Monday, March 26, 2007
What everybody else said
Here's links to other perspectives on Thinspace. Because I wasn't the only one there.

Audio files on all the main sessions can be downloaded here.

I took some pictures. Not enough. Alan took more. So did Kevin. Glenn has a couple.

Alan wrote up what he shared in his breakout session about liturgy:

What about that word - organic? Let's think about that for a minute. Think about the natural world, organic life - how does that work anyway? It's certainly not formless or chaotic. Organic life has rhythm. It’s not accidental. It's not wherever, whenever, whatever. That's not organic. I think liturgy is organic. It is a rhythm of activity focused on God, on God in the community of His People the Church. It moves in seasons - like breathing, leaves falling, buds sprouting, freezing and thawing, mating and giving birth, etc.
Jackie's excited about engaging the neighborhood.

Kevin saw some answered prayer.

Tom felt some sense of belonging.

Amber feels intangibly different.

Steven made lots of friends (part one and then two).

Andy liked the liturgy stuff.

Will made it a roadtrip: Day 4, Day 5.

Lemme know if I missed somebody.


posted by Peter at 11:12 PM
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Some days leave me speechless
Some days I'm convinced I live in a loony bin. Has the whole world gone crazy?

Exhibit A

Front page of the Lexington Herald-Leader today:

Tyrannosaurus rex was a strict vegetarian, and lived with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden...

Exhibits showing all this and more will be at the Creation Museum, a $27 million religious showcase nearing completion in Northern Kentucky....

The museum is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible: The world was created in six, 24-hour days, some time between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Humans appeared on Day 6, and they didn't evolve from anything....

There also will be an exhibit suggesting that belief in evolution is the root of most of modern society's evils. It shows models of children leaving a church where the minister believes in evolution. Soon the girl is on the phone to Planned Parenthood, while the boy cruises the Internet for pornography sites.
I don't know what "literal interpretation" of the Bible their reading. I've seen a lot of bibles in my day and I have yet to see one with dinosaurs. Were my Sunday school teachers hiding that from me all this time, too?

Exhibit B

I'm driving down a certain street in Lexington today that feels like an endless row of church buildings. If you throw a rock down the street there's no way you can't miss one. And the signs for one of these congregations reads the following:


I don't make this stuff up.

posted by Peter at 10:50 PM
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Blog party
What hath blogging to do with the theological academy?

If you happen to be in Wilmore this evening at 8 pm, you'll want to be on campus in Cordelia A & B. Chuck Gutenson will be sharing.

Here's some of the blurb from Chad...

At Asbury, we are really interested in blogging. We are thinking through some of the issues with blogging and how we can use them to communicate the Gospel. There are a few of us at Seminarius that are concentrating on this right now and we want to bring you into the conversation.

For no other reason, you'll want to be there to hear my maniacal plan for world domination.

posted by Peter at 10:14 AM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Thinspace thoughts

I think I'm a liturgical Metho-matic. I'm stealing that from Kevin S.

I've spent the last several months thinking a lot about hospitality, reading a lot about hospitality, writing a lot about hospitality. This weekend I got to receive it. Kevin and his wife Becky welcomed Jackie and I to crash the night at their place.

Saturday in one of the breakout sessions, we were each introducing ourselves and offering some context to our background. "I'm a liturgical Metho-matic," says Kevin. He loves liturgy and has roots in Methodism and charismatic stuff. Hey, me, too.


"Thinspace" is a term having to do with closeness. Closeness both between people and between the invisible world with the visible. That place where they almost touch. That was the theme of the weekend.


"People convert themselves," said Casper. The morning "speaker" Saturday was a conversation between Matt Casper and Jason Evans. Casper is an atheist. Jason is responsible for things like Ecclesia. But they're, like, best pals.

So anyway, I was struck by Matt's comment. Because I agree, totally, but I don't, totally. In context, he was arguing that people are not converted by arguments and propositional statements. Lee Strobel does nothing for him. And I agree. Charts and graphs and logic didn't lead me to repentance. (as an aside, "repentance" has nothing to do with your sins. Jesus never said "repent of your sins." He said "Repent." It has to do with your mind and how you think.) (as another aside, why doesn't children's church have the kids memorize Romans 2:4b?)

But I disagree. People don't convert themselves; the Holy Spirit does.

One highlight of the weekend for me was hearing from Bob Ekblad. Bob has recently written a book called Reading the Bible with the Damned. He's also responsible for a group called Tierra Nueva. I found his story pretty fascinating, as he weaved together his experience from working with peasant farmers in Guatemala to undocumented workers in Washington state, to the Toronto revival to being a jail chaplain in Skaggit Cty. All the while, his narrative was framed by Isaiah 61 and Jesus' appropriation of it in Luke 4. I'm not sure if I've ever heard someone hold in tension spiritual deliverance and social advocacy, of presence and healing, both at the same time in quite this way.


"If we are rebellious, it is because we bear hope and life. This is Jesus' way." Somebody said this at some point. I wrote it down. Maybe it was Bob.


Another highlight for both Jackie and me was a breakout session with Kevin Rains and Dave Nixon, the co-pastors of Vineyard Central. Kevin called the discussion "Un-pimping and Re-monking the Church." The idea being historic spiritual disciplines, and that some deal with abstinence and some deal with action. Particularly, hearing Dave talk about the vow of stability he committed himself to impressed us both. I think the monks of Gethsemani call this a "vow of location." In the class about Christian community we talked about it in terms of fidelity or faithfulness. Dave related it to committing himself and his family to this neighborhood for life. That's an idea that really hits home for me as I maneuver denominational ordination options.

Their conversation telling their story about their families living together under one roof and the communal aspect of their church also opened up for both of us the desire to one day live in an intentional Christian communal setting.


George Hunsberger teaches missiology stuff at Western Theological Seminary. He talked about being a gospeled community and attending to the life of the world. I like hearing "gospeled" as an adjective.

He talked about how the Christian community is a sign to the world. Makes me wonder, What kind of a sign are we to the neighborhood? The Church is where the Kingdom is lived out. And again I wonder, Can it be done?


This is our goose to guide us.

As a part of the St. Patrick's theme, much of the weekend incorporated Celtic Christian traditions. The ancient Irish Christians found the dove to be an unsatisfactory symbol for them of the Holy Spirit. A dove was too domesticated. Rather, they saw in the goose the qualities they experienced from the Holy Spirit--seemingly cantankerous, noisy, maybe even a little obnoxious, yet ever graceful and stately and beautiful. But most importantly, never controllable or tameable or predictable. I'm still loving this image of the Holy Spirit who leads us.

So this fabric icon was made by a local artist.

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posted by Peter at 9:00 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2007
I did my taxes yesterday. This past year was my lowest annual income since college days. I guess making coffee and studying the Bible doesn't pay so great. Who knew?

Then again...

According to this website, I'm in the top 13% wealthiest people in the world. #798,928,823 to be exact.

That's a sobering thought.

posted by Peter at 10:52 PM
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Sunday, March 18, 2007
Thinspace & the Feast of St. Patty's

Jackie and I spent the weekend up at Vineyard Central in Cincinnati for the Feast of St. Patrick. It was 24-hour period gathering of friends and spiritual family from all around. There were about 150 people there--house church communities from Cincy, Lexington, Columbus, Oxford, Michigan, Florida and even as far as the west coast. It was a blast of fresh air for us. It was like the class I had to take in seminary called Kingdom, Church and World. Only this was really cool.

How did we wind up here? I got connections. Two and half years ago when I got here to Kentucky I connected with Alan Creech and Vine and Branches. Through them I came to know what was going on at the Brownhouse and VC. I visited about two years ago for a weekend discussion about the arts and church.

I, particularly, was really excited about this weekend. We have plans to move from Wilmore to urban Lexington around The Rock after our wedding in May for the purpose of more actively engaging in the activity of the church in the neighborhood, to plant ourselves (at least for this season) in the community to work and watch the Kingdom of God transform the neighborhood. I was excited because it was an opportunity to meet and connect with people doing the stuff we anticipate getting into ourselves. I was excited because, as much I as appreciate my seminary experience, it's not cultivating my creativity. My kindred souls with whom I can question the methods and practices of institutional church are few and far between.

We arrived just in time for dinner at 6. Kabobs and hummus were catered in. The agenda for the evening was simple. There was the Celtic evening prayer and a brief time of singing. Todd Hunter spoke for a bit. To tell the truth, I didn't feel like I heard anything new. I feel the sensation of taking thoughts in my head and rearranging them like chess pieces on a gameboard. He talked about the Kingdom, the Church and the world, and about how the Kingdom is a secular reality. What he meant (or I took as his meaning) is that the Kingdom encompasses all of the physical world--picking up groceries, going to the post office, attending school, participating in religious activities, all of it. The Kingdom moves into all of it.

There was some talk about bi-vocationalism and how maybe it's not the hottest idea. Honestly, I wasn't expecting that here from these people. It's an idea that I've flirted with: "Maybe I'll be a teacher to support doing some real ministry." Looking at it in words now, it really looks like a stupid idea. There's a dualism inherent in the way most bi-vocationalism is practiced. The language itself is nonsense. A vocation is one thing and not schizophrenic. It's not ministry/Kingdom work over here in this corner and "real, income-earning job" in this corner. Sometimes administrating a church is a noble way to earn a living.

He also talked about how the stories we tell ourselves dictate how we live our life. For an example, he used a young girl that's decided she'll be a ballerina. That now drives how she lives every bit of her life--how she eats, exercises, how she spends her free time. It's all driven by this story of becoming a ballerina. So I wonder about the analogue of Christian discipleship. Perhaps when I make that commitment to a lifetime of modeling Jesus it now affects what I eat, what I drive, what I say, who I spend time with, how I spend my attention, everything.

He said that the greatest barrier to discipleship is the idea that it is one more thing to add to an already out of control schedule. Maybe it is in the ordering of the schedule that is discipleship. This hit particularly home as I think about the challenges we face encouraging a life of discipleship at The Rock.

And that was pretty much Friday night.

More later...


posted by Peter at 7:22 PM
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New car

I bought a "new" car last week. This it.

She's a 1998 Volkswagen GTI "Golf" with 100,000 miles.

Three years younger and 70,000 miles less than my old car, and it was for the same price as what I got from the insurance company.

We're getting along pretty well so far, minus the flat tire the day after I got her. But we've gotten over that.

posted by Peter at 7:15 PM
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The Rock in print
The Rock made it in print. So that's kinda cool:

Waves of immigration, economic flux, shifts in city growth -- dramatic 21st-century trends are changing the physical look and ethnic mix of the neighborhood, and that's changing the neighborhood church....

The Rock/La Roca United Methodist Church, in Lexington, Ky., is an experiment in faith, a work in progress, a growing witness in a changing landscape.

Some 300 people worship here -- Anglos (English-speaking whites) are the majority, Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans and lately two dozen Congolese, French-speaking refugees from Congo -- sharing a spiritual journey in a neighborhood in flux.

"The most important thing to happen in the last six months is we've realized we are living in another time of Pentecost," Mansfield says.

But then Aaron says it not really thaaaat cool.

posted by Peter at 7:07 PM
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The real Xerxes
Geek that I am succumbed to an invitation to see a midnight showing of the film 300 last week.

Geek that I am got home at 3 am and instead of diving right in bed, dove into my Bible atlases to see what I could find the Persian Wars and Xerxes.

Here's something I found in The Sacred Bridge:

The peoples of the eastern Mediterranean preserved a number of humorous stories about Xerxes' bad temperament and about serious family problems in the aftermath of the First Persian War. That humiliation [the naval battle at Salamis and land battle at Plataea, hinted at in the film] had taken place in the king's seventh year. Therefore, it is not fortuitous that Hebrew novella about troubles in the royal family and the subsequent beauty contest to find a new virgin to distract the king from his troubles is placed in the seventh year (Esth. 2:16). Herodotus preserves the tale of the king's infatuation with his brother's wife and later with his brother's daughter. Queen Amestris discovered the latter affair and demanded the mutilation of the hapless girl (288).
So much for the so-called "god-king" Xerxes as portrayed in the film.

I'm still waiting a movie about the Assyrian King Sennacherib's assault on Lachish and subsequent approach and retreat from Jerusalem. Now that's a cinematic tale.

posted by Peter at 5:45 PM
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007
For Yahweh your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.

I added fractions today. Not exactly what I signed up for when I started grad school. But this is where reading the Bible and taking it seriously has gotten me. 23 7/8 + 17 5/8. My Greek Septuagint suddenly feels much safer than this 7th grade math book.

"Lance said you can help me with my homework, but I don't have any today," Solo tells me. Solo just turned 13 and he's in the seventh grade. He tells me his family has been in the United States for three and a half years. Lance is a buddy of mine who volunteers with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. Five minutes hearing Lance pitch KRM, and you're like, "Where do I sign up?" That's more or less how I got here at the Doumbia household. That, and all these passages from the Old Testament that talk about how much God cares about fatherless kids, widows and refugees.

Solo is one of five boys. Babu, 15, is laying on the couch watching TV. Michael is a year old, just old enough to walk and old enough to babble incoherently. He bounces like a pinball around the house. He walks up to me as I sit at the kitchen table, with his big mocha eyes beaming and his arm outstretched, opening and closing his fist. I lean down and he gets a handful of beard and giggles.

Solo and I spend an hour or so wrestling with fractions. I don't remember fractions being such an abstract concept. I think about pies. We talk about adding together whole pies and pieces of pies. Then there's the whole issue of how you can add pieces together and get more than a whole.

But after awhile, a confidence starts to form in Solo's face that wasn't there when we started. "One more," he says for the third time, a little more eager than the last time. At 6:30, it's time to pick up his little brother Ali (7) from the school next door, so we walk over there together.

Maybe some of the best seminary lessons are learned in a seventh grade math book.

posted by Peter at 10:47 PM
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