Yearning for Romania!

Coa_romaniaI listened to my voice messages yesterday and I discovered that I missed a call from my pal, Marius in Romania!  Not only do I miss him and his wonderful family but I miss Romania…the mountains, the simplicity of the lifestyle, the hunger of the people for life to its fullest…yep, I listened to Marius’ voice, made a mental note to really try hard to spend some time talking to him and made another "note" to try to get over to Romania again soon.  How many of you know that my family "tree" has a branch that goes deep into the land of Transylvania?  You probably didn’t even know that Transylvania was a real place?  Yes, beautiful mountains and a major section of central/eastern Europe….that’s Transylvania.  Check it out on line so that you don’t jump to weird conclusions, OK?  So, here’s to my buddy Marius, Dorina, and Viktor…to Rae and his family and to all the students I’ve met on my trips to Romania.  God bless each of you…I pray that your hearts and lives are full of God’s grace and joy!  Hopefully, I’ll be able to come and see you again sometime!

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Something I’ve been holding on to for a while

I’ve read this at least a dozen times over the last few days…I didn’t want to post it for some reason.  In this instance, I didn’t exactly know why I was being "selfish" in not sharing it…maybe it is something that needs to be spoken prophetically to my heart and mine alone.  You take a shot at it, OK?

If we could all
    just stop throwing stones,
    and stoop, knees bent
    and write in the dust,

    we’d see that the dust
    was once stone –
    grand, and hard, and proud, and tough –
    now ground and dissolved
    in grace and tears.

    So… how much better
    to be a grain of dirt
    on that kind prophet’s hands
    than a stone
    in the cold, accusing Temple
    of the pure. 

Another good blog post from “Freefalling” Heidi

Heidi of "Freefalling" fame posted this today…it was something that stuck with me all morning…especially as I reflect on how her journey has enriched mine (and ours in our community)…this is one of the reasons why God may be speaking to me in the recesses of my heart about another type of "church" that needs to be done in our community…these are the insurgents that need to be released upon our community…these are the type of revolutionaries who bring the Kingdom and look for the Kingdom wherever they may be…I think her story is worth some of your time.  Pull up a chair and take a moment:

"There is a guy who comes into work often– he fills a 12-once to-go cup
with French Roast drip and sits at the bar with someone’s leftover
paper or chuckling with other customers or giving me and the other
girls a hard time. But there has always been this peace, this kindness
about him that was unlike many of the other lonely, often creepily
lonely, old men that sit at the bar. Today my suspicions about him were
proved true– my answer to his question of how I’ve been spending my
summer led to a mutual understanding of the resurrection the Father can
bring from some time alone. I was reassured that the peace that
surrounded this "regular" was the same peace that I know is breaking
through me as well.

The funny thing– he asked me where I attend church and my first
impulse was to answer, "Here, at work." Strange. But I realize that my
experience at the coffeehouse, the long awaited gift of employment that
it is, has taught me a great deal about the reconciliation the Father
wants to bring into the world and has grown me in so many ways into
being honest about His Image in me. I have learned how to look people
in the eye, to serve with a smile, to be kind and sincere. Maybe the
biggest Sunday School Lesson has simply been on how to interact, how to
connect with people. It seems rare these days to find a church that
does that.  All church critique aside, there was something very comforting and
home-like finding a fellow Kingdom-lifer today, being able to share a
tiny piece of my own story of resurrection with him as I stocked cups.
And the most intriguing part is that I have known all along that he was
my brother, long before he said a word. Not a word."

To “Church” or not to “Church”, that is the question

To church, or not to church: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous culture,
Or to take arms against a sea of ecclesiastical dreams,
And by joining them, end them? To suck: to put people asleep;
No more; and by not sucking to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That most local churches are heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To suck, to put people asleep;
To put them asleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep what dreams of relevance or meaning may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
This must give us pause: there must be respect
That makes calamity of so long life without
What true community can offer...

One Journey ends…another Begins

Renew_logo4This logo might look a bit "familiar" to you…as I am writing this entry, the Youth Leadership Institute of the Haggard School of Theology (Azusa Pacific University) is ending its journey.  The Lilly Endowment grant has just a few months left of breath…Sally and I are doing our best to finish the five year grant contract with enthusiasm and commitment to the grant journey!  TEAM 3 is in August…our 10 day backpack expedition is just about full (if you are interested, email Sally asap smiller@apu.edu) and that will be our final YLI event.  Then, we are putting our lives under the leadership of the Spirit in a new way.  Yesterday, we received word from the IRS that Re/New Ministries just received its non-profit status.  That gives us the opportunity to pursue grants and other sources of funding to continue on our strategy in new, missional, exciting, and community-based ways.  We’re going to not only have a "YLI-type" expression where we train students in leadership and spiritual formation, but we are also going to continue our work on a Missional Order, Adventure-type programs AND a local expression of "ekklesia".  All these things will fall under a new "banner" of Re/New.  You can check out what we are doing on our website:  www.yliapu.org OR www.renewministry.com – they will both take you to the same place.  For now, bookmark them and keep tabs on what is happening…pray for us.  These new steps are significant!

Only in America – it’s going too far!

Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners – $90 million dollar contract
Freeney of the Baltimore Colts – $72 million dollar contract

This is a moral issue friends…you can’t have a society where this type of money is spent on entertainment.  Watch the "World on Fire" video and imagine what this type of $$ could do in a world where these dollars could save people’s lives NOT line pockets of overly spoiled, hyper-individualistic, meglomaniacal athletes.  What more do they need!  When people can’t eat, afford medicine, get health-care, or even pay for counseling and guidance for a troubled heart and a guy with football skills makes over $1 million a game, something is wrong.  Enough of that…I’m out!
Images

Day Three and Four @ TEAM 07

The last two days are almost behind us…Trace Bundy, (aka Acoustic Ninja) is playing a concert tonight for our community of growing leaders.  Trace is NOT a singer but he plays his music and shares his heart and passion and art clearly through every note and chord on the guitar.  He’s such a humble, loving and creative person…we are simply honored to have him and his wife Becca as part of our journey.  Mike DeVries (teacher pastor @ Sakred Church in Mission Viejo, CA.) spoke and taught tonight on the image of God through the text of scripture in Genesis 1 through 3 especially exploring the "echad" (oneness) of God and how we are to be reflections of the God of the Universe in all we do and are.  Earlier today there were the "usual" assortment of curriculum teaching sessions, small group, track times and relational exploration.  Yesterday, was our serving day as every student in every team went into the local neighborhood (in partnership with the mayor and city of Azusa) to painting, clean and serve the community.  After an exhausting day of work, we entered  into what has to be one of the highlights of the conference every year…our creative worship nite.  This year’s "DarK Room" was created by the program staff of YLI to be a prayer and meditation and worship singing labrynth.  Students moved through 8 stations…focusing on confession, art and creative expression of worship.  Well, we finally got kicked out of our meeting room by 2am.  Yep, every year we have a hard time getting the students to leave a worship event…imagine that!  What a great day…but there’s more tomorrow!  Check back!

All I can say is “so what”

Apparently, the new Pope of the RCC made a statement that has caused a "tizzy" amongst some church leaders…simply put, he restated the long standing roman tradition that says that the RCC is the only "true" church.  You can read about it by clicking here...let me tell you this…there’s nothing new here.  I’ve been discussing the nature of the church, leadership, the sacraments and other issues with RC priests and leaders for years…it is just the way their theology is.  You can call is whatever you want…you can fight it and say it is not right…or you can just accept the fact that this is not a new doctrine.  Why?  Hey, the RCC was the only game in town for centuries…no wonder they believe what they do.  Even more recent denominations believe essentially the same thing…fact is, denominationalism is a reality because of the fact that EVERYBODY believes that THEY are the one, true expression of church.  This is nothing new…let’s just get back to living life!  OK?

Images – Day Two

The TEAM conference went roaring into day two…early rising after a long night of relational time and relaxation!  After breakfast, devotional time kicked off the content of the conference…from there, CALL curriculum (C-Christ) focused on our understanding of "spirituality" and that our understanding of "spiritual" is shaped more by philosophy and western civilization and not a biblical perspective.  A biblical perspective is very holistic…not dichotomous or compartmentalized in terms of a "separation" of body, soul and spirit.  But that there is no distinction in the scripture about what is spiritual vs. non-spiritual.  We are living in a world soaked with the presence of God.  There is nothing that is devoid of God’s Spirit…it is NOT that everything is God (that would be pantheism) but that God is surrounding and encompassing everything.  From there, small groups, track times (independent classes on specific, specialized topics like disciplines, emotional healing, theology 101, etc.).  Finally, Dr. Sarah Sumner (professor at the school of theology @ Azusa Pacific University and noted author) is our guest talking about the name of God and how we "see" God in our lives…Great day!  More to come tomorrow!