Monday, June 27, 2005

So What I Meant to Say

So what I meant to say was that we prayed like crazy. That was the deal.
I mean, we just prayed a bunch, and asked everyone who didn't run to pray for us also.
Yes, we did "by instinct" or divine guidance or whatever do things which we later realized were just the sort of things you would do if you were going in consciously trying to start a mission among an "unreached people group," as the lingo has it. And yes, once we realized that this was what we were doing, I in particular became intentional about casting it in those terms, and in framing the situations we were dealing with and the questions we had and the problems and obstacles we were coming up against in an overtly missiological way.
But really, the way it started, back in 1994-1997 was, we'd go to our Utne Reader salon, come home more or less blown away by the conversation there or some person we had met or something somebody had said privately to us. And we'd just be having a ginger beer at the dining table or half-listening to the BBC on KERA at night, and just pray desperately, fiercely, for something to work with, something to say on Jesus's behalf, some way we wouldn't disgrace the Name or botch a relationship or just in general let God down or betray the tentative hope and trust people were hesitantly placing in us.
We weren't masters of technique.
Fair enough, we weren't stupid about group dynamics, and Dawn was not stupid about the psychology of religion and about the nature of cross-worldview relationships.
But it was, and we were, all about the prayer: with Connie and Mark, with Elizabeth and Barbara, Paul and Chris, and so on. It wasn't about technique.
Even when we did things which have been techniques for many people since, they weren't for us. We didn't see some study that "oh, the kids are really into candles these days" and think, man, we better go get some. Dawn's been burning anything she can find since freshman year of college at least. We didn't meet in Connie's living room because house churches are the ideal strategy, we met there because we didn't have any money. Vince doesn't do Celtic stuff because it's cool, he does it because he's half-Irish.
What's really funny is when some of the things like that that you could describe as techniques, but which were just the organic way things developed for us, come up, if they aren't popular with what's currently hip to describe as a technique, people just act like it isn't there. So the hip thing is multimedia, short sermons. But I've used 45-minute, dialogical talks since like day 2 of Lower Greenville. No one's interested in that. Too Puritan.
To me, the technique addiction in church planting circles is just grim. It's pathetic, in that people who should be asking God what to do and the people they're working with what they want, instead spend all their attention on other Christian leaders, trying to figure out what they're doing. And it's angering / frustrating, because if you can ape the movement of the Spirit, or fake cultural relevancy, that's bad, not good. You don't want to learn the skill of how to pretend you relate to another human being.
I see some native desire on the part of people under 25 to operate outside of that. I hope that grows. Because the idea that there are a few basic missiological or gospel principles, and then you just have to live them out in your situation--too many leaders, "emerging" and otherwise, hear that and then have this expectant look on their faces, like, okay, so, how do I do that? To which my response is, I don't know, I'm not you and I'm not in your situation.
And the notion that, well, you just need to ask God seems to not be good enough for them, either. It's sort of the church starting equivalent of the "I'd rather diet than live healthily" thing vis-a-vis food. "No no no, good physical health and the best look you're capable of can't possibly be about appropriate sleep, a balanced diet with a reasonable caloric intake matched to your metabolism and lifestyle, and regular physical work or exercise. No no no. It must have to do with colonics, and with seaweed--echinacea tea--and--apple--fritter diets." Or something exotic and technical like that.
Um, no. It's about living openly before people as someone who has an invisible Friend. So if I've failed to get the basically prayer-saturated way in which Lower Greenville happened across whether in writing or speaking, I hereby hope this starts making amends.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Everybody is somebody's weirdo

So today was weird-out day in my intro philosophy class, when people usually first realize how postmodern "Sophie's World" is--that the lead character in the book, Sophie, is beginning to suspect that she's a character in a book about philosophy. The fun part of teaching.

It's a billion degrees and won't rain again til September. Bleacch.

Dawn is working hard on the (memorial) prayer labyrinth, but it's all in-the-ground stuff that doesn't show much payoff given the amount of effort expended. But of course it'll be cool eventually.

Dawn and I started reading Richard Foster's "Prayer" this week. Good stuff. Relationships have to be tended, fed and watered and weeded, in lots of ways. Dawn and I have real different devotional styles, so it's nice when we hit something we both like. She got a Comfy Chair for her birthday, blogfans may remember, and we're using it for our prayer/reading time.

I've launched into Alister McGrath's "The Science of God," a mostly tedious title but one which might actually attract an appropriate audience. (Ambrose Bierce suggests that "tedium" may derive from the "Te Deum" prayer in the mass. Ouch.) The guy has doctorates in, I think, both molecular biology and theology. You don't know whether to say Wow or Ugh. Both, I guess.

Speaking of, I'm reading him for the Ethics and Technology group, which met tonight. I am getting more confirmed in my thinking that trying to find shelter in the halfway house of 'appropriate procedures' won't cut it in the tough stuff. I just think you have to go to an anthropology, a theory or description or bottom line as to what a human being is and what she is for, or people will always find a good reason to exclude this or that person from whatever: access to the best healthcare, decent education, fair opportunity, equal treatment, whatever.

I'm also finishing John Wilkinson's "The Bible and Healing" for that group. He's pretty thorough biblically, but there is only so much to work with when discussing the Bible and medicine (as distinguished from the Bible and healing in general, where the data is a bit fuller). It sounds poorly grounded of me to say it, although I don't think it is, but I really think healing is better grounded theologically than biblically. I don't of course mean to draw an opposition between those two, it's just that when you're working with so little data, it's general biblical principles--i.e., theology--rather than specific examples or teaching on that precise subject--that end up having to be our guide.

I told somebody the other day that as long as the weddings and births combined in your life (like among your family and friends) outnumber the divorces and funerals in it, you're ahead of the game. So along similar lines I was also thinking about the sadness of losing the various Loyds and Adam and (in slow-motion) the Willies, or about at least losing their proximity. And I sort of tallied up and mentally observed that I am still meeting and making new friends, in and out of the Body. And that, O best beloved, is all right.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Knee-deep in the Hoopla

There is no acceptable reason to not blog as far as one's blogophiliacs are concerned I know. But I've been off teaching summer school, a good thing all in all. I made them all draw Plato's cave. What a fabulous range, from stick-figure drawings like mine to elaborate canvases-to-be.

Bits of the scenery around here...

It's Joanna Brown's deathiversary week. Dawn is feeling it a lot. So she's doing some memorial gardening in the back yard.

Kent got the almost-clear. Yay! About time. Trying to figure out how to get back into normal life is a much superior problem to have compared with trying to figure out childcare while you go in for a bone marrow transplant. So hooray, and more happy Kent news to come!

At some point I need to grow up about scheduling. Now would be a good time. Prayer would be nice on this point. It's really inexcusable to miss an appointment of any kind ever.

Feeling old and immature at the same time is a downer.

On the up side, Jonathan got his handy-dandy Tamil phrase book the other day, which will be cool whether he gets to use it in his senior thesis research or not. I got a first installment from a generous supporter on a rebuild-my-theological-library project. And I finished an article for the Baptists for which I actually got paid. And I've got two little book reviews coming out. So happy things these are, and I will dwell on them.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


I think I neglected to mention last time that I was sneaking off to the bathroom periodically to read Peter Watson's The Modern Mind. Finished that. Whew.

Kristen asked me to fess up as to whether I was reading any fiction. I'm a third of the way into Stephen Lawhead's Avalon, which is great, but I just can't get back to it.

Summer school starts this week. Must persecute the little freshman, yes, yes, must make their eyes glaze and mouths fall slac--uh, oh, uh, sorry. Getting a little too excited there.

I have to say, losing this spring's crop of med people is gonna hurt. Josh, Janiece, and Ryan (with Aiden in tow and Isaac in sling) are off to Oklahoma City; Jon (to be followed by Abigail and Sam) will settle in for a long residency in St. Louis; and Adam will be keeping an LGBC beachhouse for us all down in Galveston. It's all so good. But ouch. Adam is one of those supernaturally natural outreach people, as well as a great worship leader. The Loyds plunged in right from the beginning, taking responsibilities other, older, "more appropriate" people were dodging as fast as possible. Ryan wrote the great 'community on a pilgrimage' piece for LGBC's formation into a church (which you can read if we ever extricate the website from server purgatory). And Jon and Ab have been with us almost from the beginning--I think we met in 1996. So this graduation hurts--for all the right reasons, but still.

those who haven't been to the BabySwiss in a while need to come by the house and experience The Comfy Chair, which we got for Dawn's birthday. "A loveseat for Thames-sized people, comfy and enticing for all": that's our new motto.