Rod at one month and change

Version 2The other day Rod wrote a piece on his blog about Rachel Sensenig as our new pastor. What he neglected to talk about is himself. Rachel and Rod spent the past few months “teaming.” I used quotes because of a double entendre. In one sense, they had the unusual distinction of both being primarily assigned to our congregation at 1125 S Broad St. We normally have one full-time pastor at each congregation, even though our pastors are OUR pastors – the distinction is more about focus than limits. Teaming also describes a fullness of life – like creation in Genesis 1 & 2. The possibilities, potential, and time for change made for a rich season that we all have enjoyed.

Rod also has a “baby” job, in a way. Even though he has been doing development pastor work in Circle of Hope from the beginning, let’s not take the change we have perpetrated too lightly.

Rod is not the pastor stationed at 1125 S. Broad anymore. He and Gwen sat in the third row last week and people noticed – even commented on it. He is not going to be “up front” all the time, just some times and at other sites, too. He’s not going to be at all the meetings, helping all the leaders, or finding his way into places he needs to be like he used to. He does not have the wheel of the ship. He is not going to be the first person people on South Broad call after their cell leader, even though we’ll still be able to get to him when we need him. He is not gone, he is not retiring or semi-retiring now or in the near future. What a gift!

It is a big change for us, and let’s not forget it is a big change for him, too. Like he has repeatedly said, being pastor is great. God called him into a new role and we all have made that happen, but it comes with some losses as well as blessings.

I think we should get excited about what we have done. Usually the founding pastor dies in his position, like the pope. He finally disappears one day and people have to decide what life is like without him. It often causes such disruption that the church never recovers, fully. We did not do that and Rod did not want to. Instead he did something that you really need to pay attention to. He gave up what he loves and has known with us for two decades and took a role that is more about serving others behind the scenes than relating to everyone.

Don’t be dismayed, he’s still with us and still energizing our whole church, but on a smaller playing field with a lot less of the hand-on pastoring he loves so much. We are attempting to unleash him in a new role and assign him in ways that employ his unique gifts in our system to help us all develop. God has called him into more praying, more counseling, more systems work, more leadership development. And we are glad to pay him for 4/5 of a week to do it. 4/5 of Rod’s week is quite a bit, in case you have not been following him.  It is not like he hasn’t always done those things, but it is not the same. We are better off for the change, even if some of us will think it is weird to see him in the third row for a while until we get used to it.

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.

Being scared can actually help us see

A lot of my friends find the Enneagram useful for gaining personal understanding, discipleship, or team building. For them (and maybe you), it’s useful to know that I’m a 6w7 (six with a seven “wing”) – which among other things makes fear extremely relevant to my process which one can also describe as a need to feel secure. What makes me scared? Lots of things – the dark, flying, heights, public speaking, ticks, fire, snakes, the ocean, dead bodies, gaping wounds, selfie sticks…and lots of situations including but not limited to meeting people, forgetting someone’s name, that someone is mad at me, my wife’s driving, that someone doesn’t like me, conflict, and talking to people that I have known enough to say “hi” to but not much else for over a year.

Knowing what frightens me doesn’t make me stronger, it makes me feel weak – like I have less agency to change myself or a situation. Fear can show us space where God might want to work. I do have an instinct to avoid when I’m afraid, but the stronger instinct I have is to attack what I fear. I end up in some funny/awkward situations as I try to work it out. I wonder if all this being scared means I’m weak, or if it can help me see. I hope that I’m like Tris (Divergent books, films) who is told “fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up.”

Especially since 911, fear is our national state of normal. Do you remember that for ten years we lived under “Code Orange” and other constant messages of scarcity, fear, and threat? I don’t think we ever got to live in blue or green – it was always elevated. When the people are afraid, the powerful can do all sorts of wildness with little resistance and help from the masses to quiet the dissent. The War on Terror, Abu Ghraib, lynchings, militarization of the police, Guantanamo Bay…how long will we endure?

The national consciousness got tested this week when 170 bikers were charged in connection to a shootout that killed nine humans. We were so not scared that I heard about the racialized coverage and police behavior before I heard about the incident.

What actually frightens the national consciousness? Remember 2010 when people were terrified that group of black teenagers could easily turn into a flash mob like a wildfire? Consider just a year ago when people I know told me emphatically about how the “knockout game” made them not want to live in the city anymore and vehemently fought with anyone (verbally or via keyboard, of course) who said that knockout was a racist myth made up by media or anything contrary that we should fear that the black kids we see are probably about to will punch us in the face for fun.

The national consciousness does not fear that we might actually lose our soul for not helping Nepal that much (in relation to say…military spending post 911) while we continue the War of Terror. I believe most people aren’t afraid of “real life Sons of Anarchy” because their bloodbath didn’t threaten white supremacy or security of white privilege. Ferguson did. Baltimore did. The movement of people, mostly citizens, pointing out a character flaw with the fabric of American society does.

Can a lack of healthy also point us towards where God might want to work? If we can listen to the fear, and admit what scares us – I think we’ll learn a lot about our heart, where we’re really at, and have some conscious space for the Holy Spirit to do some work on us – whether it’s comforting us, healing us, or empowering – we are called into embodying alternatives. Understanding who benefits from unhealthy levels of fear in the national consciousness not only points out where we are sick, but where Jesus might be showing up to either calm the storm or flip tables.

Working out solutions in this dissonance between desensitization and being swept up in lucrative anti-black media campaigns can be really maturing. I think our anger can get misplaced if we’re not careful. There are people out there who I think want to embody a different reality with the Holy Spirit – one that can see past the veneer of a corrupt society with enough possibilities left can be One with God and each other. Our invitation must go deeper than consciousness, awareness, or enlightenment – Christ has opened eternity. I want to be transformed together into a community that can speak and act in our moment in time with a compelling demonstration that has an answer for “what next?” by being. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to fill our sails so we can do more than avoid fear – we can gather the afraid ones and the angered ones to show the fearmongers Christ’s love that does a lot more than cast out fear. We are about the celebrate Pentecost on Sunday – let’s see if we can allow it to be really special – come be with us at 2007 Frankford 5PM or 7PMThe Holy Spirit forms us into a community that can get deeper and fuller than media problems, social constructions, worries, wounds, and conflict because we Jesus is with us and Jesus is leading us. This reality is better than the one we can make by voting and it needs to touch those who don’t know about it yet.

Feeling, healing, and embodying

Philadelphia has been in touch with suffering this week. The Phillies (for a day) had the worst record in baseball and Utley can’t get over .130. We marked the 30th anniversary of the state firebombing a whole block with impunity (until a civil suit in 1996, no criminal charges). Less than two miles up the road from me a train going 106 in a 50 went off the tracks, killing at least seven and injuring over 200.

I spent a few minutes near the scene yesterday morning, but couldn’t get close enough to see too much. I did see the looks on many faces of people who had been there for a while. Whatever prevented me from really feeling it before then was removed. Reading stories, seeing helicopters, and understanding numbers got me interested and sort of vaguely sad, but I drove away from the scene in tears.

When Scotty wrote We Are All Lepers Here he had been studying leprosy, a misunderstood disease. Rather than being a disease that makes limbs and whatnot look gross and fall off, it’s a neurological disorder caused by bacteria. The disease often makes one unable to feel – at least certain parts of the body, thus not pulling one’s hand away from a candle while sleeping or attending to early infections. As a metaphor for the Body of Christ, the song asserts that in order to feel the pain of the Body – we need Jesus to help us feel again rather than just “tending to our own.”

My brilliant friend Randy Woodley takes this body image a step further in his book Shalom & the Community of Creation that it’s not even just Jesus’ followers that He made us one with, through discipleship Christ restores us back into a natural harmonious rhythms as part of creation.

How I wish more of us in the US could feel the sting of Nepal’s earthquakes this month. Over 8,000 are dead from the quakes, aftershocks, and tremors. That number doesn’t register very easily with us but when experts say over $5 billion in damage (over 25% of their GDP) we sort of get a better sense. If we felt it – I’m not just talking about tears, now – couldn’t we shave a little off of the federal $600 billion “defense” spending to help out?

At my cell’s meeting this morning, we talked about how depressing it can be to learn or think about some of these situations and facts – feeling isn’t always our problem in the same way. Rather than feeling our limits as in a place to reach out for God we feel powerless and often ambivalent about faith. I know what that’s like, I’ve even described it as feeling too much.

If you have that kind of sensitivity today I hope you can allow that to be a space for you to acknowledge Jesus – the very sensitive person of God. Not only does Jesus come into the suffering of the world, He offers hope that our work is not in vain, that doing our small part is worth it, and that being faithful to the cause makes ripples throughout time that we can’t even fathom yet.

If you are not feeling very sensitive to some of these issues (or others), I hope that space can also be ripe for Jesus to bring some feeling back into your body. I hope that your emotional and spiritual scabs might fall off or that God will touch you and you’ll help pull the proverbial hand off of the hot stove before it gets too badly burned.

We are all connected in this great big Community of Creation, and those trying to walk with Jesus can have a richer sense of what it means to feel pain as well as heal and to shine hope in the face of despair. There are a lot of folks who want and need to be made alive again. Let’s embody what it looks like to be a people who bring hope to the challenges of our day.

Would I really rather step on a Lego when we have this gift?

I feel like God gave me a gift this week. As I walked the four blocks from my house to my office, I lamented that the horse stables are recently all gone and now there is a big hole. I don’t even know what’s going in there, but likely some kind of expensive new housing. With so much of that going on, it kind of irritates me. My mind easily goes towards the character of our neighborhood being under threat by capitalists as well as friends and neighbors facing spiking rents and taxes moving them toward forced displacement.  And I feel some kind of way about it. I’d rather step on a Lego then be stuck in midst of the ugly parts of gentrification.

That much wasn’t the gift. Maybe my “default setting” tends to be pessimistic or I have a healthy hunger and thirst for justice & righteousness – but I feel the brokenness of Shalom. When I walked this time, I felt astounded by how much good stuff Circle of Hope has been generating or helping generate right here in the thick of it for over a decade. There are loads of people who are choosing to do more with their lives than make personal profit paramount – so many that I felt free to not condemn or damn the stuff that didn’t make it through my personal righteousness filter that day. I felt genuine gratitude.

Since Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness serves as our central story of why to do Lent, it’s is a good time to go back to Isaiah 40 or John 1 –

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I have let Jesus transcend two of my bad instincts about this little prophecy about John the Baptist and the coming of the LORD. First – Isaiah talking highway doesn’t mean anything remotely like my conception of highway. Making the path for God did not mean putting up a toll road, a Cracker Barrel, Walmarts, oil derricks, or destroying the wilderness. It’s closer to the opposite. God is coming into the wilderness and we are preparing more for ourselves to participate (does God need a highway??) in the wasteland. The inside-out, upside down, and sdrawkcab way of God’s fullness gets realized in and through Jesus. Advent prepares us for His coming, Lent gets us into the wilderness with him.

Putting too much of a highway takes over the wilderness. My other bad instinct was to think that the coming of the LORD meant the wilderness is gone because of the stuff about mountains and valleys and plains. Maybe that would mean Jesus coming meant injustice was over or that I don’t have to suffer anymore. It’s the injustice and suffering that are the precise location for where Jesus comes to save and erode. My preparation does not mean it no longer hurts – but I have hope in the rising tide of Christ’s redemption project.

The US War of Terror reached a dubious milestone – over 1 million dead in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. We talked about some of the havoc that drugs (legal and other wise) wreak the other night at Doing Theology. God gave me this gift like a lovely wave – one that I could ride if I concentrated on it. It’s like surfing in Atlantic City. I can think about the pollution, predatory poverty profiteers, or grandmas chained to slot machines. That wouldn’t be bad – but then there’s this wave. I can ride it – but I’m going to need to focus. And it’s fun.  And I still want to work for justice. And I’m grateful for this gift today.

The dress that out trended Trayvon and other things we can’t handle

Last Thursday bunches of my friends were talking/posting about the dress that broke the internet. I think that whole thing was fascinating. It was trending hard and even famous people weighed in on which color combination they saw. The same day, other friends of mine were talking about another “color issue” that wasn’t getting as much buzz in our national consciousness – the third anniversary of Trayvon’s death. The week after he NAILED IT with the Keystone XL veto, Obama was hanging out with Trayvon’s parents to commemorate the anniversary. That’s a nice gesture, but many of us are feeling the Spirit move us to more than sympathy – after all we still don’t know who killed Brandon Tate Brown on Frankford Ave!

Monday the execution of Kelly Gissendaner was postponed for a second time – the first one because of snow and this time because of an issue with the lethal injection pharmacist – supposedly. My friend shared this open letter to Georgia Christians yesterday that has some insight into her story as well as an appeal of putting a limit to the violence. Her case is really wild – and with so many under-represented people of color in the same system, I hope putting off this form of state sanctioned violence is a trend.

Today I read about Brett, the “Soldier of Christ” going back to Iraq with some other Americans vets to join the Assyrian Christian militia to fight ISIS. Not only is he Polish/Irish (yay!) but quotes Matthew 25 in needing to take care of the vulnerable in a day when the US left things worse than how they found them. I admire his courage and commitment, even though I have a different interpretation of how to live out Christ’s directive. Maybe you can feel the tension that I do – at least he’s doing something. It sometimes feels like I’m surrounded by a generation of people who hear about horror stories or know about injustice or oppression (more about it than any generation before) and the only response we can muster is to complain or do internet things.

When we are facing more injustice than we can handle, what do we do? When we are suffering does God care enough to move? At one of Circle of Hope’s meetings last Sunday night someone from my cell brought into our discussion this tension and asked if “God will never give us more than we can handle” is actually in the Bible. A friend who worked as a chaplain was quick with the clarification (1 Corinthians 10:13 – God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, God will also provide a way out so you can endure it) as something about keeping our hearts from being set on evil rather than dealing with pain. Tye Tribbett even wrote a song about it.

I’ve heard people tell me that God gave them cancer to teach them something. I heard Ricky Gervais joke on his HBO special that God also gives AIDS to babies in Africa as part of bit about problematic Godviews. I think the advice “God will never give you more than you can handle” might be a useful self-help mantra at times but is probably more of a capitalist “buck up, cowboy” that got attached to the faith. I think that it’s nice to think there are limits to suffering and that Jesus cares about it. Rather than getting tougher, however, I wonder if we can get softer and let God in to care about us. Can we be tender enough to allow Christ’s compassion to move us to heartbreak with others? Can we be open enough to let the Holy Spirit deploy us to work for justice in some rather complex times?

Lent is a good opportunity to explore what we can’t handle. There’s a lot. I think Jesus was finding his limits in the desert, but with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be honest about those limits, those spaces where we feel the tension with courage and see if God doesn’t move a bunch of us to become a healing agent there.

Does Jesus see a big difference between ISIS and the US, really?

I’ve had a few stimulating conversations about death, fear, and anxiety this week. The willingness of the Islamic State (CNN’s ISIS fact list here) to use photos and video of their violent exploits has a lot of Americans worried and stressed out. It’s not difficult to hear the calling for the rise of more violent heroes to alleviate the situation – and their stress.

Perhaps because I have two daughters, I find the stories of the Yazidi women’s stories of their ISIS captivity and escape particularly disturbing. Without a doubt, God grieves, too. I think injustice is an affront to God’s Shalom, brought about in a good creation and restored through the work of Jesus. I do not think the rise of the state has been good. I wonder what Jesus thinks.What must it be like for Jesus to look at ISIS and then look at the United States. Some of my friends think the first thing Jesus would notice would be religious & spiritual differences. I’m not so sure.

Especially when we are threatened or anxious, we as North Americans are given the same archetypical choice of the crowds all those years ago. Like my friend Kirby recently mused about, do we want to release the violent insurrectionary or release Jesus? I think even most of the Christians in the United States forget who they are and at least tacitly accept the release of Notjesus. Others are pretty open about their chant “Give us Barabbas.”

Clint Eastwood & Bradley Cooper tried, among other things, to humanize the American fighter. I like increasing the humanity of the situation. To make a similar film humanizing an IS warrior probably wouldn’t go over so well here- but why not? Are we really so diluted to think the cause of the so-called War on Terror (or the Cold War, Monroe Doctrine, the Transatlantic Slave, or Manifest Destiny) was ever less brutal? More tolerant? More just for people outside the dominant group? If drone pilots put footage of their surgical precision bombings on Youtube would my friends have nightmares about them also?

I think the question for Christians needs to go beyond “What should we do about ISIS?” If one thinks that Christians are synonymous with the United States in our the US is a blessed nation that can devastate & dominate the world and God is pleased because of a high % of Christians – yikes. Ask a Native, a descendent of the enslaved Africans who routinely get harassed by the state, or someone who locked up in Guantanamo Bay without due process – this American project hasn’t been about freedom,  The U.S. is directly and/or indirectly responsible for not only the conditions of ISIS forming (Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan with the mujahideen, Bin Landen, Zarqawi,Taliban) but for the current unstable state of the region.

Today a few of my Facebook friends posted this article about how “plank in the eye” it is for U.S. Americans to have strong reactions to the burning ofMoaz al-Kasasbeh (Jordanian fighter pilot) but continue to tell Black folks to “get over it” with lynchings and other horrific unimaginables that continue at home. While it would seem safe to condemn all violence and feel like we did the right thing, we have systemic and spiritual work to do that requires more.

What is the Spirit leading us to do as we live seemingly subjects in a individualized, violence loving, hypocritical society? I hope it doesn’t make our apathy stronger. I hope these words don’t just fuel your Notjesus. I find hope in MLK’s famous speech Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break Silence. Rather than thinking about how to be Good Samaritans on the side of the road we have to address systemic issues to make the Jericho Road safer for travel so they are not at risk of being robbed and beaten. Comparing violent regimes seems like comparing blenders. Different. But basically they blend stuff.

For one thing, you are invited to come tomorrow night to process some of these issues with the Circle of Peacemakers. We’re bringing together four people from the community (Gwen White, Shane Claiborne, Scotty Krueger, and myself) who spent time in Iraq. Let’s humanize it all, not just war heroes. Let’s let the Spirit spiritualize it all, with inspiration and power to embody solutions.


To a drone-free 2015!

I got to spend about a month in Iraq with Kathy Kelly (and the rest of our delegation) before the US invasion on the Compassion Iraq Peacewalk. A few years later, a younger Joshua did this short video piece for my denomination as they were helping people navigate political engagement as Anabaptists. I’ve only seen Kathy once since, but we got to re-connect a bit. She and her work continue to shape me. She gets in the mix for peace whether it’s in Chicago, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Her warm smile and imaginative dissent make it hard to not want to be like her. 

Kathy is in the news again – this time not for being nominated for a prestigious award but for going to lock up [again]. Here’s a five minute video about how she is getting three months for bringing a loaf of bread to a Drone Command Center.

I’m still pumped up after 50 of us Pennsylvanians gathered to demonstrate and do some liturgical worship of the newborn Prince of Peace at the Horsham Air Guard Station last Saturday, the proposed future home of a new US Drone war Command Center. Like Sandra Strauss in her piece for, many of us question the use of lethal drones. The statistics for drone deaths are hard to calculate, since many are done by the CIA and their stats include lies like counting all men of military age in strike zones as combatants.

One sobering estimate that should haunt Americans is that it takes killing 28 innocent brown people for drones to kill one suspected terrorist – and that without any trials. Most reports don’t include that these murder victims are not white – but I have still not heard of any white people getting killed by drone warfare.

What is the church now that we are a decade into a unmanned military state waging secret drone wars that have now stretched into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Libya, Mali, and Lebanon? A year ago, Obama said that 5yrs and 2,400 dead due to drone strikes caused him to wrestle with civilian causalities but it’s really about keeping American people safe. This animation called Out of Sight, Out of Mind show the insanity and a few stories of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Blew shared her moving spoken word piece at the demonstration for peace, here is an excerpt [from the perspective of a mother living in a strike zone]…

We call them “Bangadan”..buzzing of a bee…They hover. All day. Louder at night. No war declared but you bomb my people…I hold my babies tight.

And hope we will see tomorrow together..I hear the wailing of a mother, my neighbor lost their baby before their eyes…All dust. No warning.Wailing all day. Louder at night.Tears find their home on my cheek.Praying for my children, these precious souls that birthed from my womb..”

My prayer today is for a drone-free 2015. Could the Church in the States add one more item to our New Year’s Resolution? Do we have it in our collective heart to stop something that so many know little about? Let’s get loud and put an end to this heinous policy of drone warfare.

Have a good stint, Kathy. Thanks for leading the way.

Brake for Peace/Break for Peace

Sometimes the phrase “be careful what you wish for” rings eerily true. I have been praying, especially over the past two years to have a groundswell of acting for racial justice as well as taking our call to peace to the next level. I wasn’t hoping for disasters to occasion such an uprising, but I’m grateful we have an opportunity to contribute to a large movement. As security forces have been avoiding indictment over the needless deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the masses have been answering with words and deeds across the nation.

#BlackLivesMatter, #StayWokeAdvent, #JusticeForMikeBrown, and #ICantBreathe have been lighting up social media as a compliment to inspiring protests, actions, prayer, worship, marches, and other ways of standing up. I think this month more of us need to BRAKE for peace like all these die-ins are teaching us. The highway stops because Shalom is broken and we all need to turn to the Prince of Peace and work at restoring God’s Shalom. Braking for peace is about listening, learning, empathizing, and prayerfully receiving from Jesus. It is about being.

We also need the doing during Advent. We need to BREAK for peace by getting out from behind the screens and into real relationships and activity. We need to break free from the lies that teach us that people outside your family are not connected to you, that God’s image does not extend beyond your racial assignment, and that by standing up against unjust systems is demonizing people. Peace is not made by just being tolerant – it is made by changing our minds about our relatedness and our actions to demonstrate it.

In and around Circle of Hope over the next few weeks there are so many chances to get more info, hear stories, get touched by God, ask questions, and make decisions about how we will respond together led by the Holy Spirit. If you can add to this list in the comments, I’d be grateful. I’ll offer an italicized prayer after each event that I suggest.

Tonight – Conversations for Peace in Palestine & Israel. Daryl Byler (of MCCand EMU) will be offering personal accounts, wisdom, and hope. 7pm at 1125 S. Broad. Let Christ’s peace extend further than the global military industrial complex. 

Saturday – Peace on Earth and the Politics of Christmas. 9:30am at 1515 Fairmount with the Alternative Seminary’s Will O’Brien and a host of other inspiring theological activists (including musicians from three Circle of Hope congregations) from Philadelphia. Let the coming of God With Us renew our hearts, minds, as well as feet & hands.

Monday – Doing Theology – this time we consider what it means to stand with Ferguson, 7pm 1125 S. Broad. Give us the courage to come to you with our doubts & fears, open for your direction.

Tuesday – Come hear a Report Back from CPT delegates who recently returned from Iraqi Kurdistan (war on terror, ISIS) and NW Ontario (indigenous resistance to the extraction industry), 7pm 2007 Frankford. Help us to connect the dots of domination and hear the groans of our mother.

Saturday 12/28 (plan still forming) – Liturgy and demonstration at the site of the future Drone Command Center in Horsham, PA (very positive article on Fox about how many jobs it will create here). Make us more human in the face of mechanized, weaponized, inhumane methods of killing.


Whereami: being alive during jesuswasthere & mewithoutYou

I’ve been known to have a pretty high tolerance for offbeat or even sacrilicious humor. It’s not often appropriate. Sometimes I get so generous with my interpretation of humor or art that I’m sure I stretch it beyond the ironic attempts at meme trolls. This week I somehow discovered how Jesus is everywhere, and it reminded me of one of my favorite lyrics by a dear friend.

JC slipnslide

Maybe you haven’t yet seen Jesus Everywhere on tumblr (over 34k followers) or know that on Instagram you can also see jesuswasthere (only 1929 followers). Most of them are kind of weaksauce but some are really imaginative. Jesus, helping a construction crew on the highway holds a SLOW sign. Not that bad. Crucified Jesus getting a red card – actually kind of good.

I apologize if I am offending you by sharing images of the most redemptive moment in history getting used for easy laughs. There’s a point.

I love music made by my friends. Perhaps the most inspiring to me (both talent mwYand hard work) over the years is mewithoutYou. A few years ago (ok, maybe more than a few) they started singing a lyric that has stayed with me like last night’s hot coals to start the morning fire. In the song The Sun and the Moon (off of Brother, Sister) you can’t miss it…”Blind as I’d become, I used to wonder where you are/these days I can’t find where you’re not!”

I also spent some energy over the years separating the “sacred” from the “secular” in a Circle of Hope proverbial sense. My issue may not have been that someone photoshopped an icon worth years of meditation into a scene from Titanic to get a LOL or an emoji. It may have been my denial that Jesus was sinking with those folks on the Titanic. Jesus is telling us to slow down and even shows up on the highway. Jesus certainly gets a red card from a lot of my friends.

omnipresent_map_163735So is Jesus everywhere, like in an omnipresent way? I’m not really sure what that word totally means, honestly. Can Jesus be found anywhere? David seems to have thought so when he wrote the best part of Psalm 139. Does this mean Jesus can be found in the fracking, even present at the production of weaponized drones, or involved in someone’s personal destructive choice? I’d say yes. I doubt he’d be hanging out, though, or giving even tacit approval to dark deeds. He’d be working for the redemption of all, more likely trying to loosen injustice’s grip on someone rather than blessing their weird undertakings. When John began his gospel, I think he may have been sorting out some of the same things (chapter 1 verses 9-10) “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”

Not recognizing Jesus…how easy that can be and how tragic. For me, the question has been changing. I’m not having trouble finding Jesus – I’m  trying to tend to my own location (John 15). Jesus ain’t hard to find. Where am I? How do I stay truly alive? These questions move me back towards home, back towards the harmony that we’re called into. Maybe then I can handle some cynicism more easily or be a better agent for trying to demonstrate in community something real, something truly alive.