Thursday, February 26, 2009

Got an Idea?

I just arrived home from a two-day retreat with four others planning the 2009-2010 (August - August) teaching calendar for The Vineyard. For better or worse, I now know what we plan on teaching 18 months from now. Some things always change, but most stay the same. I believe that the Holy Spirit has a way of leading us when we take the time to listen. To me, it has been a lifelong curiosity as to why sometimes he leads years in advance and sometimes he waits until the moment of. It's made me realize that they best way to lead a spiritual community is a rather simple formula:

1. Pray (with others when possible.)
2. Plan (with others when possible.)
3. Pray again.
4. Be willing to scrap the plan.
5. Do the plan if it still exists.
6. Repeat as needed.

Dave, Garry, Jim, Kent and I spent the last two days doing a lot of 1, 2, and 3. Now it's time to start working it out. I'm excited about where VCC is headed overall, and now I'm even a little more excited to see the plan for the next year start to unfold. The way I'm wired, I'm also excited to see what parts will be scrapped by a Holy Spirit inspired last minute Hail Mary. (Yes, I just used a football analogy stolen from a spiritual practice to make a spiritual analogy.)

New things excite me. Always have. I don't like change in some areas of my life. (I always order yellow chicken curry at a six with steamed rice at Lemongrass, for instance. I always think I'll get something different, but I don't.) That said, nothing excites me more than a new idea becoming a reality.

Reset was just one idea generated in this same meeting this time last year. On the way back from our retreat today we saw two billboards advertising Reset from two different churches. It wasn't until I got home that it hit me how much one idea can cause a chain reaction that leads to actual results and a common vision.

Sharing our Reset idea with our friends at Crossroads and asking them to lead us in the implementation of it caused it to grow into what it is today. New ideas are most powerful when they are fearlessly given away...sometimes that's the hardest part of having an idea - letting others have it, change it and make it better. But it's almost always worth it.

I'm also excited about the new web-based Bible study looking at Matthew 5-7. It launched this week and if you'd like to join us, just head on over at this link. I'm happy to give it away as well.

So, here's to ideas, blowing them up and giving them to those who can do more with them than you can.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook/Blogger Bible Study Launched!

I just posted the first week's "virtual" Bible Study at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Do you want to know what it is?

I've alway been a little into conspiracy theories. The grassy knoll, Roswell, the Steelers purposely breaking Carson Palmer's leg in 2005, etc. I've found that you are culturally allowed to be interested in conspiracy theories and alternate realities so long as you don't fully believe them. It's acceptable to watch UFO specials on the Discovery Channel during a bout of insomnia so long as you don't come to work the next day convinced that we are not alone in the universe.

We all have those people in our lives who believe everything is a conspiracy. I don't have enough faith in people to believe in too many conspiracies. I don't believe that lots of people can keep the same big secret all the way to their graves. At the end of the day, I tend to fall in line and "think normally." Maybe there are aliens out there, but I don't think the government is hiding them in New Mexico. Maybe it wasn't just Lee Harvey Oswald, but he probably had something to do with it. I'm pretty sure 9-11 had more to do with Osama bin Laden than Dick Cheney. You see where I'm going with this...

Now, here's the thing. Though in some regards I am a very normal thinker, I am also the ultimate conspiracy theorist. When it comes to the bigger than big questions of life, I think we have all pretty much been duped. I think we think upside down. What is real, we think is unreal. What is counterfeit, we think is legit. We functionally live our lives with an upside down belief structure. We are dizzy and lost - drunk on what we have come to call "reality."

When it comes to Jesus, many of us (myself included) probably still don't really get him. We've hippie-ized, American-ized, politicized, modernized, suburbanized, mythicized, and sanitized him so much that we've turned him into the opposite of who he was. The Bible has a word for that sort of creation - an anti-Christ.

Jesus came to throw our assumptions on their heads. He called us to live a life that requires we believe in conspiracies. We have to believe that God himself is conspiring against the fallen and evil powers of this world or we will never be able to understand anything Jesus taught us.

We're launching RESET this weekend at VCC. Let's be brave enough to start over. Brave enough to realize that all of us have assumptions about Jesus passed down to us by our culture and our families. Let's push the reset button (take the red pill) and see what happens.

"Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hit the RESET button on Jesus.

I'm very excited about the journey that everyone at VCC will be going on over the next six weeks. We will be studying Jesus and fearlessly looking beyond our personal and cultural preconceptions of who he was (and is) and what his agenda was (and is). THe learning process will be threefold: 1.) Teaching in the weekend Celebrations, 2.) Going through a daily study guide which everyone will receive this weekend, and 3.) Meeting together in a weekly Reset small group.

We are doing this along with about fifty partner churches in the tri-state area. That may be the most exciting part...a little taste of practical unity in a typically compartmentalized world.

If you are in the Cincinnati Metro and would like to jump on board, check out the information on joining a group here.

Here's a little video teaser of what the journey will be like:

Tuba Wolf Just Dropped

Here's a President's Day math problem for you:

B-wise + C-day + Nothing to do on a Thursday Night = ?

Give up?

Here's the answer:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Facebook Bible Study Update

In less than two days, we've had over 150 people sign up from all around the USA, as well as Canada, Ireland, Wales, India, Panama and Nigeria. The students come from all backgrounds: people of different faiths, confessed agnostics and several pastors from different Christian denominations. A few people asked if they could still join if they do not own a Bible. (The answer is yes, we will be using all free web based media including online Bible sites.)

I'm excited to lead the study of the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 focusing on Jesus and the Kingdom. My desire is not to get as many people as possible involved, but I would like to let people know about it so that those genuinely interested can join in. If you'd like the html code to use the link below for your blog or website feel free to email me. (My address is on the right sidebar of this blog.) I'm not smart enough to post the html code here without it formatting into the logo.

Study starts Ash Wednesday, February 25 and runs through the season of Lent, concluding Easter week. To join click the icon below and ask to become friends with "Bible Study" then send a FB message to confirm.


Mark Driscoll on CNN

A few months ago my old buddy Chris Seay was on CNN and I posted his interview here. Today another old friend of mine was on CNN. Mark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. We don't agree on everything, but we spent a lot of time together when we were both very young struggling church planters. His heart for Jesus and people is genuine. Here he is talking about sex with D.L. Hughley. It is just a pastor being interviewed on CNN, but I guess I should say you may not want to watch it with the kids unless you are ready to explain a few new words.

Mark also has a new e-book called Porn-Again Christian that you can check out for free if you want.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Facebook Bible Study Launching

I mentioned a while ago that I would be leading a Facebook Bible Study. I've decided to teach a six-week study on Matthew 5-7 with an emphasis on the Kingdom of God and the visionary ideals of Jesus. It will correspond with Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25 and concluding the week of Easter. It may be a rough technical ride at first, but we will get the bugs worked out as we go.

If you want to join, you'll need to join facebook if you haven't yet. Then ask to become friends with BIBLE STUDY at this link: FB Bible Study

Here is the covenant you will be asked to agree to if you sign on:

The FB Bible Study Covenant:

1. We understand that the study is facilitated by a Christian, thus making the study unavoidably biased toward a confessional Christian worldview.

2. Having that understanding, we welcome anyone of any faith or tradition (Christian or non-Christian) to participate.

3. We come from every imaginable religious and spiritual background and desire to study the same Scriptures at the same time because we desire unity and mutual respect. We vow to respect everyone, even those with whom we disagree.

4. We vow to be completely civilized - among other things, this means no harsh or course language on the wall, no proselytizing toward our own faith, church or opinion, and no mean spirited interactions. There are plenty of places on the web for that. This just isn't one of them.

5. We agree that each study will be taught by a qualified Christian teacher/spiritual director. Joining the study is a vow to submit to and learn from the director; and, to do the work he or she assigns. (Think of it like taking a college class without the fees.) The primary covenantal relationship entered is between student and teacher. Each study has one and only one teacher. This is a learning environment, not simply a discussion group.

6. We agree that anyone may voluntarily leave a study or the group at anytime without shame.

7. We expect approximately 1-3 hours/week of independent guided study. We commit to the work and will voluntarily drop the study if we cannot make time for it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

una mas

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Center City Collision Videos

Here are a few of the viral spots we did for Center City Collision, Kevin Rains' body shop in Norwood.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On Being Home

The phrase "rebel pilgrim" came out of a time in my life about a decade ago when I was looking for a simple way to express my emerging worldview. The "rebel" part of it stems from the idea that we (those of us now engrafted in the story of Yhwh and Israel through Christ) are, in fact, rebelling against the "normal" order of the world. We are revolutionaries, often standing against very popular and seemingly good ideals that make the world "work" better. In fact, we rebel against many perfectly sane and practical ideals because of our conviction that the created world is moving toward full redemption. We rebel because we do not settle for sane and practical when "thy Kingdom come" is still on the table.

But this post isn't really about being rebels, but about being pilgrims. We are the people of the journey - wanderers with a destination in mind. We are rebelling as we march through the eschaton (last days). The journey of our people began in the Garden, but the last days of our journey began at Golgotha. Since then we have been without a home, and yet paradoxically also with one. Like Israel with the mobile Tabernacle on what they viewed as an eschatological pilgrimage, the house of God goes with us as we move toward the time when the Temple replaces our tent - when God's presence is rooted in our homeland. It is my view that Israel was allowed to live this metaphor for us in the real hours and minutes of history so that we could more fully grasp the better day that is coming - the day when we not only know in part, but in full.

All of this creates an interesting understanding of the idea of home. I believe that our home is to come, yet there are tastes of home here and now. We build, or more accurately, the Trinitarian God builds our home as we go. Our pilgrimage itself is our home, but a better, more real home than this one awaits. I can grasp that we are not fully home as a people, but as an individual it is harder to believe in practice. I want to have a home - to settle - to turn my Tabernacle into a stone building, but I cannot afford such heresies because my people don't settle here. (I should say that I am coming to see more clearly that it is perhaps more dangerous to settle in a time or mentality than in a place. My redemptive theology is emerging to begin to see that God makes good of all things. i.e. matter matters to God a lot more than I used to realize. I have a hunch that the stuff of this world will be around in the fulfillment of all things, but that is another topic for another day. Just to say that perhaps it is more accurate to say we should not settle for the "now" vs. not settling for the "here.")

All this mental regurgitation stems from my recent trip back "home." Deb and I were in Las Vegas for a few days and arrived back in Ohio late last night. It was a good trip. We were able to see lots of friends whom we miss very deeply. I also miss the topography and the city itself tremendously. The mountains and blue sky and neon buzz. I was overwhelmed with sentimentality for most of the trip. It was strange to be back in the city that I knew so well after spending the last four years in two new places. Every street, almost every building, held a memory from ten years of life lived in one city. It was emotionally overwhelming, yet the city itself (along with our friends) had changed a little. Not much - just a little. The city sported a few new buildings with a slightly less fearless vibe. More than in Ohio, you can physically feel the uncertainty of the economy in Las Vegas. My friends were the same people but a little older with older children a few more gray hairs. Both they and the city I called home for most of my adult life had both done the unthinkable - they had continued to exist without me.

I was struck with a subtle sadness as I realized that Las Vegas wasn't exactly home anymore. To be honest, maybe it never was. Maybe rebel pilgrims don't have homes the way others do. The "home" that I desire Las Vegas to be is too lofty of a thing to ask of any city or community. As we came "home" to Cincinnati last night, it was with fresh eyes. This is home now...and it isn't. It is as much home as Las Vegas was from 1995-2005, or as Southern California was for a few years. It's as much home as Columbus was in high school or Russell, Kentucky was when I was a little kid. All of these places are my homes...and all those places are still there. Some of the people I love are still there in those places. But the "now" is not there - my old "now" I mean. The "now" has passed. The truth is, the closest we ever get to a real home in the eschaton is where we live right "now." Home (the Tabernacle kind of not-yet-home) is where the grace of Yhwh lets you pilgrimage today. So in a very real and tangible and joyous way, Cincinnati is now home.

But I cannot settle here any more than I can settle anywhere else. (Again, I used the word "here" but mean "now." Argh. I'm starting to write like an academician.) Home is where (and when) Yhwh reigns fully. At times He reigns in part and those are the times I taste my future home like a nibble of filet mignon on an hors devours platter. But the entire feast is coming - it has been coming since the Cross and Easter and it comes closer every day. And if we can grasp it, it is true to say that The Resurrected One is bringing it to us more than we are traveling toward it. He is coming from our future home with eternal home at his disposal. As St. John might say, a new heaven and a new earth are on a collision course until the day heaven slams fully into our current "now" creating, for the first time ever, our true home out of the broken stuff of our pilgrimage:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:1-3

Our journey started in a Garden and the last days of it started at Golgotha...but here we see where it ends: at home, in God's repurposed City.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

QCP - Best of Cincinnati?

Looks like our little improv troupe is on the official list for best comedian or comedy troupe in Cincinnati. If you want to vote for us, just click here. Scroll down to the ""Out and About" section and click on "best comedian or troupe."

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Improvable Situations

The Q City players have three shows in February. Two Valentines Day Eve shows (6 pm and 7:30 pm) on Friday, Feb. 13 at Riley's Restaurant in beautiful Springdale, Ohio. Seating is limited and a fancy dinner is included in the price of the tickets. You must reserve seats in advance by calling Riley's at 513-771-3361. TIx are 25 bones.

For those of you who like your improv cheaper with no fixings, we have a show Friday, Feb. 20. I just got word that the venue is changing for that show, so I'll keep you posted.

You've been warned.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Endorsing Facebook

Myspace is creepy. When I was working as an actor I pretty much had to have a myspace page because there were some casting directors, producers and fellow actors who used it. I still have a page, but check it less and less often.

I was hesitant to join Facebook, because I assumed it was pretty much the same thing. After a year or so, I have decided that Facebook is a great resource for a guy like me. It's the perfect thing for an introvert who is still curious about his friends around the world. It takes a lot for me to pick up the phone and calls someone to "check in." My wife does this several times a day with her family and friends. To be honest, I think Debbie and my parents are the only people I have ever called in my entire life without having a real reason. I hate the phone. I've always loved e-mails and have been a loyal blogger for seven years now. The www gives me that tiny bit of extra space that I need to be a social being. As a pastor of a big church, it's also proving to be a good way to communicate back and forth with fellow VCC'ers. The house church guy in me can get a little overwhelmed wanting to know everyone at VCC, but knowing that it's all but impossible. I've probably "met" as many people in my church via Facebook as I have after the weekend Celebrations.

Facebook is to social networking what Google was to information searching. It's hard to remember the web before google perfected the search engine, but it wasn't nearly so connected as it is now. This post is nothing more than an acknowledgement that i have gulped the FB Kool-aid and firmly believe that it is changing the way people will communicate in the years to come. I'll be using it more and more to communicate with people who may have reason to care about things I care about. For VCC'ers, I plan on starting a FB Bible Study in the coming months...still thinking through how it would work in practicum, so send over any thoughts you might have. What sort of web based Bible study would interest you? How can we use FB as a tool to think out of the box in terms of learning, discussion, prayer, etc.

Here are some links for those of you who facebook:

Become my Facebook Friend.
Official Facebook page for The Vineyard.
Join the Q City Players Facebook fan page for info on upcoming improv shows. (This is my Cincy-based improv "garage band")

Now for a short disclaimer: I don't "poke" or "throw snowballs" or take compatibility tests on Facebook...that's just silly.