05 September 2011

Changing blog locations

We have decided to switch our blog over to Wordpress.
All of our future posts will be found there. All of our previous posts (including photos and comments) have been transferred to the new site.
Here is our new blog address:

We hope you enjoy the new location.


29 August 2011

Photo of the Week: Irene and Moving

Here are two photos. One is of Ceara watching the wind from Irene whip through the trees in our current apartment. The other is the view from our new winter rental as Irene blew across the water.

23 August 2011

Reunion and Withdrawal (and with-drawl)

The past few days have held a mix of emotion for me. I have rejoiced at spending time with Courtney, Ceara, and Caleb. I have missed the 28+ people with whom I spent the past three weeks.

I celebrate the reunion. I mourn this feeling of withdrawal from an intense, intentional community experience. And while at the end of three weeks I definitely said certain things with-drawl (thanks to the Southern contingent), I'm glad that my speech has returned to its somewhat normal state.

I long for opportunities in the future when Courtney, Ceara, Caleb, and I could engage in intentional living with others. I am challenged to see how I can do that in our current context.

Not sure where the thoughts are heading now... until next time, peace.

22 August 2011

Photo of the Week - YAMs get Commissioned

This is a photo of the Young Adult Missionaries with Thomas Kemper, who is the General Secretary of Global Ministires. They were commissioned on Thursday, August 18th, and now they head out to 8 U.S. States and 11 countries.

15 August 2011

Photo of the Week - 5 years ago...

This past Friday marked our 5th Wedding Anniversary. WooHoo!!!

Another Prayer for the Young Adults


Great I AM,
You give us a name of seeming ambiguity,
Yet you give us a name of Promise, Hope, and Possibility.

We read and hear about aspects of who you were and what you have done.

Sometimes, in moments of faithfulness we proclaim who You are,
and, unfortunately, in moments of arrogance we expound upon who we think You are or how we think that You should be.

Thank You for times when in moments of doubt and/or faithfulness we can still proclaim that You are.

Other times we feel like You are not,
or that You are - but for other places and other people and not with us here and now.

Forgive us, Help us, Heal us, Be to us,
for Your glory, honor, and praise,
because You were, You are, and You will be for us forever.

*Another "prayer plainly spoken" for the US-2s and Mission Interns based upon reflections around Exodus 3:14 in which God's response to Moses' question of, "Who shall I say sent me?" is, "Tell them, 'I AM that I AM has sent me to you.'" This is the English rendering, yet the Hebrew has a fuller sense of continuation in that it also could be translated, "I was that I was, and I will be what I will be."

13 August 2011

Redeeming and Recycling God: another prayer for the young adults

This prayer needs a bit of an introduction both for its style and its content. I experienced this style of prayer with different people and in various communities, yet most formative for me was Stanley Hauerwas praying this way before each ethics class for an entire semester. Some of these prayers are collected in a book titled " Prayers Plainly Spoken."
This prayer results from various thoughts and images coming together: One) our move to Maine where one pays a deposit on cans and bottles; Two) the image of the man who walks through the neighborhood and the sound of him rummaging through garbage cans searching for cans and bottles he can take to the redemption center and earn a little cash; Three) the young adults who have a passion for breaking cycles of injustice, abuse of power, and poverty, yet who also wrestle with their own brokenness; Four) the verse from the Bible found in Micah chapter 6 verse 8 which says, "God has shown you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk humbly with the Lord;" Finally) the style of prayer in which we use words intentionally to name God, reflect upon an event or circumstance, express what we feel, and remember the call to love God and love neighbor.


Redeeming and Recycling God, sometimes we can feel like the empty Coke can cast aside. Used and discarded, we long for someone to search for us, to find us, to redeem us, and to recycle our lives into purpose again.

Other times - by our actions and our inactions - we treat others like Coke cans.
Awaken us to when we cast aside others unaware.
Help us, for even in awareness we might try to "recycle" others, yet discard them nonetheless.

Forgive us, we pray.
Empower us to do justice and live with those cast aside;
to love mercy and speak prophetic words for those casting aside;
to walk humbly and become aware of when we perpetrate and remain aware that You are (and we are not) the redeemer.

Thank you for redeeming us for value with the deposit made on the cross.

Recycle us and transform us to see how You want to reincorporate us into Your story.
Resurrect us and grow our imaginations for ways to reincorporate those cast aside into Your story of love, compassion, truth, and grace.
In the name of the resurrected Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Amen.

12 August 2011

Aslan is on the Move

"Aslan is on the move."

This line from "The Chronicles of Narnia" started coming to mind a couple of weeks ago, and since then it has continued to pop in and out of my thoughts on a daily basis.

"Aslan is on the move," is what the Narnians said to each other when the snow started melting and they began to see glimmers of hope as pockets of resistance would rise up against the White Witch. (I know that is not a great synopsis, yet it will have to do for now.)

About a month ago I spent a few days in Grove City, PA at a gathering of folks who had a passion for reclaiming the terms Church, Christianity, and Missions from the negative and wounding ways that many people associate with those words.

"Aslan is on the move."

A few weeks ago I attended a conference with about 95 campus ministers who wanted for their campus ministries to rupture the narratives of cultural and civil religion that also promote the negative impressions of Christianity.

"Aslan is on the move."

For the past two weeks I have had the tremendous privilege and opportunity to share life together with 26 (including one via Skype) amazing young adults who have decided to give the next two or three years to live with communities in poverty working for justice, mercy, and peace, and in so doing provide a tangible witness and experience to people of God's love, compassion, presence, and grace.

As I hear their stories over meals, in large and small groups, and in one-on-one moments, I cannot help but get excited for their lives, the communities where they will live across the US and around the world, and for the way they will join in God's holy work of healing the world.

"Aslan is on the move!"

Click here for information about the United Methodist Church's Young Adult Missionary Service Programs.

Click here for a story about one of the young adults named Wil.

09 August 2011

The Great I AM: A Prayer for the Young Adults in Mission

May the Great I AM
Hear You
Deliver You
Protect You

May the Great I AM
Provide for You
Nourish You
Guide You and Lead You

May the Great I AM
Teach You
Train You
Transform You

May the Great I AM
Redeem You
Restore You
Rejoice over You

May the Great I AM
have all of your lives -
all of your faith, hope, and trust,
all of your doubt, anxieties, failures, and shortcomings -
that you may know the Great I AM in ever deeper and fuller ways
because the Great I AM - the triune God - was, is,
and will be for you...forever.


*This prayer of blessing, in the Celtic Tradition, was written for the young adults currently being trained in Stony Point, NY with the United Methodist Church. The story of Israel's Exodus and Exile and relationship with God ("I AM" is the name given to Moses by God in the book of Exodus, and it is a name by which Jews and Christians continue to call on God today) as seen through the stories of the Old Testament.*

08 August 2011

Photo of the Week - One Year-Old

Caleb celebrated his first birthday this past week. Courtney drove Ceara and Caleb down to Stony Point, New York (where I am co-facilitating a training of 25 young adults going into mission service with the United Methodist Church) so that we could celebrate together.

01 August 2011

A Distinction between Missions and Mission

I was pointed to this quote today from Leslie Newbigin, and I found it a helpful distinction between words often confused.

"Mission is the entire task for which the Church is sent into the world. By 'missions' I mean those specific activities undertaken by human decisions to bring the Gospel to places or situations where it is not heard, to create a Christian presence in a place or situation where there is no such presence or no effective presence."
(Leslie Newbigin in "The Logic of Mission," p.20)

I don't think he is referring to proselytizing, rather he is recognizing that Christians do have a viable, authentic, and alternative way of living. This living is not over and against other cultures necessarily, rather it is recognizing the opportunity to: live peace into places of violence; work for freedom in places of slavery; restore dignity into places of marginalization; live in solidarity with those who are oppressed; etc. And the reason Christians can live that way is because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that provides a the hope, freedom, and strength to live life in such a way.

I know that is not an exhaustive list, but I'm just trying to wrap my head around this quote.

Photo of the Week

Ceara loves to dress herself before we go out. She chose the sweater Grammy made even though it was a hot day.

25 July 2011

Photo of the Week - coffee time

At the tail end of a campus ministers' conference I had a chance to visit some friends who just moved and to preach in their new congregations. On Sunday morning my friends told me they haven't come across their coffee grinders yet in the unpacking. So I decided to use their mortar and pestle instead in order for us to enjoy some morning coffee.

18 July 2011

Photo of the Week - Bono and U2

Courtney and I discussed a way to have more of a consistent presence with this blog. We decided that we could start a weekly photo capturing something of our lives - whether an event or nature or outing - from the week.

What better way to start than with Bono from U2?

A few weeks ago we planned for me to fly into Philly on the 14th to meet up with Court's family at their reunion in NJ. On a whim last Saturday (the 9th) we looked for U2 tour dates this summer, and we found that they would be in Philly on the 14th! Court has never seen them, neither has her brother whose birthday is the 14th. So we bought the three cheapest tickets available just to have the experience.

We walked around the parking lot people-watching all of the tailgaters, and as I looked to my right I saw Bono lining up for a photo with some folks. Court, her brother, and I could not believe it. So instead of approaching and asking for our photo, too, we had a discussion about whether or not it was really Bono. By the time we decided it really was Bono he had gone back to the tour bus on a dozen yards away.

Oh, the show was awesome!

12 July 2011


I am writing this blog from Grove City College in Pennsylvania where I am attending the Western PA "Cooperative School of Christian Mission" sponsored by the United Methodist Women of WPA.


It started raining as I walked across the campus, which reminded me a cross between Seattle Pacific and Duke with the architecture, the stone work, and the foliage. I ducked into the Student Union Building and explored that a bit, and I came across a room on the second floor that overlooked most of the campus. I watched as the rain washed over a boulder in the middle of campus. This stone had some significance because it was marked with a plaque and benches and landscaping surrounded it. I thought, "Now I wonder how many people would know the story of that stone if it had no plaque and no benches. If no one or nothing helped people to remember why it held significance than - for most - it would be just another large stone." I started thinking about "Ebenezer" - Hebrew for stone of remembrance - a stone used as a symbol to mark something significant.

Remembering done well is not merely idealizing the past for it helps to reconstitute the significant event or moments in a way that moves them from a past experience and grows them into a living part of the past. This re-membering done well serves as a basis for tradition. When it is not done well it can verge on the edge of sentimentality and mundane routine. Re-membering well helps people to find their significance in something other than their current circumstances. Re-membering well reminds people that their lives are located within a narrative greater than their own, and their story only makes sense when located within the larger story of humanity, the world and all of creation.

The 4th of July serves as an Ebenezer of sorts for me, yet not in more ways than just the traditional sense. For many Americans, The 4th symbolizes freedom and it is remembered with hot dogs, watermelon, and fireworks. For me, though, The 4th serves as a marker of significant moments in my life and my faith journey. For example, last year we arrived in Maine on The 4th to begin this current stage of our journey. In the past 12 years The 4th has found me serving in various ministry contexts: Latvia, France, Italy, Israel, Kosovo, Branson, MO, Santa Cruz, CA, and Albania. Each of these places marks significant moments in how the faith journey and serving in ministry mesh together in the reality of life in this world.

I let The 4th pass by this year with a faint nod of acknowledgement, and maybe that is why I am writing this blog. I need to re-member the border crossing in a war zone, the dropping of watermelons from a climbing tower, the lighting of store bought fireworks in a field, and the conversations with friends across the world. I need to re-member, because it reminds me that my story only makes sense within the stories of friends, and within the larger story of God's work in this world.

Re-membering my story, and ultimately, God's faithful work and steadfast love in the midst my story, helps me to live with hope even though I don't understand the frustrations and disappointments of the past few months. Re-membering well can bring perspective and open me up to receive the deep peace that God offers. Re-membering well allows opportunities for the restoration of joy.

11 July 2011

Traveling is a Good Excuse

It's been ages since I have written a blog or a journal entry or really anything for that matter.
I have told myself it is because of the amount of traveling I've been doing recently - the driving, the inconsistent schedules, helping the kids adjust to new surroundings, etc. I guess that is just as good as an excuse as others. When I'm not traveling I have used tooth pain and a root canal or early mornings with the kids to justify not writing.

I don't lack inspiration - I have had many a sleepless night with ideas for blogs, or funny storied of the kids, and I have seen amazing sunsets and other beauty in creation about which I couldn't wait to write. Yet when I finally pick up a pen or get to a computer the thoughts which seemed so clear earlier turn out to be a mirage - a vapor, a shimmering mist, nothing tangible to grasp.

Ceara turned two in June, and Caleb will turn one in a few weeks. (see picts below). Courtney was ordained in Raleigh, and unfortunately I didn't get any photographs of the event. I hear that summer is Maine is nice, but I won't be there much this summer to experience it. Hopefully in all of the traveling I will find a way to write again.

10 May 2011

My Response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

In this past week many have written about the death of Osama bin Laden, and because of this I thought that would not write. However, as the week progressed and I found myself engaged in conversations about Osama's death, I felt that I needed to write.

My thoughts reflect upon the response of Christians to Osama's killing. Those who are not Christian can respond according to their beliefs. Yet, as Christians, the reality of the life, death, resurrection, and anticipated return of Jesus of Nazareth actually affects our responses to situations like this.

I will begin with an excerpt from my journal upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and I will end with some quotes that a friend sent to me as he reflected upon the killing ~ they help to articulate the myriad of thoughts in my head.

"I admit that I'm saddened to read all the news articles because they tell of how many people were/are rejoicing in the streets. Yes, this man planned and/or headed operations that killed many people, but I find it difficult to rejoice over the death of someone. I'm not trying to sound pious..."

I am also saddened by all of the debates occurring via Facebook status updates and Twitter - especially those that use Scripture as "Bible Bullets" in an attempt to defeat and to silence another's opinion. In the cacophony of voices and words saying, "Right... Wrong... Just... Unjust... Yes!... No..." maybe I just wanted silence - the same silence as when I hear that anyone has been killed.

The World voraciously consumes reactions from all angles, groups, and positions. And, the Church should respond to help the World understand how Christians view life and death differently in light of God's redeeming and reconciling work through the life, death, and life-again of Jesus Christ.

When I say, "the Church" I do not mean a specific denomination or specific tradition. I do not mean the Church in the EU or the Church in the USA or the Church associated with any nationality. The Church, while comprised of members from all nations, stands outside of any national allegiance.

The following quotes - while coming from people located within specific traditions - speak from the truth of Christianity that transcends all traditions and national loyalties.

"Christians do not celebrate the death of murderers; Christians celebrate the death of the saints." ~ Rev. Dr. William Turner, Professor of Homiletics, Duke Divinity School

"Osama bin Laden - as we all know - was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing death of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end. Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace." ~ Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican Press Office Director, in response to journalists' questions on the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I do not intend for this to be a post about Just War v. Non-Violence or the Right v. Wrong of the killing. I am concerned, though, in how Christians respond to killing and how do Christians' responses - whatever they may be - witness to God's plan for reconciling and restoring all members of Creation into right relationships with God and with one another.

I hope I have articulated a bit of what I am thinking and feeling.

28 April 2011

"Lay Me Down to Live"

A few weeks ago I had a collision of thoughts during three simultaneous events as I drove Ceara and Caleb to childcare that inspired new perspectives on faith, theology, and resurrection.

Event 1: We listened to Andrew Peterson’s new album “The Far Country.” He has a song called “Lay Me Down” in which he has a line that says, “When you lay me down to die you lay me down to live.”

Event 2: At a stop light I read an email from a friend, John Varden, stating that a parishioner I knew from Center UMC died in his sleep that night.

Event 3: As we drove through the light we reached the point on the drive where I ask Ceara if she wants to “Shema” and I proceeded to sing the Shema. This is a prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4ff that I learned while I lived in Israel, and it is something practicing Jews pray at least once, if not multiple times, a day. It starts, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your strength…”

Collision: I had the parishioner on my mind as I sang the part of the prayer that says, “remember these words I am commanding you today… teach them to your children when you lie down and when you rise up…,” and at that point “when you lay me down to die you lay me down to live…” rang out over the radio.

It hit me (I guess this is where the collision happens ;) ) … Yes, I knew that Israel, as many Ancient Near Eastern cultures, observed (and still do) a lunar calendar. And I know that their day begins at sundown rather than sunrise. Their days did not begin by getting up and end with lying down. Rather, their days began (and still begin) with lying down and end with getting up and living. The symbol of resurrection practically shouted at me. Then I read Genesis chapter 1 again: “…and it was evening and morning the first day… and it was evening and morning the second day… etc…”

The Christian story has undercurrents of resurrection from the very beginning, hinted at in the greatest commandment, culminated in Easter, and now is the hope in which we can all live in the present and carry into the future.

I’m not quite sure if I expressed these thoughts clearly. I wrote them quickly in my journal and copied them just about as quickly here. I find if I wait until I re-read, edit, re-think, re-write, then the blogs never get posted, and I wanted to get these thoughts on the blog.

I welcome any comments or thoughts or reactions… thanks.



27 April 2011

Puddles, Seagulls, and Garbage Trucks

Ceara amazes me with her continual ability to make me stop, look, and listen.

The weather in Maine has warmed up a bit (40s and 50s) in the past week, and Courtney and I have taken this opportunity to walk around the neighborhood with Ceara and Caleb. Ceara loves to stop at puddles and say, "Water, Water, mommy, Water." She stoops down and watches the ripples caused by the wind or dipping her hand in it. Her joy transforms an ordinary pothole filled with dirty water into a moment of experiencing Creation in a new way. Her awe with the puddle continues as she stands up and jumps in with her new, green rain boots.

I look at the seagulls that circle the neighborhood and call out, "mine, mine, mine..." (That is a "Finding Nemo" reference for those who don't get it.) in a new way because Ceara will stand with her head skyward watching them fly and perch on rooftops. "Bird, daddy, Bird." Learning language opens a whole new world to her and reminds me of the wonder in the world in which we live.

This morning Ceara woke up at 5.15am :) As we played she heard the garbage truck on the next street. We ran to the front of the apartment so she could watch the truck come down the street. She asked for help in opening the window so she could hear the sounds more clearly, and so she could yell, "Hi! Hi! Hi!" to the workers emptying the cans into the back of the truck. I'm not sure that is what they were expecting at 5.45am. She stood at the windows for over 5 minutes as they worked their way down the entire street, and then she waved goodbye to the truck as it turned the corner.

These three snippets merely exemplify the way she causes us to pause throughout the day and notice and find wonder in the normal and ordinary.

17 April 2011

A Slight Change in Organizational Style

I have had to modify my organizational working style recently. I confess that I use a palm pilot - I have for quite some time. However, I have used the low-tech version. For years I have written on my hand - things to do, reminders for journal entries, names and places and events...
I need to change, though. Ceara is at the age where she is doing two things really, really well. First, she is learning to draw and color with crayons, chalk, pencils, and, sometimes, pen. We have had to set the boundaries of where and on what she can color and draw, and - for the most part - it has gone well. Second, she mimics EVERYTHING that Courtney and I do. The other day while we sat on the couch eating a snack I remembered something I needed to do for work. Absent-mindedly I pulled a pen from my pocket and wrote a note on my hand. A short time later she had a pen, and instead of drawing in the book she was drawing on her arm. :) I am thankful for her ability to keep me consistent with what we say and what we do.
Soooo, I am searching for a new way to keep track of reminders and things to do.

28 March 2011

Prayers for the People

Sometimes I can pray spontaneously, and sometimes I need to write something down beforehand to help me to pray. A week ago Sunday (20Mar2011) at Cornerstone I wrote down the following prayer, and for the past week have thought that I should post it... so here it is:

Loving God, we confess that our lives, our prayers, and our belief in you focus more often on ways in which we want either to be kept safe or shielded from pain. Yet Your life in Jesus demonstrates that safety and pain-free lives are not promises for those who follow You. Instead what you reveal in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a promise of abiding presence – to comfort, to mourn, to rejoice. We as Christians are not guaranteed to get out of this life alive, but You, Creator and Redeemer, promise resurrection.

Forgive us for the times when we look to save our own lives and preserve our own comfort at the expense of others losing their lives and comfort. Forgive us for the times when we think of You, Jesus, as merely a human with extra special abilities. You are not a super-hero. You are God who, with words and out of love, created the universe and the ground on which we walk, and You formed our bodies and breathed into us the breath of life.

You alone know why, at times, healing happens in ways we want, and, at other times, why You seem to ignore our cries for healing. Help us to know and to trust Your presence always – even when we don’t understand and cannot feel anything but pain and aloneness.

Disciple making and sending God, for those in this world who do not know Your love as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and who are experiencing tragedy and loss – send comfort and compassion to them and may they learn to name You as the source of true love and lasting peace. For those rejoicing – may they know Your presence and open their hearts to know that all good gifts come from You. For those who are exploiting others and for those who lead using arrogance, pride, and violence – humble them and work in them that they would see that they are fleeting but You are forever, and You are God…

Lord, You know the prayers and concerns spoken aloud today and the ones we have trouble naming even in our own hearts… You know the circumstances and situations and needs of each person, family, and community affected by these requests, and we ask that Your will be done. Help us to be open to the ways in which You will answer, and help us to trust You always, that You would be glorified, honored and praised.

And now, please do a new work in us as we pray the prayer Jesus taught to the disciples trusting that You will work within us both to will and to do Your good pleasure…

Our Father…

20 March 2011

From Coffee to Peace - a sermon exploring my Lenten journey

I (Dan) preached this sermon today at Cornerstone UMC in Saco, Maine. I post it here just to show some of my thoughts and reflections at this point in my journey.

I want to explore Micah 4:1-4 today and share with you how it has affected my Lenten Journey. Yet before I do, I want to make some comments about Lent and Prayer so that what I say about Micah might make sense.

Lent is a 40-day journey to the cross that prepares us for Easter. I always assumed that Lent was 40 days because Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days. I also assumed that the period of Lent was actually 40 days. Then one year I took out the calendar to see how many more days until I could have coffee again, and I realized that there were actually 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. I talked to some friends and did some research and discovered that the early Church called Sundays little Easters because Christ rose on Sunday. So, I counted from Ash Wednesday to Easter – minus the Sundays – and viola, 40 days. (Only later did I learn that the United Methodist Book of Worship also states that Lent is a 40-day journey that does not include Sundays.)

Then I began to wonder why Jesus fasted for 40 days? And what is it about 40 in Scripture, because it appears in other ‘famous’ places in scripture, too.

As I studied I came to learn that 40 is a significant number in scripture when numbering days or years, and I believe it usually signifies a time when God is going to act in a significant way for the salvation of the world. I invent my own words at times by combining different words together. One of them is “God-mazing,” and it means an amazing thing that God has done. So for me, 40 usually means something God-mazing is about to happen.

Here are some examples:

Noah – 40 days: Re-starting Creation

Spying out Cana – 40 days: Israel becoming a people with Land

Goliath challenges Israel – 40 days: previews David who preludes a Messianic King

Ninevah’s destruction/restoration – 40 days: Grace available to all

Jesus fasts – 40 days: Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as a fulfillment of restoration.

Jesus’ time with the disciples post-resurrection before the ascension – 40 days: the CHURCH!

Fasting at Lent does mean that we give up something for a time. However, Courtney likes to say that our focus in Lent should not rest solely in what we are fasting FROM, rather we should focus on what we are fasting FOR. What will we do to fill the absence of chocolate, coffee, t.v., or internet? I like Lent – it helps me to countdown to Easter, but I often wonder if I fail at Lent as I try to reinvent a Lenten discipline each year that will ‘work’ for me. Lent, at times for me, has looked like fasting from coffee with a general sense “to pray more,” yet without a real focus. Yet Jesus has modeled prayer for us in the Lord’s Prayer. Granted we may pray it by rote or on auto-pilot at times, but it can also be an amazing prayer of transformation for our lives.

What does it mean when we pray “Thy Kingdom Come and Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven?” And what does it have to do with Lent and Plowshares and Pruning Hooks?

Thy Kingdom Come is not a prayer saying, “Get me out of here.” Rather it is a prayer that acknowledges the World is upside down and only the Kingdom of God can right-side-up everything. We acknowledge that God is big enough to do something, and we also acknowledge that a way in which God has chosen to bring the Kingdom is through the Church – through people like you and me. An aspect of God’s Kingdom is Peace – Shalom. Shalom is larger than a cessation of violence, because it encompasses restoring Creation to right relationship with God and with one another.

Praying “Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven” opens us up to the opportunity to be incorporated into God’s bigger story. I love people watching. Have you ever seen people in the supermarket who appear to be off in their own little worlds? Well, usually all of us are on individual missions at the store. But I mean someone who is oblivious to other people around as he blocks the aisle with his cart. Or the person who stands in front of the items you need talking to herself about which mustard to buy, and you can’t find a way to interrupt her or get around her to get your mustard. Sometimes I feel that is how I am in God’s plan. I can become so fixated on my projects or situations in my life that I can forget to place my story into God’s larger story. Praying “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” takes us out of control and allows us to be incorporated into something bigger – into God’s larger story. C.S. Lewis described prayer this way, “I don’t pray because I want to, but I pray because I have to. The need flows from me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”

Lent is 40 days set aside for the reordering of our lives to God’s time and God’s way. A time in which our prayers could sound like, “God, work in me, transform me. Clear out and clean out the distractions. Prepare me for your move and to join in your work.”

Lent is also 40 days we set aside to pray specifically for something that is bigger than just our lives. My Lenten fast is from Coffee – not caffeine or warm breakfast beverages, but coffee. Yet my fast is for praying for peace – for “beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and neither shall they learn war anymore.” I love coffee. I like it in the morning, the afternoon, and even after dinner sometimes. I enjoy it, and I don’t think there is a problem with that. But as I heard the news this past week I realized that I craved a cup of coffee more than I craved peace – not the generic greeting card kind of peace, but a real, tangible specific peace in this world – that people in Libya would stop being killed; that children in Cambodia would not be sold as sex slaves; that car bombs would stop causing carnage in markets; that churches would stop being burned and that our Christian brothers and sisters would not seek out their own revenge; that the domestic violence I hear out my window every week would end. I know that I need transformation when I seem to care more about a cup of coffee than about human lives.

Let me read Micah 4:1-4 again.

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

I am amazed by these verses. They point towards a return to farming – a return to tending the Garden, which is what God created us for in the first place. Swords and spears are not put away (for use on another day) or destroyed (as in thrown away). Instead, they are re-ordered and reincorporated into God’s redemption story. Those things which were intended for destructive purposes are given opportunities to take part in nurturing and cultivating life. AND if God can do that with an object, then how much more does God desire to do that with humans. Those whose lives destroy are not beyond God’s kingdom vision of grace and restoration. One of my colleagues in Afghanistan in 2002 had spent a significant amount of time in Congo (DRC and Brazaville) and Angola in the ‘90s. She said that when she asked people about peace they responded that peace meant harvesting what they planted – to live in the same place long enough for a complete growing season without having to flee because of violence or forced migration.

This may sounds dreamy – too good to be true, especially in our world today. It may seem like a hope for another time. The World tells us that war and violence, although evil, is a necessary evil in our world, because “that’s just how the world works.” Yes, that is how the world works. But that is not how God’s Kingdom works. And God’s kingdom is not just pie in the sky and ‘one day’… but God’s Kingdom is Now! And praying for peace helps transform us so that we can see how we might join in God’s holy work of healing the world.

Channel 6, 8, 13, the BBC, New York Times, Portland Herald, Boston Globe… They tell the world’s story. And at times it may seem like we are trying to fit the story of our lives into their worldview, rather than seeing that another story exists that can give meaning to our stories – here’s the God-mazing story briefly: God has been working for the restoration of Creation since Eden. God chose Israel to proclaim the hope and prepare the way for the restoration. God fulfilled Israel’s longing and made final provision for this restoration through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. God has commissioned the Church, the Body of Christ in this World, and empowered it by the Holy Spirit to proclaim to the World this message of God’s love, hope, healing, reconciliation, restoration and peace.

Joining in this story is something that we must do together – as the Church – by God’s power and with God’s help. Jesus taught the disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” and not “bring us up to thy kingdom.” We do not pray to be swirled away to a different place where peace exists. Rather, we pray that God’s peace will come to this world…now. We pray that families won’t be blown apart – literally – by violence. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” we are praying that our lives will be incorporated into the bigger storyline of the God-mazing story of restoration of Creation.

It is a lot to get our heads around.

It is a lot to get our hearts around.

It is a lot to get our lives around.

But maybe that is just the point. It is not our task to envelope completely with our understanding God, God’s Kingdom, and the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. We pray in order to be enveloped by God and his love revealed in Jesus Christ: that God would shape our lives like the potter shapes the clay; that God would transform our imaginations enabling us to live as peacemakers in a world that thinks war is necessary; that God would work in us enabling us to pray that people would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; that God would transform our minds to see the possibilities of how swords can be plowshares and spears can be pruning hooks and how we could learn to garden – how to cultivate the love of God and neighbor instead of learning violence and war…

This year I hope Lent is different for me as I pray “swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.” I do not merely want to learn to survive without coffee. I want to be transformed to crave other people’s peace.

What about you? How are you preparing to step into a God-mazing story that can transform your life and change the world?

08 March 2011

Inspiration for Articulation of My Journey

I picked up a new book (at least for me) a few weeks ago. It's entitled, "Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir," and it is the memoir of a professor I had at Duke. I have found inspiration in it for two reasons. First, Frederick Buechner has instilled in me a love for well written memoirs. Second, I can hear Stanley Hauerwas' nasally-Texas accent as I read the book. In reading, though, I have found inspiration to write and articulate part of my journey. As I read I find myself wondering how I would describe various times of my life - or certain aspects of my journey - and find a flood of faces and names come to mind.

Coincidentally, about a week before I picked up the book, I undertook the exercise of writing a statement of faith and also a *brief* testimony. As I wrote I found that I wanted to keep writing, yet I think it was good for me to try to limit them in length. I know that I wanted to expand each paragraph into a page... maybe someday I will. For now, though, I wanted to place here the distilled Statement of Faith and an abbreviated testimony.

Statement of Faith

I affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.

I believe God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is good, loving, faithful, and true.

I believe God desires for all of Creation to know and to live in God’s love. Humanity, however, chose its own way and sinned, causing a rupture in Creation’s perfect relationship with God. The Good News is that God has been working for the restoration of Creation since Eden. God chose Israel to proclaim the hope and prepare the way for the restoration. God fulfilled Israel’s longing and made final provision for this restoration through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. God has commissioned the Church, the Body of Christ in this World, and empowered it by the Holy Spirit to proclaim to the World this message of God’s love, hope, healing, reconciliation, restoration and peace.

I believe God has given the Church everything necessary to live authentically in this World because He has given himself for us in Jesus Christ. Christians, therefore, are to reflect the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ by living in alternative ways to what the World only offers as imitations of God’s love. Christians practice these alternative ways of living in worship as we: gather together; confess our sin; receive forgiveness; reconcile and offer signs of peace; engage Scripture; baptize and reaffirm our faith; pray for one another and for our world; offer our gifts; celebrate communion and share a meal; and remember that we go into the World as God’s people with God’s blessing, strength, and love.


Experiences of God in education, in worship, and in ministry in this world have shaped me on my faith journey. Sharing life together with Christians from various cultures has helped me to see the miracle of the Gospel as it simultaneously transcends all cultures and peoples while remaining specific to each culture and individual.

My parents began taking my brother and me to church in Colorado when I was four years old, which is when they began their relationships with God in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed going to church as a child, and I raised my hand to accept Jesus as savior multiple times between the ages of 5 and 12. In Jr. High I began to notice a dissonance between Sunday life and school life. I was not a bad kid – meaning that I did not smoke, drink or cuss – yet I did not love the neighbor, the stranger, or the outcast very well. My youth pastor and other volunteers challenged and encouraged me to live into the faith that I claimed. I did not want to be a hypocrite. I wanted my relationship with God in Jesus to make a tangible difference in my life. In high school I tried to live perfectly as a Christian. In this striving for perfection, and often falling hard, I began to learn more about God’s love and grace – a journey that continues today. I had some wonderful “mountain top” experiences in high school, yet I came to realize that the Christian life consisted of more than one-time events. Rather, the Christian life is an everyday decision on an everyday journey.

I attended Seattle Pacific University following a general call into ecclesial ministry thinking I would return to Colorado to do youth ministry full-time. At SPU my horizons for vocational ministry possibilities grew as I started getting involved in opportunities to serve on campus and in the community. God used these opportunities and an increasing awareness of the world – in all of its complexities, interconnections, and heartache – to continue to shape and also expand my call in ministry to include an international element.

A growing appreciation of the Christian tradition has also formed my faith in significant ways. I spent the summer after my first year of university volunteering with the church in Ireland, and I had my eyes and heart opened to the long, faithful tradition of Christianity. One day a friend took me to monastery ruins in Glendalough, which I learned once functioned as a significant place of worship and education. While I stood among the ruins of a church that served as the full-time cathedral from the 6th to the 13th Century, I felt part of a story larger and more significant than I had ever imagined. I realized that the Church did not go underground at the end of the book of Acts and reemerge when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Rather, a long line of faithful followers had passed on a faith that transcends all cultures and times.

At Duke I grew in my understanding of the importance of worship, the sacraments, and the Church as the Body of Christ. Duke also helped me to articulate a view of church that held God in Christ at the center of worship, providing a gathering point for the community and a catalyst for the Body of Christ to engage the world.

The story of my journey would not be complete without naming some authors who have helped to shape me and continue as points of encouragement, challenge, and inspiration to me: Frederick Beuchner; Ellen Davis; Stanley Hauerwas; Richard Hays; James Howell; Madelaine L’Engle; Anne LaMott; C.S. Lewis; Richard Lischer; Brennan Manning; Henri Nouwen; Eugene Peterson; Chaim Potok, Barbara Brown Taylor; J.R.R. Tolkien; and Samuel Wells.

Musically I would have to name: Suzanne Brewer, Delirious, Dryve, Fred Gramman, Keith Green, David Nevue, Andrew Peterson, Matt Redman, Ten Shekel Shirt, TenTimesFast, Waterdeep, Charles Wesley, Dar Williams, Samuel Wolcott, U2, and, well, the list could go on and on.

God has provided me with amazing opportunities on my journey to live in cultural and social settings beyond my own. When I started the journey, I did not know that I would serve in churches, war zones, and relief settings across the U.S., Europe, East Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Central Asia. With each place I serve, the desire increases to serve the global Body of Christ and help Christians to live their faith authentically within their culture. In each place, the Holy Spirit unites us and empowers us to proclaim the Kingdom that is both now and not yet, as we live as emissaries for Christ the King now while we wait for His triumphant return in final victory.

To list all of the friends, professors, and other mentors who have allowed me to be a part of their journey would take volumes, and I think, goes beyond the current context of writing.

My life as a Christian only makes sense when located within the larger story of salvation history. Countless friends have joined with me, and have allowed me to join them, in prayer, encouragement, challenge, inspiration, joyfulness, and mourning. Together, we journey in God’s love in Christ. Our lives are not an isolated moment in time, rather our lives fall in line with God’s sweeping trajectory of Creation and redemption which has a history before us and will have a future after us. God knows us intimately – our potential for greatness and our propensity for failure – and God still loves us. And by grace, God invites us to join in His holy work of healing the World.