The luxury of disturbance: meeting God in the liminality

Like many of you, I’m a rhythmic person. Actually, my flow probably feels more polyrhythmic. I live with certain cadences – whether it’s having breakfast with my children, using my own bathroom/sleeping in my own bed, meeting at Franny Lou’s Porch with my cell on Thursday mornings, getting to worship together on Sunday nights as a Circle of Hope, or being near internet/cellular service. I had the luxury of disturbance recently and God met me in some outside-my-usual spaces.

My seminary program, the Masters in Intercultural Studies through the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies (NAIITS), has a flow. As a hybrid learning program, my cohort convenes online for discussions and then face-to-face for a week or two per year. This time Wheaton College hosted us in their kind of fancy facilities (very nice!). I took major components of two classes – Missional Leadership and Human Spirituality, taught by two brilliant Native women who held space for a co-learning environment with about eight of us.

I decided to drive to Wheaton so I could visit my good friends in Pittsburgh (BB, Andy, and the kids), one in Chicago (Colleen), and see Dustin and the gang’s permaculture design experiments on 30 acres of family land in Canton, OH. It wasn’t the fastest way to travel, but now the Graces are equipped with hybrid technology I spent about $100 on gas over the 1,700 mile trip. I got to listen to Dune on audiobook, some tunes, and lots of quiet. It didn’t seem convenient all the time, but I enjoy spending time on the road – even though about 1/3 of it was out of TMobile’s service area so I was in a sort of cocoon. I enjoyed driving through Midwest thunder showers, mountains of PA, and seeing the funny t-shirts for sale in Indiana such as “Hoosier Daddy.”

I had to leave right after the class so I could make it back in time to help out with my kids’ school in their production of Seussical, Jr – again feeling disrupted. Being back home after being gone requires a lot of catching up to communications and happenings in the community, and being less available than normal for a few days can throw me off.

I wish I could distill the whole trip into something readable, but I guess if you’re part of my faith community you’ll be feeling it through the next season. In Jackie Ottmann’s Leadership class, we discussed how leaders can make space so people can experience change – often helping to create ethical space where we usually taste liminality. I hope that’s not too expensive of an anthropological word – basically it’s a time/space where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It can be that moment when the water is just about to/starts boiling…when it just became hot enough. Liminality is definitely disruptive to normal flow, but can be where the gritty grind of transformation happens.

This excursive week or so for me had it’s share of liminality and I’m glad that I was given the space to be able to get disrupted and be able to do something good with it. So often we as humans get stuck in patterns and pathologies that don’t experience disturbance outside of crisis. This break in my routine included enough time for reflection. I’m still digesting what God is saying – but I’ll say I’m grateful:

1.  to be part of a local expression of the Body of Christ – we can connect and work through stuff together and want to be directed by the Spirit. Lots of my friends don’t have it. So cool!

2. to have been raising my kids in a village of parents – whether or not one has biologically reproduced does not matter in village formation. As I see my creative middle schoolers rock their play, I can see the love and care poured into them by dozens of aunties and uncles in the church.

3. to have this luxury of disruption and the time to reflect about it – the flexibility in my schedule exists because of so many passionate and gifted leaders who also want me to grow and develop. Thanks for sending me to seminary and wanting to work out the disruptions I create because of it.

Rollerskate Parenting

I’m thinking about change and letting go.  My children are getting big.  I’m changing into a father of big children, too.  Last night Martha & I took to the kids rollerskating as part of a fundraiser for their school.  It was awesome.  Helena, who is now 8, was quite the skater.  She also wanted to go off by herself skating around.

For me this was both pride-inspiring (what an independent and talented kid!), scary (if she falls and gets her fingers rolled over I wont be there to help her out), and a little lonely (Why doesn’t my kid want to do the couples skate with me all night?  Am I not cool enough to hang with her friends from school or something?).

Martha was with Lily and I was watching Helena go around the rink at least a dozen times, sometimes with friends, but often by herself.  I had a different kind of fun at that point.  My child felt free enough to try things out.  She could ask for what she wanted.  It had nothing to do with me not being cool or being a burdon to her…she was doing what she was created to do.  To grow up, bit by bit.

As our network expands, especially as we get discerning our next pastor and location for church plant, I have some of the same feelings.  I hope that we can keep the heart of our calling through the direction of the Holy Spirit.  I hope that the new cells and cell leaders carry on that DNA. I hope we can do what we were created to do as cells and congregations…grow and multiply.

I’m excited not only that new stuff is happening, but that it is beyond my ability to be so close to it all.  I’m ready to change, too.  I have to learn a new kind of trust, a new kind of faith.  With it is coming a new kind of fulfillment.

chillaxin in the Mohawk Valley

I love Philadelphia.  I also love vacation, and it feels like it doesn’t happen all that often-we have a lot to do.  Wednesday night we rolled up to my mom’s house in the center of New York State,  Thurs morning drove to my aunt’s house outside of Buffalo, chilled for a few hours and then drove back.  That made me tired.

Friday was much kicking it and not buying stuff.  We got to play late night Rock Band with my long-time amigo Nick and his wonderful wife Ann.  And we took some rock-out shots (set here) to commemorate. For good or for ill, on RB1 there is a default character called Moosejaw Bordeau (mostly known as Amber Alert, though) who some say bears a resemblance to someone we know.  Not sure who, but he’s a great lookin guy-for a video game.

amber alert

amber alert

RB1 is better than karaoke

Today my brother Buddy had a basketball scrimmage-this is his senior year.  He dominated-so good to see him rip it up.  Me and the kiddos walked back from the school through the woods that I used to play in.  Their minds are always blown by the woods.  City slickers.  We had dinner with my old man and then rocked out on Lazer Tag.  No doubt an incredible time (set here-why not?).

Hanging with more old friends tommorow, (and the Bills are on TV here!!!) playing some b-ball ourselves, maybe the sacred Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday-it’s only like 40min from my mom’s house.

Things Better Left Unsaid #247: talking to kids about torture at the dinner table

So last night we’re having dinner (me, MG, Jay, and my 2 daughters Helena-7 and Lily-4) and Martha’s cell comes up.  She is thinking about what to talk about next week (Tues night in Fishtown at Lindsay Mae’s house) since they are doing a sort of short series on world events and justice issues.  She brainstorms Guantanamo Bay.

That’s where I come in.

Things Better Left Unsaid #247:  Talking to kids about torture at the dinner table.

JGrace:  “yeah, that’s a good one.  where are you going with it?”

MG:  “learning more about what goes on there and why.  It’s been in the news lately.”

JGrace:  “yeah, isn’t Bush going to pardon all those who have anything to do with organizing it?  Including himself?”

MG:  “that’d be a good idea.”

JGrace:  “yeah.  the people behind Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are connected.  We have that book upstairs that might be helpful.  It talks about water boarding and stuff.  You know [children really interested at this point], they strap a dude down and throw a towel over his face and then start…

MG: [interrupting] uuhhhhhh…maybe not right now?”


yeah.  good call, honey.   but that El-P video for Smithereens is pretty good.

Wonderful End to October, Oh Eight!

What a day.  I was one of the few at class this morning, and we started a new book-I Write What I Like by Steve Biko.  So good.  You may have seen Denzel play him in Cry Freedom.  I did (sorry Balz) cut class this afternoon to take the fam down to the Phillies parade!  (photo set here)

Then we got back and ate, got ready to go to Northern Libs and meet up with Jesse/Lo/Ruke/Janey, Marni/Sage/Fern, Marlee/Oli, Brandi/Elisha, Kristin/Sammy, Jeff/Lola…and Reece’s PB Cups.  A few photos in the set here.

Today was the second time in a month that Helena said “this was the best day ever.”  Maybe that is just her thing to say right now, but I agree that we’ve been having a blast.


great love feast tonight.  i seem to frequently forget to bring my camera to get some pics, although I guess most of us do.

I did upload some pics from my cell’s World Series party the other night here.  Game 2 loss was kind of brutal, but it was still a great time to be together like that.

They playgroup carved some pumpkins and MG took a bunch of photos (Marni & Lo, you a bunch of super cute ones of your girls!).  The set is here. Here’s Ada and Lily showing off the gourd art.

Jay’s return

I’m glad we’re getting the drumming classes going again.  We are going to have some issues with scheduling and no doubt with space conflicts until we get the studio built.   Here’s the flyer for the upcoming classes.

The word on the street is that the mate-masie will be in the house for both classes.  MG and some of her squad are planning on taking the early class!

psalters are also getting ready to play at Messiah College in Grantham on Nov 5th.  It’s free at the Union at 10pm.  If you are in the area already it would be awesome to see you.  Check out this video from cornerstone 08!

Alas, the Faire!

The family went for a trip today.  It was only 60miles away, but I was sure we travelled 400 years when we arrived at the PA Renaissance Faire!

Ok, I’ve been there a bunch of times (as well as Sterling, NY), but we never went as a family-and none of the three ladies in the clan had been.  Such a great time (photo set here).  We also ran into the brilliant Olshefski Trio!

We experienced lovely weather all day, but after the evening joust it got dark and chilly really quick.  Helena was particularly freezing (and pooped).  Walking out to the parking lot, she was half wining saying “this was the best day of my life, but also the worst night of my life-I’m so cold!”  I don’t know if it was actually the best day of her life, but it was loads of fun.

One highlight was the two that I call the “Gandalf Brothers”, we didn’t get a good shot because our camera was dying.  Sooo great!

We got to play tons of old timey games, see music performances, plays-even the mud show…they even had trick or treat for October.  Great little saturday.

the post you need, not the one you deserve

Last nights baseball game was rained out (W.N.M.W.G.P.U.G.), and martha already had plans so I made some.  After bathtime and bedtime fun with the kiddos, Jeremy and I went to see the Dark Knight (with 6 other people in the seats).   I love that vibe for these kinds of movies.

there were definately some exciting parts (when Zeus did the thing on the ferry), but overall felt like one of those movies that was on the verge of something and decided to instead celebrate post-modern irony.

More irony…this movie is like a year old and no longer being talked about, I’m so behind on the times even writing about it.  I guess it wasn’t movie that I deserved, but the one I needed.  (If you haven’t seen it yet than you may not get this line).

At least the Flyin Hawaiin is giving us something to root for tonight!  Go Phils!