ask me to fly to their city and tell them how to do church and then they'll give me a lot of money, but I'll say "I don't need that. I live the simple lifestyle." But they'll insist and so I'll take it. And they'll tell all their apostolic friends about me, and then they'll link my blog to their blog so that the same scenario can happen all over again. And I want to be recognized. And I want to be thought highly of. And I don't want to be a nobody and I don't want to be a nothing and I don't want to die to my self and apparently I don't want to follow the Jesus of the Gospels either.

So I start simple churches. But apparently that's trendy now, too. So maybe if I start lots of these churches, I can call it a network, and I can still do all of the above...

Damn my ego to hell."

What to Expect

God has called some of my friends and me to start simple churches in Las Vegas and beyond. We have been trying to do this in some form or another for a few years now. The last two days have been some of the hardest along the journey. This is a sincere and humble warning to those who may choose to follow the same path...

Attn: Future Simple Church Planters--Count the Cost:

Expect pain.

Expect to be misunderstood.

Expect to be persecuted and expect it to come first from those who follow Jesus.

Expect to be maligned, attacked and ridiculed from all sides.

Expect to grow tired and weary.

Expect to want to give up.

Expect to lose many old friends. Expect to lose all of your friends where the "church" is the central reason for your friendship. Only your deep and Christ-centered friendships will endure.

Expect to be labeled. (a freak, a hippie, a cult leader, a quitter, a fraud, an idealist, a purist, a heretic, a divider, a communist, a jerk, an egomaniac, a devil worshiper) Yes, I've been called them all to my face.

Expect to weep...deeper and stronger than you ever have.

Expect to doubt your calling, your convictions, your path, your faith, and your life.

Expect to be lonely.

Expect to be seen as utterly unsuccessful.

Expect to die...nothing will be left of you. You will cease to exist. The last things in you to die will be your desire to be great for God and your desire to be happy. And then, you will finally...

Live. Expect life. Expect meaning. Expect to finally understand the prophets and apostles. Expect to know Jesus and his life...for that is all that you will have...and that is all that you need.

Jesus, deliver me from my pain and my agenda. Give me faith to love you more. May I share in your death, rejection, pain, and shame.

May I share in your resurrection.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever follows me, though he will die, will live again."

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

A Normal Story

Today is a sad day. It will pass soon. On sad days I read my stories that I wrote on other sad days...for some reason that helps. Here is a normal story...

In another time and another place there was a village. The village was quaint and noble. Most everyone in the village would seem quite normal and kind to us. They all had normal families, normal jobs and normal habits. They ate normal breakfasts and took normal vacations. They had normal dinner parties and normal school dances and normal post offices. As a matter of fact, the name of the village was Normalville. There was only one thing in the whole village that we might consider abnormal…the people. To be quite specific, their faces would not be normal to you and me. You see, every normal person in Normalville had one mouth, one nose, two ears….and three eyes.

There was nothing more normal in Normalville than a three-eyed person. Two eyes placed right where you would expect, and a third eye planted square in the middle of their foreheads. It was this third eye that was the pride and joy of every normal person in Nomalville. Some had green eyes, others had blue, but everyone from the oldest man to the youngest girl had three…it was simply normal.

Now it came to pass that an evil witch who lived on the top of Mt. Normal had devised a most devious and evil spell. Her plan was to destroy the normal ways of Normalville by making every normal person…abnormal. For years she quietly and wickedly planned her attack. Until one exceptionally normal day when she unleashed her abnormal spell into the gentle breeze and rendered every normal person in Normalville blind in one eye.

It was a most tragic, abnormal day when every normal person in Normalville was blinded. The spell was so potent that the third eye of every person simply disappeared without a trace or without a mark. For years they cried and screamed and questioned why they had become abnormal so quickly. Generation after generation, century after century they searched for the reason for their abnormality.

Many years after the tragic event, there was no one left who had ever seen a normal person with three eyes. Everyone in Normalville had now grown accustomed to being people with two eyes. It was, after all, normal. But the people weren’t happy. As a matter of fact, every normal person in Normalville was only sad all the time. The doctors tried to cure the sadness, the philosophers tried to explain the sadness and the entertainers tried to cover up the sadness, but to no avail. Because, you see, something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t normal at all. Until one day, a most abnormal thing happened.

A little baby was born to a most normal two-eyed lady. And you guessed it! The baby had three eyes! All the mother could do was weep because her baby was so abnormal. The people grew so disgusted and frightened by this three-eyed baby that they had him killed “for the normalcy of Normalville”. It was too abnormal to look at…to abnormal for Normalville.

To this day, no other babies have been born with three eyes. And coincidentally, to this day no normal people in Normalville have been able to cure their sadness. Some have even started to say that being sad is just part of being normal.

Why I Am Afaid Today

I am afraid that we are going to screw it up. I awoke this morning with the stark realization that God actually is at work through the emerging simple church movements of North America. I am hearing about new ones literally everyday. It is already too big for any of us to control. I can see a posturing for position on a national level. I can see that not all ego, including my own, has died. I can see the death of our movement before it even has been fully birthed.

There will be, and already are, people who will take glory and credit for this movement of God. By his grace, let it not be me. And may it not be you, dear reader.

We are sinners and full of pride and arrogance. This movement will die the second that we attempt to control it or claim it. Let us never forget the full message that Jesus has brought to us:

"Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here."

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Garage Sale Confessions

Today I woke up at 5:30 to sell crap that I do not need or want to people who either, like me, don't need it or, even worse, actually do need it. This morning I was a capitalist and tonight it feels dirty. I can't stop thinking about the parade of Mexican immigrants who paid one dollar for a grocery sack full of clothes that for some reason I felt as though I should not be wearing anymore. I want to track them down and give them their dollar back. After all that has been given freely to me, who am I to charge someone for something that I don't even want? Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that if Jesus had a ceramic bunny that I wanted, he would give it to me freely without demanding 25 i did.

Some of you will say that I am being dramatic or overly hard on myself. Maybe you are right, but I cannot get the words of the Master out of my head tonight:

"Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:30-31

Friday, August 09, 2002


Thanks to Kevin Rains for making my blog site look cooler than I am.
A People of The Story

Today we pause to learn from Lesslie Newbigin:

"Perhaps one final point needs to be made. If, in the postmodern world, we tell our story, we will be met with this rejoinder: "Yes of course. That is your story. But there are other stories. Why should I believe this one?" How does the Christian respond to this? Clearly we must resist the temptation to propose some supposedly more fundamental and more reliable truth on the basis of which the story of the gospel could be validated. Certainly we may try to show how the biblical story makes sense of human life in a way that no other can; but even this becomes clear only when one is a part of the story. In the end, the only answer we have to give is along such lines as these: "I have been called and commissioned, through no merit of mine, to carry this message, to tell this story, to give this invitation. It is not my story or my invitation. It has no coercive intent. It is an invitation from the one who loved you and gave himself up for you."

"That invitation will come with winsomeness if it comes from a community in which the grace of the Redeemer is at work. Whether or not it is accepted is not a matter in our power. To be anxious about it, to fret about it, is a sign of unbelief. The one who invites is in control, not we...We have to tell and live the story faithfully; the rest is in God's hands. What matters is not that i should succeed, but that God should be honored."

After the last sentence, which concludes his book, Truth and Authority in Modernity, I have written in the margin, "That sentence, if believed, changes everything." Turns out, for me, it did.

Peace on the journey...

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Ben's Story

Last night I caught a five hour flight from Washington DC to the city of my sojourn, Las Vegas. It wrapped up an 8 day church planting trip. I would like to retell the story of that flight tonight. I will tell it as a dialogue, but i will also let you see my thoughts, which will be in [brackets]

I was assigned 19 C.

[Good. An aisle seat.]

I sat down and tried not to talk to the girls in the seats next to me.

[I should talk to them. Its the nice thing to do.]



"Going to Vegas for fun?"

Girls-"Yeah. You?"

[I've had this conversation about a thousand times.]

"I'm going home."

Girls-"Why were you in Washington?"

[I wasnt.]

"Layover. I was in Boston."

Girls-"Business or pleasure?"

[Why did I start this conversation?]

"Both, I guess." [What's the difference, really?]

Girls-"Would you mind moving to the seat behind you so that my friend can see the movie?"


"No, not at all."

Girls-"Thanks, we'll buy you a drink."

[That's not necessary. Anything to serve you guys.]

"Thanks. I'll take a rum and coke."

Now I'm in 20 C.

[At least no one is in the middle seat. Just some kid in the window who looks like he doesn't want to talk.]

"Tonight's feature film is Spiderman starring Tobey Mc..."

[Seen it twice. Kinda cheesy. Better than reading some boring theology book.]

Movie ends some 2 hours later.

[Still cheesy. I should have read my theology book.]

I start up my laptop to read one of my original stories.

[I am a terrible writer. I write like someone who thinks they can write, but really can't]

Five minutes later.

[Did I write that? I'm freakin brilliant.]

I close up the computer and put it away. The kid next to me speaks.

Kid-"You a awtyer?"

{Did he say lawyer?}


Kid-"No. I said, are you an author?"

[Oh. I don't know. I never thought of it like that.]

"An amateur one I guess."

Kid-"So you havent been published?"

[Does "Christian Standard" count?]

"Kind of, I guess. I've had a few essays published.

[Feels like a lie, but its not.]

Kid-"I just spent six months in Brazil writing a screenplay."

[This is going to be a long story. We have another hour, what the hell?]

"Brazil, huh?"

Kid-"Yeah. But now Im going to Vegas to F--- around. Get f---ed up and sh--. Where are you staying?"

[Probably not a Baptist.]

"I live there."

[Dont ask what i do.]

Kid-"What the f--- do you do in Las Vegas."

[I f---ing plant churches.]

"I start new churches."

Kid-"No sh--."

[No sh--.]

"No sh--."

[I'm too tired to start a church with this guy tonight, God. Let me go back to my r&c and we'll call it a missionary journey. I'm all yours tomorrow.]

Kid-"How do you do that?"

[Never mind, God. I'm on the clock for one more hour.]

"We just start simple communities...people like you and your friends. We meet in people's homes, coffee shops, bars..."

Kid-"No sh--?"

[This is going to a funny story. I should blog it.]

"No sh--. We've seen about 30 churches start in Vegas and more around the nation.'

Kid-"You've built 30 church buildings?"

[Do you listen? You're drinking apple juice. If the one who should be a little confused.]

"No, we mostly meet in homes."

Kid-"Do they pay you a fee?"

[No, but there's an idea...]

"No, they just give whatever they want and we use the money to pay for trips like this and for people like me to start new churches."

Kid-"Dont take this the wrong way, but are you a cult?"

[If we were I would say no.]

No. We believe the Bible, same orthodox [Let's see if he knows any big words.] beliefs as other Christians. You know, God, Jesus, all that. A lot of people in our churches havent been to church before."

Kid-"That's me. I dont know anything about Christianity. So you believe in heaven and hell?"

[Yes, but probably not what you are thinking right now.]


Kid-"Do you think God created the world in seven days?"

[That's your second ever spiritual question? I have no idea.]

"I think that's at least what God wants us to believe."

Kid-"I'm moving to NYC. Some of my friends there could use a church like this. Maybe we could exchange numbers and you could visit us on your next trip."

[Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. A real live person of peace. Thanks, God. I love this stuff. Its a ton more fun than the four spiritual laws.]

"No sh--?"

He laughs. We exchage info. He invites me for drinks at Balleys. I decide to go home and see my first church, my family.

kid-"I'll email you when i get to New York."

[I'll email you tomorrow.]

"Cool, it was good to meet you, Ben. Be good tonight. Call me if you get too messed up."

He laughs: "I will, bro."

Please pray for Ben.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

I am back in Vegas after an 8 day trip to Boston, Quebec City, Montreal and Manchester, NH. I am excited to tell the stories, but not tonight. Im hella tired.

Aidan, my 11 month old, is walking like crazy. He was just stumbling around when i left.

Tomorrow I will write about a guy named Ben who i met on my flight from Dulles to Vegas.


Sunday, August 04, 2002

Tonight I lose my blogging most people I was pressured into by my friends after a few beers. I'm in Manchester, New Hampshire with Jeremiah Smith, an old friend of 12 hours, wrapping up a week-long church planting trip with Kevin Reins, a buddy from Cincy...

Tommorrow I go to Boston for the first time. No lie-I actually heard a guy yell, "Chaage him, Nomaaa!" at an Irish Pub tonight during a Red Sox game. I miss my wife and kids and will see them this tuesday.